Cultural significance of wild mammals in mayan and mestizo communities of the Lacandon Rainforest, Chiapas, Mexico

Type Journal Article - Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine
Title Cultural significance of wild mammals in mayan and mestizo communities of the Lacandon Rainforest, Chiapas, Mexico
Volume 11
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 36
Background: Several ethnobiology studies evaluate the cultural significance (CS) of plants and mushrooms.
However, this is not the case for mammals. It is important to make studies of CS allowing the comparison of
cultural groups because the value given to groups of organisms may be based on different criteria. Such
information would be valuable for wildlife preservation plans. In this study, the most culturally significant species of
mammals from the Lacandon Rainforest (Chiapas, Mexico) for people from two Mayan-Lacandon and mestizo
communities were identified. The reasons behind the CS of the studied species were explored and the existence of
differences among the cultural groups was evaluated.
Methods: One hundred ninety-eight semi-structured and structured interviews were applied to compile
socio-demographic information, qualitative data on CS categories, and free listings. Frequency of mention was a
relative indicator to evaluate the CS of each species of mammal. Comparison of responses between communities was
carried out through multivariate analyses. The non-parametric Mann–Whitney U test was used to compare the number
of mentioned species by Lacandons and mestizos as well as different responses in the qualitative categories. A ?2 test
was used to compare frequency of categories.
Results: 38 wild mammal species were identified. The classification and Principal Components Analyses show an
apparent separation between Lacandon and mestizo sites based on the relative importance of species. All four
communities mentioned the lowland paca the most, followed by peccary, white-tailed deer, armadillo, and jaguar. No
significant difference was found in the number of mentioned species between the two groups. Eight CS categories
were identified. The most important category was “harmful mammals”, which included 28 species. Other relevant
categories were edible, medicinal, and appearing in narratives.
Conclusions: The data obtained in this study demonstrates the existence of differential cultural patterns in the
relationships that Lacandon and mestizo groups establish with mammals. Species are deemed important either
because they are eaten of because of the harm they cause. We suggest the incorporation of local conceptions about
wild animals in conservation frameworks for the fauna in the Lacandon Rainforest.

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