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Table 2 Components and management principles of Mayan lagarto hunting

From: Learning to hunt Crocodiles: social organization in the process of knowledge generation and the emergence of management practices among Mayan of Mexico

Management components

Local expressions

Purpose and comments

Lagartos distribution (LD)

“In the savanna there are dens, there are many […] near between 2 to 5 mecates [local measurement, 1 mecate ~ 20 m2], […] it looks like a town where lagartos live” (A.C.)

Allows hunters to identify areas where hunting is safe and effective.

Key-hunting habitat (K-hH)

“The lagartos are in small pools or pozas in the savanna […] they are also in lagoons but the animals dens are is in the pozas and there it [the hunting] does not fail” (A.P.).

Allows hunters to minimize search time.

Lagartos movement dynamics (LMD)

“The lagartos stay in a poza for one or two weeks and when they get upset (se fastidia) they go to another one looking for food” (J.B.S.).

Allows hunters to predict the delay in occupation of this key hunting habitat dropped off by the lagartos.

“Sometimes we entered to work in one place and we killed 2 or 3 lagartos and when we were leaving, other lagartos came because the houses [dens] were empty, and at night as lagartos were walking, looking, they arrived” (R.Y.).

Spatial orientation skills and management practices (SkMp)

“To be able to hunt lagartos it is necessary to know the places they [the lagartos] live in, the footprints and the paths to know how to follow them […] the who does not know loses […] all work has to be worked out, may be farther away, but if the soil is firmer [for walking], is faster” (J.T.).

Allows hunters to recognize the places (surfaces) where they can walk. It promotes the creation of “mental maps” (group or individual) of key-hunting habitat.

Social organization

“If you know other hunters, they tell you where they went and you go farther away, look for another rumbo […] we worked in stages, it’s like a rotation, where we started we finished […] we waited until others lagartos arrived” (L.Y.).

Allows hunters to divide profits from huntings through cooperation among groups. The exchange of information and knowledge promotes social learning.

“you asked where other hunter had gone and they told you; where left the Salt or in Birds [trabajaderos names] and according to what they told you, you went there or not” (A.Q.)

Acces rules

“When it was burning in some place it was a sign that they were working [hunting] there and we had to find another place to go. […]” (A.Q.)

Encounters with other hunters promote flexibility in the decision-making process. Competition promotes secrecy but only in specific key hunting habitat.

“There are some who are jealous of their hunting grounds [key hunting habitat] and did not burn so others do not know where it is” (N.C.).

Regulation rules

“Many get upset when they see a destroyed den because [the lagartos] live there, it's like the tepezcuintle [Aguti paca] if you destroy the den they do not come back” (N.C.).

Underrepresented and lax rules of use. Defined by hunters and by markets.

“We hunted animals of 7 or 8 feet, large animals, 5 feet up we hunted, not the little ones because they [the traders] did not buy” (A.P.)

  1. Some hunter quotations considered representative of the management system developed are cited in quotation marks. Percentages of answer frequency of hunters about management components are given. Social organization, access and regulation rules were considered qualitative variables.
  2. LD – According to the hunters, lagartos live “in clusters” during drought time (29% of interviewed). Small islands of mangrove “verdecitos” (light green) and pozas (59% of interviewed) were mentioned as a two main habitats where they could find dens of lagartos in the savanna, K-hH – Successive hunting of the animal in the same den or place (59%), MD four kinds of movements made by the lagarto were identified, I) movements around the place occupied, such as dens, pozas, and mangrove islands (25%), II) movements among habitats (37.5%), III) long distance “trips” (43.75%), IV) during mating time (May), the males move from one poza to another until they find a female (31.25%), SkMpTool used: harpoon (94%) and firearms like shotguns (16 gauge or 20) or rifles (22 gauge) to a lesser extent, Find Preys: burning of sawgrass (65%), following trails (65%), appearance of muddy water in pozas (29%) and the sound of response after the imitation of lagarto’s vocalizations (18%), Hunting Technique: in dens and pozas consisted in sticking a long pole into the den “roof” until the animal was reached (94%), capturing the lagarto with a hook-bait (29%), using rafts to hunt in lagoons or sinkholes (29%).