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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Predicting the consequences of subsistence poaching on the population persistence of a non-target species of conservation concern

Montgomery, Robert A.; Mudumba, Tutilo; Wijers, Matthew; Boudinot, Lara A.; Loveridge, Andrew; Chapron, Guillaume; Macdonald, David W.


Illegal animal hunting, a contributor to biodiversity loss, occurs along a relative selectivity spectrum from indiscriminate to highly selective. Extensive research has evaluated the impacts of selective hunting on animal populations. In contrast, the ways in which indiscriminate hunting pressure can shape populations of non-target species has not yet received comparable attention. We used empirical field data collection and simulation modelling to predict the persistence of an African lion population (Panthera leo) subject to indiscriminate hunting pressure from non-target subsistence poaching via wire snares in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Our simulation modelling predicted lion population extirpation following a 50 % rise of lethal poaching pressure above the observed levels. When lethal poaching pressure doubled, the lion population was extirpated in similar to 70 % of our simulations. We then simulated reductions in lethal poaching pressure to quantify the predicted population recovery of lions. We found that the lion population increased by 40 % with reductions in lethal poaching pressure of 50 %. When we removed lethal poaching pressure entirely, the lion population nearly doubled in just 18 years. Our results demonstrate that by reducing the density of wire snares in the study area by just 2.79/km(2), the lion population transitioned from being locally extirpated in 67 % of the simulations to reaching carrying capacity inside of two lion generations. We explore how vulnerable even non-target animals are to subsistence poaching and describe the types of applied practices that can be implemented to reduce wire snaring and effectively promote the population recovery of species of conservation concern.


African lions; Conservation biology; Illegal hunting; Lethal pressure; Poaching; Population persistence

Published in

Biological Conservation
2023, Volume: 284, article number: 110147

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences
    Fish and Wildlife Management

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