Evidence Resources

CEE Evidence Syntheses

The spatial distribution of illegal hunting of terrestrial mammals in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic map



There is a rich body of literature addressing the topic of illegal hunting of wild terrestrial mammals. Studies on this topic have risen over the last decade as species are under increasing risk from anthropogenic threats. Sub-Saharan Africa contains the highest number of terrestrial mammals listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. However, the spatial distribution of illegal hunting incidences is not well documented. To address this knowledge gap, the systematic map presented here aims to answer three research questions: (1) What data are available on the spatial distribution of illegal hunting of terrestrial mammals in Sub-Saharan Africa in relation to environmental and anthropogenic correlates i.e. proximity to roads, water bodies, human settlement areas, different land tenure arrangements and anti-poaching ranger patrol bases? (2) Which research methodologies have primarily been used to collect quantitative data and how comparable are these data? (3) Is there a bias in the research body toward particular taxa and geographical areas?


Systematic searches were carried out across eight bibliographic databases; articles were screened against pre-defined criteria. Only wild terrestrial mammals listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) whose geographical range falls in Sub-Saharan Africa and whose threat assessment includes hunting and trapping were included. To meet our criteria, studies were required to include quantitative, spatially explicit data. In total 14,325 articles were screened at the level of title and abstract and 206 articles were screened at full text. Forty-seven of these articles met the pre-defined inclusion criteria.


Spatially explicit data on illegal hunting are available for 29 species in 19 of the 46 countries that constitute Sub-Saharan Africa. Data collection methods include GPS and radio tracking, bushmeat household and market surveys, data from anti-poaching patrols, hunting follows and first-hand monitoring of poaching signs via line transects, audio and aerial surveys. Most studies have been conducted in a single protected area exploring spatial patterns in illegal hunting with respect to the surrounding land. Several spatial biases were detected.


There is a considerable lack of systematically collected quantitative data showing the distribution of illegal hunting incidences and few comparative studies between different tenure areas. The majority of studies have been conducted in a single protected area looking at hunting on a gradient to surrounding village land. From the studies included in the map it is evident there are spatial patterns regarding environmental and anthropogenic correlates. For example, hunting increases in proximity to transport networks (roads and railway lines), to water sources, to the border of protected areas and to village land. The influence of these spatial features could be further investigated through meta-analysis. There is a diverse range of methods in use to collect data on illicit hunting mainly drawing on pre-existing law enforcement data or researcher led surveys detecting signs of poaching. There are few longitudinal studies with most studies representing just one season of data collection and there is a geographical research bias toward Tanzania and a lack of studies in Central Africa.


Poaching, Snaring, Bushmeat, Wildmeat, Wildlife, Trapping, Conservation, Biodiversity, Anthropocene

Who's in the review team?

Isla Duporge
Timothy Hodgetts
Tiejun Wang
David W. Macdonald

At what stage is the review?

Completed Review

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