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Know your monkey!

PhD candidate Ciara Stafford publishes paper on how an indigenous Ecuadorian community perceives the primates that inhabit their rainforest home.

Image © Xaali O'Reilly Berkeley


Increasing pressure on tropical forests is continually highlighting the need to find new solutions that mitigate the impact of human populations on biodiversity. However, developing solutions that can tackle the drivers of anthropogenic pressure, or at least take them into account, hinges upon building a good understanding of the culture and perceptions of local people. This study aims to provide an overview of the ethnoprimatology of an indigenous Kichwa community in the Ecuadorian Amazon that maintains a traditional lifestyle but also has good access to markets. We examine whether primates are seen as a distinctive group and their relative importance as sources of bushmeat and as household pets. Pile-sorting exercises revealed that although locals generally group members of the order Primates together, tree-dwelling non-primates including sloths, coatis, kinkajous and tamanduas are also frequently classified as ‘monkeys'. The perceived importance of primates to the forest and the community lay more in their potential as bushmeat, and only 1 respondent identified an ecological role for the group in terms of seed dispersal. Gaining a better understanding of local perceptions will allow for better-informed conservation decisions that are more aware of potential impacts and are more likely to gain community support.

Paper available here, open access:

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