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

Nonhuman Primates and "Others": Multispecies ethnography in the Dzanga Sangha Dense Forest Reserve (RDS), Central African Republic


Department of Anthropology, Purdue University

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We use the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve (RDS) as a case study on the utility of multi-species ethnography as a theoretical framework for ethnoprimatology. The expansion of people and extractive practices in the tropics requires primatologists to situate their work within complex, human-dominated ecosystems. In 2002 the overall density of cercopithecoid monkeys in RDS was 6.14 groups/km2; (park: 16.232 groups/km2, reserve: 4.65 groups/km2 (Delta AIC = 0.09, AIC = 887.58, ESW = 19.56 m). In 2009 primates had become cryptic in response to increased gun hunting, and observations were too few to estimate densities. Encounter rates for gorilla nests on transects had declined from 0.98 nests/km to 0.39 nests/km. To further understand these results, we interviewed 77 BaAka hunters at RDS on their knowledge of primates and importance of human-animal relationships. From interviews we gained insights into primate behavior and the adaptive responses of hunters to shifting abundance and anti-predator responses. With increases in gun hunters, cross-bow hunting of primates has declined dramatically; it is a skill no longer transmitted to the younger generation (2012: 1 hunter, 2009: 4 hunters). Interestingly those who emphasized the symbolic importance of primates had previous experience as a cross-bow hunter or at primate research camps. We suggest the value of combining primatological and ethnographic approaches emphasizing the interconnectedness of nonhuman primates and “others.” Examination of everyday interactions of people and primates provides researchers with avenues for studying declining populations and promoting the intrinsic and extrinsic valuations that form the core of successful conservation programs.

We acknowledge funding from Purdue University, Clifford Kinley Trust, Primate Conservation, Inc., The American Society of Primatologists and the Explorer's Club.

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