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An ethnobiological study in Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan: multinomial logit specification



This paper constitutes an important ethnobiological survey in the context of utilizing biological resources by residents of Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan. The fundamental aim of this research endeavour was to catalogue and analyse the indigenous knowledge of native community about plants and animals. The study is distinctive in the sense to explore both ethnobotanical and ethnozoological aspects of indigenous culture, and exhibits novelty, being based on empirical approach of Multinomial Logit Specifications (MLS) for examining ethnobotanical and ethnozoological uses of specific plants and animals.


To document the ethnobiological knowledge, the survey was conducted during 2011–12 by employing a semi-structured questionnaire and thus 54 informants were interviewed. Plant and animal specimens were collected, photographed and properly identified. Distribution of plants and animals were explored by descriptive and graphical examination. MLS were further incorporated to identify the probability of occurrence of diversified utilization of plants and animals in multipurpose domains.


Traditional uses of 91 plant and 65 animal species were reported. Data analysis revealed more medicinal use of plants and animals than all other use categories. MLS findings are also in line with these proportional configurations. They reveal that medicinal and food consumption of underground and perennial plants was more as compared to aerial and annual categories of plants. Likewise, medicinal utilization of wild animals and domestic animals were more commonly observed as food items. However, invertebrates are more in the domain of medicinal and food utilization. Also carnivores are fairly common in the use of medicine while herbivores are in the category of food consumption.


This study empirically scans a good chunk of ethnobiological knowledge and depicts its strong connection with indigenous traditions. It is important to make local residents beware of conservation status of species and authentication of this knowledge needs to be done in near future. Moreover, Statistically significant findings impart novelty in the existing literature in the field of ethnobiology. Future conservation, phytochemical and pharmacological studies are recommended on these identified plants and animals in order to use them in a more sustainable and effective way.


Evidences disclose the fact that human beings are familiar in the use of plants and animals for food, medicine, clothing etc. since ancient times [1]. Ethnobiology is the study of dynamic relationship among people, biota and the environment. More specifically, ethnobiology is the systematic domain that covers cultural study of how people learn, give name, use, and organize knowledge about the biota around them. Usually “Folk biology” is the term put to use by ethnobiologists to refer biological classification and reasoning specific to cultural groups [2]. Ethnobiology addressed big challenges to understand the perception and conceptualization of people about nature and health. It is also emphasizing the interaction of nature and health with socio-cultural, political and environmental conditions. Moreover, ethnobiology deals with the chances of change in political legislations as well as the attention of stakeholders in environmental and health concerns with free dissemination of science, knowledge and experiences [3].

Ethnobiology is a general term which is consisted with ethnobotany and ethnozoology as its key disciplines. The term ethnobotany was coined by J. W. Harshberger [4] as “the study of utilitarian relationship between human beings and vegetation in their environment, including medicinal uses”. A lot of work has been done on ethnobotany that has compiled the documentation of traditional ethnobotanical knowledge in most parts of the world including Pakistan [59].

Ethnozoology focuses on the relationship between animals and human beings for sake of food, medicine, art etc. It studies human practices of hunting, fishing and animal husbandry across space and time. Moreover, there are human practices about animals such as their place in the moral and spiritual realms [3]. A great variety of interactions between animals and human cultures are the subject matter of ethnozoology – “a science having deep roots within the human civilizations”. Human attitudes towards animals probably evolved long before current attempt to expose them artistically and scientifically [10]. It can also be elucidated that the origin of ethnozoology coincides with the appearance of human beings as specie [11]. There has been endeavoured a considerable work on ethnozoology in different parts of the world and a number of articles have been published online each year, but in Pakistan this discipline has been seldom explored [1216].

The present research effort was carried out to present the ethnobiological facts from Kala Chitta hills located in the Pothwar region of Pakistan. Due to a combination of hills, plains and dynamic climate, it is rich in floral and faunal diversity. Therefore, this is considered a hotspot for biodiversity and ethnobiology. The people of the area cannot enjoy the fruits of modern facilities of civilizations due to lack of infrastructure and communication. The specific and distinguished socio-economic conditions of the region keep them closer to the natural resources. The area is rich in rural culture and folk traditions. People’s livelihoods are highly dependent on indigenous plants and animals. The importance of ethnobiology is reflected in their lifestyle including dressings, weddings, death ceremonies, childbirths, festivals, cultural functions and socio-religious beliefs. This area was not considered for the study of ethnobiological potential in the past for being far away from the main city and somehow prohibited by the Armed Forces. The present study is designed to document the traditional ethnobiological knowledge and association between ethnobotanical and ethnozoological facts. The inhabitants of Kala Chitta hills live in the area of great biological diversity that provides potent phytozootherapeutic remedies. People of this region have limited access to modern health facilities and public services. However, due to lack of money and the remoteness of the hilly range, plants and animals continue to play an important role in their daily life. The health services are based on use of medicinal plants and animals which is inexpensive and remedies are easily available. The historically close association between nature and locals of this Hilly range, almost all of the inhabitants have some rich knowledge about the use of medicinal plants and animals for treating a range of ailments.

This indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants has been put in danger currently due to the loss of traditional community life, widespread hunting of biodiversity and extensive use of fuel wood amidst deforestation. For this reason, this research endeavour sets out the first rigorous global study via multinomial logit specification to identify the probability of occurrence of diversified uses of plants and animals along with standard documentation of 91 plants and 64 animal species. The major goals of the present study are the documentation of ethnobiological knowledge regarding the utilization of medicinal plants and animals, the quantification of the data by applying analytical technique of Multinomial Logit Specifications (MLS) which is based on the number of positive responses for each species and the assessment of indigenous frequent uses of native species.

Materials and methods

Research area, climate, flora and fauna

Kala Chitta is a famous hilly range in district Attock which is located about 20 km North- West of Islamabad, the capital of the country. This area lies in North latitude between 33° 7’ and 34° while in East longitude between 71° 45’ and 73° (Figure 1). It is one of the largest hilly ranges in the Pothwar region of the Punjab province which runs across the northern part of the district and demarcates Attock from other districts. The hill appears to be a wedge with its base resting on the Indus River. It is gradually tapering eastward till it dies away on the border of the Fatehjang and Rawalpindi cities. The hills extend around 20 km in breadth and 77 km in length. These hills are naturally segmented into two parts. The South Western portion is known as “Kala Pathar” (Black Stone) and Northern side, “Chitta Pathar” (White Stone). They are having noticeable differences in appearance [17]. This area is inhabited by different tribes and clans namely Pathan, Awan, Malik, Gujjar, Maliar, Syed, Sheikh and Mughals. Most of the tribes in the area claim to be decedents of the invaders who migrated from Central Asia and Afghanistan [18].

Figure 1

Map of the study area (Kala Chitta hills, District Attock, Pakistan).

Topographically, this area is a combination of hills and plains. The overall climate of study area is harsh with average minimum temperature of 17.92°C in January while 41°C average maximum temperature is observed in June. The rainfall pattern of the area is scanty and uncertain. The annual average rainfall is 605 mm per annum [19]. The soil comprises of soft grey sand-stones and orange to bright- red shale of the Siwalik system. In the north, there are several lime stone ridges which are coincided with Kala Chitta hills. The high ground on the North (near Attock and Lawrencepur) is formed by ancient rock series known as the Attock slates. These rocks are believed to be a great geological antiquity which may belong to the Precambrian system. Attock hills are formed of slates with veins of lime stones and whitish marble [20].

This area falls under dry temperate forests with vegetation and dominant species of Acacia, Delbergia, Justacia, Dodonea, Olea etc. Being a rich biodiversity centre, this area is also inhabited by a variety of wild animals. The most common animals are Leopard, Ravine Deer or Chinkara (Indian Gazelle or Hiran), Grey partridge (Tittar), Ordinary Bustard (Kharmohr) etc.

Field exposure and ethnobiological data collection

The survey of the area was carried out between July, 2011 and June, 2012 to trace and document the ethnobiological knowledge. The ethnobiological research regarding data collection, plant collection and intellectual property rights (IPR) of local inhabitants were duly approved by the research ethics committee of National Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan and Herbarium situated in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. A method of semi-structured interviews was employed during the field survey to scan the ethnobotanical and ethnozoological information [21]. A total of 54 informants (32 male and 22 females) with different age groups were randomly selected for interviews. The selection of informants was mainly based on their rich indigenous knowledge and long term experience of utilization of plants and animals in the community. During the field surveys, general meetings, interviews of males and females, Herbal doctors/Physicians (Hakims) were conducted in addition to transect walks. Rural herbalists or Hakims were especially consulted for ethnobiological data and most of medicinal preparations were obtained from them.

Interviews based on semi-structured questionnaire were conducted with informants after explaining the aims of the study. Each questionnaire was divided into two parts including personal information data (name, age, education, occupation etc. and on plant and animal usages data (local names, traditional uses etc.). Plant samples were reported for medicinal uses and were photographed and collected. Thus herbarium specimens were prepared as per international standards [22]. The voucher numbers were assigned by the Herbarium (ISL) of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The correct botanical labelling with author citation of the plants was reconfirmed by employing International Plant Names Index (IPNI) according to the standard rules of binomial nomenclature. After correct identification of the plants to be used using floral literature, the specimens were deposited in the Herbarium of Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan for future research [2326].

The identification of animals was completed by comparing with standard taxonomic keys and available literature [2731]. Small animals like invertebrates were captured and after thorough identification, they were set free. Large animals were identified in the field as per respective folk description and subsequently with the aid of photo snaps.

Methodological considerations for Multinomial Logit Specification (MLS)

Logistic regressions are the multiple regressions but used to predict a categorical outcome variable. They have two main specifications. First is the binary logit model specification which is used when the discrete response variable has two categories. Second is multinomial logit specification which is applied when the discrete response variables are multi-categorical [3234]. Although binary logit model could be used in this study but multinomial logit specification was found to be more practical because of multiple uses of plants (and animals) and for its delivery of relatively more realistic findings.

The use of multinomial logistic models has gained prominence in predicting the relationship of plants and animals utilization with their respective categories. Multinomial logistic models dominate where the response variables are multi-categorized [33, 34]. Individual has to choose only one alternative from the group of choices as (s) he is interested in how ceteris paribus changes in the elements of x which may affect the response probabilities, P(Y = j│x), j = 0, 1, …, J; since the probabilities must sum to unity. Multinomial logit model may be considered as a series of binary models where we evaluate the probability of the alternative j against alternative i for every i ≠ j. The specific multinomial logit formulation is adopted for the plants (and animals). The model so employed can be expressed as:

ln P Y = j P Y = 0 = α m + k = 1 J β mk X ik + μ i

Where P(Y = j) is denoted by Pj and P(Y = 0) by P0;So logit becomes

Logi t i = ln P j P o = α m + k = 1 J β mk X ik + μ i

In the study, the dependent variable includes different uses of plants (and animals) including medicinal and food (use together) and their all other usages (separate category). Plant categories are used as covariates in the analysis. They are part of “aerial and underground plant parts which include woody and non-woody plants” and “annual and perennial plants”. However, the animal categories used in the model consist of “domestic and wild animals”, “vertebrate and invertebrate animals” and “herbivore and carnivore animals”.

Multinomial logistic regression compares the multiple groups of “plants (animal) uses” through a combination of binary logistic regressions and estimates the number of equations less one category that is the base or reference category i.e. all other plants (animals) uses in this case. Reference group is normally selected with the highest numeric score that is the domain of “all other uses of plants”. Coefficients with the group’s reference are all zero just like that of binary logistic regression. Multinomial regression model does not impose the restrictions of normality, linearity and homogeneity of variances for explanatory variables. However, it follows maximum likelihood estimation and the chi-square distribution [32, 35].

This logit is similar to logit in binary model [32, 35] and interpretations of the logit estimates are also not very helpful in this case. However, the odd ratios and marginal effects are more useful in interpreting the relationships. The odd effects do not depend on the values of x but marginal effects clearly depend on x that can be seen from multinomial formulation of odd ratios and marginal effects [36].

Results and discussion

A profile of ethnobotanical inventory

During the survey, there were reported a total of 91 plants species belonging to 37 families and 79 genera which are being used ethnobotanically by the residents of selected area. The detailed inventory includes plant names (with local names), family, habit and ethnobotanical uses as provided in Table 1. Ethnobotanical analysis reveals that the reported species were predominately used for medicinal purposes (79 spp.) with 39%. It is followed by fodder (46 spp., 22%), fuel (20 spp., 10%), while rest of the categories usages are timber, vegetable, fruit, ornamental and poisonous etc. These were scarcely used (Figure 2). The ethnobotanical picture is reflected in Figure 2. There is clearly evident that the native species are well known by the indigenous people. These are endowed with rich heritage of ethnobotanical wisdom. They use different parts of plants as medicines, food, fodder, fuel, timber, and furniture etc. These people are dependent on these plant species to meet their daily life requirements. Qureshi and Bhatti reported that rural communities are more informative in terms of ethnobotanical knowledge than that of cities [37]. The reason is that this area is far from city and thus there is dearth of many basic needs. Many of the tribes are settled in this area since the time of Mughal emperors and Afghan invaders. Due to this reason, they are exposed to these plants generation after generations. They have great deal of experiences and wisdom regarding their use.

Table 1 Ethnobotanical uses of plants of Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan
Figure 2

Ethnobotanical use categories (%) of plants of Kala Chitta hills, Pakistan.

The plant species used for the treatment of a particular disease is indicated in Figure 3. It shows that maximum numbers of plant species (i.e. 18) are used for the treatment of diabetes and as pain killer (16). However, there are a few plants which are used for the treatment of pneumonia and skin diseases (Figure 3). Figure 4 shows the percentage of the plant’s parts being used for ethnobotanical purposes. The maximum usage of ethnobotanical species is recorded of leaves (39%), fruits (22%), aerial parts (15%), seeds (14%), and roots (13%). As in this study, the people of Kotli Sattian do possess similar kinds of plant’s parts which are used for making recipes [38].

Figure 3

Diseases (%) treated by number of plant species.

Figure 4

Part used (%) of plants of Kala Chitta hills, Pakistan.

The inventory of economic plants is shown in Table 1. It reveals that people of remote areas are still dependent on plants. However, the urban people are not familiar with most of these plant usages especially that of medicinal ones. It is dire need of the time to fill this knowledge gap and document the entire information so that it can be preserved and used for future research and verification. In spite of all these awareness, the native inhabitants are still ignorant of the importance of biodiversity and its conservation. It is highly important to educate them so that loss of plants may be minimized. There is call for more comprehensive surveys and study projects to make people aware about the need of documentation of the entire knowledge and explore their importance to the natives [38].

A profile of ethnozoological inventory

Kala Chitta range has an immense grazing potential in addition to a number of wild species of animals including Amphisema stolatum, Apis mellifera, Helogale parvula-herpestes edwardsi, Hypomelas micrpus, Laepus nigricollis, Melanoperdix niger, Naemorhedus goral, Oryctolagus cuniculus, Rhesus macaque, and Uromastyix hardwicki etc. Most of these are common in this area. Moreover, livestock is an additional source of income for most of the people because they are not economically well off. There is also hunting pressure on wildlife species (including Oryctolagus cuniculus, Melanoperdix niger, and Naemorhedus goral) due to lack of law enforcement and conservation concept. These are at the risk of destruction danger in the study area.

Around 64 animal species belonging to 45 families and 62 genera were explored from the study area. The detailed ethnozoological inventory of animals is profiled from this area which reveals that local people have versatile consumption of these animal species (Table 2). The percentage analysis of these ethnozoological inventory shows that maximum number of animals are being used for the medicinal purpose (22%), along with food (18%), sports (11%) and art (10%) purposes (In Figure 5). Though this area is enriched in ethnozoological wisdom but this unique knowledge is available with the elders only. The young generation is not much familiar and concerned with the facts of ethnozoological spectrum of the region due to cultural changes. Hence this deteriorating information should necessarily be preserved by means of identification and documentation.

Table 2 Ethnozoological uses of animals of Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan
Figure 5

Use categories (%) of animals of Kala Chitta hills, Pakistan.

Multinomial logit model estimation results

Multinomial logistic approach is a good tool in studying ethnobiological research where there is need to study multiple usages of different or/and same plants (and animals) all together. The comparisons can be made and the identification of the plants (and animals) is more important for medicinal use etc. It may be helpful in deciding to produce the medicinally important plants (and animals) at commercial level.

Multinomial logit model estimates the use of plants and animals. The maximum likelihood procedure has been used to maximize the log likelihood function after a number of iterations. The choice of plants (and animals) as medicine and food medicine is used as main cases. There is also food and medicine combined its part while all other uses of plants (animals) have been left out of the regression as the base case. The probability of choosing each use of plant (and animals) was assumed to be the function of their respective categories. The selected model for plants (and animals) is log likelihood function which is maximized at −95.737 (−44.82) after 19 (35) iterations. A Pseudo R2 for plant (and animals) model is 0.153 (0.210) and likelihood ratio of chi-square is also significant at less than one percent in both of the models. The model is significant according to the tests used in the analysis. Most of the individual coefficients are highly significant in both of the models. Some were found to be jointly significant. Positive (or negative) slope coefficients imply that probability of each selected plant (and animal) usage increases (or decreases) for the active plant (and animal) category (Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3 Multinomial logit statistics for plant use selection across different plants categories
Table 4 Multinomial logit statistics for animals use selection across different animals’ categories

The dummy variable coefficient for aerial and underground plant parts is negative and significant for all uses of plants except the medicinal ones which is insignificant. However, marginal effect of medicinal usage of plants is positive in contrast to food usage of aerial parts of plants. It implies that underground plant parts are more likely to be used for medicine in contrast to aerial ones which are generally used for food purposes. It also reflects that aerial plant parts are less likely to be used for medicinal purposes than that of underground parts of the plant. These findings are consistent with the results as given in [9]. The binary covariate annual coefficients and perennial are significant and positive for each use of plants except medicinal application where the coefficient is positive but not statistically significant. Marginal effects for these plants are non-significantly negative for medicinal plants usage and positive for the domain of food purposes. This shows that annual plants are less likely to be medicinally used as compared to the perennial plants. This finding is also consistent with the results of [9]. However, the positive marginal effects for food plants reveal that they are more likely to be used for food as compared to the perennial plants but none of the significant values was as small (0.0056) as can be effective in food use. Marginal effect for combined usage of food and medicine is statistically highly significant but negative for dummy variable of aerial and underground plant parts. This is positive for dummy variable of annual and perennial plants that confirms the previous results (Table 3).

The domestic and wild categories of dummy variable have negative significant coefficients for medicinal use of plants while it has negative non-significant coefficients of combined use of food and medicinal use of plants. It has positive significant coefficient for food use of plants. The significant negative marginal effect explains that wild animals are more likely to be used for medicinal purposes than the domestic animals. However, there is very low insignificant value of marginal effect of food use of animal which approaches to zero. It shows no difference in (equal use of) domestic or wild animals. Marginal effects of vertebrate and invertebrate animals are significant for food usage and non-significant for medicinal usage (value approaches to zero). However, the marginal effect for their combined use was found to be positive but insignificant. It implies that vertebrates are less likely to be used in medicine and food usages as compared to invertebrates while the difference is negligible. Likewise, the coefficients of the dummy variable for the herbivores and carnivores are negative for medicinal usage of animals and positive for their food use. Both of them are insignificant but their combined usage has positively significant coefficient which implies that herbivores are more likely to be used as medicinal and food purposes as compared to that of carnivores (Table 4).


This paper has reported ethnobiology of 91 plants and 61 animals of important species that are statistically verified. These species are frequently used by the natives especially for medicinal purposes. The collected ethnobiological data may provide basis to formulate a policy for biodiversity conservation and community development. Therefore, it is articulated that such ethnobiological studies can make significant contributions to indigenous knowledge as well as to the sources of raw materials for the development of commercial pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals. The native biota of Kala Chitta hills is threatened by factors such as extensive fuel wood consumption, hunting of wild animals, grazing, expansion of new agricultural lands, buildings, roads and unsustainable picking of plants to generate income. Punitive measures should be taken to ensure the inclusion of relevant flora and fauna within conservation designations.


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The authors are highly grateful to the local informants of Kala Chitta hills (Pothwar region) who fully cooperated and provided the important ethno-biological information. Special benevolence is extended to the journal reviewers for their useful comments. Special thanks are offered to Prof. Altaf Hussain Ansari, Department Of English, Forman Christian University Lahore, Pakistan for english editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ejaz Ahmed.

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All authors have significant contribution to design field study, data collection, analysis and final manuscript write-up. All authors have gone through this paper and approved the final manuscript.

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Arshad, M., Ahmad, M., Ahmed, E. et al. An ethnobiological study in Kala Chitta hills of Pothwar region, Pakistan: multinomial logit specification. J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 10, 13 (2014).

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  • Ethnobotany
  • Ethnozoology
  • Multinomial logit
  • Kala Chitta hills
  • Pothwar region
  • Pakistan