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Because nonhuman primates are our closest living phylogenetic relatives, nonhuman primates have been put to use in many different aspects of scientific research, such as biomedical research, and as models for human evolution. In order for scientists to conduct biomedical research on nonhuman primates and extrapolate that research to humans, certain assumptions have to be made concerning the nature and evolution of prosimians, monkeys, and apes. For example, it is often assumed that the stress of caging a nonhuman primate has no effect on its physiology. Fouts, Fouts, and Waters argue in Chapter 3 that the stress of being caged coupled with isolation can affect an animal's physiology, thereby calling into question any data gathered on a stressed animal.
When using nonhuman primates for models of human evolution we run the risk of falling into the assumption that nonhuman primates have not substantially changed since our last common ancestor. However, most anthropologists would agree that adaptations have changed over the millennia and urge caution when extrapolating from the behaviors of extant nonhuman primates to past or present human behaviors.
The three chapters in this part of the book address the issue of how nonhuman primates are viewed by social scientists and biomedical researchers.
As our closest evolutionary relatives, nonhuman primates are integral elements in our mythologies, diets and scientific paradigms, yet most species now face an uncertain future through exploitation for the pet and bushmeat trades as well as progressive habitat loss. New information about disease transmission, dietary and economic linkage, and the continuing international focus on conservation and primate research have created a surge of interest in primates, and focus on the diverse interaction of human and nonhuman primates has become an important component in primatological and ethnographic studies. By examining the diverse and fascinating range of relationships between humans and other primates, and how this plays a critical role in conservation practice and programs, Primates Face to Face disseminates the information gained from the anthropological study of nonhuman primates to the wider academic and non-academic world.
Nonhuman primates are the focus of a wide array of investigations relating to human primates. Physiological models, evolutionary models, primatewide trends in anatomy, and behavior are but a few of these foci. Many of these investigations are fruitful and rewarding to several branches of scientific knowledge. Here, however, I would like to take a slightly different direction and discuss nonhuman primates not as a model for humans but rather as sympatric, and evolutionarily similar, participants in a rapidly changing ecosystem. In many areas of the world, human and nonhuman primates are experiencing similar challenges brought about by changing ecological, social and economic realities. Although nonhuman primate behavior and ecology, human ecology, and conservation are all broad fields by themselves, it is my contention that the third (conservation) is most effective when the first two are merged and treated as a unified area of investigation. I hope to demonstrate here that by incorporating elements of human cultural ecology, nonhuman primate behavior and ecology into a broad picture of a dynamic ecosystem we may have a better chance of either successfully assessing ongoing conservation status or implementing new conservation programs.
Ecology is (grossly) the entire set of interactions between organisms and their environment.
Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) are descendants of the cercopithecine monkeys who migrated to Asia from Africa about 3 million years ago and adapted to the range of landscapes and climates of Asia (Fleagle, 1999; Szalay and Delson, 1979). Modern Asian macaques are highly adaptable primates and in the recent past were distributed from eastern Afghanistan through to China and south to the Islands of Indonesia. Asian macaques are also found from Sri Lanka to the islands of Japan (Wolfheim, 1983). Rhesus monkeys were once found from eastern Afghanistan to southern China and from the middle of India to northern Vietnam, but in recent times their distribution has shrunk because of habitat distribution and the removal of monkeys for food and export (Wolfheim, 1983).
Rhesus macaques live in multimale–multifemale troops that have been reported to range from a minimum of 10 monkeys to over 100. There are usually more females than males in a troop because about half of the males choose a solitary lifestyle rather than living in a troop. Females remain in their natal troops and form subgroups composed of females and males based on kinship and friendships. Males leave their natal troops around the age of 4 years and either remain solitary or join a new troop.
In many areas of the world human and nonhuman primates are intertwined in important cultural and ecological contexts. While human and nonhuman organisms frequently share common environments, or space, some nonhuman organisms play an additional significant role in human ‘place’. This place is the reality created by the human cultural incorporation, utilization and modification of the environment or habitat in which they live. In many parts of the circumequatorial world, especially Amazonia, nonhuman primates are central to human nutritional and social realities. In this section the authors seek to provide the reader access to the intricate, cultural interconnections between humans and a few species of monkey and ape.
Loretta Cormier's discussion of the Guajá of Eastern Amazonia (Chapter 4) provides a glimpse of a dramatic and complex series of social and mythological relationships involving humans and monkeys. Simultaneously playing central nutritional and cultural roles, the monkeys form an integral component of Guajá life. This example represents an extreme level of cross-primate connectivity and at the same time illustrates the amazing diversity and malleability of human cultural kinship systems.
In Chapter 5 Manuel Lizarralde contextualizes the discussion under the rubric of ethnoecology and presents a culturally based account of the role and importance of monkeys to the Bari of Venezuela.
A common theme that arises from every section of this book is that of complexity and the inextricable interconnections between ecology and human cultures. While the title of this compilation involves the word ‘conservation’ and all of the chapters touch on the subject, the chapters in this section focus on the nexus of culture and ecology in the light of conservation issues. There is no longer the possibility of studying a group, or population, of nonhuman primates without coming into contact with human interaction, manipulation, and/or habitat destruction. Ninety per cent of the world's primates are found in tropical forests and it is precisely these forests that are being converted to human use faster and more dramatically than any other habitats on earth. Fifty per cent of all primate species are a conservation concern to the Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and 20% are considered endangered or critically endangered. Today these numbers continue to rise in the face of continuing threats.
Unfortunately, the tropical areas that are home to most nonhuman primates are some of the most economically precarious and therefore politically unstable nations on earth. Human greed, lack of long-term foresight, global economies and colonial legacies contribute to dramatic food shortages among already impoverished people.
National governments often become involved in controlling access to wildlife sanctuaries and reserves. In the first chapter in this section (Chapter 13), Ardith Eudey discusses conservation projects in Thailand and other nearby countries where local people are evicted or hired to act as guides. Eudey was a graduate student when she began her research in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in the Uthaithani province in Thailand. She found herself at a center of the discord between the ethnic hill folk and the sanctuary's officers from Bangkok. True to her identity as an anthropologist, she acted as a buffer between the government of Thailand and their desire to move the Hmong from the sanctuary to another village site. As vice-chair for Asia of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Primate Specialist Group, she also expresses her concern with the situation in both Myanmar and Vietnam. She argues that conservationists should be sensitive to the needs of both the indigenous people and the local wildlife. She also presents the case that the best park rangers are often the local people because they are familiar with the forest. She argues, moreover, that it is more humane to employ indigenous people in their native areas than to move them to a new area that may be less suited to their needs.
The intersection of anthropology and primatology is a complex one where our knowledge of human and nonhuman primates meet. Contributing to its complexity are the different sets of theoretical assumptions and methodological approaches that culturally-oriented anthropologists and biologically-oriented primatologists tend to bring to their studies. The different ways in which ethnographic and ethological findings are usually reported further increases the intellectual distance that anthropologists and primatologists alike must travel in their search for common ground.
There is also a curious asymmetry between anthropology and primatology that has developed along with the peculiar intellectual traditions of each. For example, although humans are primates, anthropologists who study humans rarely regard themselves as primatologists. Instead, primatologists, particularly in the social sciences, learn early on in their careers to respond to the persistent question of what primatology contributes to anthropology in terms of the comparative perspectives that nonhuman primates can provide. That this question is typically posed by scholars who focus on those aspects of cultural behavior that distinguish humans from other primates has often struck me as an odd detail because nearly all definitions of what makes humans human are implicitly or explicitly derived from comparisons.
Primatologists, for the most part, have been slow to turn the question of primatology's place in anthropology on its head.
Human and nonhuman primates share intertwined destinies. Nonhuman primates are our closest evolutionary relatives and integral elements in our mythologies, diets, and scientific paradigms. The study of all primates (human and nonhuman) continues to be a rapidly expanding field. Recently, specific focus on the multifarious interaction of human and nonhuman primates, termed ‘ethnoprimatology’ or ‘cultural primatology’, is becoming a major component in primatological studies. We feel that it is possible to view human and nonhuman primates as co-participants in a rapidly escalating realm of ecological and cultural change. The fields of investigation into human ecology, nonhuman primate ecology and behavior, and conservation are traditionally considered distinct avenues of investigation. It is our contention, however, that conservation is most effective when human and nonhuman primate ecology and behavior are seen as interconnected and treated as a unified area of investigation. In this book we hope to illustrate that a constructive approach to assessing conservation realities can be obtained by including elements of human culture and ecology, nonhuman primate behavior and ecology, and creating a picture of a broad and dynamic interconnected cultural and biological ecosystem.
Whereas general ecology is seen as the set of interactions between organisms and their environment, cultural ecology can be envisioned as cultural models of the environment and the relation between a people and their ecological space.
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