Sparrows nearing extinction due to lack of emotional connect: conservationist


  1. The house sparrow: Is edging towards extinction
  2. Reason: Lack of an emotional connect
  3. Mindless urbanisation is leading to a loss of the birds’ natural habitats
  4. They are losing the essential human touch they need and thrive upon
  5. The current generation is so much surrounded by technology that they have forgotten about nature
  6. The indifference caused by a lack of emotional connect has pushed these birds to the edge of extinction
  7. Other factors: Increased use of packed food, insecticides in farming, and changing lifestyles, resulting in an inadequate availability of food for the birds
  8. Earlier women used to clean grain outside their houses and sparrows would have plenty of food from there
  9. Also the severe use of insecticides in farming is killing sparrows’ primary food source in insects and grains
  10. Sparrows are also rendered homeless due to the “matchbox-styled” architecture that makes it difficult for the birds to locate pockets to build nests
  11. Unlike pigeons that can make nests on ledges, sparrows need cavities to build their nests
  12. Do some help: With summer approaching, people should hang wooden bird nests in balconies and put out a pot of water for the winged visitors

Back2basics:

  1. The house sparrow was declared the ‘State Bird of Delhi’ in 2012
  2. Mohammed Dilawar: Is a conservationist & founded Nature Forever Society for India (NFSI), a non-profit organization to conserve house sparrows
  3. World Sparrow Day: He also started the practice of observing March 20 as World Sparrow Day in 2010
  4. It is an initiative by NFSI & is now celebrated annually across 50 countries
  5. NFSI: Founded in 2005 & works actively to spread awareness for bird conservation
  6. Also distributes bird feeders and nest boxes to solve to some extent the scarcity of food and nests
  7. To track the number of sparrows in the area, the institution also observed a three-day ‘Great Sparrow Count’ starting March 18
  8. During the count, birdwatchers uploaded bird counts in their respective localities on to a common database

50 butterfly species spotted in Amirthi forest

  1. Source: A group of enthusiasts from Mumbai-based National Butterfly Club embarked on the nation-wide survey on butterflies – National Butterfly Trail Day
  2. Location: The survey in Amirthi Forest Range (Jawadhu Hills, Eastern ghats)
  3. All-India survey: The survey was conducted across 75 to 80 locations in the country at the same time
  4. Aim: To create awareness on butterflies found in different parts of the country
  5. Apart from spotting butterflies, this initiative also sought to understand which species of butterflies are found more in number, the host plants, differentiate male and female and look at activities such as mud puddling in this season

Note4students:

Same approach as the news on avian diversity in Siruvani.

Siruvani’s avian diversity gets richer, finds survey

  1. Source: A recent bird survey conducted by the Forest Department, in association with the Mannarkkad chapter of Oisca International and the Eco-Development Committee at Singappara
  2. It has revealed that the pristine forests surrounding the Siruvani dam are nesting place of many rare birds, including Shaheen falcons, blue capped rock thrushs, crested honey buzzards, Jerdon’s night jars and black chinned laughing thrushes
  3. The area is also home to the rare Great hornbills and the elusive Malabar trogans
  4. Yellow-throated bulbul and European bee-eater are also seen in the hills, which are close to the Boluvampatty forests of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu
  5. Siruvani and Muthikulam hills located on the north-eastern edge of Palakkad district are rich in avian diversity

Note4students:

The info as such can hardly be asked in exam but do map the locations on atlas and glance through the species found in the region.

India hosts world’s oldest algae fossil

  1. Source: A paper in the journal PLOS Biology
  2. Scientists in India have uncovered a pair of 1.6 billion-year-old fossils that appear to contain red algae, which may be the oldest plant-like life discovered on Earth
  3. Until now, the oldest known red algae was 1.2 billion years old

Note4students:

Not very important. Can be a prelims trivia.

When butterflies do not flit about in large numbers

  1. Source: The Wynter-Blyth Association, which undertook a survey of butterfly species in seven different locations in the Nilgiris and the foothills
  2. The survey was undertaken as part of the ‘National Butterfly Trail Day’ — an initiative of the National Butterfly Club in Mumbai — the first time such an initiative had been taken up nationwide
  3. More than 88 species of butterflies were seen and recorded
  4. Concern: However very few butterflies were seen this year
  5. Reasons: The lack of rainfall, combined with the fact that there has been little or no migration of butterfly species between the Eastern and Western Ghats
  6. Indicators: The presence of butterflies indicates the plant diversity of a particular place
  7. Butterflies are key indicators of the health of the local ecosystem, and a lot can be gauged about the state of the local environment from their presence, or indeed their absence

Note4students:

Very important for prelims.

Synchronous elephant count by four States in May

  1. Four States — Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand- have decided to count elephants synchronously between May 9 and 12
  2. This will be the first regional synchronous elephant census with an identical set of rules for direct and indirect counting methods
  3. These states comprise India’s most human-elephant conflict-prone region
  4. The census has been consciously been scheduled for May 10, a full moon day on which the chances of elephant sightings are higher
  5. Methods: The direct elephant counting method is based on sightings of elephants, while in the indirect method, surveyors follow a dung decay formula for arriving at a population estimation
  6. Dung decay methods have already been used by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
  7. A variation of about 8% to 9% has been noticed between the two methods
  8. Data: The synchronised census will indicate the size, distribution, structure and density of the elephant population in the region
  9. According to the 2015 census, Odisha has 1,954 elephants, while Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have approximately 700, 275 and 130 elephants respectively
  10. Elephants travel long distances and an exhaustive information base on regional elephant distribution will help plan a proper intervention for their conservation in the long run

Note4students:

Note the states, methods used and the order of states according to number of elephants.

2 more tiger reserves soon in Uttarakhand

  1. With the Uttarakhand forest department focusing on tiger conservation, the State is soon to get two new tiger reserves
    • The Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary: Falls under the Terai Arc Landscape spanning across India and Nepal
    • The Surai Range: In the Terai East division of the Uttarakhand forest department
  2. Process: The forest department is currently undertaking a public consultation exercise to apprise people residing in the two areas about the plan to get the areas notified as tiger reserves, and to take their consent
  3. 2+2: Uttarakhand now has two tiger reserves – the Corbett Tiger Reserve and the Rajaji Tiger Reserve
  4. According to the tiger census data released in 2015, Uttarakhand has 340 tigers making it a State with the second highest tiger population in the country after Karnataka
  5. With the two new tiger reserves, Uttarakhand, would become the first State in North India to get four tiger reserves

Note4students:

Very important for prelims. Also note the ‘process’ point carefully. Can be used in ethics case studies.

Dried up Kolleru Lake makes villagers, bird lovers anxious

  1. News: With the onset of summer, a major portion of the Kolleru Lake has dried up, raising anxiety among residents of lake-bed villages
  2. Livelihoods: Many villages of fisherfolk and more than 50 other villages in the West Godavari and Krishna districts are likely to suffer

Migratory Birds

  1. Bird lovers are worried about the drought-like situation as many species are flying off to the nearby water bodies in search of food
  2. Species: The lake is home for thousands of birds during the wintering season, especially spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, which arrive from different places
  3. It is the safest place for the pelicans and other migratory birds
  4. Pelicans: The pelicans also roost at Nelapattu in Pulikat Lake of Nellore district, Uppalapadu in Guntur district and Cilemeelapuram village in Srikakulam district
  5. Atapaka Bird Sanctuary: But more than 5,000 pelicans were counted at the Atapaka Bird Sanctuary, located in Kolleru Lake last year
  6. The sanctuary has been identified as one of the biggest grey pelican habitats in the world
  7. It is a rich reserve and bird watchers from different places visit the lake every year
  8. When the water level in the sanctuary is good, birds have enough feed, but without that, the migratory birds fly off to other places
    Now: Painted storks, grey herons, black-tailed godwits, stilts and others are scattered in the lake and in nearby villages now

Note4students:

Very important for prelims. Note the names of migratory birds, the bird sanctuary, its importance, location- map it on atlas.

Back2basics:

1. Kolleru Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in India located in state of Andhra Pradesh. Kolleru is located between Krishna and Godavari deltas.

2. Kolleru Bird Sanctuary is a sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh, India. It covers 673 square kilometers. It was established in November 1999, under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The sanctuary protects part of the Kolleru Lake wetland, which gained Ramsar Convention for International importance in 2002.

For Olive Ridleys, it’s paradise lost

  1. Issue: Tens of thousands of eggs laid by Olive Ridley sea turtles this year in Gahirmatha Sanctuary in Odisha, are getting destroyed
  2. Reason: Shrinking coastal space
  3. Details: The Odisha Forest and Environment Department estimates that 6,04,046 turtles have come to lay eggs at Nasi II island of Gahirmatha from February 22
  4. Since the small island could not host all those that turned up this year, only 50% of eggs may survive
  5. A female sea turtle scoops beach sand out to lay 80 to 120 eggs, but its effort is undone when a second digs at the same place to lay its own
  6. Gahirmatha once had 32 km of beach and nesting area of 1,80,000 square metres
  7. A research has shown that Nasi I and Nasi II had fragmented
  8. There is attrition, but there are also times when submerged portions got exposed again

Note4students:

The conservation issue of olive ridleys is very much in news this year due to anomalous behaviour of the turtles, loss of coastal space, salinity effects etc. Do read the comprehensive coverage for prelims as well as mains- click here

Ministry of Environment and Forests seeks five-year ban on BBC crew

  1. News: The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has urged the Ministry of External Affairs to revoke the visas of BBC’s South Asia correspondent Justin Rowlatt and his crew
  2. And prevent their further entry into India, for a period not less than five years
  3. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had also advised the wildlife wing of the Ministry to disallow filming permission to the BBC in any protected areas of the country for a period of five years
  4. Why ban? The move came in the wake of Mr. Rowlatt’s documentary, One World: Killing for Conservation
  5. It explored the anti-poaching strategy adopted by the guards of the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (KTR) in Assam while protecting the one-horned Indian Rhino
  6. Dark secrets: The documentary among other things referred to “dark secrets” of conservation at KTR
  7. The documentary said the forest guards had been given powers “to shoot and kill” poachers
  8. It also stated that more people were killed by guards than rhinos by poachers at the tiger reserve
  9. NTCA: The violations by the journalist involved “filming after sunset,” dishonouring the undertaking provided along with deviating from the original synopsis submitted to MEA and its authority
  10. Not screening the documentary before a committee of the MoEF&CC which would have ensured that policies of the Government vis-à-vis wildlife conservation are not projected in a distorted manner
  11. Trust breach: Committing a complete breach of trust by submitting a false synopsis
  12. This was done with the aim of misleading the Government of India officials into giving filming permission and producing the documentary, which shows India’s conservation efforts in poor light, contrary to the synopsis submitted

Note4students:

The issue is not very important for exam directly but the conservation issue of such species is important. See b2b for rhinoceros and KNP/ KTR. Very important for prelims.

Back2basics:

The one-horned rhinoceros:


  1. The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros, is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent
  2. Status: It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi)
  3. Moreover, the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, alluvial grassland and riverine forest, is considered to be in decline due to human and livestock encroachment
  4. The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced their range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal
  5. In the early 1990s, between 1,870 to 1,895 rhinos were estimated to have been alive
  6. In 2015, a total of 3,555 Indian rhinoceros are estimated to live in the wild
  7. Distribution and habitat: One-horned rhinos once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, including Bangladesh and the southern parts of Nepal and Bhutan
  8. They inhabit the alluvial plain grasslands of the Terai and the Brahmaputra basin
  9. As a result of habitat destruction and climatic changes their range has gradually been reduced so that by the 19th century, they only survived in the Terai grasslands of southern Nepal, northern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar, northern Bengal, and in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam
  10. Conservation: Rhinoceros unicornis has been listed in CITES Appendix I since 1975
  11. The Indian and Nepalese governments have taken major steps towards Indian rhinoceros conservation, especially with the help of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other non-governmental organizations
  12. In the early 1980s, a rhino translocation scheme was initiated. The first pair of rhinos was reintroduced from Nepal’s Terai to Pakistan’s Lal Suhanra National Park in Punjab in 1982
  13. In India: In 1910, all rhino hunting in India became prohibited
    In 1984, five rhinos were relocated to Dudhwa National Park — four from the fields outside the Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary and one from Goalpara

Kaziranga National Park:

  1. It is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India
  2. The sanctuary hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses
  3. It is a World Heritage Site
  4. According to the census held in March 2015, which was jointly conducted by the Forest Department of the Government of Assam and some recognized wildlife NGOs, the rhino population in Kaziranga National Park is 2,401
  5. Tigers: Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006
  6. Fauna: The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer
  7. Important Bird Area: Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for conservation of avifaunal species
  8. When compared with other protected areas in India, Kaziranga has achieved notable success in wildlife conservation
  9. Located on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, the park combines high species diversity and visibility
  10. Flora: Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, criss-crossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water
  11. Kaziranga has been the theme of several books, songs, and documentaries
  12. The park celebrated its centennial in 2005 after its establishment in 1905 as a reserve forest

Black rhinos on the brink of extinction

  1. Source: research paper published recently in Scientific Reports
    African Black Rhinoceros: As the value of rhinoceros horn touches $65,000 per kg, poaching has begun to drive the African black rhinoceros to “the verge of extinction
  2. It has not just reduced its population size, but has erased 70% of the species’ genetic diversity
  3. Genetic variation: It is the cornerstone of evolution, without which there can be no natural selection, and so a low genetic diversity decreases the ability of a species to survive and reproduce
  4. Greater the genetic diversity, the better is the population’s ability to respond to pressures such as climate change and diseases
  5. Thus the loss of so much evolutionary potential in the black rhino is worrying for its future adaptability
  6. Background: Two centuries ago, the black rhinoceros – which roamed much of sub Saharan Africa – had 64 different genetic lineages; but today only 20 of these lineages remain
  7. The species is now restricted to five countries, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania
  8. Genetically unique populations that once existed in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi and Angola have disappeared
  9. Genetic Erosion: The origins of the ‘genetic erosion’ coincided with colonial rule in Africa and the popularity of big game hunting
  10. From the second half of the 20th century, however, poaching for horns has dramatically depleted their population and genetic diversity, especially in Kenya and Tanzania
  11. Way forward: A complete re-evaluation of current conservation management paradigms for the black rhinoceros
  12. By identifying the genetic units remaining for surviving rhinos, we are effectively defining the boundaries within which management (be it translocations to increase genetic diversity or consolidation of populations for more effective protection) can be carried out without negatively affecting the gene pool

Back2basics:

The black rhinoceros:


  1. The black rhinoceros or hook-lipped rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a species of rhinoceros
  2. Native to: Eastern and southern Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
  3. Although the rhinoceros is referred to as black, its colors vary from brown to grey
  4. Status: The species overall is classified as critically endangered, and three subspecies, one including the western black rhinoceros, were declared extinct by the IUCN in 2011
  5. White: The other African rhinoceros is the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
  6. The word “white” in the name “white rhinoceros” is often said to be a misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word wyd (Dutch wijd) meaning wide, referring to its square upper lip, as opposed to the pointed or hooked lip of the black rhinoceros
  7. These species are now sometimes referred to as the square-lipped (for white) or hook-lipped (for black) rhinoceros

Though the net tightens, India remains hub for turtle trade

  1. Source: A recently-conducted study by researchers from Freeland India and Turtle Survival Alliance
  2. As the smuggling networks strengthen, India continues to bear the ignominy of being the source of the illegal trade and export of tortoises and freshwater turtles (TFT)
  3. The detection of a staggering 58,442 smuggled amphibians over five years, demonstrates the persistence of the illegal trade despite increasing enforcement
  4. Study finds that 14 species were being commercially harvested — nine more in 1993, when a similar study was conducted
  5. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the actual seizures could be much higher
  6. There were 223 reported seizures by authorities between 2011-15
  7. Most of the seizures were in India, while the rest were from Bangladesh, Thailand and China
  8. Of the amphibians seized, the turtles were established as having come from India

Ganges — a red zone

  1. Within India, the Gangetic Plains accounted for 46% of all seizures, with Lucknow and Kanpur being major hubs
  2. Why? This is linked to tightening of the enforcement (including an active Special Task Force) in Uttar Pradesh and the Gangetic belt
  3. There is a tradition of turtle poaching in this area given the diversity of TFT population along the river

Other areas

  1. Apart from the Ganga and its tributaries, TFTs have been poached in rivers of the Western Ghats and, in smaller numbers, in the Eastern Ghats
  2. The cities of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata have seen large-scale seizures, suggesting accumulation before export
  3. While domestic consumption of turtle meat in West Bengal and Bangladesh continues, it is the international export to south-east Asian countries and China that rake in profits for smugglers

Easily smuggled

  1. The species are poached by fishermen in streams, ponds and rivers
  2. Very rarely are the traded species bred — they are mostly taken from the wild
  3. It reaches middlemen who have strong networks to smuggle them across international borders
  4. Turtles and tortoises are taken in trucks, buses and trains towards Bangladesh or through airports to south-east Asia
  5. While enforcement has become stricter, the ease of transporting thousands of turtle hatchlings in bags has led the trade to continue unhindered
  6. Earlier this year, 6,430 endangered turtles were found stuffed in large bags at Amethi in Uttar Pradesh

Expanding list of species being poached

  1. In the meat markets in Bangladesh, there is indiscriminate poaching now as long as the turtles caught can be consumed
  2. In the pet trade of SE Asia and China, there is an increasing diversity of species that is being sold from India
  3. Before, it was primarily Star Tortoises. But now, the numbers of species such as Spotted Pond Turtle are on the rise

Endangered species

  1. Turtles form an important part of the riverine system, acting as scavengers in cleaning up water bodies and generally being indicators of river health
  2. Ironically, the National Mission for Clean Ganga envisages breeding and release of turtles to clean wetlands, even as poaching and trade continues across the Gangetic belt
  3. We need a comprehensive national conservation plan for these animals

Note4students:

Very important for prelims. A direct question in mains may not be asked but it can be a pointer on species conservation question.

Seemai karuvelam, a saviour-turned-villain whose tentacles spread far and wide

  1. Today, Seemai karuvelam (prosopis Juliflora) is vilified as an invasive tree that causes enormous damage to the environment and inhibits the growth of indigenous plants
  2. But in the early 1960s, when Tamil Nadu was reeling under a severe shortage of firewood, it was seen as a saviour to overcome this shortage
  3. It even earned the sobriquet panjam thaangi (providing succour during famine)
  4. The then govt made arrangements for aerial seeding of the plant from a helicopter in Ramanathapuram district
  5. The authorities in other districts advised people to plant the tree in poromboke land, tank bunds and natham land to overcome the firewood shortage
  6. The tree was also used to erect fences, making it difficult for animals to invade agricultural fields
  7. With cooking gas and kerosene replacing firewood even in remote villages, the role of seemai karuvelam as a provider of firewood has almost come to an end
  8. But, the tree has entrenched itself in the soil, spreading its roots like the tentacles of a mythical animal
  9. The Jamaican connection: Though the plant gained popularity in the 1960s, seemai karuvelam actually arrived almost a century ago
  10. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of UN: Conservator of Forests of Northern circle (Madras), was responsible for its introduction
  11. He had requested the Secretary of the Revenue department of Madras to supply seeds of the plant for planting in arid tracts of South India in 1876
  12. The seeds were received from Jamaica and sown in South India during 1877
  13. Even in 1953, the Fodder and Grazing Committee of Madras decided to grow seemai karuvelam on a large scale on the slopes of barren hills and panchayat forests to augment fuel supply
  14. While various species of Prosopis were introduced at the time, P. juliflora has spread over large areas and has naturalised in most of the arid and semi-arid regions of India
  15. P. juliflora has survived where other tree species have failed, and in many cases, become a major nuisance
  16. Nuisance: It has invaded, and continues to invade, millions of hectares of rangeland in South Africa, East Africa, Australia and coastal Asia
  17. In 2004, it was rated one of the world’s top 100 least wanted species (Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN, 2004)
  18. Preferred food for fauna: Dispersal of the species is mainly through animals by endozoochory (dispersal via ingestion by vertebrate animals)
    The pods are succulent and are a preferred choice of food for animals
  19. The FAO has reported that initially, the plant was observed to occur in areas of 150-750 mm annual rainfall
  20. However, invasions have been recorded in large rice growing stretches of Cauvery River Delta in Tamil Nadu State with mean annual rainfall of 1500 mm and where the occurrence of floods and inundation are common
  21. Also an injury from the thorn of the species would not heal easily despite intensive medical treatments, and using the wood in a fireplace could also cause dermatitis
  22. Cattle toxicity: According to reports by local afar pastoralists, the ingestion of the pod over long periods of time will result in death of cattle
  23. Stomach poisoning by the pod may induce a permanent impairment of the ability to digest cellulose
  24. This might be due to the high sugar content of the pod that depresses the rumen bacterial cellulose activity, and finally kills the animal

Note4students:

The issue was covered earlier with b2b on the given specie (click here). With the issue becoming severe, new researches and reports are coming up on it. Important for prelims.

[op-ed snap] Cat lessons

Context:

  1. In October last year, a leopard suspected of being a man-eater was captured in the Sariska National Park and transferred to a zoo in Jaipur
  2. A month later, the zoo acquired another leopard from the same protected area which too was suspected of being a man-eater
  3. The two big cats were released in early February
  4. That they are back to their old ways is a sorry commentary on the state of wildlife management in the country
  5. At the Jaipur zoo, the two leopards were castrated

The leopard story:

  1. This is perplexing since there is scarcely any study that associates the sexual drive of the big cats with man-eating tendencies
  2. That the leopards were released barely three months after they were captured is even more difficult to fathom

The human contact:

  1. Studies warn of the dangers of releasing predators after captivity since the animal has lived through a period of stress
  2. In a trap cage, the leopard does not need to hunt for food
  3. In fact, in captivity it comes into contact with people who feed it
  4. Wildlife biologists point out that keeping a leopard in captivity for months with frequent contact with humans is not correct if the animal is to be released later
  5. In any case, among the big cats, the leopard is the most familiar with the ways of humans
  6. It is scared of humans, though, and prefers avoiding them
  7. A suspected man-eater whose familiarity with the ways of humans has increased during captivity is, however, a different creature
  8. It’s anybody’s guess what this highly stressed territorial animal is likely do in an unfamiliar environment

It’s not just Sariska. Parks in Rajasthan and other parts of the country are rife with animal-human conflict. That these conflicts have increased even when there is a lot of research on the behaviour of big cats shows that park managers are either unaware of these studies or are constrained by other reasons to not pay heed to them.

Note4Students:

The points here and the incident can be a part of the answer on protection of wildlife. Find out more about Sariska Tiger Reserve from b2b.

Back2Basics:

Sariska Tiger Reserve:

  1. It is a national park and tiger reserve located in the Alwar district of the state of Rajasthan, India
  2. The topography of the protected area comprises scrub-thorn arid forests, rocky landscapes, dry deciduous forests, rocks, grasses and hilly cliffs
  3. This area was a hunting preserve of the Alwar state and it was declared a wildlife reserve in 1955
  4. It was given the status of a tiger reserve making it a part of India’s Project Tiger in 1978
  5. The Sariska Tiger Reserve is a part of the Aravalli Range
  6. A notable feature of this reserve are its Bengal tigers
  7. It is the first tiger reserve in the world to have successfully relocated tigers

Invasive trees being removed

  1. Work to clear ‘seemai karuvelam’ trees on a private land at Old Katpadi in Tamil Nadu is underway
  2. On February 10, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court ordered removal of the invasive tree species across the State in 15 days and submit a report

Note4students:

Important thing here is karuvelam tree, an invasive species.

Back2basics:

The Karuvelam tree:

  1. Known biologically as prosopis juliflora
  2. Native to: Mexico, South America and the Caribbean (also native to West Africa according to some sources)
  3. It has become established as an invasive weed in Africa, Asia, Australia and elsewhere
  4. It was brought to Tamil Nadu in 1960s as fuelwood
  5. Slowly, these seeds started drifting into dams and rivers, causing problems
  6. Apparently, the plant is such that no other species can co-exist with it, and it has already caused drying up of several water bodies in the state, adding to the woes of the water-starved state
  7. Biological nightmare: Karuvelam tree absorbs more than four litres of water to obtain one kilogram of biomass
  8. It cannot even shelter birds as it produces less oxygen and more carbon dioxide
  9. If it does not have sufficient water it begins absorbing groundwater
    And if there is no groundwater, it starts absorbing humidity from the surroundings
  10. It can also turn the groundwater poisonous

Record Olive Ridley nesting baffles wildlife experts


  1. A record-breaking mass nesting by 3.8 lakh endangered olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) took place at the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha in February 2017
  2. No nesting last year: Interestingly, no mass nesting had taken place at the site a year ago
  3. It was then suspected that several environmental factors, including chemical factors like salinity of the beach and the sea near the coast, may have prompted these marine reptiles to give the coast a miss in 2016
  4. Mass nesting: According to experts, most mass nesting sites of olive ridley turtles in the world are located near river mouths, where salinity is low
  5. However, a lot still needs to be explored with regard to the influence of the salinity factor as not much is known about the relation between mass nesting by these endangered turtles and coastline salinity
  6. What may have prompted the mass nesting now? A sandbar emerged at the mouth of Rushikulya river near Purunabandha this year
  7. This prevented fresh water from the river from entering the sea directly
  8. So the fresh water started flowing northward & this must’ve decreased the salinity of sea water near the coast towards north of the river mouth
  9. Usually, mass nesting takes place between Gokharkuda and new Podampeta, where the effect of fresh river water diverted by the sandbar may be high
  10. Salinity effects: Low salinity also means more small fish and insects, which are food for the turtles near the coast during mating and mass nesting seasons
  11. Olive ridley turtles bury their eggs on the beach & these eggs incubate with the help of sand heat for 45 to 50 days
  12. High sand salinity may damage eggshells, while low salinity will minimise the corrosive effect
  13. It’s possible the olive ridleys took the salinity factor into account while nesting at Rushikulya rookery coast this year, but what remains unanswered is how they sensed it

Note4students:

Very very important for prelims. See b2b for details.

Back2basics:

About the olive ridley turtles:

  1. The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle
  2. It is a medium-sized species of sea turtle found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans

Distribution:

  1. The olive ridley turtle has a circumtropical distribution, living in tropical and warm waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans from India, Arabia, Japan, and Micronesia south to southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand
  2. In the Atlantic Ocean, it has been observed off the western coast of Africa and the coasts of northern Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela

Mass Nesting/ arribada:


  1. Olive ridley turtles are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas
  2. Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs
  3. In the Indian Ocean, the majority of olive ridleys nest in two or three large groups near Gahirmatha in Odisha
  4. The coast of Odisha in India is the largest mass nesting site for the olive ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica
  5. Nesting occurs elsewhere along the Coromandel Coast and Sri Lanka, but in scattered locations
  6. However, olive ridleys are considered a rarity in most areas of the Indian Ocean
  7. They are also rare in the western and central Pacific, with known arribadas occurring only within the tropical eastern Pacific, in Central America and Mexico

Economic importance:

  1. Historically, the olive ridley has been exploited for food, bait, oil, leather, and fertilizer
  2. The meat is not considered a delicacy; the egg, however, is esteemed everywhere
  3. Egg collection is illegal in most of the countries where olive ridleys nest, but these laws are rarely enforced
  4. Harvesting eggs has the potential to contribute to local economies, so the unique practice of allowing a sustainable (legal) egg harvest has been attempted in several localities

Threats:

  1. Known predators of olive ridley eggs include raccoons, coyotes, feral dogs and pigs, opossums, coatimundi, caimans, ghost crabs, and the sunbeam snake
  2. Hatchlings are preyed upon as they travel across the beach to the water by vultures, frigate birds, crabs, raccoons, coyotes, iguanas, and snakes
  3. In the water, hatchling predators most likely include oceanic fishes, sharks, and crocodiles
  4. Adults have relatively few known predators, other than sharks, and killer whales are responsible for occasional attacks
  5. On land, nesting females may be attacked by jaguars
  6. It is notable that the jaguar is the only cat with a strong enough bite to penetrate a sea turtle’s shell
  7. It is thought to be an evolutionary adaption from the Holocene extinction event

Conservation status:

  1. The olive ridley is classified as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I of CITES
  2. These listings were largely responsible for halting the large scale commercial exploitation and trade of olive ridley skins
  3. The Convention on Migratory Species and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles have also provided olive ridleys with protection, leading to increased conservation and management for this marine turtle
  4. National listings for this species range from Endangered to Threatened, yet enforcing these sanctions on a global scale has been unsuccessful for the most part
  5. Conservation successes for the olive ridley have relied on well-coordinated national programs in combination with local communities and nongovernment organizations, which focused primarily on public outreach and education
  6. Arribada management has also played a critical role in conserving olive ridleys
  7. Lastly, enforcing the use of turtle excluder devices in the shrimp trawling industry has also proved effective in some areas
  8. Globally, the olive ridley continues to receive less conservation attention than its close relative, the Kemp’s ridley (L. kempii)

Ancient giant penguin lived alongside dinosaurs

  1. Source: A study of a giant ancient penguin fossil found in New Zealand
    Penguins are much older than previously thought and their evolution probably dates back to dinosaur times
  2. The new find is one of the oldest penguin fossils in the world, dating back to 61 million years ago
  3. Details: The bones differed substantially from previous penguin finds of a similar age and showed that the variety of Palaeocene penguins, living between 66 million and 56 million years ago, is greater than previously thought
  4. Penguins had reached enormous proportions early on in their evolutionary history and were already more diverse 60 million years ago than we had previously assumed
  5. This diversity indicates that penguins probably evolved during the age of the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago
  6. Waimanu: Until now it had been assumed that Waimanu was the only penguin alive during this time

Note4students:

Such news pieces are not very important but can be a prelims tit-bit just like Prelims-2016 Andamans banana question.

Tiny frog species found in Western Ghats

  1. News: Scientists have come across four new species of tiny frogs in Western Ghats
  2. These are no bigger than a human thumbnail, which make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket
  3. These species are among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Department, who spent five years surveying the global biodiversity hotspot
  4. Night Frogs: Belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus endemic to the Western Ghats
  5. They represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago
  6. Threat: The discovery also highlights the threat posed by human activities to the species
  7. The Athirappilly Night Frog was found close to the Athirappilly waterfalls, the proposed site of a hydroelectric project
  8. The Sabarimala Night Frog was discovered near the hill shrine which receives lakhs of pilgrims every year
  9. The Radcliffe’s Night frog and the Kadalar Night Frog were reported from plantation areas
  10. Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are already threatened with extinction
  11. Out of the seven new species, five face considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation
  12. Restricted range: Because several of the new species have been identified as being range-restricted and impacted by threats, it is important to assess their extinction risks and tailor conservation strategies for both species and habitats
  13. Background: As many as 103 new amphibian species have been described from biodiversity- rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015

Note4students:

Article has important info. Can be important for prelims. To read about the basics of national parks, conservation od wildlife etc, click here.

Stork, the once-reviled scavenger bird, now the pride of Assam villages

Earlier considered bad luck:

  1. The greater adjutant stork used to be an object of revulsion in northeast India
  2. It’s not a pretty bird, with its large, dull-orange bill and gray, black and white plumage
  3. A carnivore and scavenger, it left bits of dead animals in its nests
  4. People thought it brought bad luck, so they destroyed nests and sometimes poisoned the birds

The fortunes of the species may turn on local pride:

  1. Local women took it upon themselves early last year to form a conservation movement for the greater adjutant stork in Assam state
  2. Assam is one of only three homes the species has left
  3. The women known as the ‘hargila’ army, for the bird’s name in the Assamese language, sing hymns and weave scarves and other items on handlooms with motifs of the bird to create awareness about the need to protect the species
  4. The conservation movement wasn’t easy to sell; wildlife biologist Purnima Devi Barman needed almost eight years to convince locals the bird was crucial to the ecosystem

Fact check:

  1. Only 1,200 of the large storks survive in the world, according to estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
  2. Assam has about two-thirds of them, largely in three villages just northwest of state capital Guwahati
  3. The other 400 or so greater adjutant storks are found in the eastern Indian state of Bihar and in Cambodia

Note4students:

Do note the features and habitat of the bird from b2b. Important for prelims.

Back2basics:

The greater adjutant stork:


  1. The greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) is a member of the stork family, Ciconiidae
  2. Its genus includes the lesser adjutant of Asia and the marabou stork of Africa
  3. They are Endangered species under IUCN list
  4. Once found widely across southern Asia, mainly in India but extending east to Borneo, the greater adjutant is now restricted to a much smaller range with only two small breeding populations; one in India with the largest colony in Assam and the other in Cambodia
  5. Populations disperse after the breeding season
  6. This large stork has a massive wedge-shaped bill, a bare head and a distinctive neck pouch
  7. During the day, they soar in thermals along with vultures with whom they share the habit of scavenging
  8. They feed mainly on carrion and offal; however, they are opportunistic and will sometimes prey on vertebrates
  9. The English name is derived from their stiff “military” gait when walking on the ground
  10. Large numbers once lived in Asia, but have declined greatly, possibly due to improved sanitation, to the point of being endangered
  11. The total population in 2008 was estimated at around a thousand individuals
  12. In the 19th century, they were especially common in the city of Calcutta, where they were referred to as the “Calcutta adjutant”
  13. Known locally as hargila (derived from the Sanskrit word for “bone-swallower”) and considered to be unclean birds, they were largely left undisturbed but sometimes hunted for the use of their meat in folk medicine
  14. Valued as scavengers, they were once used in the logo of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

  1. A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka found by scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI)
  2. It could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer and wounds and burns
  3. Scientists have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, to treat inflammations and wounds
  4. This tribe is one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala
  5. The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immuno- enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects
  6. The JNTBGRI would share the commercial benefits of its work with the dwindling Cholanaickan tribe

Note4students:

Note the tribe name and its location. Such questions were asked in prelims earlier. Also just remember the name and properties of the plant briefly. One such question was asked in Prelims 2016 about a banana specie found in Andamans.

Q. Recently, our scientists have discovered a new and distinct species of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 metres and has orange-coloured fruit pulp. In which part of India has it been discovered? [Prelims-2016]
a) Andaman Islands
b) Anaimalai Forests
c) Maikala Hills
d) Tropical rain forests of northeast
Answer: (a)

Know about the Particularly vulnerable tribal groups in b2b.

Back2basics:

Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large and backwardness. Along with these, some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy. These groups are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.

In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups. In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

Basic characteristics of PVTGs: Mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.

Q. Why are the tribals in India referred to as the Scheduled Tribes? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment. 4.5+8 marks [Mains 2016, Paper 1]

Music to the ears: New species of songbird found


  1. What? Researchers exploring the fragmented forests of the highest ranges of the Western Ghats have designated two new endemic genera and a new species of songbird
  2. The species: (i) Western Ghats shortwings Sholicola (closely related to flycatchers) and (ii) the laughing thrushes as Montecincla (closely related to babblers
  3. The newly described Sholicola ashambuensis is confined to the Agasthyar Malai mountain ranges
  4. These birds live in the most vulnerable part of the ecosystem- fragmented forest patches on the highest peaks of the range- that is facing increasing pressure from humans activities and climate change

Note4students:

Know the names of species and their habitat. UPSC may not venture into such deep facts but we never know when such things can be asked as in Prelims-2013.

New moth species named after Donald Trump


  1. What? A new endangered species of moth has been named in honour of Donald Trump by scientists
  2. Why? Because the insect shares his hairstyle
  3. The new moth, officially described as Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, stands out with yellowish-white scales present on the head in adults
  4. The fame around the new moth will successfully point to the critical need for further conservation efforts for fragile areas such as the habitat of the new species

Back2basics:

About N donaldtrumpi:

  1. ‘N donaldtrumpi’ is the second species of a genus of twirler moths
  2. While both species in the genus share a habitat, stretching across the states of California in U.S., and Baja California in Mexico, one can easily tell them apart
  3. Being a substantially urbanised and populated area, the habitat of N donaldtrumpi is under serious threat
  4. The discovery of this distinct micro-moth in the densely populated and otherwise zoologically well-studied southern California underscores the importance of conservation of the fragile habitats that still contain undescribed and threatened species
  5. It also highlights the paucity of interest in species-level taxonomy of smaller faunal elements in North America

Earlier @ Barack Obama:

  1. A month back, a recently described species of basslet was named after Barack Obama
  2. The fish is only known from coral reefs in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Northwestern Hawaii
  3. It is a nature reserve which Obama expanded to become the largest protected marine area in the world

Restoring recently-extinct species will take 8 million years: study

  1. In Caribbean alone, more than half of the mammal species went extinct after human colonisation
  2. Leaf-nosed bats, for example: These bats form an ecologically diverse group that includes the fishing bat, many fig-eating bats and vampire bats
  3. The group is ideal for studying the effects of recent extinction, as one-third of its species have become extinct in the Greater Antilles over the past 20,000 years
  4. While there is a debate as to what caused these extinctions, the largest wave of species loss came after human arrival

Note4students:

Not very important. Just glance through.

Huge cache of red sanders logs seized in Chennai

Many such cases of Red-sanders smuggling have also been seen in past.

Note4students:

What is important here is not the news but to know about red sanders. A question was asked in Prelims 2016 on red sanders.

Back2basics:

Red-sanders:

  1. Red Sanders, botanical name Pterocarpus santalinus, is a non-fragrant variety of sandalwood that mostly grows in rocky, hilly regions.
  2. Saplings reach 8 to 10 m in 3-4 years, but growth slows down after that
  3. The trunks are slender, and it takes at least 20-25 years for the tree’s beautiful, deep red wood to be of use
  4. It is found in the thorny scrub/dry deciduous forests of the central Deccan, between 500 ft and 3000 ft. only in a small pocket roughly 5,200 sq km in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hills in the districts of Kadapa and Chittoor, in some contiguous areas of Anantapur district, in the Nallamalla forests in
    Kurnool and Prakasam, and in parts of Nellore district
  5. Some contiguous patches in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka see some wild growth
  6. It prefers lateritic and gravelly soil and cannot tolerate water logging
  7. Red Sanders is a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora

Kerala’s avian diversity gets richer


  1. What? BirdLife International has split the group of montane laughingthrushes, which are endemic to the Western Ghats, and recognised them as two new species
  2. As a result, Kerala now has four mountain laughingthrushes in place of two
  3. The newly accepted species are: Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), which has a very restricted distribution in Wayanad district and Travancore laughingthrush (Trochalopteron merdionale) found in Thiruvananthapuram district
  4. While the conservation status of the Banasura species was assessed as endangered, the Travancore variety was considered vulnerable
  5. The two original species of the family were Nilgiri laughingthrush and Palani laughingthrush
  6. The Nilgiri species, assessed as an endangered one, is found in Silent Valley National Park and Siruvani hills of Kerala
  7. The near-threatened Palani laughingthrush is found mainly in Munnar hills and the mountains of Periyar Tiger Reserve apart from Grass Hills and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu

Note4students:

This is important from point of view of prelims. Do focus on Birdlife International and Mapping of the protected areas.

Rhinoceros: a successful conservation story in India

  1. What: From a population of barely 75 in 1905, Indian rhinos numbered over 2,700 by 2012
  2. Source: According to the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India), a global wildlife advocacy
  3. The Indian rhino was moved from its status of endangered (since 1986) to vulnerable in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  4. Reasons for decline: Loss of large tracts of habitat and extensive poaching for its horn – believed to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties
  5. The IUCN estimated that there were close to 2,575 one-horned rhinos in the wild, spread across parts of India and Nepal, with India being home to 2,200 rhinos, or over 85% of the population
  6. These animals are mega-herbivores, part of a small and disappearing group that weigh over 1,000 kilograms and include the elephant and the hippopotamus
  7. These large herbivores are shapers of their landscape and environment, and the rhino may well be a keystone species – known to have a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its population
  8. By eating only certain kinds of grass – and trampling upon dense vegetation – rhinos indirectly affect smaller herbivores in their area, creating a cascade of effects that, in turn, affects other species as well
  9. The Indian rhinoceros is also known to help in seed dispersion, moving large tree seeds from forested areas to grasslands through excreta
  10. Geographical spread: In India, rhinos can now be found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam
  11. In 2012, more than 91% of Indian rhinos lived in Assam, according to WWF-India data
  12. Within Assam, rhinos are concentrated within Kaziranga national park, with a few in Pobitara wildlife sanctuary
  13. Kaziranga is home to more than 91% of Assam’s rhinos – and more than 80% of India’s count — with a 2015 population census by Kaziranga park authorities revealing 2,401 rhinos within the park
  14. Although rhino poaching peaked in India in 2013, when 41 of the herbivores were killed, it has declined since
  15. Reasons: Largely because of better policing and protection by the Assam government and NGOs
  16. Overcrowding: According to estimates, the threshold population of Kaziranga is estimated at 2,500, while Pabitora’s threshold is 100
  17. Exceeding carrying capacity also means that the rhinos are more likely to venture out of protected areas, which increases chances of human-animal conflict
  18. So, rhinos need to move to ecologically similar but distant areas to ensure species survival, according to the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 programme (IRV2020)
  19. It is a collaborative effort between various organisations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, WWF-India, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service
  20. The first successful attempt to move rhinos out of Assam and re-introduce them into a similar habitat was made in 1984 in Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa national park, which has 33 rhinos today
  21. IRV2020 hopes to raise the number of rhinos in Assam to 3,000 by 2020 and spread them over seven of the state’s protected areas

[op-ed snap] Leopards in a spot

  1. Context: Leopards clubbed to death in two instances
  2. The leopards in both cases were viewed as stray animals
  3. Just like ‘encounter killings’ of suspected terrorists, wild animals, especially leopards, are being eliminated across the country through state-sanctioned and public-supported encounter killings
  4. Certain important legal and ethical issues arise in the way in which we deal with wild animals that venture into human-dominated landscapes
  5. Article 21 of the Constitution states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”
  6. A wild animal can be deprived of its life and personal liberty only after following due process, namely, what is mentioned in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  7. Encounter killings of leopards have serious consequences for the long-term survival of these wild animals whose population is already threatened by poaching and habitat loss
  8. Pushing an entire species closer to extinction
  9. When talking about wild species, the notion of stray assumes importance
  10. Only a protected area is the authorised home of the wild animal, and if a wild animal is found outside the protected area, it must be rescued and sent back to the protected area
  11. This approach also views all tribals and forest dwellers as “encroachers” on forest land, requiring them to be relocated to their presumed natural home
  12. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, does not discriminate between animals found in protected areas and outside
  13. It provides for equal protection for wild animals irrespective of where they are found
  14. Mere apprehension or fear that a wild animal could endanger human life is not a ground for capture or killing

Note4Students:

State-sanctioned killing, capture and rescue of leopards violates every statutory, constitutional and ethical standard. This is an issue that needs to be addressed if India is serious about protecting its wildlife and biodiversity.

Giraffes, rarer than elephants, put on extinction watch list

  1. Event: At a biodiversity meeting in Mexico, the IUCN increased the threat level for 35 species
  2. It also lowered the threat level for 7 species on its “Red List” of threatened species
  3. The Red List is considered by scientists to be the official list of which animals and plants are in danger of disappearing
  4. The giraffe is the only mammal whose status changed on the list this year. Scientists blame habitat loss

Note4students:

The IUCN is an important body in the conservation field. It is a popular topic for questions in UPSC prelims also. Hence, this news gives us a chance to learn more about it.

Back2basics:

The IUCN was created in 1948 and consists of both govt and civil society organisations. It is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. It is the only environmental organisation with official United Nations Observer Status. It is headquartered in Switzerland.

Its members meet every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set priorities and agree on the Union’s work programme. IUCN congresses have produced several key international environmental agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention, and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

Interesting facts about Amur Falcons


  1. At just 150 grams, an Amur falcon, Falco amurensis is a small bird
  2. The male is mostly grey in colour, and the females having dark-streaked cream or orange underparts
  3. The species flies non-stop from Mongolia to northeast India covering 5,600 km in five days and nights, a small part of its 22,000 km circular migratory journey
  4. The birds halt briefly in Myanmar
  5. After a month or so, they reach central and western India en route to South Africa.
  6. The birds eat winged termites and other insects that destroy crops & thus helping farmers
  7. The species is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

Towards conservation of Amur Falcons

  1. In neighbouring Tamenglong, officials and wildlife lovers have won over many tribals who were earlier trapping the birds during their famous migratory journey
  2. Most bird catchers have turned bird lovers, and the species is recognised as friends of the tribals
  3. In Tamenglong, the tribals see the falcons as messengers of god, their arrival indicating a good year and a bountiful harvest
  4. The turnaround is a radical change from the past, when hundreds of trussed up Amur falcons would be on sale in village markets and towns, while some would be sold fried or smoked
  5. More recently, people from all walks of life, youths in particular, have joined hands for conservation. As a part of the awareness campaign, the first Amur falcon dance festival, including a beauty contest, was held last year

Nagaland, Manipur cheer as Amur falcons arrive

  1. Thousands of Amur falcons have started arriving in Wokha district in Nagaland and Tamenglong district of Manipur
  2. These are small birds of prey that undertake one of the longest migrations
  3. Wokha district is a declared second home of the Amur falcons

Who is Prajna Chowta?

  1. She is the founder of Aane Mane Foundation
  2. For the past 16 years, it has been researching and conserving wild Asian elephants
  3. She has also authored the Elephant Code Book on captive elephant management as well as the French book Enfant d’Elephant (Elephant’s Child) in 2014
  4. It is based on the sketches of tribals and their relationship with elephants
  5. As a researcher, she was also instrumental in developing an online monitoring system and one of the first GPS collars for elephants in India
  6. She spends much of her time in France screening her films as well as advocating the cause of elephants

France confers knighthood on elephant researcher

  1. Film-maker and elephant researcher Prajna Chowta has been appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (Knight in the National Order of Merit)
  2. This is one of the highest civilian recognitions of the French government
  3. Recognition: Of a life devoted to caring for wild Asian elephants
  4. Earlier this year, businesswoman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and actor Kamal Hassan were recognised under the French government’s Legion of Honour award

Discuss: Remember Article 18 of the Constitution? It prohibits Indian citizens from accepting foreign titles. (Above mentioned are awards though)

African elephants suffer worst decline in 25 years

  1. Source: African Elephant Status Report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  2. It put Africa’s total elephant population at around 415,000, a decline of around 111,000 over the past decade
  3. It is the first time in 25 years that it has reported a continental decline in numbers
  4. Reason: The surge in poaching for ivory has been the main driver of the decline
  5. It began approximately a decade ago, the worst that Africa has experienced since the 1970s and 1980s
  6. Habitat loss is also increasingly threatening the species

What is a mass extinction?

  1. What? A widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth
  2. Also called: An extinction event or biotic crisis
  3. Identified by: A sharp change in the diversity and abundance of multicellular organisms
  4. When? Occurs when the rate of extinction increases with respect to the rate of speciation
  5. Recorded extinction events affect the easily observed, biologically complex component of the biosphere rather than the total diversity and abundance of life
  6. Why? Because the majority of diversity and biomass on Earth is microbial, and thus difficult to measure
  7. Five massive extinction events have taken place in the last 55 million years
  8. The 2 biggest mass extinction events are:
  • The end-Permian: Happened 252 mya; reef-building animals were exterminated
  • The end-Cretaceous: Occurred 66 mya; non-avian dinosaurs were eliminated

What is the significance of large animals in the ecosystems

  1. Larger animals, especially predators, are crucial in stabilising the ecosystem
  2. Animals such as whales move nutrients within the oceans by feeding in one place and defecating elsewhere
  3. Also, these are often also top predators that regulate the abundances of other species
  4. Example: The predatory giant sea snail, triton, shows how removing an animal from the top of the ecosystem can destabilise it
  5. When it is removed from ecosystems, this can lead to population increase of its prey, the crown of thorns starfish
  6. The starfish, in turn, eats corals, and so corals can suffer when triton is removed

Extinction biased towards large animals

  1. Previous mass extinctions: Body size was either inversely associated with extinction probability or not at all
  2. Present extinction threat: Large-sized marine animals face a greater threat of extinction than the smaller ones
  3. Why? This is a crucial difference because of the importance of large animals’ role in the ecosystem

Emerging signs of mass extinction?

  1. Source: A study published in ‘Science’ Journal
  2. The study gathers importance in its relevance to environmental change
  3. In the geological record, all of the major mass extinction events are associated with evidence for large and rapid environmental change
  4. Singular force: Therefore, each mass extinction appears to have been caused by a single, large, triggering event
  5. It is still possible that different species died out for different proximal reasons, but the overall driver appears to be singular for most, if not all, of these events
  6. The dominant threat identified in today’s case are human fishing and hunting, rather than climate change itself

Discuss: Extinction of species is an inherent natural ecological process that operates at much larger scale while man-induced extinction is a myth”. Examine this statement in the light of major mass extinctions in the geological history [This one is especially for geography optional junta]

Mysterious Jurassic sea monster found


  1. Name: The Storr Lochs Monster
  2. It’s a fierce predator which lived 170-million-years ago
  3. It has been unveiled for the first time, half a century after it was discovered
  4. Found on: The Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1966
  5. It is the most complete skeleton of a sea-living reptile from the age of dinosaurs that has ever been found in Scotland
  6. The ancient reptile was around four metres in length and had a long, pointed head filled with hundreds of cone-shaped teeth, which it used to feed on fish and squid

About the great ape species

  1. Now four of the six great ape species are only one step away from extinction
  2. The great ape species: The eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan, Sumatran orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo
  3. Of these only the chimpanzee and bonobo are not considered critically endangered; but they are listed as endangered

World’s largest gorilla now ‘critically endangered’, says IUCN

  1. An estimated 5,000 eastern gorillas remain in the wild, a decline of about 70% over the past 20 years
  2. Reason: Illegal hunting and habitat destruction
  3. Critically endangered status will raise the profile of this gorilla subspecies and bring attention to its plight
  4. It has tended to be the neglected ape in Africa, despite being the largest ape in the world

Indigenous breed registration- what & why?

  1. Background: In 2008, the ICAR constituted a breed registration committee under the chairmanship its Deputy Director General (Animal Science) for the registration purposes
  2. The mechanism is the sole recognised process for registration of animal genetic resources material at national level
  3. Aim: Creating a sense of ownership among local communities responsible for development of breeds
  4. Registration: Documentation of the knowledge, skills and techniques (KST), and biological resources of local communities
  5. Why? Need for an authentic national documentation system of valuable sovereign genetic resource with known characteristics
  6. Advantages: It helps in inventorisation, improvement, conservation and sustainable utilisation of animal genetic resources of the country

9 new breeds of indigenous livestock registered

  1. Reg by: Karnal-based Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBAGR)
  2. Total number of indigenous breeds of livestock in the country is now 160

What is CITES?


 

  1. CITES: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international agreement between governments
  2. Aim: To ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival
  3. Why? The trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries so the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation
  4. Magnitude: Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants
  5. Legality: Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties (they ‘have to’ implement the Convention), it does not take the place of national laws.
  6. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level

Proposed wildlife law plans penalties of up to Rs50 lakh for violators

  1. News: Union environment ministry plans to overhaul India’s wildlife protection laws by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  2. Aim: To regulate international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora in line with CITES
  3. CITES: India is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  4. Severe penalties: Ranging up to Rs.50 lakh for violations
  5. Prohibits: Manufacture, sale, purchase, possession, transport or use of any animal trap by any person residing within 10km of a wildlife sanctuary

Culling of vermins – Recent examples

  1. Environment Ministry has recently granted permissions to certain states to cull specific animals, following request from states
  2. The states’ request was from farmers who had their crops damaged by the animals
  3. Examples include shootings by Himachal Pradesh (rhesus macaque), Bihar (nilgai/ blue bull and wild boars) and Uttarakhand (wild boars)
  4. The wildlife activists had challenged the above decisions of the Ministry in Supreme Court

Culling of vermins – Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  1. Wild animals are protected by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 under which animals and birds are classified, on the basis of threats they face, into 4 schedules
  2. The highly endangered tiger is in the highest Schedule 1 and hares in Schedule 4
  3. Each class gets different grades of protection
  4. The law allows all, except Schedule 1 animals, to be temporarily slotted as Schedule 5 or vermin
  5. Nilgai, wild boar and rhesus macaque come under schedule 2 and 3

Culling of vermins – Introduction

  1. Culling: Selective slaughtering of animals to reduce its population
  2. Vermins: The animals have to be declared as “vermins” first and only then culling can be ordered, as per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  3. Reason: If the wildlife is in conflict with human
  4. Procedure: States should first send a list of wild animals to the Environment Ministry requesting it to be declared as vermin for selective slaughter
  5. The ministry may then declare any wild animal to be vermin for a given time period
  6. Issue: Once categorized as vermin, the animals could become an easy game for hunters as well as traders in meat

Wildlife allowance for frontline staff in Karnataka

  1. News: The Karnataka government has approved wildlife allowance to support frontline staff working in protected areas
  2. In addition to the regular salaries, this amount is sanctioned for frontline staff working in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves etc.
  3. Significance: Success of conservation hinges to a great extent on the efforts of the frontline staff and they have been neglected lot
  4. The current allowance will boost their morale

About black necked crane


  1. Breeds on the Tibetan plateau and migrates to Tawang for the winter
  2. Rated as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN list of endangered species
  3. Most commonly found in China and is considered sacred to certain Buddhist traditions
  4. It is legally protected in Bhutan and India
  5. Listed in India’s Wildlife Act as a Schedule 1 species, which gives animals and birds the highest legal protection

Commendable conservation efforts underway

  1. Tiger biologists: Wildlife managers in parts of India and some parts in South East Asia and Russia have made commendable conservation efforts
  2. India has invested massively in recovering several tiger populations over the last four decades
  3. How? Because of strong political, administrative and public support rarely matched anywhere else

Cabinet nod to adopt statute of SAWEN to check wildlife crimes

  1. News: The Union Cabinet gave its nod for India adopting the statute of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN)
  2. Reason: The region is very vulnerable to illegal traffic and wildlife crimes due to presence of precious biodiversity
  3. There is also a presence of large markets as well as traffic routes for wildlife products in the region
  4. Purpose: It will help in checking cross border wildlife crimes
  5. Impact: It will strengthen ties with the member countries in controlling the trans-boundary wildlife crime through capacity building and cooperation in the region
PIB

Learn about South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network

  1. SAWEN is a regional network comprises 8 countries in South Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  2. It is a strong regional inter-governmental body for combating wildlife crimes for combating illegal trade in the region
  3. It allows the country to become a formal member in order to strengthen ties with the member countries in controlling the trans-boundary wildlife crime
PIB

Nautilus pompilinus to be included in CITES

  1. Context: Nautilus pompilinus may soon be included in the Appendix 2 of the CITES
  2. CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna
  3. Vulnerability: Low egg number, late maturity, long gestation and long life span
  4. It is also vulnerable to fisheries and anthropogenic activities like trading in its shell

Let’s know more about Ganges River Dolphin

  1. Habitat: Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh
  2. Population: Total is around 2,500-3,000 in its entire distribution range
  3. Out of this more than 80% is within the Indian territory
  4. Threat: According to the Wild Life Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, it is facing series of threats for survival in recent years
  5. Protection: It is listed in Schedule-1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and this accords the highest degree of protection during hunting

Learn more about Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary

Shensanctuary


  1. About Sanctuary: established in 1984, considering its ecological, faunal, floral and geomorphological importance
  2. Originally part of: Kulathupuzha Reserve in Thenmala Range under Thenmala Forest Division
  3. Significance: Abundance of Gluta travancorica, an endemic species of Agasthyamalai region
  4. About 1257 species of flowering plants belonging to more than 150 families are reported from this sanctuary of which 309 species are endemic to Western Ghats
  5. Presence of wild populations of lion-tailed macaque, a highly endangered species
  6. Presence of other wild animals like elephant, tiger, leopard, bear, Nilgiri langur, Malabar giant squirrel etc.

Rare finds at Shendurney sanctuary survey

Shendurneysanctuary


  1. Context: Presence of 176 species of butterfly recorded in 171-sq km sanctuary
  2. News: At a survey of fauna in Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, a butterfly species, Tufted White Royal, was recorded for the first time in Kerala
  3. Survey by: Forest Department and the Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS)
  4. Findings: Southern birdwing, largest butterfly in India, was recorded by almost all the sub-units and Grass jewel, smallest butterfly, was seen in one among them.
  5. Survey also found 16 of the 39 endemic species in the Western Ghats. These are not found anywhere else in the world
  6. Bird species: As many as 150 species of birds were also recorded in the region
  7. Painted Stork and Malabar Pied Hornbill, were detected for the first time in the sanctuary

3rd March observed as World Wildlife Day

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  1. Context: 3rd March is being observed as World Wildlife Day (WWD) to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora
  2. Significance: It calls for taking up urgent steps to fight wildlife crime which has wide-ranging environmental, economic and social impacts
  3. Theme: The future of wildlife is in our hands
  4. Main focus: African and Asian elephants
  5. Historical background: In 2013, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 68th session had designated 3rd March as World Wildlife Day
  6. On this day in 1973, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted

Draft National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-31

The draft NWAP envisages 17 focus areas, including the new area linking wildlife planning to climate change

  1. Mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, coastal and marine ecosystem conservation and a focus on wildlife health are among the key areas
  2. The draft emphasises on aspects like preservation of genetic diversity and sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems
  3. This has a direct bearing on the country’s scientific advancements and support to millions of rural communities
  4. The first NWAP was adopted in 1983, while the second was adopted in 2002, which is drawing to an end this year

New thrush species found in eastern Himalayas

This is the first Indian bird to be named after late Dr. Salim Ali .

The Himalayan Forest Thrush calls out in musical notes.— Photo: Craig Brelsford
The Himalayan Forest Thrush calls out in musical notes.— Photo: Craig Brelsford

  1. An International team of scientists have found a new species of the thrush in northeastern India and adjacent parts of China. The bird is named Himalayan Forest Thrush.
  2. The bird has been named after Dr. Salim Ali in recognition of his huge contribution to the development of modern Indian ornithology and wildlife conservation.
  3. The Himalayan Forest Thrush is only the fourth new bird species described from India by modern ornithologists since Independence.
  4. The species is distinguished by its musical song.

India signs agreement aimed at conserving raptors

Cabinet approves signing of MOU on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia — also called the Raptor MOU.

  1. India will become the 54th country to sign an international agreement aimed at conserving raptors—birds that hunt and feed on animals.
  2. This MoU is also called as the ‘Raptor MoU’ under the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS).
  3. Benefits of singing ‘Raptor MoU’ Help India to gain knowledge in effectively managing the habitats of to 76 species of birds under ambit of it.
  4. It is also in conformity with the provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 wherein the birds have been accorded protection in India.
  5. Concert transboundary efforts for conservation of migratory birds through interaction with other signatory countries of the MoU with the CMS.

Let’s know about Olive Ridley turtles?

  1. Also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is a medium-sized species of sea turtle.
  2. Found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  3. They are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers.
  4. The olive ridley is classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN, and is listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  5. The Convention on Migratory Species and Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles have also provided olive ridleys with protection.

U.S. places Indian Lion in endangered species list

Wild animals thrive at Chernobyl

World’s worst nuclear accident turned a vast area around Chernobyl into an uninhabitable exclusion zone, scientists are surprised to find it packed with wildlife.

  1. Wolves, elks, lynx, red deer and wild boar have reclaimed abandoned site despite the radiation exposure.
  2. As many as 116,000 people were evacuated from the Chernobyl exclusion zone after the nuclear disaster in 1986.
  3. The proliferation of animals is unique evidence of wildlife’s resilience in the face of chronic radiation stress.
  4. Radiation is known to damage DNA, but radiation levels aren’t expected to do major damage to animals’ physiology and reproductive systems.

India’s first dolphin community reserve to come up in Bengal

New hope for Wayanad’s vultures

SAI Sanctuary – The only private wildlife sanctuary in India

SAI = Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary Trust

Pamela and Anil Malhotra bought 55 acres of land 23 years ago, and today they have converted it into a beautiful forest of over 300 acres.


 

The couple, passionate about wildlife and nature conservation, bought 55 acres of land to plant native trees and protect the environment. Today, they are responsible for creating over 300 acres of wild life sanctuary that hosts animals like Bengal Tigers, Asian Elephants, Hyena, Wild Boar, Leopards, Sambhar, etc.


 

They bought around 55 acres of unused and abandoned land from the farmers who were not using it due to excess of rainfall in Kodagu district of Karnataka.

“We chose Kodagu because it is the micro hotspot of biodiversity in the entire planet,” Pamela says.

 

  • The huge trees and thick forest has also helped several birds like hornbill find their homes.
  • There are over 305 species of birds that visit this sanctuary regularly.

The sanctuary also won the “Wildlife and Tourism Initiative Of The Year” award by Sanctuary Asia in conjunction with Tour Operators for Tigers in 2014.


 

This is an appeal that Pamela and Anil Malhotra have made to all wealthy Indians to save our forests, wildlife and freshwater sources. They are even willing to help anyone who is willing to try.

 

Mumbai gets a flamingo sanctuary

A repository of avifauna (Grey Pelican) under threat. Why?

Bio-fences to ward off straying elephants in Assam

  1. Bio-fences are proposed to be set up replacing electric fences, to ward off straying elephants.
  2. The tea plantations will be using thorny bamboo. Electric fencing is considered costly and unreliable besides being hazardous.
  3. This would be part of a partnership to manage man-elephant conflict under a tie-up between Apeejay Tea and the World Wildlife Fund.
  4. The route used by elephants in their Sessa Tea Estate to reach the other part of forest would be formalised as an elephant movement corridor.

2015 Census – Indian one-horned Rhinoceros’ population rises in Kaziranga

  1. The census was conducted by Assam’s forest department in association with several wildlife NGOs.
  2. Entire Park was divided into 81 blocks for the purpose of census and the whole exercise involved about 200 people.
  3. The census has counted 2,401 rhinos in the park in indicating that their population has increased by 71 rhinos the past 2 years.
  4. It should be noted that Rhino census is conducted every 3 years. The last census was carried out in 2012. It had confirmed 2,290 rhinos in the park.

Why are we shifting lions from Gir to Kuno?

  1. The world’s last population of Asiatic lions in Gir, Gujarat may see a part of it getting introduced to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, MP.
  2. Why? To avoid over-concentration in a single place + To avoid a possible outbreak canine distemper and an increased probability of man-animal conflict.
  3. Kuno currently acts as the buffer zone for the Tigers of Ranthambore. Tigers and lions have co-existed before.

    Discuss: Most instances of man-animal conflict involve outsiders and not the tribals. In the case of Gir, the Maldhari tribals who are primarily cattle-herders live in harmony

Bhagabatpur Crocodile project at Sunderbans gets a boost

  1. The project was started in mid-1970s – to breed saltwater crocodiles, a Schedule-I species under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Situated next to the Lothian Island, far from Sunderbans mainland.
  2. Over the years – decline in eggs to hatching ratio observed – reason = increase in temperature caused by the global warming.
  3. Expert help being provided now.

Infant born to a family of relocated Eastern Hoolock Gibbons

  1. Hoolock gibbons endemic to NE region of India.
  2. Rescued and put in observation at Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary (MWS), Lower Dibang Valley district, Arunachal Pradesh.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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