Evidence of a link between taboos and sacrifices and resource scarcity of ritual plants

Diana Quiroz*, Tinde van Andel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: One of the main obstacles for the mainstreaming of religious traditions as tools for the conservation of nature is the limited applicability of research results in this field. We documented two different restrictions implemented by local people (taboos and sacrifices) related to the use of ritual plants in Benin (West Africa) and Gabon (Central Africa). Methods: To see whether these restrictions reflected plant scarcity from an etic perspective (official threat status) and an emic viewpoint (perceived scarcity by local people), we conducted 102 interviews with traditional healers and adepts of traditional faiths. Results: We documented a total of 618 ritual plants, from which 52 species were used in both countries. In Benin, the use of 63 of the 414 ritual plant species was restricted; while in Gabon 23 of the 256 ritual plants were associated with taboos and sacrifices. In Benin, restricted plants were significantly more often officially threatened, perceived as scarce, and actively protected than non-restricted plants. In the more forested and less densely populated Gabon, plants that were perceived as scarce were more often associated to local restrictions than officially threatened species. Conclusions: These results prove the presence of a form of adaptive management where restrictions are related to resource scarcity and protection of ritual plant species. By providing baseline data on possibly endangered species, we demonstrate how plant use in the context of religious traditions can yield important information for conservation planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Africa
  • Benin
  • Bwiti
  • Ethnobotany
  • Gabon
  • IUCN red list
  • Plant conservation
  • Threatened species
  • Vodoun

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