International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 945–968 | Cite as

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


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.


Bushmeat hunting Community conservation Ontology Waiwai 



We thank the Environmental Protection Agency of Guyana and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs for granting permission for us to conduct this research and we sincerely appreciate the logistic support provided by Major General Joe Singh, Eustace Alexander, Duane Defreites, and Kayla Defreites. Funding was provided by the National Geographic Society, the Veterinary Pioneers in Public Health Research Fund of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Primate Action Fund of Conservation International, the International Primatological Society, Grand Valley State University, and the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. We also thank Erin Riley and two anonymous reviews for their helpful comments that greatly improved this manuscript. We are particularly grateful to the Waiwai of Masakenari Village for permitting us to conduct this study and welcoming us into their lives.

Data Availability

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Supplementary material

10764_2018_66_MOESM1_ESM.docx (31 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher A. Shaffer
    • 1
  • Marissa S. Milstein
    • 2
  • Phillip Suse
    • 3
  • Elisha Marawanaru
    • 3
  • Charakura Yukuma
    • 3
  • Tiffany M. Wolf
    • 2
  • Dominic A. Travis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyGrand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.LethemGuyana

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