Jungle giants: assessing sustainable harvesting in a difficult-to-survey species (Python reticulatus)

Daniel J. D. Natusch, Jessica A. Lyons, Mumpuni, Awal Riyanto, Richard Shine

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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Sustainability of wildlife harvests is critical but difficult to assess. Evaluations of sustainability typically combine modelling with the measurement of underlying abundances. For many taxa harvested in developing countries, however, abundances are near-impossible to survey and a lack of detailed ecological information impedes the reliability of models. In such cases, repeated surveys of the attributes of harvested individuals may provide more robust information on sustainability. If the numbers, sizes and other demographic attributes of animals taken for the commercial trade do not change over biologically significant time intervals (decades), there is a prima facie case that the harvest is indeed sustainable. Here, we report the results of examinations of > 4,200 reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) taken for the commercial leather industry in northern and southern Sumatra, Indonesia. The numbers, mean body sizes, clutch sizes, sizes at maturity and proportion of giant specimens have not decreased between our first surveys (1995) and repeat surveys (2015). Thus, despite assumptions to the contrary, the harvest appears to be sustainable. We use our data to inform the design of future monitoring programs for this species. Our study underpins the need for robust science to inform wildlife trade policy and decision-making, and urges wildlife managers to assess sustainability of difficult-to-survey terrestrial wildlife by drawing inferences directly from the harvest itself.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158397
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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