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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Prohibit or restrict hunting of a species Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Key messages

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  • Abundance (2 studies): Two studies (including one before-and-after study), in the USA and Poland, found that prohibiting hunting led to population increases of tule elk and wolves.
  • Survival (3 studies): A before-and-after study in Norway found that restricting or prohibiting hunting did not alter the number of brown bears killed. A study in Zimbabwe reported that banning the hunting, possession and trade of Temminck’s ground pangolins did not eliminate hunting of the species. A before-and-after study in South Africa found that increasing legal protection of leopards, along with reducing human-leopard conflict by promoting improved animal husbandry, was associated with increased survival.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after study in 1908–1918 in Sweden and one in 1967–1977 in Norway (Swenson et al. 1995) found that the number of brown bears Ursus arctos reported killed did not change significantly after hunting was prohibited. The number of brown bears reported killed over five years after legal protection was introduced (Sweden: 6.8 bears/year; Norway: 1.2 bears/year) did not differ significantly to that over the five years before legal protection (Sweden: 7.2 bears/year; Norway: 1.6 bears/year). Numbers of bears killed were obtained from national harvesting records. Bears were protected on Crown land in 1913 in Sweden and fully protected in 1972 in Norway. Bears could still be killed to protect livestock and for self-defence.


A before-and-after study in 1971–1998 in California, USA (Adess 1998) found that numbers of tule elk Cervus canadensis nannodes increased after hunting was prohibited. The tule elk population grew from approximately 500 individuals in 1971 when it received official protection against hunting, to 2,000 individuals in 1989 and >3,000 individuals in 1998. Tule elk became officially protected in 1971. The bill prohibited hunting until the population reached 2,000 individuals. No monitoring or habitat details are provided. Other management interventions (not detailed) were carried out by California Department of Fish and Game during the length of the study.


A before-and-after study in 2003–2007, in a mixed woodland and grassland area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Balme et al. 2009) found that increasing legal protection of leopards Panthera pardus along with reducing human-leopard conflict, by promoting improved animal husbandry, was associated with increased leopard survival. The annual mortality rate of leopards in the three years after increased protection and improved husbandry were introduced (12–17%) was lower than during the two previous years (33–47%). Conditions to be met before a permit was issued to kill leopards that predated livestock were tightened in January 2005. New regulations required that there had to be at least three verifiable predation incidents within two months and further livestock protection steps were required. Additionally, selling permits to sports hunters was banned. Workshops in January–July 2005 promoted best practice in protecting livestock from predation (including corralling vulnerable animals, guarding herds, regularly changing grazing paddocks and disposing of carcasses). Twenty-six leopards were monitored by radio-tracking before actions were introduced (2003–2004) and 28 after they were introduced (2005–2007).


A study in 2001–2013 in a forest within an agricultural landscape across western Poland (Nowak & Mysłajek 2016) found that after hunting was prohibited, wolves Canis lupus increased in number. Fourteen years after hunting was banned, the wolf population (139 wolves) was higher than three years after the ban was introduced (7–9 wolves). After five years, the first cases of wolf reproduction in the study area were confirmed. Of the 28 wolf deaths recorded, 17 were caused by traffic and seven animals were killed illegally. Wolf field signs (tracks, droppings, scratch marks), camera-trapping and howling simulation surveys were used by trained personnel to locate territories. Mortality reports were collated and verified where possible. Surveys prioritised areas with wolf reports and areas identified as being the most suitable habitat.


A study in 2010–2015 in Zimbabwe (Shepherd et al. 2017) reported that banning the hunting, possession and trade of Temminck’s ground pangolins Smutsia temminckii did not eliminate hunting of the species, but enforcement led to a higher number of confiscations. After a nationwide ban on hunting, possession and trade in 1975, a total of 65 Temminck’s ground pangolin seizures were made in 2010–2015. The number of pangolins confiscated increased over this period from 0–1/six-month period in 2010–2011 up to 4–13/six-month period in 2014–2015. Of 53 live pangolins seized, 32 were released back into the wild. In 1975, the Temminck’s ground pangolin was given full protection on Zimbabwe's Specially Protected Species list. During the study period, all pangolins were listed in Appendix II of CITES. Pangolin seizure data for the period between October 2010 and July 2015 were compiled from information from Zimbabwean wildlife management authorities and courts, from the media and from an NGO.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.