Published: Friday 31 March 1995

Anju Sharma replies:

Karanth seems to believe that science is for scientists and peer-reviewed journals aone, and everybody else is "totally unqualified" to comment on scientific studies. I find serious flaws in his approach.

If my comments are amateur, Sukumar, who is already familiar with the results of the BNHS study, should simply present his arguments strongly enough to put an end to the matter.

Karanth goes on to prove my incompetence through my "casual dismissal of the ineffectiveness of trenching as an elephant barrier". My article says that these are ineffective because they are expensive, and fill up too soon. (Down To Earth, page 29, August 15, 1994, and page 55, October 31, 1994) Here's what Sukumar himself has to say in Elephant Days and Nights (page 160):

"Trenching along the forest-cultivation boundary has been tried in some regions, but this has many disadvantages. Trenches are expensive to dig and maintain; they may fill up during the rains if the soil is loose. Elephants may also fill up a trench by digging up the soil with their front feet in order to cross over it." ...

Satellite imageries catch effluents


I read the article on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in Down To Earth, August 31, 1994, and I must congratulate your effort in providing the best of material. I am doing my PhD in environmental modelling and have taken up the modelling of tannery effluents seeping into the soil and polluting water systems, especially in Tamil Nadu. I plan to use satellite imageries and perhaps GIS. Could you give me the address of the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies. Whom should I contact there? Does the Centre for Science and Environment have such a database?

Tamil Nadu

Only the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) has such a database. You can get in touch with:

K S Krishnan Marg
New Delhi - 110 012


I am not a regular reader of Down to Earth, but in your August 31, 1994, issue I found the analytical article on GIS research and application in India very useful. I really appreciate the hard work that has been put in to bring out such an excellent article.

S K SWAIN World Wide Fund for Nature-India New Delhi - 110 003 ...

Village kitchen gardens

We are engaged in poultry operations and have farms and hatcheries all over India. Our units are located in rural areas. In a small way, we undertake activities for the upliftment of the villagers located near our units.

It is in this context that we are interested in popularising and promoting the concept of nutrition gardens in the villages. How can we obtain a copy of the film Growing together by Joss Brooks?

VenKeys Foods Pvt Ltd
Pune - 411 030

You can get in touch with him directly at:
Pitchandikulam Forest
Auroville P O 605 101
Tamil Nadu ...

Stripes on leopards

Your magazine is informative and I always look forward to it. But I was shocked to see a photograph (Down To Earth, December 15, 1994) of leopard skins with the caption: Dead stripes: a tiger skin haul. SNEHAL PATEL
Surat 395 007

The error is regretted. ...

Judging wildlife

I am responding to the controversial articles and reviews by Anju Sharma on elephant ecology and conservation. Her inspiration for unfairly criticising Sukumar's research work on elephants in the Eastern Ghats appear to spring from the results of another study of elephants being carried on by the Bombay Natural History (BNHS) in Mudumalai. I find serious flaws in her approach.

Most of the data on elephant ecology collected by the BNHS is yet to be published, unlike Sukumar's findings. Therefore, other wildlife scientists cannot judge the BNHS data unless they are also peer reviewed, criticised and published. This entire process should be transparent.

That Sharma is totally unqualified to evaluate or compare the results of the 2 complex scientific studies conducted in different habitats, using different methods, becomes apparent when one reads her ignorant and casual dismissal of the effectiveness of trenching as an elephant barrier (Down To Earth, October 31, 1994). I have observed at the Nagarahole National Park that trenches not only protect crops, if executed and maintained properly, they also protect elephant habitats.

Challenging the ideas of a respected wildlife scientist is part of the normal scientific process. Whoever is inspiring such challenges through an unqualified proxy like Sharma in the columns of a non-peer reviewed popular journal like Down To Earth, by releasing the BNHS team's unreviewed results to her, is doing a disservice to the cause of wildlife science in India. As a professional colleague who is aware of the immense potential value of the BNHS research results if they ultimately find scientific acceptance, I am pained by this unnecessary controversy.

K ULLAS KARANTH, Wildlife Conservation Society, Mysore ...

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