Journal Article

Sorcery and nature conservation


Representations of animals are diverse and can portray local understandings of nature conservation, information that is often missing from conservation debates. In Cantanhez National Park (southern Guinea-Bissau) chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) are recognised as animals that share certain features with humans but live independently of them in the forest. However, chimpanzees are also integral to socially mediated, deep-rooted, local narratives about sorcery and nature conservation. We use results from ethnographic research to explore local interpretations of chimpanzee attacks on people. Attacks by ‘bush’ chimpanzees occur when an animal is provoked by someone’s actions towards it. Unprovoked attacks however, are either interpreted as the act of a shape-shifted chimpanzee (i.e., a sorcerer) or as the responsibility of conservation stakeholders. In the case of unprovoked attacks, chimpanzee aggression is linked to a perceived abuse of power and to greed, with implications for nature conservation locally. Close analysis of local representations of animals contributes to a broader consideration of conservation priorities and practice.

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Sousa, Joana
Ainslie, Andrew
Hill, Catherine M.

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-06-06

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Sorcery and nature conservation


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