Impacts of Indigenous Communities on the Biodiversity of Neotropical Rainforests

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Ciara Stafford


This thesis explores how indigenous communities in the neotropics affect the biodiversity of the forests in which they live; and assesses how the culture, preferences and perceptions of communities can influence the outcome of this relationship. This is first investigated via a case study that compares primate populations between a protected area in the Ecuadorian Amazon and a territory in its adjacent buffer zone that is owned by an indigenous Kichwa community. I then use an ethnoprimatological approach to investigate the attitudes of this community to primates, namely looking at (a) whether primates are seen as a distinct group, (b) the relative importance of primates as sources of bushmeat and pets and (c) the perceived value of primates in terms of their value as a resource or their ecological role. I show that diurnal primates are seen as a cohesive group, but that tree-dwelling non-primates including sloths, kinkajous and tamanduas are also frequently classified as ‘monkeys’. The community’s perceptions of the value of primates are more closely associated with their potential as bushmeat and pets, whereas few respondents view their importance in terms of their role in the forest ecosystem. I compare our findings to those in studies of other indigenous groups and discuss how they could contribute to more effective conservation planning. Next, I assess how hunting preferences for mammals and birds vary across communities over the whole of central America, Amazonia and the Guianan shield. I show that primates, cetartiodactyls and rodents are the mammalian cornerstones of prey provision for hunters in neotropical communities, whereas Galliformes, Tinamiformes, Psittaciformes, Gruiformes, Piciformes are the most commonly hunted bird orders. The location of a community alone is a significant but weak predictor of the structure of its hunting profile in terms of order preferences. In addition, I found no relationship between a community’s age and size and the average biomass of birds or mammals hunted, or the number of mammal species that are targeted. I discuss whether the age and size of communities are robust indicators of past and current hunting pressure, as well as the suitability of cross-sectional data for monitoring large-scale hunting patterns.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2017

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