Colorado State University Study Finds Economic Trends Tied with Human Hunting of Wild Animals

The global economic crisis has had rippling effects on people and institutions around the world, but has it impacted wildlife? A researcher from Colorado State University says in a new study that there is a distinct correlation with the economic recession and illegal hunting of wild African elephants.

In a paper published in the journal, Conservation Biology, George Wittemyer, assistant professor in CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, examined the relative strength of ecological and economic indicators to explain elephant mortality in a pastoralist system in Kenya, Africa, where the local economic conditions are a function of livestock value.

Wittemyer’s results show that economic, not ecological, conditions are coupled with greater adult elephant mortality and human-induced wounding of elephants. These measures of human pressure occur at much higher rates during times of local economic recessions as defined by livestock prices.

“Threats to elephants, a commercially traded species, increased during local economic recessions. This may be of broad relevance to species conservation and management bodies. Should this be the case, metrics of economic conditions can be used as a proxy for pressures on wildlife species. Information on economic fluctuations can serve to focus management activities on, for example, adjustment of antipoaching efforts in response to or anticipation of economically driven changes in natural resource reliance,” Wittemyer said.

In addition to livestock prices, other economic indices explored included local market commodities in the form of corn prices, as well as macroeconomic indices in the form of changes in national and regional gross domestic product.

"Interestingly, and of pertinence to the management and conservation community, macro-economic indices contained less explanatory power than those specific to the local ecosystem. Use of appropriate economic indicators, once defined, as threat indices for management planning is likely to be broadly applicable for the biodiversity conservation arena,” Wittemyer said.

The study is published online in Conservation Biology at