Irreplaceable socioeconomic value of wild meat extraction to local food security in rural Amazonia

André Valle Nunes, Carlos A. Peres, Pedro de Araujo Lima Constantino, Bráulio A. Santos, Erich Fischer

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33 Citations (Scopus)
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Wild vertebrates play a decisive role in the subsistence economy of human populations worldwide. The food security value of wild-meat extracted from natural ecosystems remains poorly quantified. Here, we provide an economic valuation of the nutritional and monetary benefits of year-round wild-meat hunting across a large trinational region of southwestern Amazonia using data from indigenous and non-indigenous settlements from 30 sites. We then build scenarios to explore whether three ubiquitous sources of regional-scale household income (i.e. wage labour, horticultural revenues from manioc flour production and the harvest of Brazil-nuts) could match the purchase costs of alternative meat demand to meet domestic consumption of animal protein should game stocks collapse for any reason. We also considered a fourth valuation scenario in terms of game meat substitution with bovine beef. We conservatively estimate a total annual consumption of ~1431.8 tons of undressed animal carcasses, equivalent to a mean per-capita meat consumption of 54.75 kg person−1 yr−1, or ~10.9 kg of animal protein person−1 yr−1. This overall consumption of terrestrial wildlife meat provides US$7.875 million yr−1 across the study region. However, household income levels were too low to enable transitions into domestic livestock consumption indicating low adaptation capacity to alternative animal protein; replacement purchases of domestic meat would amount to 90% of aggregate annual wages, 194% of overall income from manioc flour, and 67% of all Brazil-nuts collected. Complete beef replacement by the population in this region would require further inputs of US$2.658 million yr−1 and the conversion of 4310 ha of Amazonian forests into pasture. Our results emphasize the extraordinarily valuable and irreplaceable role of wild meat in the food security of tropical forest dwellers. Proposing consumption of alternative sources of animal protein for monetarily deprived forest dwellers is clearly an unrealistic, if not environmentally-damaging, strategy. Conservation scientists, wildlife biologists and policy makers should therefore prioritize adding value to standing forests by managing sustainable wild-meat offtake from natural ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-179
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Bushmeat harvest
  • Ecosystem services
  • Household income
  • Protein consumption
  • Rainforest
  • Wildlife conservation

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