Use of fauna in the traditional medicine of native Toba (qom) from the Argentine Gran Chaco region: an ethnozoological and conservationist approach

Gustavo J. Martínez


The Gran Chaco region is an area of vast cultural and biological richness that is inhabited by different American indigenous hunter-gatherer groups and has a great number of threatened wildlife species. An ethnozoological investigation was carried out to study the medicinal uses of fauna by the Toba (qom) communities of Central Chaco in the surroundings of the river Bermejito. Qualitative, quantitative and participative methods were used alternately to document and characterize the knowledge, significance and role of animals from the Chaco forest within the Toba cultural and medical context. A total of 199 uses corresponding to 72 species belonging to 52 families were documented as part of the animal pharmacopoeia employed by the natives. Information obtained by open and semistructured interviews was used to develop an Index of Local Conservation Priorities (ILCP) that allowed ordering the species according to their Relative Importance, Ecological and Cultural Value, and Conservation Status. Our results showed that of the wide range of species used in Toba zootherapy, a substantial number of reptiles, mammals and birds are included in lists of threatened species for Argentina. The ethnozoological perspective of this study provides an integral view of social and ecological elements that are useful for the protection and/or sustainable management of native species on a regional scale.


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