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European rabbit hunting: Management changes and inertia in the governance system in a period of population fluctuations

AuthorsPiorno, V.; Arroyo, Beatriz ; Delibes-Mateos, Miguel ; Castro, Francisca ; Villafuerte, Rafael
KeywordsCrop damage
Oryctolagus cuniculus
Rabbit decline
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease
Issue Date2020
CitationJournal for Nature Conservation 56: 125832 (2020)
AbstractThe recreational use of natural resources requires the implementation of sustainable management systems. However, the existence of socioeconomic interests and the difficulty involved in applying evidence-based criteria often hinder this implementation. The European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is an appropriate case with which to study the recreational hunting governance systems. This species has, in recent decades, undergone important population changes in its native area, the Iberian Peninsula, where it plays a triple role as a game, pest and key ecological species. The rabbit is consequently intensively managed for hunting purposes, for the conservation of rabbit-dependent predators and in order to mitigate damage to crops. In this paper, we study the governance system of rabbit hunting through the use of questionnaire surveys distributed to managers working for Spanish regional governments. We repeated the survey in 2001 and 2016 in order to evaluate how the system had evolved over a 15-year period of important changes in rabbit population abundance. We found two different responses to these changes. The growth of rabbit populations in provinces in which rabbits cause crop damage in farmland areas has been dealt with an increase in hunting pressure, derived from both administrative decisions and hunters’ management. However, in provinces where rabbit populations have sharply declined in natural vegetation (non-farmland) areas, the management seems to be driven mostly by inertia, with a high influence of tradition and little use of evidence on administrative decisions. Hunters in these provinces have changed their management practices to little or no extent, where even the high importance of rabbit hunting and its (moderate) economic importance do not appear to provide an incentive for the change required.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2020.125832
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2020.125832
issn: 1617-1381
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