Kolkata: A number of threatened and rare wildlife species, including leopards, are vanishing from Arunachal Pradesh`s Ziro Valley as a result of rampant hunting by the indigenous Apatani tribe, a survey has revealed.
A team of researchers from the Wildlife Institute of India recently surveyed the hunting practices by the Apatanis and found that they were threatening the survival of several rare and threatened species in the picturesque valley in Lower Subansiri district.
"The species which are hunted include common leopard, clouded leopard, marbled cat, leopard cat, spotted linsang, otter, yellow-throated marten, orange-bellied squirrel, Malayan giant squirrel, sambar, barking deer, wild pig and birds," a WII report, published in the Current Science journal, said.
In Arunachal, hunting is a widespread cultural practice that has probably led to low wildlife existence.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified Sambar, marbled cat, black bear and clouded leopard as being vulnerable while common leopard and Malayan giant squirrel are described as near threatened.
Of the 85 households surveyed, about 54 per cent reported hunting for subsistence, 25 per cent for commercial trade (often sold in markets), 10 per cent for medicinal purposes and 4.7 per cent reported hunting for pleasure.
The major species hunted are mostly those protected by law, said WII scientist Gopi Govindan Veeraswami in the report.
Large-bodied animals were mainly hunted for subsistence and Asiatic black bear hunting was reported for ethno-zoo therapeutic purposes.
The orange-bellied Himalayan squirrel is specifically hunted for medicinal purposes and social ceremonies, the report said.
About 55 per cent hunters use guns, 35 per cent use traditional traps and guns, while only 9 per cent used traditional methods such as noose traps, glue traps, bow and arrow.
Interestingly, the youngest hunter was reported to be an 8-year-old who hunted birds for consumption.
During the survey, 85 households were randomly selected for interviews from each of the 35 villages in the Ziro Valley. Village heads and hunters were also interviewed.
The report warned that the extirpation of mammalian fauna by hunting can lead to serious impact on forest structure and dynamics.
Causing several changes in the biological communities, hunting may lead to loss of pollinators, seed predators, seed dispersers and predators, which finally results in an empty forest syndrome.
"Though hunting of wildlife is mostly done for subsistence in this region, access to markets drives the hunters beyond their subsistence needs for additional income and this need to be curtailed by enforcing strict protection to the wildlife," the study suggested.