Dr. Mattia Bessone

Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies
Research Group Fruth

Main Focus

I am a postdoctoral ecologist in the team of Prof. Dr. Barbara Fruth, interested in understanding the factors influencing the viability of wildlife populations, with a focus on Central Africa and the Congo Basin. In my current project, financed by the University of Konstanz via the Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, I aim to integrate human hunters as a factor, evaluating their role in driving prey behaviour and population dynamics, but also to highlight the importance of wildlife for the livelihood of local people. My ambition is to assess the sustainability of wildlife hunting by understanding ongoing predator-prey dynamics, including traditional practices and socio-economic aspects. In close collaboration with the LuiKotale Bonobo Project, I conduct my research in the Province of Mai-Ndombe, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where I work in collaboration with six villages, representing approximatively 400 households.

Ecology and behaviour

One of my goals is to assess the availability (i.e., abundance), distribution and population trend of forest ungulates and primates, human main preys. I am also interested in predator-prey dynamics, and how the presence of human hunters affects the spatial behaviour of prey species. We use a diverse set of wildlife monitoring methods, including camera-trapping and telemetry (ungulates) and direct observations and passive acoustic monitoring (primates). By providing collaborating hunters with GPS devices, we track their routes to assess spatial use and hunting effort, linking those metrics to spatially explicit data of prey species.

Wildlife use from humans

To assess sustainability while discriminating between subsistence and commercial hunting, I link wildlife availability with measures of wildlife use such as hunting offtake, wild meat consumption and wild meat trade. In the villages, we record hunted wildlife and assesses how much of it is consumed domestically and how much is sold for income. In doing so I aim to understand 1) the impact of different hunting strategies on wildlife and 2) the importance of wildlife for people’s livelihood, both for food security and income.

Socio-economic factors favouring wildlife hunting

In collaboration with Prof. Urs Fischbacher and Dr. Iraeneus Wolf, I aim to understand the social and economic factors promoting hunting within the collaborating villages. Specifically, we carry out visual and proximity (using tags) studies to build the hunters’ social networks, a proxy of social status. We also investigate cooperation and risk preferences and how those relate to social status, using semi-structured interviews and incentivised economic games.

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