Mammalian diversity and Matses ethnomammalogy in Amazonian Peru – Part 1: Primates
Robert S. Voss and David W. Fleck
Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, No.  351 (April 2011) | ISSN 0003-0090

This report is the first installment of a monographic study of mammalian diversity and ethnomammalogy in a sparsely inhabited rainforest region between the Yavarí and Ucayali rivers in northeastern Peru. It is based on several large collections of mammals (totaling about 3500 specimens) made at various localities in this region between 1926 and 2003, and on a long-term ethnobiological and linguistic fieldwork with the Matses, a Panoan-speaking group of indigenous Amazonians who still obtain most of their dietary protein by hunting mammals. The primary objectives are to document the species richness of the regional fauna through taxonomic analysis of collected specimens, and to assess the detail and accuracy of Matses knowledge of mammalian natural history by linguistic analysis of recorded interviews. The regional fauna is unique because neighboring interfluvial regions lack some species that are present in the Yavarí-Ucayali interfluve, and because some species that are present in neighboring interfluvial regions are not known to occur between the Yavarí and the Ucayali. Matses knowledge about primate natural history is clearly correlated with size and cultural importance. Item-by-item comparisons of Matses observations about spider monkeys with the published results of scientific field research suggests that the Matses are generally accurate observers of primate natural history, a conclusion that is additionally supported by comparing community patterns of resource use compiled from our interview data with community-ecological studies of primate faunas in the scientific literature. Most exceptions (discrepancies between Matses observations and the scientific literature) can be explained by cultural inattention to small non-game species. Although these results suggest that archiving native Amazonian knowledge about mammalian natural history might be a cost-effective alternative to lengthy fieldwork for some research objectives, there are significant linguistic barriers than can inhibit effective cross-cultural communication. Read the abstract … Download the study [pdf] …