Understanding human cultures key to preserving gorillas, elephants

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Washington, January 14 (ANI): Understanding human cultures has been linked to the preservation of gorillas, elephants and other wildlife in African parks and reserves in a new study.

Researchers from Purdue University stressed on the role played by local cultures in protected areas.

Melissa Remis, a professor of anthropology who studies gorillas, explained: "Conservation efforts and the management of protected areas are often designed with the best intentions, but sometimes supporting scientific data is missing or incorrect assumptions are made about a local culture or even the outsiders or trade that plays a role in the area."

The biological anthropologist added: "Better integration of basic research in the ecological and social domains would really improve conservation strategies and outcomes, but it also would improve goodwill for the communities that often feel resentment toward protecting wildlife."

Remis and Rebecca Hardin, an associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources, made observations on issues specific to animal species, forest fragmentation, ecotourism, local culture and industry in Central African Republic's Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve.

Remis continued: "This research reinforces the value of biological and cultural anthropologists working together. We devised a framework for transvaluation of wildlife species, which means the valuing of animals based on their ecological, economic and symbolic roles in human lives. Transvaluation provides insights that can be successfully integrated into more adaptive conservation policies. It demonstrates a way to marshal local and transnational support for conservation as it emphasizes that both local communities and international ones value these species for their magnificence, beyond their economic importance. These animals are the subject of local as well as international folktales and legends, and their extinction would have impacts in and beyond local communities. What would it be like for our children to grow up in a world without gorillas or elephants?

"Through interviews with local residents and workers, we have a better understanding of how change, such as local economies and hunting technologies, affects conservation. This collaboration is helping us better understand how animals and humans are responding to each other."

The findings appeared in Conservation Biology. (ANI)

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