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COORDINATION: Jorge Palmeirim (CBA, FCUL).

CEABN TEAM: Mariana Carvalho.

OTHER INSTITUTIONS: Centro de Biologia Ambiental (CBA) and Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos (CIBIO).

Tropical forests harbour much of the world’s biodiversity, but its fauna tends to be particularly vulnerable to overhunting because of their low productivity. The human populations that inhabit them are generally poor so bushmeat harvest, often carried out at unsustainable levels, is essential to their livelihoods. Consequently, the search for balanced exploitation strategies is a major challenge both for the conservation of the worlds' biodiversity hotspots and the livelihoods of the poorest people on earth.

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe is one of these major biodiversity hotspots; its forests harbour 26 endemic bird species and rank second amongst Africa’s most important forests for bird conservation. Bushmeat is a key source of proteins for the rural communities and, in the few existing urban areas, there is a considerable number of hunters that get all their income from this activity.

Among the most important sources of wild meat in São Tomé are three species of forest pigeons: Columba thomensis and Treron sanctithomae, both single island endemics, and Columba malherbii, restricted to São Tomé and the even smaller islands of Príncipe and Annobón. As in the case of the forest pigeons of the African mainland, very little is known about the hunting pressure and impact on these species and the biological parameters required to apply sustainability indices for the exploitation of populations.

The two main objectives of this project were:

i) to obtain the information required to manage the endemic pigeons of São Tomé, ensuring not only the long term use of this important resource, but also the maintenance of their ecological role; 

ii) to test and improve the performance of sustainability indices for exploited populations. The small range and size of the pigeon populations of São Tomé together with the harvesting pressure they face, makes them both species of high conservation concern and very good models for the development and testing of sustainability indices, a topic at the forefront of ecological and conservation research. We expect therefore to make a significant contribution for the advance of the field of sustainable harvesting of wild populations and for the conservation of a hotspot of global conservation significance.