Researchers of the Wildlife Institute of India respond to Nitin Sethi’s article Hunting on Hackneyed Ideas (August 30) carried on this page regarding the Apatani community’s protest against the stereotyping of their hunting practices.
Authors of the study write:
Based on our study conducted recently in Apatani Valley, the findings were published in a leading scientific journal “Current Science Vol. 104, No. 11, 2013” and a critique on this was published in your esteemed National Daily dated August 30, 2013.
We wish to clarify that our results are based on systematic approach, facts and scientific reasoning. We do not stereotype any person or community as claimed by the concerned correspondent. Scientific papers may be debated or criticized in terms of their methods and interpretation of the results or conclusions drawn from them. However, questioning primary data from which the results were drawn is rarely done in the scientific community. Our results are therefore original and contain no misrepresentation.
The Apatanis are well known for their resource management and other land use practices. We completely support their progressive outlook in the valley. However, wildlife conservation in the valley needs a serious approach. Though efforts are being made by local organizations and the community at large in the region to curtail hunting practices, it is a well known fact that hunting continues to happen on a regular basis. Our findings do not make any vain conclusions but hint only at a possible threat to the biodiversity in the region if there are no serious steps taken in this regard. We only present results that have themselves been peer reviewed by the journal.
In reference to the correspondent’s claim that Sambar has never been documented in this area, we would like to inform that the literature states Sambar (Rusa unicolor) is distributed in much of the Indian subcontinent (IUCN 2013). Interestingly, during our survey we have confirmed the presence of Sambar as we found the Sambar skulls with antlers in households (Pictorial evidence enclosed in the response to BMC chairman). Furthermore, recent studies conducted by Chutia et al (2010) also reported Sambar presence in the Apatani valley.
The correspondent also claims that there is no person named Rubo Tahi who assisted the survey team as acknowledged in the manuscript. We would like to mention that inadvertently, the surname has been misspelled. We have enclosed the picture of Mr. Rubo who assisted in our primary field data collection in the response to BMC chairman, we have his telephone numbers, if required the correspondent may cross verify this fact.
Nitin Sethi replies:
I stand by the story in entirety. It is bizarre to claim that data and method of collecting the data cannot be questioned or that it is rarely done in scientific community.
Our story reported counterclaims that representatives of the community have made against your research – including their claim of incorrect methods and consequent wrong results. Beyond their criticism, I pointed to the nature of general and wide sweeping statements made in the research referring to research on practices of other communities across the world. The research paper based itself on counting the number of skins recorded in some households of the community. As the community leaders pointed out extrapolation from that data is illogical. The study does not even make an attempt to show how the research carried out in rest of the world can be relevant to your survey of the practices of Apatani people in Arunachal Pradesh.
Merely by stringing together facts from various studies, with intent or innocuously, you imputed rather oft repeated stereotypes of tribal communities that is found too often in wildlife science literature.
You miss the import of the story in your reply as well – that the community has countered scientific work with their own analysis – a rare case so far.