With powerful LED flashlights, humans are upping their jungle kills - Science Magazine
Jul 31, 2020 1 min, 48 secs

Three men equipped with a light-emitting diode headlamp travel for a night hunting trip in the Congo rainforest.

Cheap, powerful flashlights are allowing hunters in tropical jungles around the world to more easily kill nocturnal animals, including endangered species such as pangolins, according to a new study.

Humans have stalked their prey with bright lights such as flashlights for decades.

But flashlights using conventional incandescent bulbs quickly run out of power, making such hunting costly and difficult.

Mark Bowler, an ecologist at the University of Suffolk, wondered whether the technology might also be changing the way people hunt in the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon, where he studies animal ecology.

“That’s when I said, ‘OK, we need to do some interviews and find out what’s happening here,’” Bowler says.

He joined researchers in Brazil and Gabon to gather data from hunters about their use of such lights.

In South America, two-thirds of the hunters said they did more nighttime hunting with the new flashlights; in Gabon, where such hunting is illegal, just one-third said they did more night hunting.

More than half the hunters said the LEDs made hunting easier.

Hunters often shoot pacas (Cuniculus paca), nocturnal rodents that resemble small spotted pigs, from canoes at night, spotlighting animals standing at the riverbank.

student at Manchester Metropolitan University who studies hunting in these villages, until he saw that it corresponded to the period when LED flashlights had become widespread.

The rise of LEDs for bushmeat hunting could be a boon or a bane, says Robert Nasi, a forest ecologist and director general of the Center for International Forestry Research, an Indonesia-based nonprofit that studies wild animal hunting in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

For example, Gabonese hunters working at night in the vast forests of the Congo reported killing threatened species, including the giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and various small antelopes known as duikers.

LEDs could fuel intensive hunting of the sort that can take a toll on jungle ecosystems, Nasi says.

But for people hunting to feed themselves, the lights could save time, freeing them up to do other things like fish or tend crops.

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