Relations with wildlife of Wichi and Criollo people of the Dry Chaco, a conservation perspective

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  • Micaela Camino 1. Laboratorio de Biología de la Conservación, Centro de Ecología Aplicada del Litoral. 2. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas
  • Sara Cortez 3. Proyecto Quimilero
  • Mariana Altrichter 4. Prescott College, Prescott, AZ, U.S.A. 5. IUCN
  • Silvia Diana Matteucci 2. Grupo de Ecología del Paisaje y Medio Ambiente (GEPAMA); 6. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas


Conservation, Local cultures, Subsistence Hunting, Chaco, Indigenous people, Mestizo people


Indigenous Wichís and mestizos Criollos inhabit a rural, biodiversity rich, area of the Argentinean Dry Chaco. Traditionally, Wichís were nomads and their relations with wildlife were shaped by animistic and shamanic beliefs. Today, Wichís live in stable communities and practice subsistence hunting, gathering and in some cases, fishing. Criollos are mestizos, i.e. a mixture of the first Spanish settlers and different indigenous groups. They arrived during the 20th century from neighbouring Provinces. They practice extensive ranching, hunting and gathering. Our aim was to help develop effective and legitimate actions to conserve wildlife species in this region, focused on Wichís´ and Criollos´ perceptions of and relations with wildlife. We conducted semi-structured interviews (N=105) in rural settlements. We found differences in both groups´ hunting techniques, drivers and perceptions on the importance of wild meat for nutrition. However, both groups have a close relation with wildlife, they use wild animals in a variety of ways, including as food resource, medicine and predictors of future events. Wichís and Criollos also relate with wildlife in a spiritual dimension, have animistic and shamanic beliefs and have unique traditional ecological knowledge. Hunters in both communities are breaking traditional hunting norms but conservation measures grounded on these norms have a higher probability of success. Management recommendations include developing programmes focused on (i) conserving thin armadillos; (ii) conserving pregnant and breeding females of all species; (iii) managing dogs to avoid unnecessary killings and on (iv) improving local livelihoods. We also provide recommendations that are specific for each group.


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Author Biographies

Micaela Camino, 1. Laboratorio de Biología de la Conservación, Centro de Ecología Aplicada del Litoral. 2. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas

Micaela Camino is a conservation biologist. She has been working in conservation projects since 2005. Her main interests include ecology and conservation of large terrestrial mammals, and their interactions with local inhabitants of biodiversity rich areas. She is focused on finding ethical and legitimate solutions for conservation problems in areas populated by non-dominant cultures. In 2010 she started working with local communities of a remote and isolated area of the Argentinean Dry Chaco. In 2016 Micaela received a Ph.D. degree in biology from the University of Buenos Aires, her thesis was focused on the habitat requirements of peccaries. Micaela has a postdoctoral position at the Laboratory of Conservation Biology, in the Centre of Applied Ecology of the Litoral Region. She holds a scholarship from the National Research Council and was a fellow of the EDGE programme of the Zoological Society of London until June 2017.

Sara Cortez, 3. Proyecto Quimilero

Sara has a MsC degree in animal behavior from the University if Lisbon. She has always been interested in the interaction between humans and nature and on the perceptions of different cultures on nature and wildlife. Since 2010, Sara has been working in the Southamerican Chaco, studying the relation of wichí indigenous groups and mestizos criollos with wildlife and space.

Mariana Altrichter, 4. Prescott College, Prescott, AZ, U.S.A. 5. IUCN

Dr. Mariana Altrichter has conducted over 15 years of biological and sociological research on conservation of biodiversity, use of wildlife by rural and indigenous people, and the interactions between economics, nature and local people's livelihoods. She has published over 30 scientific papers, books and book chapters. Her recent research projects include the use and conservation of wildlife in an Indigenous Reserve in Costa Rica and in the Argentinean Dry Chaco, the effects of economic policies on biodiversity and local peasants´ livelihoods in the Argentine Chaco and the conservation status of white-lipped peccaries in Latin America.

Silvia Diana Matteucci, 2. Grupo de Ecología del Paisaje y Medio Ambiente (GEPAMA); 6. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas

Ph.D. Silvia D. Matteucci is the director of the Group of Landscape and Environmental Ecology of the University of Buenos Aires. She is also a Professor in this University and a member of the National Research Council in Argentina. Silvia spent the last 30 years studying dynamics of socio-ecological systems of Latin America. In the last decades, she has focused on land-use change consequences on the socio-ecological system in the Chaco región through the evaluation of native forests ecosystem services at the parcel and landscape unit scales. Her research is multidisciplinary.


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How to Cite

Camino, M., Cortez, S., Altrichter, M., & Matteucci, S. D. (2018). Relations with wildlife of Wichi and Criollo people of the Dry Chaco, a conservation perspective. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 7. Retrieved from



Original research article