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Ethnozoology is the study of the past and present interrelationships between human cultures and the animals in their environment. It includes classification and naming of zoological forms, cultural knowledge and use of wild and domestic animals. It is one of the main subdisciplines of ethnobiology and shares many methodologies and theoretical frameworks with ethnobotany.
Ethnozoology is the study of human and animal interaction. Ethnobiology includes ethnobotany, which concerns the study of human-plant relationships and ethnozoology. Ethnozoology focuses explicitly on human-animal relationships and knowledge humans have acquired concerning the Earth’s fauna. Ethnozoological study concerns the significance of this knowledge to our understanding of the roles played by animals in human society. Faunal resources play a variety of roles in human life throughout history, and their importance to human beings is not only utilitarian but cultural, religious, artistic, and philosophical. Ethnozoology can be understood broadly, from ecological, cognitive, and symbolic perspectives. Human knowledge about natural faunal resources entails sensing, recognizing, classifying, living things. Ethnozoology is a discipline that connects scientific methods to traditional systems of knowledge and cultural beliefs.
In a broader context, ethnozoology and its companion discipline, ethnobotany, contribute to the larger science of ethnobiology. The history of ethnobiology is divided into three periods. The pre-classical period, which began around 1860, focused on collecting information about humans’ use of resources, while the classical period, which began in 1954, produced anthropological studies on linguistics and biological classifications. The current period, or post-classical period, has been described as a meeting of social science and the study of natural resources.
Given the profound human influence on faunal biodiversity, wildlife conservation planning is becoming increasingly urgent. It is widely acknowledged that environmental health is important to human health, and biodiversity loss can have both indirect and direct negative effects on human wellbeing. The close link between human health and ecological/faunal health is substantiated with five important concepts: animals cause and disseminate disease for humans and vice versa, animals can be guards of human health, animals are used in traditional medicine practices throughout the world, animals are a source of drugs and treatments in human diseases, and animals are used in medical research.
Sociology has been slow to explore Ethnozoology and grant it credibility. The study of ethnozoology is important because policy makers and concerned citizens are too often left to be informed only by animal advocates or biomedical researchers, both of which are inherently biased. Animals provide humans with a better understanding of ourselves, and how we think and act toward animals has the potential to reveal our attitudes toward other people and social order. Evidence of this can be seen in the ways that animal images may at times be expressing underlying racism: "the most damning testimony given by accused police at the Rodney King trial involved characterization of King as a 'gorilla'; during the Gulf War Saddam Hussein was described in the American press as a 'rat'; and the actions of people in the Los Angeles riots were likened by the media commentators to ‘packs of vicious animals’".
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