[Prelims Spotlight] Wildlife/ forest Conservation Efforts

1.Purple frog set to be crowned Kerala’s state amphibian

Purple Frog

  • Quite similar to the lore of King Maveli, researchers have found that the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  • Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterized by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
  • This intriguing frog species is listed as Endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It feeds mostly on soil-mites, ants and termites using its fluted tongue.
  • The male and female frogs mate underground and once in a year, they come out on the surface to lay thousands of eggs near seasonal streams in the months of May-June.
  • How they time their emergence onto the surface along with the onset of early rains is a mystery that continues to baffle naturalists.

Why is it so special?

  • It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Described for the first time in 2003 by two scientists in the jungles of Kerala, the species sparks feverish imagination among herpetologists worldwide for a number of reasons.
  • It’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.
  • This could help scientists understand how it’s population may have evolved and learned to overcome the challenges of shifting land masses.
  • A year after it was documented, the frog’s closest relatives were found in Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa.
  • This discovery led many to ask whether the species could indeed be living proof of the theory of Gondwanaland.

2.Despite objections, Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone curtailed

  • Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ), which provides a regulated buffer zone around protected areas, will remain at 168.84 sqkm despite thousands of citizens formally objecting to the reduction of nearly 100 sq. km. as compared to the original proposal.
  • The new ESZ will range from 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to 1 kilometre from the periphery of the protected area.

3.Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
  • Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
  • It is an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.

4. Global Assessment Report by IPBES

Global Assessment Report

  • It is compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries and is a cornerstone of an emerging body of research the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  • Known as the Global Assessment, the report found that up to one million of Earth’s estimated eight million plants, insect and animal species is at risk of extinction, many within decades.
  • It suggests the world may need to embrace a new “post-growth” form of economics if it is to avert the existential risks posed by the mutually-reinforcing consequences of pollution, habitat destruction and carbon emissions.

About IPBES

  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012 under the auspices of UNEP.
  • The objective of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
  • The IPBES secretariat is based in Bonn, Germany.

5.Kashmir Stag (Hangul)

  • A massive decline in the population of Kashmir’s iconic wildlife species, the Hangul (Cervus hanglu hanglu), also known as the Kashmir stag, continues to be a big concern.

Kashmir Stag (Hangul)

  • Hangul, the state animal of Jammu & Kashmir, is restricted to the Dachigam National Park some 15 km north-west of Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.
  • The Hangul is placed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the J&K Wildlife Protection Act, 1978.
  • The Hangul was once widely distributed in the mountains of Kashmir and parts of Chamba district in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.
  • The IUCN’s Red List has classified it as Critically Endangered and is similarly listed under the Species Recovery Programme of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) of the MoEFCC.

5. Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

  • A recent study has discovered a reduction in Dhole occupancy in Karnataka’s Western Ghats, from 62 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2015.

Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

  • The dhole is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in India.
  • Globally, dholes have disappeared from approximately 82 percent of their former range.
  • The Western Ghats perhaps supports the largest dhole population in the world and is therefore a critical conservation landscape for the species.

6. Hump-backed Mahseer

  • The hump-backed Mahseer, found in the waters of the Cauvery, has been added to the IUCN Red List with Critically Endangered Status.

Hump-backed Mahseer

  • The hump-backed mahseer is a large freshwater fish also called the tiger of the water and found only in the Cauvery river basin including Kerala’s Pambar, Kabini and Bhavani rivers.
  • It is now “Critically Endangered”: more threatened than the tiger is, as per the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The fish is one of the 229 species added to the Red List last November; this update also reveals that the threat status of 12 other Indian species, including great hornbills, has increased.
  • The inclusion was possible only once the fish got its scientific name last June—Tor remadevii.

7. Parrotfish in Andaman

  • Coral cover protection along the existing protected marine areas in Andaman and Nicobar islands is necessary for conservation of the endangered Bumphead Parrotfish, a new study has suggested.

Bumphead Parrotfish

  • Bumphead parrotfish, Bolbometopon muricatum, is an important component of coral reef ecosystem, but is highly endangered globally.
  • It is categorized as ‘vulnerable’ in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • This fish is a highly prized resource, but is threatened due to limited knowledge about its distribution and abundance in Indian waters.
  • A research recently studied the distribution, abundance and dangers to this species in the waters of Andaman and Nicobar islands.

8. Herbivore census in Gujarat’s Gir forest

  • Every summer, the Forest Department of Gujarat conducts an Herbivore Census in Gir forest.

Herbivore Census

  • The Herbivore Census covers ungulates such as spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars, as well as Indian langurs and peafowl.
  • This year’s exercise is of particular significance because it is the last Herbivore Census ahead of next year’s Lion Census, which is a once-in-five-years exercise.

9.DNA database for Indian Rhino

  • The Environment Ministry has embarked on a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.

DNA Database of Indian Rhino

  • By 2021, the Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced.
  • The project’s proponents include the World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) and the Centre-funded Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
  • The exercise would be useful in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  • There are about 2,600 rhinos in India, with over 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
  • Around 60 samples of tissue have been collected so far from some rhinos living outside Kaziranga.

10.India’s biodiversity-rich zones also ‘hotspots’ of human impacts

  • Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, finds a study published in PLOS Biology, an international journal dedicated to biological science.

Human Footprint Data

  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east also fall in this category.
  • Malaysia ranks first among the countries with the highest number of impacted species (125).
  • India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average.
  • The study mapped the distribution of eight human activities — including hunting and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture — in areas occupied by 5,457 threatened birds, mammals and amphibians worldwide.

11.Sundarbans Wetlands

Sundarbans Wetlands

  • This January 30th, the Indian Sundarban was accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention.
  • It comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
  • Located on the southwestern part of the delta, the Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
  • It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India, and with an area of 4,23,000 hectares is now the largest protected wetland in the country.

12. Greens in the red: Why Aravallis matter to National Capital Region

  • It was in 1900 that the then Government of Punjab enacted the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), aimed at “conservation of sub-soil water” and “prevention of erosion” by giving the state power to “regulate, restrict or prohibit” certain activities, including “clearing or breaking up” of land.
  • As a result, for the last 118 years, the Act provided notified tracts of land in the Aravallis protection against real estate construction, urbanisation and mining.

13. Rhinos without borders is conservation credo

  • International boundaries will not come in the way of conservation of rhinos, said representatives of Asian countries where the one-horned herbivore thrives.

New Delhi Declaration

  • The Declaration was recently adopted at the second meeting of the Asian rhino range countries.
  • It underscored trans-boundary collaboration among India, Nepal, and Bhutan for the conservation and protection of the greater one-horned rhino.

Rhinos without Borders

  • There are no rhinos in Bhutan, but some from the Manas National Park in adjoining Assam or Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal are known to cross over occasionally.
  • In Feb, the National Rhino Conservation Strategy for India called for active engagement between India and Nepal to protect the species.
  • The plan said the single population of rhinos in Sukla-Phanta (Nepal), Valmiki Tiger Reserve (India) and Chitwan National Park (Nepal) and Dudhwa (India) is separated by the political boundary between the two countries.

14. 106 coastal sites picked for conservation

  • The Centre has identified over 100 coastal and marine sites as conservation reserves under its National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031, says a biennial report released by the government.

Highlights of the Report

  1. Under the National Wildlife Action Plan for the period 2017 to 2031, the government is working towards the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems from the impacts of climate change.
  2. In the last four and a half years, India has not only been able to sustain but also increase its mangrove cover at a time when these ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate across the world.

15. Centre announces mascot for COP-13 on conservation of migratory species

  • The Centre has announced that the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) will be its mascot for the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) to be held in Gujarat in 2020.

About CMS COP-13

  1. Representatives from 129 countries and eminent conservationists and international NGOs working in the field of wildlife conservation are expected to attend the COP-13, to be held in Gandhinagar.
  2. It will provide a global platform for deliberations on the conservation and sustainable use of migratory wild animals and their habitat.
  3. The CMS COP-13 would also bring together the states through which migratory animals pass.

16. First Captive Elephant Survey

  • The details of the first survey of captive elephants in the country were submitted in an affidavit by the MoEFCC to the Supreme Court.
  • The affidavit comes in the wake of rising elephant deaths and human-elephant conflicts, particularly in Kerala and Assam.

In Total

  1. According to the affidavit, there are 2,454 elephants in captivity, of which 560 are in possession with forest departments and 1,687 with private individuals.
  2. However, 664 of the total captive elephants in the country are without ownership certificate while there are 85 in zoos, 26 in circuses and 96 in temples.

17. Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project in Tripura

  • Tripura has launched a project for Sustainable Catchment Forest Management at Hatipara in West Tripura.

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project

  1. The project is jointly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Government of India.
  2. It aims to improve quality of forest in the catchment area by sustainable forest management, soil and moisture conservation and livelihood development.
  3. The Tripura Forest Department (TFD) is the Executing Agency of the Project.
  4. Eighty per cent of the project would be funded by JICA while Government of India would fund 20 per cent of the project value.

18. Asian Waterbird Census (AWC)

  1. AWC, the largest such census in Asia, is organised by Wetlands International, is an international programme that focuses on monitoring the status of waterbirds and wetlands.
  2. The data collected each year is shared by Wetlands International with global conservation organisations such as IUCN and Ramsar Convention, while state coordinators share data with local wildlife departments to ensure conservation and sustainable management of wetlands in the region.
  3. It also aims to increase public awareness on issues related to wetland and waterbird conservation.
  4. The census is carried out each January as a voluntary activity at national and local level.
  5. The AWC is co-ordinated by Wetlands International as part of global programme, the “International Waterbird Census”.
  6. The AWC was started in 1987, and many birders were initiated into bird counting and monitoring through this project.
  7. To take part one simply has to visit a wetland and count the birds he/she see there.

19.India submits sixth national report to Convention of Biological Diversity

  • India submitted its sixth national report (NR6) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) highlighting the progress it has made in achieving the 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) set under the convention process.

Highlights of the Report

  1. The report was submitted online to the CBD Secretariat during the inaugural session of the 13th National Meeting of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs).
  2. The report says that India had already exceeded two targets, it was on track to achieve another eight soon.
  3. The remaining two would be met by the stipulated time of 2020.

20. Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

  1. The MoEFCC has launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” with an aim to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem.
  2. The project will be funded from the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State share.
  3. The conservation of Asiatic Lions has always been a priority of Government of India.
  4. The Ministry in the past has supported Asiatic Lion in Gujarat by including it in list of 21 critically endangered species under the species recovery component of CSS-DWH.

21.India, Nepal, Bhutan plan joint task force to protect wildlife

  • The governments of India, Nepal and Bhutan are actively considering having a joint task force for allowing free movement of wildlife across political boundaries and checking smuggling of wildlife across the Kanchenjunga Landscape.

About Kanchenjunga Landscape

  1. The Kanchenjunga Landscape is a trans-boundary region spread across Nepal, India and Bhutan.
  2. The landscape stretches along the southern side of Mount Kanchenjunga covers an area of 25,080 sq km spread across parts of eastern Nepal (21%), Sikkim and West Bengal (56%) and western and south-western parts of Bhutan (23%).
  3. Other than seven million people, the Kanchenjunga Landscape is also home to 169 species of mammals and 713 species of birds.
  4. The trio is setting up a joint task force in the road map on achieving the objectives of free movement of wildlife and checking smuggling of wildlife.

22. SC directs Centre to declare area around national parks as Eco-sensitive

Expand ESZ

  1. The Supreme Court has directed the Union Environment Ministry to declare 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country as ‘eco-sensitive zones’.
  2. A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur took the initiative after its amicus curiae informed the court that the State governments have taken no effort to protect the area around these sanctuaries and parks.
  3. The court recorded that the issue has been pending for the past 12 years.

23. Country’s first owl festival organized in Pune

Indian Owl Festival

  1. The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, will be held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune, Maharashtra.
  2. The two-day festival is organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation.
  3. It will give information on owl conservation and feature art forms like pictures, paintings, lanterns, lamp shades, posters, origami, stitched articles, poems and stories on owls.
  4. It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it.

24. India gets UN Environment award for combating transboundary environmental crime

  • UN Environment has awarded Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Ministry of Environment with Asia Environment Enforcement Awards, 2018 for excellent work done in combating transboundary environmental crime.

About the Award

  1. The Asia Environment Enforcement Awards publicly recognize and celebrate excellence in enforcement by government officials and institutions/teams combating transboundary environmental crime in Asia.
  2. The awards are given to outstanding individuals and/or government organizations/teams that demonstrate excellence and leadership in enforcement of national laws to combat transboundary environmental crime.
  3. The award was decided upon by a selection panel set up by the UN Environment and this is the second time in a row the awards are being given by UN Environment to India.

25. Nature pushed to the brink by ‘runaway consumption’, says WWF

 

Triggering another Mass Extinction

  1. Uncontrolled consumption has decimated global wildlife and has triggered a mass extinction and exhausted Earth’s capacity to accommodate humanity’s expanding appetites, warned WWF.
  2. From 1970 to 2014, 60% of all animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — were wiped out by human activity.
  3. WWF said all this in its “Living Planet” report, based on an ongoing survey of more than 4,000 species spread over 16,700 populations scattered across the globe.
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