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Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): An Interview With Dr. Michael Hutchins

Reposted from National Geographic blog:

Posted by Jordan Carlton Schaul of University of Alaska on January 11, 2014
 

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Inuit man eating narwhal (NGS)

The following interview is my 12th in a serieswith my esteemed colleague Dr. Michael Hutchins. Michael recently joined the American Bird Conservancy, as the organization’s National Bird Smart Wind Campaign Coordinator.

The distinguished ecologist has agreed to answer my questions about indigenous knowledge and the impact of such informational resources on the management of wildlife populations.

Jordan: In many cases, the large scale hunting of megafauna by indigenous peoples has been implicated in mass extinctions in the late Pleistocene. Is it fair to attribute the demise of some large placental and marsupial mammals to indigenous peoples?

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Inuit woman (NGS)

Michael: This is an interesting question.  It is difficult to say, as what happened in prehistory must be pieced together through sketchy evidence. However, I am highly skeptical of the claims of some scientists, such as Paul Martin (Martin, P.S. 2005.Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. Berkeley: University of California Press), who has blamed indigenous people for widespread Pleistocene extinctions.

Martin developed his theory of Pleistocene overkill, also known as the “blitzkrieg model” based on his observation that the sudden demise of large Ice Age mammal populations coincided with the arrival of humans on different continents. Martin hypothesized that as humans migrated from Africa and Eurasia to Australia, the Americas, and the Pacific islands, they rapidly hunted large animals to extinction.  But, as we all know, correlation does not imply causation. Continue reading