Ethnozoology is the study of the past and present interrelationships
between human cultures and the animals in their environment. It
includes classification and naming of zoological forms, cultural
knowledge and use of wild and domestic animals. It is one of the
main subdisciplines of ethnobiology and shares many methodologies and
theoretical frameworks with ethnobotany.
Ethnozoology is the study of human and animal interaction.
Ethnobiology includes ethnobotany, which concerns the study of
human-plant relationships and ethnozoology.
explicitly on human-animal relationships and knowledge humans have
acquired concerning the Earth's fauna. Ethnozoological study concerns
the significance of this knowledge to our understanding of the roles
played by animals in human society. Faunal resources play a variety of
roles in human life throughout history, and their importance to human
beings is not only utilitarian but cultural, religious, artistic, and
Ethnozoology can be understood broadly, from
ecological, cognitive, and symbolic perspectives. Human knowledge
about natural faunal resources entails sensing, recognizing,
classifying, living things.
Ethnozoology is a discipline that connects
scientific methods to traditional systems of knowledge and cultural
2 The social sciences
3 See also
5 External links
In a broader context, ethnozoology and its companion discipline,
ethnobotany, contribute to the larger science of ethnobiology. The
history of ethnobiology is divided into three periods. The
pre-classical period, which began around 1860, focused on collecting
information about humans' use of resources, while the classical
period, which began in 1954, produced anthropological studies on
linguistics and biological classifications. The current period, or
post-classical period, has been described as a meeting of social
science and the study of natural resources.
Given the profound human influence on faunal biodiversity, wildlife
conservation planning is becoming increasingly urgent. It is widely
acknowledged that environmental health is important to human health,
and biodiversity loss can have both indirect and direct negative
effects on human wellbeing. The close link between human health and
ecological/faunal health is substantiated with five important
concepts: animals cause and disseminate disease for humans and vice
versa, animals can be guards of human health, animals are used in
traditional medicine practices throughout the world, animals are a
source of drugs and treatments in human diseases, and animals are used
in medical research.
The social sciences
Sociology has been slow to explore ethnozoology and grant it
credibility. The study of ethnozoology is important because policy
makers and concerned citizens are too often left to be informed only
by animal advocates or biomedical researchers, both of which are
inherently biased. Animals provide humans with a better understanding
of ourselves, and how we think and act toward animals has the
potential to reveal our attitudes toward other people and social
order. Evidence of this can be seen in the ways that animal images may
at times be expressing underlying racism: "the most damning testimony
given by accused police at the
Rodney King trial involved
characterization of King as a 'gorilla'; during the Gulf War Saddam
Hussein was described in the American press as a 'rat'; and the
actions of people in the Los Angeles riots were likened by the media
commentators to 'packs of vicious animals'".
Sociology is a science concerned with groups and group formation,
including those facing structural and interpersonal oppression,
suffering, and vulnerability. Sub-fields in this area include African
Americans studies, women's studies, and gay/lesbian studies. However,
not much attention or legitimacy is awarded animal studies as a
sub-field. Modern use of animals in the developed world, especially in
the United States, can be characterized by exploitation, domination,
Animal cruelty and abuse is not only present in the
industrial farming of livestock, but also in such circumstances as dog
fighting, cow tipping, horse racing, circus acts, and other
entertainment industries and practices. Furthermore, animals are often
victims and pawns used in domestic violence. The widespread abuse of
animals in modern society is important for sociology because it
involves an entrenched assumption about the connection between cruelty
toward animals and violence directed and human beings. Some research
has even suggested ways in which the human-animal interaction can
challenge dominant sociological theories about the self.
Anthropology has done more to study ethnozoology in terms of the
history of the function of animals in non-industrialized societies and
the role that animals play symbolically and religiously in different
cultures around the world. The domestication process has been a
chief concern for anthropologists, whose interests are in the history
of human desire to understand animals, enslave them, and harness their
power. Animal-derived products have been used especially for food, but
also for clothing, tools, toys, and for medicinal and magic-religious
purposes. Many cultures associate strong supernatural powers between
the animal and human worlds, including mythologies and connections
with totemic, ancestral, or magical animals and animal-gods.
Animals are given symbolic meaning, as in the western association of
black cats with poor luck. Biological knowledge varies according to
cultural and traditional knowledge and experiences. People share a
basic way of comprehending the natural world based on common
evolutionary history, and this foundation connects scientific biology
with its historical roots in different cultures. The evolutionary
perspective on human cognition and affect indicates some degree of
universality in perception and decision-making with regard to the
natural world and its fauna. The interaction between these aspects of
psychology, biodiversity of the Earth's wildlife, and the unique
social, cultural, and economic contexts within which humans interact
and develop produces cultural diversity. Paleoanthropological studies
suggest that linguistic approaches to ethnobiology have only recently
evolved in the context of human history, which suggests that these
linguistic approaches only provide a partial understanding to how
humans perceive and engage with the natural world around them.
Ethnozoology Index Archived 2008-05-08 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Johnson, Leslie Main.
Ethnobiology - Traditional Biological
Knowledge in Contemporary Global Context.
Anthropology 491 study
guide, Athabasca University 2002. p. 71
^ a b Alves, R. (2012). Relationships between fauna and people and the
role of ethnozoology in animal conservation.
^ a b c Arluke, A. (2003).
Ethnozoology and the future of sociology.
International Journal of
Sociology and Social Policy, 23(3), 26-45.
^ a b Irvine, L. (2008). Animals and sociology.
^ Alves, R. R., Rosa, I. L., Neto, N. A. L., & Voeks, R. (2012).
Animals for the gods: Magical and religious faunal use and trade in
Brazil. Human Ecology, 40(5), 751-780.
^ a b Sax, B. (2001). The mythical zoo. An Encyclopedia of Animals in
World Myth, Legend and Folklore.Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio.
^ Ellen, 2003
^ Hunn, E. (2007).
Ethnobiology in four phases. Journal of
Ethnobiology, 27(1), 1-10.
^ Mithen, S. (2006).
Ethnobiology and the evolution of the human mind.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12(s1), S45-S61.
Notes on Bukusu ethnozoology from western Kenya
Traditional ecological knowledge
Harold C. Conklin
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Gary Paul Nabhan
Darrell A. Posey
Richard Evans Schultes
Constantino Manuel Torres