Wildlife and spiritual knowledge at the edge of protected areas: raising another voice in conservation


  • Sarah Bortolamiol McGill University
  • Sabrina Krief Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle
  • Colin A Chapman McGill University
  • Wilson Kagoro Uganda Wildlife Authority
  • Andrew Seguya Executive director Uganda Wildlife Authority
  • Marianne Cohen Université Paris Sorbonne


Chimpanzee, Kibale National Park, Local communities, Spirits, Totems, Uganda, Wildlife knowledge


International guidelines recommend the integration of local communities within protected areas management as a means to improve conservation efforts. However, local management plans rarely consider communities knowledge about wildlife and their traditions to promote biodiversity conservation. In the Sebitoli area of Kibale National Park, Uganda, the contact of local communities with wildlife has been strictly limited at least since the establishment of the park in 1993. The park has not develop programs, outside of touristic sites, to promote local traditions, knowledge, and beliefs in order to link neighboring community members to nature. To investigate such links, we used a combination of semi­directed interviews and participative observations (N= 31) with three communities. While human and wildlife territories are legally disjointed, results show that traditional wildlife and spiritual related knowledge trespasses them and the contact with nature is maintained though practice, culture, and imagination. More than 66% of the people we interviewed have wild animals as totems, and continue to use plants to medicate, cook, or build. Five spirits structure human­wildlife relationships at specific sacred sites. However, this knowledge varies as a function of the location of local communities and the sacred sites. A better integration of local wildlife­friendly knowledge into management plans may revive communities’ connectedness to nature, motivate conservation behaviors, and promote biodiversity conservation.

Author Biographies

Sarah Bortolamiol, McGill University

Post doctoral fellow

Sebitoli Chimpanzee Project (SCP), Great Apes Conservation Project (GACP), Sebitoli station, Kibale National Park

UMR 7533 Laboratoire Dynamiques Sociales et Recomposition des Espaces - Université Paris Diderot (Sorbonne Paris Cité)

UMR 7206 Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie (MNHN/CNRS/Paris Diderot)

Department of Geography, McGill University

Department of Anthropology, McGill University

Sabrina Krief, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle


Sebitoli Chimpanzee Project (SCP), Great Apes Conservation Project (GACP), Sebitoli station, Kibale National Park

UMR 7206 Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie (MNHN/CNRS/Paris Diderot)

Colin A Chapman, McGill University


Department of Anthropology

Wilson Kagoro, Uganda Wildlife Authority

Community conservation warden

Uganda Wildlife Authority

Andrew Seguya, Executive director Uganda Wildlife Authority

Community conservation warden

Uganda Wildlife Authority

Marianne Cohen, Université Paris Sorbonne


UMR 8185 Espaces, Nature, Culture


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How to Cite

Bortolamiol, S., Krief, S., Chapman, C. A., Kagoro, W., Seguya, A., & Cohen, M. (2018). Wildlife and spiritual knowledge at the edge of protected areas: raising another voice in conservation. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 7. Retrieved from https://www.ethnobioconservation.com/index.php/ebc/article/view/184



Original research article