Ethnoprimatology: An Exploration of Human/Primate Interactions
Humans interact with nonhuman primates in multifaceted ways in that they are part of human mythology, creation stories, beliefs systems, and scientific investigations. Ethnoprimatology, a new area of study, provides a holistic view of the interaction between nonhuman and human primates. Ethnoprimatology should not be confused with cultural primatology, the study of primate cultural traditions or folkbiology, the way ordinary people understand and categorize plants and animals. This paper discusses the diversity of human/nonhuman primate interactions with an emphasis on the relationships between the monkeys and people of Asia through the epic poems of the Ramayana in India and the monkey king of China. Many problems can arise when nonhuman primates and people interact such as disease exchange especially during ecotourism, crop damage, and over-hunting. The paper is based on the author’s field research in India, the reports of ethnographers of South America, Africa and Asia, and translations of myths and legends worldwide.
Keywords: Ethnoprimatolgy, Primates, Human/Nonhuman Primate Interactions
Dr. Linda D. Wolfe
Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University