Indicators are measures used to quantify conditions of a variable of interest and effectively assess and monitor its trend (i.e., change) over time. For wild meat researchers, indicators can help track changes in the use of wild meat (i.e., for consumption or sale), the offtakes of wild meat from an area, and the impacts of these offtakes on the prey populations.
Ecological indicators are direct measures or proxies of the population status of hunted species. Hence, these indicators might help understand the impacts of hunting, consumption and trade on the population size and distribution of hunted species. These indicators can be obtained through wildlife population monitoring (direct measures) or hunting offtake and wild meat market surveys (proxies). If you work on projects that are intended to change aspects of wild meat use in your study area (e.g., interventions to reduce wild meat use, protection of a certain game species), these indicators will help you evaluate whether your project is achieving its expected outcomes and support the implementation of sustainable management practices.
Indicators can support sustainable wild meat management and policies at local, national, and international levels.
Local: At the local level, indicators are needed to track the outcomes of community, local or project-level management and interventions, and to understand how wild meat use and management impacts species populations, local community wellbeing and local livelihoods.
If you are trying to sustainably manage wild meat within a local landscape (this could be, for example, community management of wild meat resources, an intervention aiming to reduce wild meat use in a town, or an intervention to protect a certain hunted species), a programme of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is crucial to ensure that your intervention is achieving its aims. If it is not achieving its aims, changes can then be made to the design of the intervention (adaptive management). Evaluation – and further adaptation if needed – can then continue at regular intervals during the intervention lifetime. This is known as the adaptive management cycle, and more information and guidance on adaptive management is provided in the following references:
- Salafsky, N., R. Margoluis, and K. Redford. 2001. Adaptive management: A tool for conservation practitioners. Washington, D.C.: Biodiversity Support Program
- Franklin, T.M., Manale, A. and Helinski, R. 2007. Using Adaptive Management to meet conservation goals.
- Bunnefeld, N., Redpath, S. & Irvine, J. 2015. A review of approaches to adaptive management. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 795.
National: At the national level, indicators are needed to track national use of wild meat, its contribution to the nations’ health, wellbeing, and economy (increasing the visibility of wild meat use in national accounting and planning), and the impacts of national wild meat policies and legislation on wildlife and people over time.
In many countries where wild meat is an important resource, there is currently little evaluation of wild meat use, and how it is changing over time, at a national scale. Wild meat indicators can help to understand how social, economic, and environmental changes, as well as national policies aiming to govern and manage wild meat use nationally, are influencing wild meat use and the sustainability of this use. Tracking wild meat use at a national level can also help national governments with their reporting requirements for international conventions.
International: At the international level, indicators are needed to measure national and international progress towards targets agreed by regional and international biodiversity and sustainable development conventions.
Specifically, for wildmeat, this includes (among others):
- The Sustainable Development Goals (and see Ingram et al. 2021 for how wild meat use relates to specific SGDs),
- The Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework (CBD GBF). The draft GBF includes targets specifically focussed on measuring the extent to which harvest, use and trade in wild species (across all taxa) is sustainable, legal, and safe. Final text for the CBD GBF Targets will be decided by Parties to the CBD at the CBD CoP 15, in Montreal, December 2022.