Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts



Collaborative Specialization

Environment and Sustainability


Colquhoun, Ian

2nd Supervisor

Clark, Kim


This research uses an ethnoprimatological approach to investigate people’s perceptions of primates and protected areas through a case study in the Pacoche Marine and Coastal Wildlife Refuge in Manabí, Ecuador. Twenty-one agricultural workers from the community of Pacoche were interviewed using a photo pile-sorting exercise and structured open-ended interviews.

Results regarding perceptions of primates indicate that despite previous local practices, in comparison to other faunal species in the park, primates are no longer commonly targeted for food or medicinal purposes. White-fronted capuchins, while reported to be damaging to corn and orange crops, and commonly viewed as aggressive, were also widely respected as human-like and intelligent. This indicates promise for their conservation status in this area. The mantled howler also demonstrated similar promise, in that participants indicated a harmonious relationship living alongside this primate. Results reveal folkloric beliefs of howlers as “rain prophets” calling to the gods to bring the rain during times of drought. These traits, alongside their ability to attract tourists to the area, indicate reciprocal relationships between humans and alloprimates that benefit the livelihoods of both parties.

While connections between the community and the environment indicate a natural-cultural balance, interactions with the Ministry of the Environment (MAE) reveal more contentious results. This study found an overall decrease in hunting and exotic pet ownership since the introduction of the protected area ten years ago. However, discrepancies between community members and the MAE still exist over natural resource extraction, particularly in regards to guadua bamboo and firewood. The results indicate a need for improved community engagement in conservation initiatives, in addition to the incorporation of local knowledge in park policy.