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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - An ethnoprimatological approach to interactions between human and non-human primates



Twenty years ago it was generally considered unthinkable (as well as unfundable and unpublishable) to carry out research on non-human primates (hereafter ‘primates’) that were in contact with human populations. Such contexts were seen as abnormal/aberrant situations, which distorted ‘natural’ primate behaviour and ecology. In the last decade this bias has gradually yielded to an appreciation that the human–primate interface is not only a legitimate area of research, it is an area of critical importance to both primate conservation and human health. In fact, as human encroachment on primate habitat squeezes the remaining populations of wild primates into ever shrinking areas, the human–primate interface increasingly represents the rule, rather than the exception, of interspecies interaction.

Ethnoprimatology refers to the study of the ecological and cultural interconnections between humans and primates. In a sense, all research on primates, from behavioural studies on free-ranging animals to research on laboratory-based primates, has an ethnoprimatological dimension. This is at least in part because our own cultures so completely colour every aspect of how and why we carry out our scientific inquiry. Additionally, culture, as it relates to the economic, social and political structures of society, profoundly influences how people living in habitat countries interact with and respond to primates.

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