Shared Landscapes: A Biosocial Analysis for Primate Conservation

Date

2021-05-25

Authors

Warshawski, Lindsey

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Abstract

Currently, 66% of primate species are facing threats of extinction, and 74% are experiencing declining populations. Many primate populations inhabit increasingly anthropogenic environments. Therefore, effects such as habitat loss and proximity to humans and human settlements are being studied in an effort to understand the ways in which primates cope with changing environments. As primate-human relationships intensify, understanding the anthropogenic modifications primate habitats are facing, how primates respond to these modifications, and how humans might alleviate or exacerbate anthropogenic effects is a prerequisite to designing and implementing conservation strategies. My research aims to contribute to the conservation of primates and primate habitats by focusing on the interrelatedness of primate-human relationships that emerge in shared landscapes. My study concentrates on two geographically and phylogenetically distant, yet socio-ecologically similar taxa: spider monkeys (genus Ateles) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). I analyse primatological field studies and integrate literature from historical ecology and ethnoprimatology to present a more nuanced understanding of underlying human social and cultural factors that contribute to anthropogenic modifications in primate habitats. I argue the value of primatological field studies can be enriched by historical, ecological, and ethnographic literature, as these concepts take into account past and present interactions between primates and humans, and the landscapes in which they live. My analysis reveals that spider monkeys and chimpanzees are remarkable in their abilities to adapt to their behaviour to anthropogenic modifications. However, colonial pressures, population growth and density, global demand for forest resources, and the subsequent commercialization these resources, as well as locals’ varying and changing perceptions toward primates and primate-inhabited forests can both encourage and inhibit behavioural adaptations.

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Keywords

Primatology, Ethnoprimatology, Historical ecology, Anthropogenic, Landscapes, Conservation, Spider monkey, Chimpanzee

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