You are here: Home / Theses / A design anthropology approach to understanding human wildlife relationships: Monkeys, local development and participant conservation in southest Costa Rica / About

A design anthropology approach to understanding human wildlife relationships: Monkeys, local development and participant conservation in southest Costa Rica

By Yibo Fan

View Link (HTM)

Licensed under

Category Theses

This project uses a combined methodology of participatory design and ethnographic fieldwork to study human-wildlife relationships and explore better ways to design and implement a monkey crossing bridge in the area of Talamanca, Costa Rica. It also examines how an interdisciplinary methodology can identify the needs of three species of monkeys and local beliefs, and to integrate these things into project design. The project not only answers how participatory design might promote a favorable human-wildlife relationship, but also explores local beliefs about development and conservation. Based on my research, I argue that the design of the bridge and the process of making it can be a potential passage to better understanding human-wildlife relationships, as well as establish community concerns about wildlife conservation. Three participatory design workshops were planned and hosted with the collaboration from local non-government organizations (NGOs). During the process, participatory observation was used to study the relationships between monkeys with different parties, and also examine the influence of participatory design-build. A participatory design-build project was completed near Cocles in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. The design and construction of a new monkey bridge brought up questions about human-wildlife relationships, environmental issues, development and the nature of decision making. This process revealed a human and wildlife entanglement. Local activists, expats and NGOs saw the problem of wildlife road-crossings through the lens of existing environmental issues and debates in the community that stemmed mostly from an ongoing road construction project. Monkeys and other charismatic animals were a concern of the expatriate community; this concern originated from the same concerns about their own living environment. In contrast, the residents who were in the community over many generations viewed “injured monkeys” as suffering, but tended not to actively participate in advocating about either monkeys or living environments as part of who they are. Though different, all local residents in the Puerto Viejo area saw monkeys, along with other animals, as part how they based their sense of place. Therefore, for the more active groups of community members, it was natural to extend the discussion of monkey bridges to the discussion of a bike lane and improving the environment for the community. People protect the place they live. The most common problems the community identified were from the forced down planning and speculative development by others who essentially did not live in the place, and were detached from the landscape. Through a combination of design anthropology and a participatory design-build project, I argue that a people with different interests can work together on a concrete design and build project, relying on expertise as a pooling of skills and knowledge to complete.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Pages 110
Department Anthropology
Degree Master of Arts
DOI 10.31274/etd-180810-5981
Language English
University Iowa State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Anthropology
  3. Conservation
  4. Costa Rica
  5. Human-animal interactions
  6. human-wildlife interactions
  7. Monkeys
  8. open access
  9. Wild animals
  1. open access