The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Monkeys on the menu? reconciling patterns of primate hunting and consumption in a central African Village


Anthropology, Purdue University

Saturday 11:30-11:45, Parlors Add to calendar

Increased hunting in response to rural population increases, changing technology and growing market economies have led to marked declines in primate populations. Yet, primate abundance intersects with cultural preferences and market values to influence what appears in markets and in cooking pots. This study employs market data (n = 157 days), hunter preference surveys (n = 290) and semi-structured interviews with market women (n = 10) and hunters (n = 113) in the town of Bayanga, Central African Republic (2008-2009) to address relationships between market availability, primate abundance and hunter catchments. Market data show a 102% increase in the presence of primate species for sale and a shift in overall prey profiles since 2006 (χ2 = 19.5, p = 0.0001). However, comparative hunter catchment data indicate that the proportions of primate species hunted have not increased significantly, even though the numbers of individuals captured have increased 10 fold since 1994 (2009 = 10,473 primates/year). The increase in primates captured corresponds with transect data demonstrating declining primate abundance (encounters/km) over time (2002-2009, U = 71.5, p < 0.004). While increases in the proportions of primates at market stem from declining ungulate populations and increasing use of firearms, our data suggest that cultural values, taste preference and overall market worth also factor into hunter and consumer practices. Contextualizing the consumptive use of primates within larger ecological, market and ethnographic datasets allows us reconcile incongruous patterns surrounding the demand for nonhuman primate meat and maximize conservation efforts in central African villages.

This study was funded by National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (#0751622), Wenner Gren (#7705), World Wildlife Fund, Purdue Research Foundation, Purdue University, Primate Conservation Inc., American Society of Primatologists, Explorers Club Exploration Fund.

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