An Evaluation of the Contemporary Uses and Cultural Significance of Mammals in Mexico

Dulce María Ávila Nájera, Eduardo J Naranjo, Barbara Jane Tigar, Oscar Agustin Villarreal, Germán David Mendoza


We evaluated current uses of wild mammals by indigenous and mestizo communities in Mexico by extracting data from 59 sources published or produced between 1987–2017, covering data from 240 localities and 3,905 questionnaires. We then calculated a Cultural Value Index (CVI) previously applied to plants to quantify resource use and assess the cultural significance of each mammal. A total of 82 species were reported, and the animals with the highest cultural importance according to their CVI (in brackets) were two species of deer (Odocoileus virginianus [18.32] and Mazama temama [10.04]), as well as the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus [14.18]), white-nosed coati (Nasua narica [14.75]), collared peccary (Pecari tajaccu [11.90]), northern raccoon (Procyon lotor [11.28]) and spotted paca (Cuniculus paca [9.84]). The most common uses were for food, to reduce the damage or harm they cause, and for medicinal purposes, with O. virginianus, P. lotor, N. narica, and D. novemcinctus frequently hunted for all these reasons. Our analysis also highlighted the hunting of rarer species of national conservation concern, including commercial trading of body parts of the felids Panthera onca, Leopardus pardalis, and Leopardus wiedii. By quantifying the ethnozoological significance of wildlife to indigenous communities, indices such as CVI provide a robust measure of the extent of use and preference for particular species or taxa. This adds to the body of evidence used to develop effective regulations and laws related to harvesting and hunting, and helps promote a more sustainable and long-term approach to the use of natural resources.


Cultural value index; Ethnozoology; Wildlife conservation; Conservation management

Full Text:



Allaby, M. 2010. Animals: From Mythology to Zoology. Facts On File, Inc., New York, NY.

Alves, R.R.N. 2012. Relationships Between Fauna and People and the Role of Ethnozoology in Animal Conservation. Ethnobiology and Conservation 1:1–69. DOI:10.15451/ec2012-8-1.2-1-69.

Alves, R.R.N., A. Feijó, R.R.D. Barboza, W.M.S. Souto, H. Fernandes-Ferrerira, P. Cordeiro-Estrela, and A. Langguth. 2016. Game Mammals of the Caatinga Biome. Ethnobiology and Conservation 5:1–55. DOI:10.15451/ec2016-7-5.5-1-51.

Alves, R.R.N., L.E.T. Mendonça, M.V.A. Confessor, W.L.S. Vieira, and L.C.S. Lopez. 2009. Hunting Strategies Used in the Semi-Arid Region of Northeastern Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5:1–50. DOI:10.1007/s10668-016-9827-2.

Alves, R.R.N., E. Nogueira, H. Araujo, and S. Brooks. 2010. Bird-Keeping in the Caatinga, NE Brazil. Human Ecology 38:147–156. DOI:10.1007/s10745-009-9295-5.

Alves, R.R.N., I.L. Rosa, N.A. Léo-Neto, and R. Voeks. 2012. Animals for the Gods: Magical and Religious Faunal Use and Trade in Brazil. Human Ecology 40:751–780. DOI:10.1186/1746-4269-9-3.

Alves, R.R.N. and W.M.S. Souto. 2015. Ethnozoology: A Brief Introduction. Ethnozoology and Conservation 4:1–13. DOI:10.15451/ec2015-1-4.1 1-1.

Ceballos, G. and J. Arroyo-Cabrales. 2012. Lista Actualizada de los Mamíferos de México. Revista Mexicana de Mastozoología Nueva Epoca 2. Available at: Accessed on August 22, 2017.

Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO). 2008. El Capital Natural de México. Vol. I. Conocimiento Actual de la Biodiversidad. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, México. Available at: Accessed on August 22, 2017.

Cossio, B.A. 2007. Cocimiento y Comparación del Uso de la Fauna Silvestre en Dos Comunidades Ejidales del Municipio de Hueytamalco, Puebla, México. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Instituto de Ecología, Xalapa, Mexico.

Cullen, L., R.E. Bodmer, and C. Padua. 2000. Effects of Hunting in Habitat Fragments of the Atlantic Forests, Brazil. Biological Conservation 95:49–56. DOI:10.1016/s0006-3207(00)00011-2.

Cunningham, A.B. 2001. Applied Ethnobotany: People, Wild Plant Use, and Conservation. Earthscan, London and Stirling, UK.

Fa, J.E. and C.A. Peres. 2001. Game Vertebrate Extraction in African and Neotropical Forests: An Intercontinental Comparison. In Conservation of Exploited Species. Conservation Biology. Number 6, edited by J.D. Reynolds, G.M. Mace, K.H. Redford, and J.G. Robinson, pp. 203–241. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Gallina-Tessaro, S.A., A. Hernández-Huerta, C. Delfín-Alfonso, and A. González-Gallina. 2009. Unidades Para la Conservación, Manejo, y Aprovechamiento Sustentable de la Vida Silvestre en México (UMA). Retos para su Correcto Funcionamiento. Investigación Ambiental 1:142–152.

Happold, D.C.D. 1995. The Interactions between Humans and Mammals in Africa in Relation to Conservation: A Review. Biodiversity and Conservation 4:395–414. DOI:10.1007/BF00058424.

Johannes, R.E. 1993. Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Management with Environmental Impact Assessment. In Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases, edited by J.T. Inglis, pp. 33–39. International Program on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

Léopold, M., A. Cakacaka, S. Meo, J. Sikolia, and D. Lecchini. 2009. Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Three Underwater Reef Fish Monitoring Methods in Fiji. Biodiversity and Conservation 18:3367–3382. DOI:10.1007/s10531-009-9646-y.

Miller, B., B. Dugelby, D. Foreman, C. Martinez del Río, R. Noss, M. Philips, R. Reading, M.E. Soulé, J. Terborgh, and L. Willcox. 2001. The Importance of Large Carnivores to Healthy Ecosystems. Endangered Species UPDATE 18:202–2010.

Mourão, J.S., H.F.P. Araujo, and F.S. Almeida. 2006. Ethnotaxonomy of Mastofauna as Practised by Hunters of the Municipality of Paulista, State of Paraíba-Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2:1–7. DOI:10.1186/1746-4269-2-19.

Mourão, J.S. and N. Nordi. 2002. Comparações Entre as Taxonomias Folk e Científica Para Peixes do Estuário do Rio Mamanguape, Paraíba-Brasil. Interciencia 27:664–668.

Naranjo, E.J. 2008. Uso y Conservación de Mamíferos en la Selva Lacandona, Chiapas, México. In Avances en el Estudio de los Mamíferos de México II edited by C. Lorenzo, E. Espinoza, and J. Ortega, pp. 675–691. Asociación Mexicana de Mastozoología, A.C. (AMMAC). San Cristóbal de Las Casas, México.

Naranjo, E.J. 2013. Uso de la Fauna Silvestre. In La Biodiversidad de Chiapas: Estudio de Estado, edited by A. Cruz-Angón, E.D. Melgarejo, F. Camacho-Rico, and K.C. Nájera-Conchero, pp. 271–280. Comisión Nacional Para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO) and Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, Mexico City, México.

Peres, C.A. 2000. Evaluating the Impact and Sustainability of Subsistence Hunting at Multiple Amazonian Forest Sites. In Hunting for Sustainability in Tropical Forests, edited by J.G. Robinson and E. Bennett, pp. 31–56. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.

Prins, H.H.T., J.G. Grootenhuis, and T.T. Dolan. 2000. Wildlife Conservation by Sustainable Use. Kluwer Academic Publisher, Boston, MA.

Purdy, K. and D. Decker. 1989. Applying Wildlife Values Information in Management: The Wildlife Attitudes and Values Scale. Wildlife Society Bulletin 17:494–500.

Redford, K.H. 1992. The Empty Forest. Bioscience 42:412–422. DOI:10.2307/1311860.

Robinson, J.G. and E.L. Bennett. 2000. Hunting for Sustainability in Tropical Forests. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.

Sarukhán, J., P. Koleff, J. Carabias, J. Soberón, R. Dirzo, J. Llorente-Bousquets, G. Halffter, R. González, I. March, A. Mohar, S. Anta, and J. De La Maza. 2009. Capital Natural de México: Conocimiento Actual, Evaluación y Perspectivas de Sustentabilidad. Síntesis. Report for Comisión Nacional Para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO), México. Available at: Accessed on August 22, 2017.

Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT). 2010. Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010. Protección Ambiental, Especies Nativas de Flora y Fauna Silvestres de México, Categorías de Riesgo y Especificaciones Para su Inclusión, Exclusión o Cambio, y Lista de Especies en Riesgo. Diario Oficial de la Federación [web page]. URL: Accessed on August 22, 2017.

Sillitoe, P. 1998. The Development of Indigenous Knowledge. Current Anthropology 39:223–252. DOI:10.1086/204722.

Souto, W.M.S., J.S. Mourão, R.R.D. Barboza, and R.R.N. Alves. 2011. Parallels Between Zootherapeutic Practices in Ethnoveterinary and Human Complementary Medicine in NE Brazil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 134:753–767. DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2011.01.041.

Treves, A., R.B. Wallace, L. Naughton-Treves, and A. Morales. 2006. Co-Managing Human-Wildlife Conflicts: A Review. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 11:383–396. DOI:10.1080/10871200600984265.

Turner, N. 1988. The Importance of a Rose, Evaluating the Cultural Significance of Plants in Thompson and Lilloet Interior Salish. American Anthropologist New Series 90:272–290.


Copyright (c) 2018 Barbara Jane Tigar

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