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Primates in the Lives of the Yanomami People of Brazil and Venezuela

  • Jean P. BoubliEmail author
  • Bernardo Urbani
  • Hortensia Caballero-Arias
  • Glenn H. ShepardJr
  • Manuel Lizarralde
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Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)

Abstract

Primates constitute one of the main sources of animal protein for the Yanomami people of Brazil and Venezuela. Monkeys are also important in Yanomami mythology, technology, and body adornment. Ten primate species are found in the Yanomami territory: Ateles belzebuth, Alouatta macconnelli, Cheracebus lugens, Saimiri cassiquiarensis, Aotus trivirgatus, Chiropotes israelita, Cacajao ayresi, Cebus olivaceus, Cacajao hosomi, and Cebus albifrons. In this chapter, we summarize the literature concerning primates in the lives of the Yanomami and present original data collected by J.P. Boubli at Maturacá village in Brazil and by H. Caballero-Arias on the Upper Orinoco in Venezuela. The literature and our more recent fieldwork show that A. belzebuth remains the preferred game species of the Yanomami due to its reported good taste. A. macconnelli is also a prized game species despite a less desirable taste and some cases of cultural avoidance. The remaining eight primate species of smaller body sizes are rarely targeted on hunting expeditions. Traditionally, Yanomami used bows and arrows to hunt, which meant a lower success rate per hunting effort. Today, firearm use is widespread, resulting in increasingly severe and apparently unsustainable impacts on primate populations. We hope that this publication will help stimulate a collaborative effort among anthropologists, biologists, and the Yanomami themselves to find solutions for the sustainable hunting of primates and other culturally important animal species in their territory.

Keywords

Yanomami people Primate ethnoecology Cosmology Hunting Material culture Northern South America 

Resumen

Los primates constituyen una de las principales fuentes de proteína animal para los Yanomami de Brasil y Venezuela. Los monos también son importantes en la mitología, la dieta, la tecnología y como adorno corporal. Diez especies de primates se encuentran en el territorio Yanomami: Ateles belzebuth, Alouatta macconnelli, Cheracebus lugens, Saimiri cassiquiarensis, Aotus trivigatus, Chiropotes israelita, Cacajao ayresi, Cacajao hosomi, Cebus olivaceus y Cebus albifrons. En este capítulo resumimos la literatura sobre primates en la vida de los Yanomami y presentamos datos recopilados por JPB en la comunidad de Maturacá en Brasil y por HCA en el Alto Orinoco, Venezuela. Esta revisión y trabajo de campo muestran que A. belzebuth es la especie de cacería preferida por los Yanomami debido a su buen sabor. A. macconnelli también es muy apreciado como especie de cacería a pesar de no ser considerado muy sabroso. Las otras ocho especies restantes de primates, dado su tamaño corporal más pequeño, rara vez son objeto de expediciones de caza. Tradicionalmente, los Yanomami usaban arcos y flechas para cazar, lo que significaba una tasa de éxito menor por esfuerzo de caza. Hoy en día, el uso de la escopeta está muy extendido, lo que resulta en impactos cada vez más graves y aparentemente insostenibles en las poblaciones de primates. Esperamos que este capítulo estimule un esfuerzo de colaboración entre antropólogos, biólogos y los yanomami para encontrar soluciones para la caza sostenible de primates y otras especies de animales de importancia cultural en su territorio.

Palabras clave

Pueblo Yanomami etnoecología de primates cosmología cacería cultura material mascotas Amazonia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Bruce Albert (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) and Henri Ramírez (Universidade Federal de Rondônia) for sharing their detailed information on Yanomami primate nomenclature from Brazil. We also thank Erika Wagner and Pamela Navarro at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC), Pedro Rivas and Ana María Resnik at the Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales (FLSCN), and the library staff of FLSCN and IVIC in Caracas for their cooperation. We appreciate the ornithological identifications provided by John F. Kvarnbäck (Kvarnbäck Birding) for the birds associated with the Yanomami feather armbands (Fig. 9.4b). Thanks to Francisco Pontual (University of California, Berkeley) for the photograph of Fig. 9.5. For fieldwork in the Yanomami villages within the Brazilian Pantepui region, JPB is grateful to the Yanomami people and the riverine communities of the Rio Negro Basin for their help and support during surveys, Catholic and evangelical missionaries for assistance in their remote outposts, and local authorities including FUNAI, IBAMA, ICMBio, and the Brazilian Army. JPB is also thankful to colleagues Amanda Colombo, Francisco Pontual, Italo Mourthe, Leandro Salles, and field assistants Arnaldo, Negão, Branco, Dorismar, and Murilo for their invaluable help on the expeditions to the left bank tributaries of the Rio Negro. Funding for JPB was kindly provided by the National Science Foundation (USA), National Geographic Society (USA), ZSSD (San Diego Zoo, USA), Sustainable Development of the Brazilian Biodiversity Program (PROBIO/MMA/BIRD/GEF/CNPq), and the University of Auckland. BU and HC are thankful for the support of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research. GHS acknowledges support from the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq) research productivity grant (Proc. 308991/2015-0, Proc. 312037/2018-0), thanks JPB and Francisco Pontual for the opportunity to conduct ethnoecological fieldwork with the Yanomami of the Marari River in 2004 with the PROBIO-Pantepui expedition, and recognizes the assistance of Lourenço Yanomami during that work (see Shepard 2006). The authors appreciate the comments of the external reviewer that served to improve this chapter.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean P. Boubli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bernardo Urbani
    • 2
  • Hortensia Caballero-Arias
    • 2
  • Glenn H. ShepardJr
    • 3
  • Manuel Lizarralde
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Environment and Life Sciences, University of SalfordSalfordUK
  2. 2.Centro de Antropología, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones CientíficasCaracasVenezuela
  3. 3.Coordenação de Ciências Humanas, Museu Paraense Emílio GoeldiBelém do ParáBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Botany and Environmental Studies ProgramConnecticut CollegeNew LondonUSA

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