Integrating Ethnography and Hunting Sustainability Modeling for Primate Conservation in an Indigenous Reserve in Guyana

Christopher A. Shaffer, Marissa S. Milstein, Phillip Suse, Elisha Marawanaru, Charakura Yukuma, Tiffany M. Wolf, Dominic A. Travis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Indigenous reserves are increasingly common throughout the tropical world. This is particularly true in Amazonia, where they make up >50% of protected land area. While these reserves offer tremendous opportunities for conservation, hunting represents a considerable threat to primate populations. As eliminating hunting may not be feasible, conservationists must work collaboratively with indigenous groups to promote sustainable management. This requires an understanding of the sociocultural drivers of hunting, quantitatively assessing sustainability, and developing co-management strategies that are commensurable with indigenous ontologies. In this article, we integrate ethnography with sustainability modeling to assess the importance of primate hunting to the livelihoods and culture of indigenous Waiwai in the Konashen Community-Owned Conservation Area, Guyana and to simultaneously promote sustainable co-management. We collected quantitative data on Waiwai harvesting through hunter self-monitoring and used semistructured interviews, unstructured interviews, and participant observation to understand the cultural importance of hunting to Waiwai society. We incorporated these data into spatially explicit biodemographic models to assess sustainability for four primate species. Primates, particularly spider monkeys (Ateles pansicus), were among the most important Waiwai prey and primate hunting played an important role in the construction of both individual and collective Waiwai identity. Our biodemographic models indicated that hunting will cause relatively little depletion for most primates in 20 years, although spider monkeys are predicted to disappear from a majority of the Waiwai catchment area. We argue that successful co-management of hunting in indigenous reserves requires truly integrative approaches that combine quantitative sustainability assessments with detailed concurrent ethnographic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-968
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Bushmeat hunting
  • Community conservation
  • Ontology
  • Waiwai


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