Elephants, Hunters, and Others: Integrating Biological Anthropology and Multispecies Ethnography in a Conservation Zone

Sep 1, 2020 | Studies

By Melissa J. RemisCarolyn A. Jost Robinson – American Anthropologist


Popular and scholarly accounts lament the demise of African forest elephants ( Loxodonta cyclotis ) and the loss of biodiversity across the Congo Basin, but there has been less appreciation of the consequences of restricted forest access for human communities in conservation contexts. We demonstrate the usefulness of biological anthropology in combination with multispecies ethnography for anchoring the futures of BaAka foragers and African forest elephants. Tuma elephant hunters have long negotiated their communities’ relationships with elephants and others who have relied on the BaAka to navigate the forest. Tracing multispecies interactions along a transnational network of elephant trails ( bembo) helps us understand the ways that elephants have shaped forest structure and the fabric of existence for tuma and others. Bembo facilitate movement across watersheds and may prove a critical tool in the development of culturally relevant conservation practices. 


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