Wild meat use by Baka Pygmies in Cameroon

Baka Pygmies are hunter-gatherers of the tropical forest in West Africa. As a result of sedentarisation many Baka have changed their mobility patterns away from nomadic lifestyles to living in roadside villages, but still rely on forest resources. We analysed wild meat use for the Darwin Initiative project "Enabling Baka attain food security, improved health and sustain biodiversity" from 2017 to 2020.

The project was led by Dr Julia Fa from Manchester Metropolitan University. Nature Heritage provided analytic capacity.


As a result of sedentarisation many Baka Pygmies have changed their mobility patterns away from nomadic lifestyles to living in roadside villages. These settled groups are increasingly dependent on cultivated foods but still rely on forest resources. The level of dependence on hunting of wild animals for food and cash, as well as the hunting profiles of sedentarised Pygmy groups is little known.

In this study we describe the use of wild meat in 10 Baka villages along the Djoum-Mintom road in southeastern Cameroon. From data collected from 1,946 hunting trips by 121 hunters, we show that most trips are of around 13 hours and a median of eight hours. A mean ± SD of 1.15 ± 1.11 animal carcasses are taken in a single trip; there was a positive correlation between duration of trips and carcasses. A total of 2,245 carcasses of 49 species of 24 animal families were taken in the study; species diversity was similar in all villages except one. Most hunted animals were mammals, with ungulates contributing the highest proportion. By species, just over half of the animal biomass extracted by all hunters in the studied villages was provided by four mammal species. Most animals were trapped (65.77% ± 16.63), followed by shot with guns (22.56% ± 17.72), other methods (8.69% ± 6.96) and with dogs (2.96% ± 4.49). A mean of 7,569.7 ± 6,103.4 kg yr−1 (2,080.8–19,351.4) were extracted per village, giving 75,697 kg yr−1 in total, which is equivalent to 123 UK dairy cattle. In all villages, 48.07% ± 17.58 of animals hunted were consumed by the hunter and his family, around 32.73% ± 12.55, were sold, followed by a lower percentage of carcasses partially sold and consumed (19.21% ± 17.02). Between 60% and 80% of carcasses belonged to the “least concern” category, followed by “near threatened”, “vulnerable” and, rarely “endangered”. The only endangered species hunted was the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes).

We suggest that hunting is a critical activity that provides a vital source of food for our study communities. Measured wild meat extraction levels are likely to be sustainable if hunter densities do not increase.

Graphical Abstract



A significant number of Baka Pygmies in Cameroon have been sedentarised in roadside villages, in contrast to their nomadic hunter-gatherer existence of the past. Although this change in lifestyle has had important consequences on health, most Baka villages still supplement their diets from forest products, especially wild meat.

We used a combination of participatory methods and monitoring of individual hunters to map hunting territories in 10 Baka villages in southeastern Cameroon. From these, we determined whether wild meat extraction levels per village were related to the size of hunting territories, measured habitat use by hunters and finally defined the overlap between hunting territories and extractive industries in the region. Mapped village hunting areas averaged 205.2 ± 108.7 km2 (range 76.8–352.0 km2); all villages used a total of 2052 km2. From 295 tracks of 51 hunters, we showed that hunters travelled an average of 16.5 ± 13.5 km (range 0.9–89.8 km) from each village. Home ranges, derived from kernel utilization distributions, were correlated with village offtake levels, but hunter offtake and distance travelled were not significantly related, suggesting that enough prey was available even close to the villages. Hunters in all village areas exhibited a clear bias towards certain habitats, as indicated by positive Ivlev’s index of selectivity values. We also showed that all village hunting territories and hunter home ranges fall within mining and logging concessions.

Our results are important for local understanding of forest land uses and to reconcile these with the other land uses in the region to better inform decisions concerning land use policy and planning.