The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

How Mentawai Island primate characteristics affect hunters’ prey choice


1Biology, Randolph College, 2Anthropology, University of New Mexico

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Hunters usually choose prey items based on prey characteristics. Qualities that hunters search for in prey include taste, size, availability, and capturability. In this study, these traits and their impact on local hunting of four nonhuman primates (Hylobates klossii, Macaca pagensis, Presbytis potenziani, and Simias concolor) were examined on the Mentawai Islands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. All of the primates are endemic, endangered, and hunted to varying degrees.

Physical and verbal data were collected on hunting practices. All signs of human access to and use of three forest areas were recorded, 144 men who lived near the forests were interviewed, and primate densities were calculated from data collected during surveys of the areas.

The results indicate that a minimum of 263 primates were harvested from the three forests, and that they were not hunted randomly. The number of hunters who had successfully captured a macaque or a simakobu was significantly greater than the number of men who had not (M. pagensis: n = 52/76 hunters, X2 = 10.32, p = 0.001; S. concolor: n = 50/76 hunters, X2 = 7.58, p = 0.006). In contrast, there were significantly fewer hunters who had killed gibbons or leaf monkeys than would be expected (H. klossii: n = 27/76 hunters, X2 = 6.37, p = 0.012; P. potenziani: n = 28/76 hunters, X2 = 4.81, p = 0.028). It appeared that hunters chose prey items not only based on size, but also due to their ease of capture, taste, and density.

This research was generously funded by Primate Conservation, Inc. and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

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