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

Competition for woodland and forest resources between humans and nonhuman primates in Tana River, Kenya


1Department of Anthropology, Buffalo State College, 2Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, 3Departments of Biology and Environmental Science, Whittier College

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The Pokomo people of the lower Tana River, Kenya, rely on woodland and forest products for construction material. The lower Tana River forests are also home to two endemic and endangered monkeys, the Tana River mangabey Cercocebus galeritus and the Tana River red colobus Procolobus rufomitratus. To investigate the pressure the Pokomo may exert on the primates’ forest habitat, we held participatory workshops in 13 Pokomo villages in June and August 2011. We asked participants to list species used to build their houses and make other household items (canoes, beehives, mats, baskets). Species lists of the primate diets were compiled from previous long-term studies. Cultural importance indices (CI), measuring how many informants mentioned each species in each use category (housing poles, roof thatch, ropes, canoes, beehives, mats, baskets) (Tardio & Prado-de-Santayana, 2008), were calculated for each species listed by the Pokomo. We calculated CIs for all use categories and seven housing pole categories. Four of the top five species in all use categories are in the top five diet species of the mangabey; only one is in the top five for the red colobus. When only housing poles are analyzed, only one of the top five used by humans is in the top five for the mangabey; there is zero overlap with the diet of the red colobus. Although CI and similar indices are common approaches when investigating plant use, we conclude that they fail to capture the amount used by the Pokomo and the use’s impact on forest structure.

The research was funded by a Buffalo State College Provost’s Incentive Grant and the International Primatological Society to Julie Wieczkowski, and by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation and Primate Conservation, Inc to Lara Allen and David Mbora.

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