The healing of human ailments by using therapeutics based on medicines obtained from animals or ultimately derived from them is known as zootherapy [1]. As Marques states, "all human culture which presents a structured medical system will utilize animals as medicines" [2]. The use of animals for medicinal purposes is part of a body of traditional knowledge which is increasingly becoming more relevant to discussions on conservation biology, public health policies, sustainable management of natural resources, biological prospection, and patents [3]. Research interest and activities in the areas of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine have increased tremendously in the last decade. Since the inception of the disciplines, scientific research in ethnobiology and ethnomedicine has made important contributions to understanding traditional subsistence and medical knowledge and practice [4]. But in India the traditional knowledge system is fast eroding due to urbanization. So there is an urgent need to inventorise and record all ethnobiological information among the different ethnic communities before the traditional cultures are completely lost [5]. A lot of work has been done in the Ranthambhore National Park on the medicinal plants & plant products and documented too, but there is a definite scarcity of such knowledge when it comes to animal products. Thus there is an urgent need to make such study in the field of zootherapy and document it, so that it can be put to the welfare of human kind. Therefore keeping this aspect in view, we have undertaken this study.

Study area

The Ranthambhore National Park (250 54' N – 260 12' N and 760 22' E – 760 39' E) at the junction of the Aravalis and the Vindhyas (mountain ranges) is a unique juxtaposition of natural richness, standing out conspicuously in the vast, arid and denuded tract of eastern Rajasthan, barely 14 kilometer from the town, Sawai Madhopur. Being a typical representative of dry-deciduous dhok (Anogeissus pendula) forest, the vegetation of Ranthambhore is considered as i) Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest and ii) Tropical Thorn Forest [6]. The climate is dry-subtropical with four distinct seasons: summer (March to June), followed by monsoon (July-August), post-monsoon (September-October) and winter (November-February). Average annual rainfall of about 800 mm is received mostly during July-September. From socio-cultural point of view, the region exhibits a great ethnic and cultural diversity. The present study was mainly conducted in the villages surrounding Ranthambhore national park, Rajasthan (figure 1). Most of the information was collected from Mogya and Bawaria people, which are living around the national park.

Figure 1
figure 1

Map of the study areaxsxs.


Data were obtained through field survey conducted from May to July 2005 by performing interview through structured questionnaire with 24 selected people (Informants), to collect information about traditional knowledge regarding use of animals and their products. These informants were local herbalists, healers, farmers, and midwives. The Informants are between 40–74 age groups. The selection of Informants was based on their recognition as experts and knowledgeable members concerning folk medicine. We ask the informants whether they use animals in the healing practices. Then we ask that which animal remedies have been prescribes for which ailment. We also ask the modes of preparation of remedies and how the medicines are administered, since this kind of information indicates how a given medicine can be therapeutically efficient in terms of the right ingredients, the proper dose, and the right length of preparation. According to them, their knowledge of folk medicine was acquired mainly through parental heritage, or because they have experience about medicinal value of animals to heal their kin or themselves. The interviews were recorded and documented. All the animal species were identified by using relevant and standard literature.

Result and discussion

The present study describes the traditional knowledge of treating various kinds of disease using different animals and their product by inhabitants (Bawaria, Mogya, Meena etc) of villages surrounding the Ranthambhore National Park of India. The information of all local names of the animal, part or product used to cure and methods of preparation were provided by the Informants. In this study, we enlisted 15 animal species, which are being used for 20 medicinal purposes. These animals are used as whole or body part or byproduct like milk, blood, organ, skeleton etc. for the treatment of different kind of ailments including tuberculosis, asthma, paralysis, jaundice, earache, constipation, weakness, snake poison etc. (see table 1).

Table 1 List of animals and their parts use for therapeutic purpose in the studied area.

Since ancient times animals, their parts, and their products have constituted part of the inventory of medicinal substances used in various cultures. This phenomenon is marked by both a broad geographical distribution and very deep historical origins [7]. In Pakistan, 31 substances were listed (animal parts and products), constituting 9% of all the medicinal substances in the inventory of traditional medicines [8]. Costa-Neto describes the use of 180 animal species as medicinal resources in the state of Bahia, Northeastern Brazil [9]. A survey of traditional materia medica in use in the markets of Israel recorded 20 substances of animal origin [25]. In the states of Maranhão and Paraíba (Northeast Brazil) a survey carried out and recorded 100 animal species was used as medicine [26]. Examination and research show that these substances are similar to those used as remedies throughout human history, irrespective of geographical borders [7].

In India, nearly 15–20 percent of the Ayurvedic medicine is based on animal-derived substances. There are references to nearly 380 types of animal substances in Charaka Samhita [10]. The Hindu religion has used five products (milk, urine, dung, curd and ghee) of the cow for purification since ancient times [27]. Besides immense knowledge has come down to modern times through folklore as various practices became a part of tradition amongst various groups in India (see table 2). Different animals used by the Naga tribe of Nagaland [11], Ao tribe of Nagaland[12], Irular, Kurimba of Tamilnadu[13], Chakhesang tribe of Nagaland[14], Kachch (Gujrat)[15], Kanikar, Paliyar of Taminadu[16], Bhil, Gamit, Kokna etc of Maharastra[17], Assam[18], Bhil of Rajasthan[19], Dibrugarh (Assam) [20]etc. has some or the other relevance with the animals that are found to be use by the Mogya, Bawaria, Meena etc. residing in this part of India.

Table 2 Ethnomedicinal uses of animals reported from different parts of India.

The use of urine drop of Canis familiaris against earache has been also reported amongst the Naga tribe of Nagaland [11]. The urine of Capra indicus has been also reported by Ao and Naga tribes for asthma, T.B., paralysis, [11, 12] but the milk of this animal is use for mouth ulcer has never been reported earlier. Pavo cristatus' legs uses for ear infection are also similar in Naga tribe of Nagaland and Bhil of Rajasthan, [11, 19] but Legs are boil with oil in kachchh and Maharastra for similar purpose [15, 17]. Ao tribe of Nagaland [12] also reports the fat of Sus scrofa in muscular pain, but in Tamilnadu this is used for Hemorrhoids [13]. The use of antler of cervus unicolor for eye ailments and the fresh blood of columba livia for paralysis has been also reported in the Kachchh region of Gujarat [15]. The use of fecal matter of Passer domesticus to treat baby constipation, but ash of excreta is used for treatment of asthma in children is reported in Kachchh[15]. The flesh of Streptopelia sp. to attain early puberty and dung of Equs hemionus to cure jaundice has never been reported earlier in India. Ash of Kachuga tentoria' carapace is used in lung diseases as cough, asthma, T. B. etc. but Lissemys punctatus' Carapace is used for healing of internal injuries, prurities and cough in Kachchh region [15].

Noteworthy is the observation that mostly animal byproducts are used in traditional health care systems without any loss to animal. The therapeutic information's is mostly based on domestic animals, but some protected species like the collared dove (Streptopelia sp) (figure 2), hard shelled turtle (Kachuga tentoria), sambhar (Cervus unicolor) are also included as important medicinal resources in this studied area. Kakati and Doulo enlisted six species as rare among twenty three species among Chakhesang tribe of Nagaland[14]. Inadequate knowledge and myths associated with the therapeutics like children are made to wear beer's claw around their neck as it is suppose to protect them from evil forces, similarly animals like sheep and goat are sacrifice to cause healing as this act is believe to please local gods. However such acts have cause harm to animal life. Thus there is a need to shift the focus from how to obtain the greatest amount of zootherapeutical resources to how to ensure future uses. There is also a need for a transdisciplinary approach to integrate the various aspects of zootherapy in such a way that frameworks or methods to amalgamate ecological and social components of that practice can be increasingly tested [3]. So the traditional knowledge should be included into the strategies of conservation and management of faunistic resources [26]. Further studies are required not only to confirm the presence of bioactive compounds in these traditional remedies, but also to emphasize more sustainable use of these resources.

Figure 2
figure 2

Collared dove.