Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Aug, 17, 2019

Tamil Yeoman declared state butterfly of TN


News

  • The state of Tamil Nadu has recently declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais)as its state butterfly to symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage, in a move aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the attractive insects.

Tamil Yeoman

  • Locally known as Tamil Maravanmeaning ‘Tamilian Warrior’, the canopy butterfly, usually sized between 60 and 75mm, belongs to the family of brush-footed butterflies or the Nymphalid.
  • The winged wonder, with its natural zigzag patterns near its bright orange-coloured wings and its aesthetic dots, has always been a fascination for local nature enthusiasts.
  • It was chosen for its cultural identity linking the state through its name and is abundance in hilly areas.
  • Endemic to the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, Tamil Yeoman is usually seen at the foothills and moist evergreen forests of the state’s mountainous regions.
  • Known to have a straight flight with few wing beats and long glide, the butterfly is actively spotted in forest streams too.

Other state species

  • This is the latest addition to Tamil Nadu’s existing symbols from the natural world – palmyra as the state tree, gloriosa lily as the state flower, emerald dove as the state bird, jackfruit as the state fruit and Nilgiri tahr as the state animal.
  • With the latest policy initiative, it has become the fifth India state after Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock) to bestow a state emblem status to one of its colourful insects.

Why state designation to butterflies?

  • Butterflies are great bio-indicators of an ecosystem as they are highly sensitive to environmental conditions such as temperature, sunlight, humidity and rainfall patterns.
  • Butterflies are not only great pollinators but also play a crucial role in the food chain.
  • Their presence, patterns and migration assist in mapping the climatic health of a region and are they are perhaps the most studied insect group across the world.
  • Tamil Nadu’s naturally elongated geographical placement combined with the presence of Eastern and the Western Ghats generate a variety of habitats with diverse ecological conditions allowing plenty of ‘butterfly hotspots’.
Aug, 05, 2019

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

News

  • With doubled tiger populations in India, the loss of habitat, a decline of prey and poaching continues to be a threat to tigers’ survival.
  • Along with these, a potential virus — Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) — that can be transmitted from CDV-infected dogs living in and around wildlife sanctuaries has started to raise concern among wildlife biologists.
  • Last year, over 20 lions from the Gir forest succumbed to the viral infection and now a guideline has been prepared by the NTCA to prevent the spillover of the disease to wild animals.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

  • CDV is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.
  • Canine distemper is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (the same family of the viruses that causes measles, mumps, and bronchiolitis in humans).
  • Its common symptoms include high fever, eye inflammation and eye/nose discharge, labored breathing and coughing, vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy, and hardening of nose and footpads.
  • It affects a wide variety of animal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets and large cats as well.

Risk of disease transfer

  • A recent study notes that 86% of the tested dogs around Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan carried CDV antibodies in their bloodstream.
  • This means that the dogs are either currently infected or have been infected sometime in their life and have overcome the disease.
  • This finding points out that there is an increased risk of disease transfer from the dogs to tigers and leopards that live in the park.

Preventive measure

  • The main aim should be to vaccinate the free-ranging and domestic dogs in the area around national parks.
  • The disease needs to be recognised and more targeted studies need to be initiated to collect baseline data on CDV from wherever they are reported from in wild carnivores.
  • Understanding the role of domestic animals as contributors to a local CDV reservoir is imperative precursor in considering control measures.
Jul, 29, 2019

Species extinction in India

News

  • Four species of fauna and 18 species of flora have gone extinct in India in the past few centuries, according to wildlife survey organisations.

Species extinct from India

Flora

  • As per information given by the BSI, 18 species of plants — four non-flowering and 14 flowering — have gone extinct.
  • The notable among them are Lastreopsis wattii , a fern in Manipur discovered by George Watt in 1882 and three species from the genus Ophiorrhiza (Ophiorrhiza brunonis , Ophiorrhiza caudate and Ophiorrhiza radican ), all discovered from peninsular India.
  • Corypha taliera Roxb, a palm species discovered in Myanmar and the Bengal region by William Roxburgh is also extinct.

Fauna

  • Cheetah (Acionyx jubatus)
  • Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensisi) are considered extinct in India.
  • The pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllaceai) is feared extinct since 1950
  • The Himalayan quail (Ophrysia supercililios) was last reported in 1876.
Jul, 22, 2019

IUCN ‘Red List’

News

  • Mankind’s destruction of nature is driving species to the brink of extinction at an “unprecedented” rate, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned.
  • It added more than 7,000 animals, fish and plants to its endangered “Red List”.

Major Highlights

  • Freshwater fish species globally are under grave threat according to the latest edition of the IUCN’s Red List.
  • In fact, over half of Japan’s endemic freshwater fishes and more than a third of freshwater fishes in Mexico were threatened with extinction, the list of threatened species released on July 18, 2019, said.
  • The main reasons behind this were the usual suspects, namely loss of free-flowing rivers and agricultural and urban pollution.
  • It was revealed recently that two-thirds of the world’s great rivers no longer flow freely.
  • Another noteworthy factor was competition with and predation by invasive alien species of fish.

About IUCN

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations.
  • It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.
  • Created in 1948, IUCN has evolved into the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network.
  • IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
  • IUCN has observer and consultative status at the United Nations, and plays a role in the implementation of several international conventions on nature conservation and biodiversity.
  • It was involved in establishing the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

IUCN Red List

  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species founded in 1964, has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.
  • It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of all species and subspecies.
  • A series of Regional Red Lists are produced by countries or organizations, which assess the risk of extinction to species within a political management unit.
  • The IUCN aims to have the category of every species re-evaluated every five years if possible, or at least every ten years.
  • For plants, the 1997 Red List is the most important source.
  • The formally stated goals of the Red List are-
  1. to provide scientifically based information on the status of species and subspecies at a global level,
  2. to draw attention to the magnitude and importance of threatened biodiversity,
  3. to influence national and international policy and decision-making, and
  4. to provide information to guide actions to conserve biological diversity.

Red List Categories of IUCN

Species are classified by the IUCN Red List into nine groups specified through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation. They are:

  • Extinct (EX) – beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
  • Extinct in the wild (EW) – survives only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range, as presumed after exhaustive surveys.
  • Critically endangered (CR) – in a particularly and extremely critical state.
  • Endangered (EN) – very high risk of extinction in the wild, meets any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
  • Vulnerable (VU) – meets one of the 5 red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention.
  • Near threatened (NT) – close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future.
  • Least concern (LC) – unlikely to become extinct in the near future.
  • Data deficient (DD)
  • Not evaluated (NE)
Jul, 10, 2019

Plan Bee


News

Plan Bee

  • Plan Bee an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.
  • A device was designed to generate the amplified sound of honey bees audible from 700-800 metres.
  • The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat.
  • The Plan Bee device has been helpful in diverting herds of elephants, especially when trains approach and dashing becomes imminent.
  • A mix of Plan Bee and other measures have helped them save 1,014 elephants from 2014 to June 2019.

Why such plan?

  • The desperation to find an “elephant repellent” was triggered by 67 jumbos being knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019.
  • Most of these cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.
  • There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal.
  • Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.
  • But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths.
Jul, 04, 2019

Coral Rehabilitation Programme

News

Melted plastic rocks: A bad idea

  • The National Centre for Coastal Research’s (NCCR) proposed for dropping ‘melted plastic rocks or slabs’ on the seabed for growing coral reefs and address the problem of disposal of plastic waste.
  • This has drawn criticism from the Gulf of Mannar (GoM) Marine National Park, which has been implementing coral rehabilitation programme since 2002.

Why criticism?

  • The NCCR suggested that plastic waste materials could simply be wound around as hard substrates as a way of disposing of them and help build coral colonies.
  • Worn out tyres were tried as artificial reefs in Florida and Costa Rica, but they turned out to be disastrous.
  • The clustered old tyres initially attracted many marine organisms but they later collapsed and littered beaches.
  • Corals in the GoM were already stressed and bleached under climate change and the NCCR’s idea would turn the reefs into graveyards.
  • The structures might support proliferation of algae in the beginning, but would destroy corals eventually.

About the Coral Rehabilitation Programme

  • The GoM Marine National Park had been implementing the corral rehabilitation programme since 2002.
  • It has so far covered eight sq km areas in GoM region, where coral reefs suffered bleaching and degradation due to climate change and high temperature.
  • The program employs ‘concrete frame slabs’ method.
  • As the sea would be rough during the southwest monsoon season, they commence the insertion of slabs after the end of the season.
  • Corals would start growing in 60 days using the concrete frames as sub-state. The acropora coral species grow by 10 to 12 cm per year on these slabs.
Jul, 03, 2019

Tamil Yeoman declared Tamil Nadu's state butterfly


News

  • Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais) butterfly species endemic to Western Ghats has been declared the state butterfly of Tamil Nadu.

About Tamil Yeoman

  • Uniformly orange in colour with a dark brown outer ring, Tamil Yeoman is among the 32 butterfly species found in the Western Ghats.
  • This butterfly species moves in groups in large numbers, but only in a few places.
  • Also known as Tamil Maravan, which means warrior, these butterflies are found mainly in the hilly areas.
  • An expert team was involved in identifying butterfly species to be declared state butterfly.
  • The team had shortlisted two butterfly species – Tamil yeoman and Tamil Lacewing.
  • The Tamil Yeoman was selected. Both butterfly species are unique in their own ways.
  • The Tamil Lacewing butterfly is very rare and difficult to sight which may have been a reason for the government to prefer Tamil Yeoman.

Why it’s special?

  • For the first time Tamil Nadu has declared its state butterfly and only fifth in the country to do so.
  • Maharashtra was the first to declare Blue Mormon as its state butterfly, followed by Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern bird wings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock).
Jul, 02, 2019

Japan resumes commercial whaling after 31 years

News

  • Japan has resumed commercial whaling after 31 years, meeting a long-cherished goal of traditionalists that’s seen as a largely lost cause.
  • Japan’s six-month notice to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission took effect.

Background

  • Some countries under the umbrella of scientific research are continuously killing the whales and selling meat and producing whale oil, which has brought various whales under the category of endangered species and are vanishing day by day.
  • Japan, Iceland and Norway are some of the countries recorded with largest number of commercial whaling.
  • Japan was an IWC member since 1951.

Reasons for Japan’s Withdrawal

  • Japan has been practicing commercial whale hunting for past 30 years under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban.
  • Small-scale whaling is traditional in some parts of Japan, but whale meat was only ever popular in the postwar period.
  • Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes.
  • Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.

Why whale meat?

  • Whale meat was an affordable source of protein during the lean times after World War II, with consumption peaking at 223,000 tons in 1962.
  • But whale was quickly replaced by other meats.
  • Whale meat consumption was down to 6,000 tons in 1986, a year before the commercial whaling moratorium imposed by the IWC.

Back2Basics

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  • The IWC is an Inter-Governmental Organisation set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) signed in Washington, D.C in 1946.
  • It aims to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  • The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  • The body is the first piece of International Environmental Legislation established in 1946.
  • Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were almost driven to extinction.
  • 89 countries have the membership of in IWC and all the member countries are signatories to this convention.
  • India is a member state of the IWC.
Jun, 24, 2019

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)


News

  • A field study by researchers from Bengaluru shows that a popularly used index that remotely estimates density of vegetation does not yield a reliable estimate of food abundance for elephants in tropical forests.
  • In fact, researchers show that this index has a negative correlation with graminoids (grassy food – grasses, sedges and rushes – preferentially consumed by elephants) in tropical forests.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)

  • For both academic and practical purposes, there is the practice of remotely monitoring vegetation in an area and representing it in terms of maps and parameters.
  • One such parameter used is the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) which is measured remotely from satellite data.
  • The NDVI is a simple indicator which tells how much of the ground is covered with vegetation.
  • It basically calculates the difference between the red and near infrared (NIR) components of light reflected by objects, from, say, a satellite.
  • Since healthy vegetation strongly absorbs red and reflects near infrared light, this difference can indicate the presence of healthy vegetation and map it into a colour code.

Using NDVI

  • NDVI always ranges from -1 to +1. But there isn’t a distinct boundary for each type of land cover.
  • For example, when you have negative values, it’s highly likely that it’s water. On the other hand, if you have a NDVI value close to +1, there’s a high possibility that it’s dense green leaves.
  • But when NDVI is close to zero, there aren’t green leaves and it could even be an urbanized area.

Why NDVI isn’t a good measure of vegetation cover?

  • NDVI was negatively correlated to grasses. This means grass abundance tends to be low in locations where NDVI is high and vice-versa.
  • While canopy cover and shrub abundance contribute positively to NDVI, they negatively affect grass abundance.
  • Because of the poor correlation, NDVI cannot be reliably used as a measure of forage abundance in a multi-storeyed forest with a low proportional abundance of food species.
  • Grasses form a large component of food of elephants and also ungulates (hoofed animals) like deer, sambar and gaur.

Misleading Elephants data

  • This has been used to estimate the amount of food abundance available to herbivorous animals, for example, elephants.
  • The NDVI is used, for instance, in attempts to track the presence of elephants using the vegetation they consume.
  • However, this work clearly establishes that this can be misleading, and field-based studies are the ones which can yield definitive results.
  • Researchers in India have found that the abundance of food plants is not correlated with NDVI.
Jun, 21, 2019

Species in news: Great Indian Bustard


News

May go extinct very soon

  • The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is one of the few species that the Government of India has included in its ‘recovery programme for critically endangered species’.
  • With less than 200 GIBs remaining in the world, most of them found in Rajasthan’s ‘Desert National Park’.
  • We are on the brink of forever losing a majestic bird species, which was once a strong contender to be declared as India’s National Bird.

Various threats to GIBs

I. General threats to GIB

  • Habitat loss & fragmentation, change of land use pattern, desertification, ill-thought plantation of exotic & invasive species in grassland ecosystems are some of the generic causes.
  • Neglect of state institutions due to classification of ‘grasslands’ as ‘wastelands’, conversion of grasslands to agriculture lands due to increasing irrigation potential and decline of nature/GIB-friendly agrarian practices, are all commonly and correctly blamed for the steady decline in India’s GIB population.

II. Role of Noise Pollution

  • Noise pollution affects the mating and courtship practices of the GIB.
  • The male GIB inflates his ‘gular’ pouch (near the neck) which almost touches the ground, in order to produce a large booming sound which reverberates across the grassland.
  • The male GIB does this to attract GIB females and to inform them of his exact location in the vast expanse of the grassland.
  • Thus, the sound of the male GIB should be loud enough to transcend the walls of the sanctuary and be audible to female GIBs in the fields nearby.
  • The noise generated by human activities, whether be it by vehicles, tractors, music during processions, firecrackers, may interfere with the GIB’s mating call and drown it out.

III. Other threats

  • The rate of reproduction amongst GIBs is very low; the female GIB lays only one egg per year.
  • This solitary egg is under threat from natural predators of the grasslands such as jackals, hyenas or foxes or invasive species such as crows or feral dogs.
  • In such a scenario, every opportunity the GIBs lose to mate pushes the species closer to extinction.

Way Forward

  • The best course of action to guarantee the GIB’s revival, is to remove impediments in its natural breeding cycle, including noise barriers.
  • Along with all other measures to revive GIB numbers, the aspect of regulating noise pollution levels needs to be incorporated.
  • This may include techno-fixes such as retro-fitting vehicles/tractors in the area with advanced ‘super-quiet’ silencers.
  • We can co-ordinate with the people and their local leaders to ensure that any procession or ceremony during the pre-monsoon & monsoon period would not make use of high noise making equipment.
  • Unless the villagers’ basic developmental aspirations are linked & simultaneously fulfilled hand-in-hand with GIB conservation, it would be incorrect to expect their full-fledged support to this cause.

Complement this newscard with:

Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

May, 23, 2019

Species in news: White-throated Rail (or Aldabra Rail)


News

Extinct bird rises again

  • The white-throated rail is the only flightless bird known in the Indian Ocean area.
  • New research has found that it had once gone extinct, but rose from the dead thanks to a rare process called “iterative evolution”.

Iterative Evolution of White-throated Rail

  • It means the repeated evolution of similar or parallel structures from the same ancestor but at different times.
  • There are many examples of iterative evolution in the fossil record, spanning a wide range of groups.
  • The fossil record shows that sometime after the island formed 400,000 years ago, the white-throated rail – a bird native to Madagascar – colonized Aldabra.
  • Since there were no natural predators, the birds soon evolved to become flightless.
  • But about 136,000 years ago, sea levels rose and the island was completely submerged and wiped them out.
  • Around 100,000 years ago, the island re-emerged when sea levels dropped due to an ice age.
  • White-throated rails migrated there from Madagascar and once again, evolved to become flightless – a textbook example of iterative evolution and one of the strongest cases ever seen in birds.
May, 21, 2019

[pib] ‘Not all animals migrate by choice’ campaign


News

  • UN Environment and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has launched an awareness campaign for the protection of wildlife in the backdrop of rising illegal wildlife trade through airports.

“Not all animals migrate by choice” Campaign

  • Campaign launched by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and UN Environment aimed at airports across India.
  • The campaign complements worldwide action on illegal trade in wildlife through UN Environment’s global campaign, Wild for Life.
  • In collaboration with the Airports Authority of India and GMR Group, the campaign will travel across 22 airports across India over the next year.

Which animals are included?

  • In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.
  • Phase two will see more threatened species and explore other routes of trafficking.

Why these animals?

  • Tiger is traded for its skin, bones and body parts.
  • Pangolin, the most illegally traded wild mammal on the planet is trafficked for its meat and its scales are used in traditional medicines.
  • Star Tortoise for meat and pet trade and Tokay Gecko in traditional medicine mostly into South East Asia and particularly Chinese Markets.

Why such move?

  • Recent media reports on seizures of illegally traded species and their parts at airports is a growing indication of rampant wildlife trafficking.
  • Some of the major wildlife species being smuggled through airports are star tortoises, live birds, Shahtoosh shawls, tiger and leopard body parts, ivory, rhino horns, pangolin and pangolin scales, sea shells, sea-horse, Sea-cucumber, red sanders, agarwood, deer antlers, mongoose hairs, reptile skins, live snakes, lizards, corals, orchids and medicinal plants.

About Wildlife Crime Control Bureau

  1. WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the GoI under the MoEFCC, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
  2. Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities.
  3. It aims to:
  • disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals;
  • establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank;
  • co-ordinate actions by various agencies in connection with the enforcement of the provisions of the Act;
  • assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control;
  • capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes;
  • and advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.
  1. It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.
May, 14, 2019

Herbivore census in Gujarat’s Gir forest

News

  • 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.

Why it matters?

  • Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions, the endangered species whose only wild population in the world is surviving in the 22,000 sq km Greater Gir area.
  • A count provides a sense of the available of the prey base for lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas and wolves.
  • A strong prey base can reduce depredation of livestock by lions and can reduce man-animal conflict.
  • In 2013-14, the last Herbivore Census before the previous Lion Census, the total count of all herbivores was 1.32 lakh, higher than the about 1.25 lakh counted in 2012-13.

Why it’s done in summer

  • During summer, foliage is reduced to a minimum in dry and deciduous tropical forests, which affords the best visibility for conducting a census.
  • Also, wild animals concentrate around water points, which in Gir include 450 artificial ones filled by the Forest Department.
  • The forest is divided into 19 routes and forest divisions for the census, with teams transacting routes thrice — morning, afternoon and evening — and depending on direct sighting.

Navigate to the page for additional reading

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

May, 14, 2019

DNA database for Indian Rhino

News

  • 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.

About Indian Rhino

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 km2 .
  • It once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Myanmar border.
  • Poaching for rhinoceros horn became the single most important reason for the decline of the Indian rhino.
May, 08, 2019

Purple frog set to be crowned Kerala’s state amphibian

Click here for Image

News

  • There is an ongoing campaign in Kerala to declare ‘Maveli’, the purple frog as Kerala’s State Amphibian, making it first of its kind in India.

Roots in mythology

  • Mahabali, or Maveli, was a benevolent asura king who ruled over the region of Kerala but was banished into the netherworld by Lord Vishnu in order to appease the gods.
  • But Maveli was granted one wish: he could return to Kerala for a single day and meet his subjects.
  • This day in Kerala came to be celebrated as ‘Thiruvonam’, the most auspicious day of Onam when people would greet their old king.

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.

Another proof for continental drift

  • Mammals and rodents have often travelled the seas through ships and with voyagers. But amphibians can’t tolerate salinity.
  • So it’s a possibility that the landmass could have been connected (for the species’ close relatives to be found on two continents today).
May, 08, 2019

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

News

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.
May, 07, 2019

Global Assessment Report by IPBES

News

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.

Findings of the report

  • The report identified a range of risks, from the disappearance of insects vital for pollinating food crops, to the destruction of coral reefs that support fish populations that sustain coastal communities, or the loss of medicinal plants.
  • It found that the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900.
  • The threatened list includes more than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals, and more than a third of all marine mammals.
  • The picture was less clear for insect species, but a tentative estimate suggests 10% are at risk of extinction.

Threats posed by human activities

  • Relentless pursuit of economic growth, twinned with the impact of climate change, has put one million species at risk of extinction.
  • The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed.
  • This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.
  • Only a wide-ranging transformation of the global economic and financial system could pull ecosystems that are vital to the future of human communities worldwide back from the brink of collapse.

Various Causes

  • The authors identified industrial farming and fishing as major drivers with the current rate of species extinction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years.
  • Climate change caused by burning the coal, oil and gas produced by the fossil fuel industry is exacerbating the losses, the report found.

Way Forward

  • The report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.
  • By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.
  • The findings will also add to pressure for countries to agree bold action to protect wildlife at a major conference on biodiversity due to take place in China towards the end of next year.
May, 02, 2019

Kashmir Stag (Hangul)

News

  • 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.

Why is Hangul crucial?

  • From a population of 5,000 in the early 1900s, the Hangul’s numbers have constantly declined over the decades.
  • The Hangul is considered equally significant to the state of Jammu & Kashmir as the tiger is to the whole of India.
  • It is the only Asiatic survivor or sub-species of the European red deer. But the state animal’s decreasing population remains a big concern.
  • According to the latest survey in 2017, the population of Hangul is 182 in Dachigam and adjoining areas. Earlier population estimates suggest that there were 197 deer in 2004 and 186 in 2015.
  • The IUCN Red Data Book — which contains lists of species at risk of extinction — has declared the Hangul as one of three species that were critically endangered in J&K.
  • The other two are the Markhor — the world’s largest species of wild goat found in Kashmir and several regions of central Asia — and the Tibetan antelope or ‘Chiru’.

Various threats

  • The biggest challenges which have been identified by experts in the way of conservation and population growth of Hangul are habitat fragmentation, predation and very low fawn-female ratio.
  • Lack of desirable breeding and fawn survival is a grave concern for the population growth.
  • Another challenge is the male-female and fawn-adult disparity in the Hangul population.
  • Influx of livestock herds of nomadic communities in the Dachigam National Park has been a challenge for years.
  • After the closing down of their traditional routes leading to over a dozen alpine pastures (in Gurez) by the army after the inception of armed conflict in Kashmir, nomads have not been able to graze their herds in those pastures.
  • So, they are taking their large herds of livestock to the upper reaches of Dachigam during summers.
  • Other dangers for the Hangul population include excessive predation of fawns by the Common Leopard, the Himalayan Black Bear and nomads’ dogs.
Apr, 01, 2019

Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Dhole and its habitat

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News

  • 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.

Various threats

  • Massive infrastructural initiatives in the area, human intrusion in protected zones, change in land-use pattern, forest fragmentation and loss of forest cover are some of the reasons for the decline in dhole population.
  • The presence of semi-feral, free-ranging domestic dogs in unprotected forest areas might be another reason for the decline in dhole occupancy.
  • Free-ranging dogs affect dholes as they compete with dholes for similar resources like prey animals.
  • Moreover, these dogs often carry lethal and non-lethal disease pathogens that could result in the spread of diseases in the dhole population.
Mar, 30, 2019

Hump-backed Mahseer

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Hump-backed Mahseer

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News

  • 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.

5 other species added

  • Five other species have also made it to threatened categories: two wild orchids, the Arabian scad (a marine fish) and two wild coffee species found only in a few localities in the Western Ghats.

More threats to Hornbill

  • The great hornbill was earlier categorised as “Near Threatened”.
  • It is now “Vulnerable” due to high hunting pressure coupled with habitat loss and deforestation, while the wreathed hornbill has moved from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable”.
Mar, 20, 2019

Parrotfish in Andaman

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Bumphead Parrotfish

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News 

  • 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.

Threats

  • A large body size, aggregating behaviour and limited activity at night make B. muricatum an easy target for spear-fishers.
  • Combined with slow growth and low replacement rates, this has resulted in population decline across the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea region.
  • The study reports that the presence of a protected area, live coral and algal cover, significantly influenced the distribution and abundance of muricatum.
  • Incidental catch by fishers and degradation of coral reef habitats are two potential threats to the species.
  • Evidence of low abundance of muricatum on ocean reefs surrounded by deep waters, and traits such as limited dispersal and gregariousness, could also have influenced the distribution and abundance of this fish.
  • The findings suggest the necessity to ban night fishing for the species and to implement regulations regarding reef fishing.
Mar, 15, 2019

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Bannerghatta National Park, ESZs

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News

  • 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.

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  • An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region.
  • According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
  • The definition offered by the MoEF: An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.
  • To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.

Citizens’ opposition ignored

  • When the ESZ notification for Bannerghatta National Park was issued in October 2018, citizens were given 60 days to submit their objections.
  • Environmental and civic action groups swung into action and encouraged people to submit their objections to the MoEFCC against the 100 sqkm reduction of ESZ.
  • The fear of many was that this reduction would lead to more quarrying in the area.
Mar, 13, 2019

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Human Footprint Data

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


News

  • 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.

Roads poses threat

  • India has the world’s second largest road network.
  • While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.

Hot spots

  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east — are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species.
  • For instance, the average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53.

Cool spots

  • There are ‘cool-spots’ (the world’s last refuges where high numbers of threatened species still persist).
  • Cool-spots could be the result of protection or because of intact habitat that has not been cleared yet.
  • India still has crucial refuges that need protecting. Identifying such areas could aid conservation and development planning for countries.
Mar, 11, 2019

Sundarbans Wetlands

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sunderbans

Mains level: Conservation of Wetlands


News

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.

Richness of Sundarbans

  • The Indian Sundarban met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ — presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
  • The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.
  • The Ramsar website points out that the Indian Sundarban is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
  • Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here.
  • Recent studies claim that the Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

Importance of Ramsar recognition

  • The Ramsar status will help to highlight conservation issues of the Sundarbans at the international level.
  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992, and with Indian Sundarban getting it too, international cooperation between the two countries for the protection of this unique ecosystem will increase.
  • This could lead to a better conservation strategy for flagship species such as the tiger and the northern river terrapin.

Various threats

  • While the Indian Sundarban is a biodiverse preserve, over four million people live on its northern and northwestern periphery, putting pressure on the ecosystem.
  • Concerns have been raised about natural ecosystems being changed for cultivation of shrimp, crab, molluscs and fish.
  • The Ramsar Information Sheet lists fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources as a “high impact” actual threat to the wetland.
  • The other threats are from dredging, oil and gas drilling, logging and wood harvesting, hunting and collecting terrestrial animals.
  • Salinity has been categorised as a medium and tourism as a low impact actual threat in the region.
  • Along with anthropogenic pressures, it is also vulnerable to climate change and requires better management and conservation practices.

Back2Basics

 Ramsar Convention

  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
  • The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
  • Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide freshwater and food, and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
  • Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
  • Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.
Mar, 04, 2019

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aravalli Mountains

Mains level: Row over Haryana’s proposed amendment bill


News

Background

  • 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.

Haryana misadventures

  • The Haryana government passed an amendment Bill which environmentalists have since termed a “repeal” of the 1900 Act.
  • The Bill proposed several changes to the Act, including exclusion of land that falls under “final development plans” or any other “town improvement plans or schemes” from its ambit, leaving thousands of acres of the Aravallis vulnerable.
  • Days later the apex Court came down heavily on the Haryana government for the move, calling it “sheer contempt”, and restraining the state from implementing it.
  • In multiple orders over several years, the Supreme Court has reiterated the PLPA’s powers, recognising land notified under the Act as a “forest”.

Critical amendments the assembly passed

  • The amendment excludes “certain lands” from the ambit of PLPA, including land included in the “final development plans, town improvement plans or schemes, any public infrastructure”
  • It gives state government the power to “amend or rescind” any notification or orders made under PLPA
  • It gives state government the power to exempt “any class of person or areas or land” from “any or all provisions” of PLPA if it causes them “undue hardship”
  • It directed that PLPA orders and notifications will be valid for a period of 30 years, and the “regulations, restrictions or prohibitions” imposed shall “cease to exist” afterwards.

Why Aravallis matters?

  • The Aravallis in Haryana are home to over 400 species of native trees, shrubs and herbs, more than 200 native and migratory bird species, and wildlife that includes leopards, jackals, hyenas, mongoose and civet cats.
  • They are crucial to groundwater recharge, which is significant given the water scarcity the region faces during harsh summer months.
  • The thick forest cover helps to naturally purify air in a region plagued by high levels of vehicular and industrial pollution through the year

Many fears

  • The Wildlife Institute of India, in a 2017 report, had highlighted: “The forests of the Aravalli range in Haryana are now the most degraded forests in India, most of the indigenous plant species have disappeared.
  • The rapid deforestation and developmental activities are destroying the unique landscape that requires immediate conservation attention.

What if PLPA amended?

  • The PLPA amendment, if implemented, will also impact another legislation that is in place to protect the Aravallis — the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) — fear environmentalists.
  • There are two criteria for an area to be declared NCZ — it must either be recognised as a forest, or as Aravallis.
  • However, the Haryana government does not recognise the latter as a criterion for NCZ, and the only forests recognised in the state are PLPA notified lands.
  • If the PLPA is gone, then NCZ will also come under threat because Haryana is resisting the identification of Aravallis as a criteria for NCZ.
  • There will be no legal forest left; with the Aravallis not being accepted as a criteria, NCZ protection will go too.
Mar, 01, 2019

Rhinos without borders is conservation credo

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Rhino

Mains level: Wildlife conservation efforts


News

  • 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.

Why such move?

  • Once ranging from China to Bangladesh, the Javan and Sumatran rhinos are nearing extinction.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia are the other Asian countries where the last of the rhinos live.
  • The current global population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros is 3,584.
  • Assam’s Kaziranga National Park has the bulk of 2,938 rhinos in India while Nepal 646.

Almost extinct

  • The Sumatran rhino, the smallest of all rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns, became extinct in the wild in Malaysia.
  • There is only one found now in the Sabah island of Malaysia while Indonesia has a few.

Back2Basics

India Rhinos

  • The greater one-horned rhinoceros or the great Indian rhinoceros, is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • 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).
  • It is found in the Terai grasslands of southern Nepal, northern Uttar Pradesh, northern Bihar, northern West Bengal, and in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam.
  • As of 2008, a total of 2,575 mature individuals were estimated to live in the wild.
  • Kaziranga had less than 10 rhinos when it was declared a protected area for the animal in 1905.
Feb, 19, 2019

106 coastal sites picked for conservation

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: About NBWL

Mains level: Wildlife conservation efforts


News

  • 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.

India’s rich marine wealth

  1. As per the report, India has rich coastal and marine wealth along the eastern and western coasts as well as the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
  2. The coastal and marine sector is also a source of valuable fish protein not only for the growing population but also contributes to the global food basket and in turn provides valuable foreign exchange to the country.
  3. “India produced 3.8 million metric tonnes of seafood during 2017, valued at Rs 5.28 lakh million at landing centre and Rs 8 lakh million at the retail level.
  4. The fisheries sector supports around 9.3 lakh active and part-time fishers, one of the largest workforce of fishers in the world, the report said.

What’s special?

  1. India is encouraging participation of local communities in governance by recognising the conservation reserves.
  2. India is implementing measures to sustainably harness the potential of blue economy while building the climate resilience of the ecosystems and local coastal communities.

About 3rd NWAP 2017-2031

  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 ended in 2017.
Feb, 14, 2019

99.82% projects in forests got nod

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: about NBWL

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands for industrial purpose


News

Easy or Hasty Clearance?

  1. India’s apex National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared 682 of the 687 projects (99.82%) that came up for scrutiny.
  2. NBWL is the agency charged with allowing forest land in Protected Areas to be diverted for industry
  3. Only five projects were rejected since August 2014.

About National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)

  1. The NBWL is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  2. Theoretically, the board is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
  3. However, it is a very important body because it serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.

Functions of NBWL

  1. Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  2. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  3. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.

Composition

  1. The NBWL, formally headed by the Prime Minister, adjudicates on industrial projects, road diversions or the like that could encroach into Protected Areas or eco-sensitive zones of forests.
  2. The environment ministry has delegated all powers of the NBWL to a compliant Standing Committee which regularly meets and clears projects in Protected Areas with due diligence.
  3. A smaller Standing Committee of the NBWL is charged with deliberating on the merits of projects that come to it for scrutiny.
  4. The committee comprises scientists and government officials and is chaired by Union Environment Minister.
Feb, 11, 2019

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asiatic Lions and their habitat

Mains level: Conservation of Asiatic Lions


News

  • Three months after at least 20 lions in Gujarat succumbed to a virus, the Centre and the Gujarat government has announced a ₹97.85 crore 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.

Provisions of the Project

  1. Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region.
  2. Another key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, “lion ambulances”, and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.
  3. It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking.
  4. There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors.
  5. The Gujarat government has envisaged a ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.

Translocation: An alternate Solution?

  1. The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, but there has been no progress on the proposal.
  2. The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened.
  3. There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.
  4. However, they have to comply with certain guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (on selecting suitable habitat, translocation).

Back2Basics

Asiatic Lions conservation in India

  1. Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss.
  2. A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890’s.
  3. IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
  4. With timely and stringent protection offered by the State Government and the Center Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.
  5. The last census in the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq. km. that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.
Feb, 11, 2019

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GIB and its habitat, CMS

Mains level: Conservation of Migratory Species


News

  • 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.

Why CMS COP in India?

  1. India is temporary home to several migratory birds and animals.
  2. India has also signed non legally binding MOU with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
  3. The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF).
  4. CAF covers areas between the Arctic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, and covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened species.

Back2Basics

Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

  1. CMS is an international treaty concluded under aegis of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), concerned with conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.
  2. It is commonly abbreviated as Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention.
  3. It aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  4. It was signed in 1979 in Bonn (hence the name), Germany and entered into force in 1983.
  5. Its headquarters are in Bonn, Germany.
  6. CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
Jan, 30, 2019

First Captive Elephant Survey

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the MoEFCC Survey on Elephant

Mains level: Man-Animal Conflict


News

  • 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.

Statewise Details

  1. The affidavit covers data for 28 states and Union Territories.
  2. It shows that Assam and Kerala account for more than half the nationwide total of 2,454.
  3. Assam has 37% of these captive elephants and Kerala has 21%.
  4. Concentration in two states means a wide gap with the count in other states — the third highest is Karnataka’s 184, roughly one-fifth of Assam’s 905 and a little over one-third of Kerala’s 518.
  5. Of these, one-third are in private custody without any ownership certificate mandated by law; zoos, circuses and temples account for 207 elephants in captivity.

Why such Survey?

  1. In Nov 18, the Court had pulled up the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for not having data on the number of elephants held captive.
  2. The apex court had directed the MoEFCC to identify elephants in captivity and whether their owners have an ownership certificate.
  3. It was hearing a writ petition filed by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.
  4. The bench has now directed the Chief Wildlife Wardens of states to ascertain the age of all the captive elephants.
Jan, 25, 2019

Crocodylus palustris, a crocodile species that is being removed from the Narmada

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Narmada river Crocodile

Mains level: Legal transportation of wild animals and provisions related to it


News

  • The Gujarat Forest Department has started evacuating muggers from two ponds on the Sardar Sarovar Dam premises on the Narmada, to facilitate a seaplane service at the Statue of Unity.

Narmada Crocodile

  1. The mugger crocodile, also called marsh crocodile or broad-snouted crocodile, is a species (Crocodylus palustris) native to freshwater habitats from southern Iran and Pakistan to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.
  2. Already extinct in Bhutan and Myanmar, the mugger has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1982.
  3. In India, it is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  4. Vadodara, 90 km from the Narmada dam, is the only city in the country where crocodiles live in their natural habitat amidst human population.

Transportation is conditionally legal

  1. Among the six schedules in the Act, Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide the highest degrees of protection to listed species, with the most stringent penalties for offenders.
  2. For animals listed in Schedule I, any of kind of population control activity, capture for captivity, or transportation can involve cumbersome processes.
  3. This includes even transportation of crocodiles. So its relocation or capture is definitely illegal without permission.
  4. However, state governments have the authority to give permissions in some situations where they become a danger for the human population.

Why under Schedule I?

  1. Experts say crocodiles were listed under Schedule I not because of the fear of extinction but to prevent their trade.
  2. Crocodiles are valued for their skin and flesh.
  3. In some cases, they are also worshipped, including in the Narmada.

Back2Basics

Mugger

  • The mugger is a marsh crocodile which is found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is a freshwater species, and found in lakes, rivers and marshes.
  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Saltwater Crocodile

  • It is the largest of all living reptiles.
  • It is found along the eastern coast of India.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concerned

Gharial

  • The Gharial is a fish eating crocodile is native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as a Critically Endangered by IUCN.
  • Small released populations are present and increasing in the rivers of the National Chambal Sanctuary, Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Son River Sanctuary.
  • It is also found at the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Orissa.
Jan, 19, 2019

Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GIB and its habitat

Mains level: Conservation of Great Indian Bustard


News

Only 50 Great Indian Bustards left in the wild

  1. The GIB’s last remnant wild population of about 50 in Jaisalmer district accounts for 95% of its total world population.
  2. No progress has been made on the proposal for establishing a captive breeding centre at Sorsan in Kota district and a hatchery in Jaisalmer for conservation of the State bird of Rajasthan.

Great Indian Bustard

  1. The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height.
  2. It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
  3. For long, conservationists have been demanding to secure this population, warning that the bird might get extinct in the coming decades.
  4. It would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times.
  5. Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
  6. However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled.
  7. In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Protection Measures:

  • Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011)
  • Protection under CITES Appendix I
  • Protection under Schedule I Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002
  • Project Great Indian Bustard (Rajasthan):  aims at identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.
Jan, 19, 2019

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project in Tripura

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SCATFORM Project, JICA

Mains level:  SCATFORM Project


News

  • 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.

Details

  1. The SCATFORM project has got provisions to built 1,447 check dams in hilly terrains of Tripura.
  2. This new project has got many components including fisheries, agriculture, forest, tourism etc.
  3. 1,447 check dams would be constructed in hilly terrains of the state to make sure that there is no chance of a flood in the plains.
  4. The water this conserved would be used for agricultural purposes and for fisheries and poultry farming (ducks).

About JICA

  1. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is established by a specific law as an incorporated administrative institution under the Government of Japan.
  2. It aims to promote international cooperation as the sole Japanese governmental agency in charge of ODA implementation.
  3. JICA is the world’s largest bilateral donor agency.
  4. JICA works as a bridge between Japan and emerging countries, and provides assistance in the form of loans, grants and technical cooperation, so that the emerging countries can strengthen their capabilities.
  5. JICA funded projects became operational in Tripura in 2007 with an initial earmarked fund of Rs. 4 crores.
Jan, 16, 2019

Census of Estuarine Crocodiles

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bhitarkanika NP

Mains level: Conservation of biodiversity


News

  • The number of crocodiles rose to 1742 from last year’s census of 1698 in the Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district.

Census of Estuarine Crocodiles

  1. The latest census figure of these reptiles, which was released by forest department, has come out with an encouraging trend of rise in the number of estuarine crocodiles.
  2. The census of estuarine or saltwater crocodiles was carried out along the water-bodies of Mahanadi deltaic region in and around the Bhitarkanika National Park between Thursday and Monday.
  3. The enumerators sighted 619 hatchlings, 347 yearlings, 273 juveniles, 178 sub-adults and 325 adults, according to the census report.
  4. The giants included a 21 feet long croc which finds a pride of place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest living crocodile, he said.

Good signs

  1. Four decades ago when the Govt. of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had thought of saving crocodiles in Bhitarkanika area.
  2. The population was then estimated to be 95, including 34 adult but now, it stands to 1742.
  3. Since 1977, salt-water crocodile eggs have also been collected locally, and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries.

Estuarine crocodiles in India

  1. Estuarine crocodiles are also found in West Bengal’s Sunderbans, having the country’s largest mangrove cover.
  2. The mangrove wetlands in Andaman Islands are also home to these species, but those cannot match the density and population of crocodile available in wild habitats of Bhitarkanika.
  3. The region is criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system.
Jan, 15, 2019

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AWC

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


News

  • The first day of Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2019 showed an increase in the bird count from last year and almost doubles that of 2017.

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.

Objectives of AWC

  1. To obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January), as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations.
  2. To monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands.
  3. To encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst people, and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the region.

AWC in India

  1. In India, the AWC is annually coordinated by the Bombay Natural history Society (BNHS) and Wetlands International.
  2. BNHS is a non government Organisation (NGO) founded in the year 1883.
  3. It engages itself in the conservation of nature and natural resources and also in the research and conservation of endangered species.
  4. Its mission is to conserve nature, primarily biological diversity through action based on research, education and public awareness.
Jan, 09, 2019

India demands removal of rosewood from CITES

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  CITES, Rosewood

Mains level: Harmony of India with global conservation bodies


News

  • India has proposed to remove Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Rosewood

  1. The Rosewood (called sheesham in India) is currently part of Appendix II of CITES that has species not necessarily threatened with extinction.
  2. The Appendix II governs the trade that must be controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

India doesn’t want that for rosewood: Why?

  • The species grows at a very fast rate and has the capacity to become naturalised outside its native range, even it is invasive in some parts of the world.
  • The regulation of trade in the species is not necessary to avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future.
  • The harvest of specimens from the wild is not reducing the wild population to a level at which its survival might be threatened by continued harvesting or other influences.
  • India sent the proposal ahead of the 18thConference of Parties (COP) of CITES, which will be held in Colombo from May 23 to June 3.

Why such rare move by India?

  1. In the 17thCOP, held in Johannesburg in 2016, several countries had raised concerns over a considerable rise in interest in the wood of Dalbergia in international markets, primarily in China.
  2. This was fuelling an illegal trade which was decimating Dalbergia
  3. Although, CITES focuses on the protection of individual species, COP 17 put the entire genus under Appendix II, which regulates trade in species.
  4. While most member countries agreed to the proposal, India, for the first time, entered a reservation concerning the inclusion of all rosewood in Appendix II.
  5. The regulation of Dalbergiatrade was hurting handicraft makers in our country.
  6. This criterion is not based on the level of threat the species face, but the difficulty of distinguishing the species from other threatened species of the genus.

About CITES Appendices

  1. CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  2. All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
  3. It has three appendices. Appendix I has species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  4. Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES parties for assistance in controlling trade.
  5. CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
  6. Regulation of trade in the species is required to ensure that the harvest of specimens from the wild is not reducing the wild population to a level at which its survival might be threatened by continued harvesting or other influences.

India doesn’t defy CITES

  1. India is an signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.
  2. Apart from Dalbergia sissoo, India has also proposed to transfer small clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus), smooth coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata), Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) from Appendix II to Appendix I, thereby giving more protection to the species.
  3. The otter species, according to the proposal, is threatened by international trade and habitat loss.
  4. The proposal also includes inclusion of Gekko geckoand Wedgefish (Rhinidae) in Appendix II of CITES. It says that Gekko gecko is traded highly for Chinese traditional medicine.

Back2Basics

Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild flora and fauna (CITES) 1973

  • Adopted When and by Whom: It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Objective: The Conference aims to control or prevent international commercial trade inendangered species or products derived from them.
  • Key Function: The Convention does not seek to directly protect endangered species, rather it seeks to reduce the economic incentive to poach endangered species and destroy their habitat by closing off the international market.
  • India specific trivia: India became a party to the convention in 1976. International trade in all wild flora and fauna in general and species covered under convention is regulated through the provisions of the Wildlife (protection) Act 1972.
Jan, 02, 2019

Japan announces withdrawal from International Whaling Commission

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  International Whaling Commission

Mains level: Killing of various animal species in name of culture and international efforts against it


News

  • Japan announced its withdrawal from the international Whaling Commission (IWC) conservation body on December 26, 2018.

Background

  1. Some countries under the umbrella of scientific research are continuously killing the whales and selling meat and producing whale oil, which has brought various whales under the category of endangered species and are vanishing day by day.
  2. Japan, Iceland and Norway are some of the countries recorded with largest number of commercial whaling.
  3. Japan was an IWC member since 1951.

Reasons for Japan’s Withdrawal

  1. Japan has been practicing commercial whale hunting for past 30 years under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban.
  2. Small-scale whaling is traditional in some parts of Japan, but whale meat was only ever popular in the postwar period.
  3. Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes.
  4. Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.

Back2Basics

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  1. The IWC is an Inter-Governmental Organisation set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) signed in Washington, D.C in 1946.
  2. It aims to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  3. The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  4. The body is the first piece of International Environmental Legislation established in 1946.
  5. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were almost driven to extinction.
  6. 89 countries have the membership of in IWC and all the member countries are signatories to this convention.
  7. India is a member state of the IWC.
Dec, 31, 2018

India submits sixth national report to Convention of Biological Diversity

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CBD NR6, Aichi Targets

Mains level:  India’s commitment towards conserving Biodiversity


News

  • 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.

India’s Promptness

  1. Globally, biodiversity is facing increasing pressure on account of habitat fragmentation and destruction, invasive alien species, pollution, climate change and over-use of resources.
  2. India is one of the few countries where forest cover is on the rise, with its forests teeming with wildlife.
  3. India was among the first five countries in the world, the first in Asia and the first among the biodiversity-rich mega-diverse countries to have submitted NR6 to the CBD Secretariat.

On track to Aichi Targets

  1. The submission of national reports is a mandatory obligation on parties to international treaties, including the CBD.
  2. India is on track to achieve the biodiversity targets at the national level and is also contributing significantly towards achievement of the global biodiversity targets.
  3. Submission of national reports is a mandatory obligation on parties to international treaties, including CBD, and they were required to submit their NR6 by December 31.
  4. The NR6 provides an update of progress in achievement of 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) developed under the convention process in line with the 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets.

Highlights of NR6

  1. India is striving to meet the targets by the stipulated time of 2020.
  2. The report highlights that while India has exceeded/ overachieved two NBTs, it is on track to achieve eight NBTs and with respect to two remaining NBTs.
  3. According to the report, India has exceeded the terrestrial component of 17 per cent of Aichi target 11, and 20 per cent of corresponding NBT relating to areas under biodiversity management.
  4. As per the NR6 report, India had been investing a huge amount on biodiversity directly or indirectly through several development schemes to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore per annum as against the estimated annual requirement of nearly Rs 1,09,000 crore.
  5. Measures have been adopted for sustainable management of agriculture, fisheries and forests, with a view to provide food and nutritional security to all
  6. Programmes are in place to maintain genetic diversity of cultivated plants, farms livestock and their wild relatives, towards minimising genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.
  7. Mechanisms and enabling environment are being created for recognising and protecting the vast heritage of coded and oral traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity.

Wildlife growth in India

  1. India has nearly two-thirds of the population of wild tigers in the world.
  2. The population of lion has risen from 177 in 1968 to over 520 in 2015, and elephants from 12,000 in 1970s to 30,000 in 2015.
  3. One-horned Indian Rhino which was on the brink of extinction during the early 20th century, now number 2,400.
  4. Further, while globally over 0.3 per cent of total recorded species are critically endangered, in India only 0.08 per cent of the species recorded are in this category.

Back2Basics

Aichi Targets

  1. The ‘Aichi Targets’ were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference.
  2. The short term plan provides a set of 20ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.
  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
  1. The IUCN Species Programme provides advice to Parties, other governments and partners on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and it’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2011 – 2020), and is also heavily involved in work towards the Target.
Dec, 28, 2018

Another olive ridley nesting site soon

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Olive Ridley species

Mains level: Conservations measures


News

  • The Odisha forest department is all set to add another olive ridley mass nesting site to its wildlife.

New Mass Nesting Site

  1. Odisha forest department has started preparing the beach at the Bahuda river mouth in Ganjam district to lure the endangered turtles to come over for mass nesting next year.
  2. Around 3-km stretch of the beach from Sunapur to Anantpur at Bahuda rookery is being developed as a possible olive ridley mass nesting site.
  3. The Bahuda rookery is located around 20 km to the south of Rushikulya rookery coast, a major mass nesting site of olive ridleys on the Indian coastline.

Encouraging signs

  1. This year, a few hundred olive ridleys had nested at Bahuda river mouth in February.
  2. This encouraged the forest department to develop it as a second mass nesting site for the turtles on the Ganjam coast.
  3. It is being hoped that the turtles will find the beach conducive and their mass nesting number at Bahuda will increase in 2019.

Back2basics

Oliver Ridleys 

  1. The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is a medium-sized species of sea turtle found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans
  2. They can also be found in warm waters of Atlantic ocean.
  3. Olive ridley turtles are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas.
  4. Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs.
  5. They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers.
  6. In the Indian Ocean, the majority of olive ridleys nest in two or three large groups near Gahirmatha in Odisha.
  7. 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.
  8. In 1991, over 600,000 turtles nested along the coast of Odisha in one week. Nesting occurs elsewhere along the Coromandel Coast and Sri Lanka, but in scattered locations.
  9. However, olive ridleys are considered a rarity in most areas of the Indian Ocean.
Dec, 28, 2018

River Dolphins go missing in Sunderbans as water salinity rises

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gangetic Dolphin and its Habitat

Mains level: Conservation of the national aquatic animal


News

  • Rise in salinity in the water system that makes the Indian Sunderbans has resulted in the decrease of population of the Ganges River Dolphins (GRDs) in the region.

Findings of the study

  1. A recent study covering 100 km of rivers and channels around the Sunderbans have revealed that the national aquatic animal is no longer sighted in the central and eastern parts of the archipelago.
  2. Only in the western part of Sunderbans, where the salinity is lower, could researchers find some evidence of the species.
  3. The hyper-saline zone in the central part of the Sunderbans, which includes areas such as Raidighi and Patharpratima has lost connectivity with the upstream freshwater flow.
  4. Though there is some fresh water connectivity and flow in the eastern part, salinity levels were still high and thus there was no evidence of the GRDs.

Implications

  1. The study is indicative of how natural changes including the phenomenon of climate change and human interventions in the Indian Sunderbans are having an adverse impact on the habitat of the species.
  2. Because of its unique body shape, it becomes difficult for the dolphin to remain submerged in waters with high salinity.
  3. Hence freshwater flow to the Sunderbans is crucial for the subsistence of these species.

Impact of Sea-Level Rise

  1. The rise in sea level, triggered by climate change, is one of the reasons for the increase in salinity of waters of rivers and channels.
  2. Hydrological modifications like water diversion and commission of large barrages upstream have had a great impact on the salinity profile of the rivers downstream in the Sunderbans.

Back2Basics

Gangetic Dolphin

  1. Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  2. It has been declared an ‘endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  3. The Gangetic river species found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal is almost completely blind.
  4. It finds its way and prey using echoes with sound being everything for them to navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play.
  5. The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world.
  6. The other three are found in the Yangtze river, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river.
Dec, 21, 2018

[pib] Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asiatic Lions and their habitat

Mains level: Conservation of Asiatic Lions


News

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.

Objectives of the project

  1. The project activities is envisaged in a manner to cause habitat improvement, scientific interventions, disease control and veterinary care supplemented with adequate eco development works for the fringe population in order to ensure a stable and viable Lion population in the Country.
  2. The project will strengthen the ongoing measures for conservation and recovery of Asiatic Lion with the help of state-of-the –art techniques/ instruments, regular scientific research studies, disease management, Modern surveillance/ patrolling techniques.

Back2Basics

Asiatic Lions conservation in India

  1. Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss.
  2. A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890’s.
  3. IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
  4. With timely and stringent protection offered by the State Government and the Center Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.
  5. The last census in the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq. km. that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.
Dec, 18, 2018

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kanchenjunga Landscape

Mains level: Regional collaboration for Wildlife Conservation


News

  • 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.

Why such move?

  1. According to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) 1,118 sq km of riverine grassland and tree cover were lost in the landscape between 2000 and 2010.
  2. 74 % of the area was converted into rangeland and 26% to agricultural land.
  3. Studies by the ICIMOD suggest that between 1986 and 2015, as many as 425 people were killed by elephants and 144 elephants were killed between 1958 and 2013.
  4. Every few months there are cases of elephants, rhino and gaurs and other mammals crossing over political boundaries, triggering panic among locals across the border and also posing danger to the wildlife.
Dec, 12, 2018

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ESZs and provisions related to it.

Mains level: Wildlife conservation in India


News

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.

The parks and sanctuaries are:

  • Pobitora sanctuary in Assam;
  • Hemis High Altitude and Kishtewar national parks, Changthang, Hokersar, Trikuta sanctuaries in Jammu and Kashmir;
  • Jogimatti, Thimlapura and Yadahalli Chinkara sanctuaries in Karnataka;
  • Deolgaon Rehekuri and Thane Creek Flamingo sanctuaries and the Malvan marine sanctuary in Maharashtra;
  • Siroi National Park and Khongjaingamba Ching sanctuary in Manipur;
  • Baghmara Pitcher Plant sanctuary in Meghalaya;
  • Fakim and Puliebadze and Rangapahar sanctuaries in Nagaland;
  • Bhimrao Ambedkar bird sanctuary and Pilibhit sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh and
  • Jorepokhri sanctuary in West Bengal.

Eco-sensitive Zones

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  2. The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  3. They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
  4. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  5. However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall be carried out  or shall not, subject to certain safeguards.
  6. Besides Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 states that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of certain considerations.
  7. The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Defining its boundaries

  1. An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  2. Moreover, in case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the Eco-Sensitive Zones.
  3. Further, even in the context of a particular Protected Area, the distribution of an area of ESZ and the extent of regulation may not be uniform all around and it could be of variable width and extent.
Nov, 30, 2018

Country’s first owl festival organized in Pune

 

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Owl Festival

Mains level: Conservation of Owls in India


News

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.

Why Conserve Owls?

  1. Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened.
  2. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss, both are man-made.
  3. Owls eat rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. So these birds are actually very beneficial to farmers.

Owls in India

  1. According to a report published by Traffic India, a wildlife trade monitoring body, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010, owls were found to be consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/zoos, food and in folk medicines.
  2. Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the report has found owls to be highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes.
Nov, 27, 2018

Andaman & Nicobar Islands: home to a tenth of India’s fauna species

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Bio-geographic zones of India


News

ZSI account of A&N fauna

  1. A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India has come up with a database of all faunal species found on the island, putting the number at 11,009.
  2. The ZSI document proves that the islands, comprising only 0.25% of India’s geographical area, are home to more than 10% of the country’s fauna species.
  3. The presence of a large number of species in such a small area makes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots in India.

Endemic Species of A&N

  1. There are 1,067 endemic faunal species found only on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nowhere else.
  2. Key species of them include:
  • Narcondam Hornbill
  • Nicobar Megapode, a bird that builds nests on the ground
  • Nicobar Treeshrew, a small mole-like mammal
  • Long-tailed Nicobar macaque
  • Andaman day gecko

Features of the Islands

  1. The total area of the A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km.
  2. The population of the islands, which includes six particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) — Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and Shompens — is not more than 4 lakh.

Threatened Species

  1. Of the ten species of marine fauna found on the islands, the dugong/sea cow, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, are both classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
  2. Among the 46 terrestrial mammalian species found, three species have been categorised as Critically Endangered — Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis), Jenkin’s shrew ( jenkinsi) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica).
  3. Five species are listed as Endangered, nine species as Vulnerable, and one species as Near Threatened, according to the IUCN.
  4. Among birds, endemism is quite high, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).

Marine diversity

  1. Another unique feature of the islands’ ecosystem is its marine faunal diversity, which includes coral reefs and its associated fauna.
  2. In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the WPA.
  3. Similarly, all species of gorgonian (sea fans) and calcerous sponge are listed under different schedules of the WPA.

Tourism Sector

  1. The number of tourists visiting the islands has crossed the number of people residing in them, with latest data showing 4.87 lakh tourists visiting the islands annually.
  2. In a recent development, the Government of India relaxed the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) norms for some foreign nationalities notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, to visit 29 of its inhabited islands, till December 31, 2022.

Note of caution

  1. The publication cautions that tourism, illegal construction and mining are posing a threat to the islands’ biodiversity, which is already vulnerable to volatile climatic factors.
  2. Some of the species in A&N Islands are restricted to a very small area and thus more vulnerable to any anthropogenic threat.
  3. Development paradigm that we are pushing for this place at the macro level, such as tourism, construction and development of military, are not taking in account three factors:
  • Ecological fragility of the area (the endemism),
  • Geological volatility (earthquakes and tsunamis), and
  • Impact they will have on local communities
Nov, 23, 2018

[pib] India gets UN Environment award for combating transboundary environmental crime

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Wildlife Crime Database Management System

Mains level: Preventing trans-boundary environmental crime


News

  • 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.

Wildlife Crime Database Management System

  1. WCCB has adopted innovative enforcement techniques that have dramatically increased enforcement of transboundary environmental crimes in India.
  2. It has developed an online Wildlife Crime Database Management System to get real time data in order to help analyze trends in crime and devise effective measures to prevent and detect wildlife crimes across India.
  3. This system has been successfully used to analyse trends, helping put in preventive measures as well as for successfully carrying out operations such as Operation SAVE KURMA, THUNDERBIRD, WILDNET, LESKNOW, BIRBIL, THUNDERSTORM, LESKNOW-II.
  4. It has also helped enforcement agencies in the arrest of 350 wildlife criminals and huge seizures of animal body parts and skins.
  5. In order to involve the public in the fight against wildlife crime, WCCB has also developed a scheme to enroll willing persons as WCCB Volunteers.

Back2Basics

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau

  1. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the MoEFCC, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
  2. The Bureau has its headquarter in New Delhi and five regional offices at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Jabalpur; three sub-regional offices at Guwahati, Amritsar and Cochin; and five border units at Ramanathapuram, Gorakhpur, Motihari, Nathula and Moreh.
  3. Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, it is mandated:
  • to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities and
  • to disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals;
  • to establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank;
  • co-ordinate actions by various agencies in connection with the enforcement of the provisions of the Act;
  • assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control;
  • capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes; and
  • advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.
  1. It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.

 

Nov, 21, 2018

Make elephant corridors eco-sensitive zones, says NGT

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Elephant corridors in India

Mains level: Legal protection of Elephant Corridors and their habitats


News

  • The NGT has asked the MoEFCC to consider declaring all elephant corridors in the country as eco-sensitive zones.

Background

  1. The observations came while the green panel was hearing a plea that highlighted the increasing number of unnatural elephant deaths taking place across many states.
  2. Issue of elephant corridors has been raised by different applicants and various judgments have also been passed by the Tribunal.
  3. Therefore, NGT directed MoEFCC to look into this aspect in a broader perspective and also to have a permanent solution.

Designating a Eco-sensitive Zone

  1. The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.
  2. The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards
  3. Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations.
  4. These include the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.
  5. The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA).
  6. The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.

Why such guideline?

  1. The complete lack of legal protection to elephant corridors and elephant reserves has led to a large number of deaths in areas beyond the protected areas.
  2. Owing to the increased denudation and loss of their forest habitats, elephants have come increasingly into conflicts with humans.
  3. Hence they face deliberate retaliatory killings and accidents at railway crossings, high tension power lines, power fences and trenches.
Nov, 15, 2018

Is Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary safe for migratory birds?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Point Calimere WLS

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


News

Birds began to avoid the sanctuary

  1. Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in Vedaranyam Range has been closed for a week in view of water-logging caused by a heavy spell of rainfall.
  2. The water quality at the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary might be unsafe for avifauna to feed and breed, notes a study that examined different pollution indicators in water.
  3. Researchers compared their results with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards to reach this conclusion.

Peak Breeding Season at Risk

  1. The pH and salinity of the waters exceeded the permissible limits for ecologically sensitive zones.
  2. Previous studies have shown that high acidic or high alkaline water can affect the metabolic and developmental activities of wild animals and birds.
  3. Atmospheric temperature at a few stations exceeded 36-40 degrees Celsius.
  4. This can affect the egg albumen during the pre-incubation period, thereby providing better growth conditions for harmful microorganisms in the eggs.
  5. There are many salt pans near the sanctuary. This could be increasing the salinity.
  6. The chemical companies are also letting out untreated effluents into the waters.

Microbial Indicators

  1. Microbial indicators such as coliform bacteria were also found to be very high at all the five sites.
  2. The faecal waste of the birds contains a high level of microbial load besides nitrogen, and this can significantly alter the nutrients in the water.
  3. Previous studies have shown that drinking the contaminated water can lead to deformities in birds.
  4. Coliform infections in the birds have also been reported to cause a change in their natural behaviour and even affect their long distance migration.
  5. There are also high chances for the prevalence of antibiotic resistance among the coliform bacteria

Way Forward

  1. Eco-tourism is causing disturbances in such areas.
  2. Strict environmental regulations should be imposed and salt pan and other aquaculture practices around the sanctuary should be prohibited.

Back2Basics

Point Calimere WLBS

  1. The wildlife and bird sanctuary located in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu spreads across an area of 30 sq.km and comprises sandy coastal, saline swamps and thorn scrub forests around the backwater.
  2. Though it is a protected area and a Ramsar site, chemical companies and small-scale shrimp farms around the wetland have started to pose a threat to the biodiversity and ecosystem of the sanctuary.
  3. It harbors the single-largest stretch of the unique dry-evergreen forest in the country besides open grasslands and tidal mudflats is of interest to tourists.
  4. It marks the presence of 364 flowering plants including 198 medicinal plants.
  5. Point Calimere is the spot inside the Calimere WLS where the coast takes a 90 degree turn from the Bay of Bengal towards Palk Strait.
  6. The sanctuary and the surrounding wetlands are important wintering grounds for water birds from the North.
  7. Around 100 species of birds including the Greater Flamingo, Painted Stork, Little Sting, Sea Gull and Brown-headed gull have been making their presence felt since September.
  8. Blackbuck (Antilope Cervicapra) is the flagship species of the sanctuary.
  9. Other important animals are the spotted deer, black-napped hare, wild boar, Indian jackal, feral horses, palm civet, short-nosed fruit bat, jungle cat and monitor lizard.
Nov, 14, 2018

[op-ed snap] Not Burning Bright

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Project Tiger, NTCA

Mains level: Incraesing instances of Man-animal conflicts in India and what can be done to avoid such situations in future


Context

Human-Tiger conflicts on the rise

  1. Tigers were subjected to targeted killings in two rich landscapes — Yavatmal (Maharashtra) and Dudhwa (Uttar Pradesh)
  2. The big cats were victims of the human-tiger interface conflict

Conflicts a cause of concern

  1. India is in a leadership position on the tiger front with almost 70 per cent of the global tiger population
  2. We pioneered tiger conservation with Project Tiger and by conserving 2.4 per cent of our geographical area as tiger reserves
  3. Such conflict situations raise questions on India’s successes

Reasons for the conflict

  1. Our tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries exist only as islets in a vast sea of human, cattle and unsustainable land use
  2. The stakeholders are many in this heterogeneous mosaic, from primary (local people) to secondary (government departments) and tertiary (business groups, semi-urbanscape)
  3. Urbanisation and growth agendas alter landscape dynamics, which has a cascading effect on the ecological dynamics of wildlife
  4. This results in ecological dislocation of sorts, wherein endangered wild animals like tigers either cause distress or land themselves in trouble
  5. Most of India’s tiger states have practically lost their habitat value owing to excessive biotic pressure
  6. Consequently, agriculture and cash crops beyond protected areas readily lure wild pigs and other preys, which in turn lure big cats
  7. The inevitable outcome is “conflict of interface” between wildlife and humans, which cause distress to people
  8. This “interface” is further influenced by urbanisation, rail and road transport infrastructure and intensive operations like mining or special economic zones — part of the growth agenda in any developing country

Outcome of the encroachment by wild animals

  1. Once wild animals earn a pest value, they get trapped in snares or succumb to revenge or avoidance killings
  2. This is more often than not through a silent method of poisoning using pesticides

Steps to avoid tiger killings

  1. The human-wildlife interface is here to stay
  2. While there can be no “co-existence” with tigers or elephants, a “co-occurrence” agenda with a proactive management control is available
  3. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has brought out several Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with various challenges of the human-tiger interface
  4. An incapacitated tiger or leopard has to be captured on priority
  5. A prime animal straying close to human settlements requires active monitoring and translocation to suitable habitat
  6. All this requires 24×7 monitoring using technology, management of corridors, building up the frontline capacity, creating village teams for reporting wild animal presence, and, an intersectoral portfolio at the landscape level akin to the “master plan” envisaged for an eco-sensitive zone

Way forward

  1. Human-tiger interface management demands proactive measures
  2. One cannot allow a big cat to get habituated and then brutally eliminate it
  3. It is a tragic end for our national animal, and a complete travesty of the responsibility reposed on foresters and wildlife experts
Oct, 31, 2018

India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity: WWF

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Report

Mains level:  Conservation of Soil


News

Context

  • India’s soil biodiversity is in grave peril, according to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas prepared by the World Wide Fund for Nature

Soil Biodiversity

  1. Millions of microbial and animal species live and make up soils, from bacteria and fungi to mites, beetles and earthworms.
  2. Soil biodiversity is the total community from genes to species, and varies depending on the environment.
  3. The immense diversity in soil allows for a great variety of ecosystem services that benefit the species that inhabit it, the species (including us) that use it, and its surrounding environment.

Higher risk for India

  1. The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicating threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change.
  2. Soil biodiversity encompasses the presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
  3. The findings were part of the bi-annual Living Planet Report 2018.
  4. It shows India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk.
  5. Coloured red on the Atlas, these include Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America.

Rising Ecological Footprint in India

  1. Since 1960, the global ecological footprint has increased by more than 190%.
  2. The two key drivers of biodiversity loss were the over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture, the WWF added in its report.
  3. India’s per capita ecological footprint is less than 1.75 hectares/person (which is in the lowest band, among countries surveyed).
  4. However its high population made it vulnerable to an ecological crisis, even if per-capita consumption remained at current levels, the WWF warned.

Other Threats

  1. A key aspect of this year’s report is the threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators such as bees.
  2. 150 million bee colonies were needed to meet the pollination requirements of about 50 million hectares of agricultural land in India, whereas only 1.2 million colonies are present.
  3. The population of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles has dwindled by an average of 60% from 1970 to 2014, and fresh-water species have declined by 83% in the same period.
  4. Globally, the extent of wetlands was estimated to have declined by 87% since 1970.

Summary of the Living Planet Report 2018

Oct, 30, 2018

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

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Report

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

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.

Statistics are Scary

  1. For freshwater fauna, the decline in population over the 44 years monitored was a staggering 80%.
  2. Regionally, Latin America was hit hardest, seeing a nearly 90% loss of wildlife over the same period.
  3. Another dataset confirmed the depth of an unfolding mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.
  4. Measured by weight, or biomass, wild animals today only account for 4% of mammals on Earth, with humans (36%) and livestock (60%) making up the rest.
  5. Back-to-back marine heatwaves have already wiped out up to half of the globe’s shallow-water reefs, which support a quarter of all marine life.

Before it’s too late

  1. Even if we manage to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius coral mortality will likely be 70 to 90% said the report.
  2. Half-a-century of conservation efforts have scored spectacular successes, with significant recoveries among tigers, manatees, grizzly bears, bluefin tuna and bald eagles.
  3. But the onslaught of hunting, shrinking habitat, pollution, illegal trade and climate change — all caused by humans has been too much to overcome, he acknowledged.
  4. This ‘great acceleration’ as termed by WWF is marked by exponential growth over the last 50 years in the use of energy, water, timber, fish, food, fertilizer, pesticides, minerals, plastic.
Oct, 29, 2018

Siberian visitors freeze Assam-Meghalaya border dispute

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Amur Falcon

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


News

Arrival of Amur Falcon

  1. Amur Falcon breeds in south-eastern Siberia, Mongolia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa.
  2. Its IUCN Conservation status is “Least Concerned”
  3. Doyang Lake near Pangti village in Nagaland’s Wokha district is their stopover since 2010.

Amur Falcon Festival

  1. The Tyrso Valley Wildlife Protection Society is an NGO formed by the villagers of the eponymous Meghalaya village adjoining Umru.
  2. The group has been organising the Amur Falcon Festival since 2015 to celebrate the “birds that have this back-of-beyond area famous”.
  3. The festival is scheduled on fortnight before the birds are expected to soar for the next destination on their migration.
  4. The Umru-Tyrso area, about 75 km northeast of Shillong, however, is a relatively recent pit stop for the Amur falcons.
  5. The birds used to flock to Umwang, also in the Block II disputed area, from 1998-2009 before human interference made them shift base.

United for Conservation

  1. Umru is in Block II, one of 12 disputed areas along the Assam-Meghalaya border, since Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972.
  2. Assam claims the village is under Baithalangso Assembly constituency of East Karbi Anlong district while Meghalaya asserts it is under Mawhati Assembly constituency of its Ri-Bhoi district.
  3. The 50-odd Gorkha households in the village prefer to be in Assam while the 30 Khasi tribal households want to be in Meghalaya.
  4. But these disputes are forgotten when the village welcomes the falcons in mid-October, uniting to ensure a safe stay for the birds.
  5. Both communities have made common cause in protection of the Amur falcons and have fixed a fine of ₹25,000 for anyone caught ensnaring or killing the birds.

Changtongya Community Conservation Reserve

  1. The migratory birds earlier used to roost in very large numbers in the Changtongya Community Conservation Reserve but moved on to Pangti and Yaongyimchen, a lesser roosting site.
  2. Efforts are on to revive the Changtongya area, about 100 km north of Pangti, for the migratory raptors.
Oct, 26, 2018

Citizen-Science Repository of Indian mammals

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives following things are important:

Prelims Level: MaOI Repository

Mains Level: Utility of such repository for conservation of mammals in India.


News

Context

  1. As per current estimates, 426 species of mammals are found in India; of them 47 species are endemic to the Indian subcontinent.
  2. Along with well known species, the mammals of 100 species of rats and 126 species of bats and 24 species of whales of dolphins.
  3. Now one can contribute to the cause of science by sharing the picture of the animal on a specific website, providing the location of spotting.
  4. This will make more information available about lesser known mammals of the country.

Mammals of India (MaOI) Repository

  1. Scientists and researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore have come up with a new citizen-science repository on Indian mammals, called Mammals of India (MaOI).
  2. The website, www.mammalsofindia.org, aims to develop individual species pages for all Indian mammals with information on identification, variation, distribution, breeding and non-breeding ecology and species conservation.
  3. It is an online, peer- reviewed, freely-accessible portal that was launched late September 2018.
  4. By October 25, as many as 768 images, of 161 species of mammals, were uploaded.
  5. It is a first such repository of Mammals in India.

Utility of the repository

  1. These photographic records will help us in having distribution map of mammals in the country.
  2. The photographs will not only help gather information on the distribution of the various species but also interactions between different species of mammals, like predation and mutualism.
  3. The website provides an opportunity to any person to upload geotagged photographic observations about mammals with information on habitat age of the observed individual.
  4. Over time, these observations will be reviewed by subject experts and uploaded on the website.

Spotting and geo-tagging rare species

  1. This citizen-science initiative has seen photographs of rare species — such as Red Serow from Manipur, Lynx a species of wild cat from Jammu and Kashmir, Asian Golden Cat from West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and Binturong, also known as bear cat, from East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh –
  2. These photos being shared will benefit the researches and public alike.

Biodiversity Atlas (India)

  1. MaOI is a part of the Biodiversity Atlas (India project), which is an initiative of Krushnamegh Kunte, associate professor at NCBS.
  2. Under the project, a popular citizen-science website on butterflies of India www.ifoundbutterflies.org had got to 55,000 reference images in eight years.
  3. Under the same project websites dedicated Moths of India, Cicacds of India, Odonatas of India (dragonflies and damselflies) , Reptiles of India, Amphibians of India and Birds of India are operational.
Oct, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] Unclogging our oceans

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Ghost gears problem and innovative solutions to tackle it


Context

The problem of ghost gears in oceans

  1. There are many reports of divers regularly making underwater trips just to extract nets that have sunk to the ocean floor off India’s coasts, ranging from Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra
  2. The problem of ghost gear (any fishing equipment that has been lost, discarded or abandoned in water bodies) has grown from a fishing fallout that people had not heard of to one that is now difficult to ignore

The threat to ocean species

  1. Between 2011 and 2018 alone, the Olive Ridley Project, a U.K. registered charity that removes ghost nets and protects sea turtles, recorded 601 sea turtles being entangled in ghost gear near the Maldives, of which 528 were Olive Ridleys — the same species that come in thousands to Odisha’s coasts to nest
  2. Other casualties worldwide include whales, dolphins, sharks and even pelagic birds
  3. In 2016, over 5,400 marine animals belonging to 40 different species were recorded as entangled in ghost gear or associated with it
  4. Ghost nets are often ‘ghost fishers’
  5. Ocean currents carry them for thousands of km across the ocean floor, ensnaring, injuring and drowning marine life and damaging live corals along the way

Impact on the economy

  1. The consequences of overfishing, using nets of the smallest mesh size, and illegal fishing are worrying
  2. Entire fishing communities are affected by these actions, especially in developing countries like India where the demand for fish keeps rising

How to tackle the problem of ghost gears?

  1. In countries like Canada and Thailand, fishermen retain their used nets; these are recycled into yarn to craft socks and even carpet tiles
  2. A gear-marking programme is being tested in Indonesia so that the trajectory of gear if it drifts away, can be studied better
  3. In one instance in India, ghost nets hauled from Kerala’s Kollam have been used to pave roads

Way forward

  1. India can emulate innovative solutions from across the world to tackle the problem of ghost gear
  2. Efforts to carry out transformation over 7,500 km of India’s coasts, as well as inland water bodies, are the need of the hour
  3. Outreach and education among fishing communities would be crucial along with policy-level changes
Oct, 15, 2018

Windmills not so green for wildlife

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: On-site impact of cleaner energy projects on wildlife.


News

Context

  • Windmills are seen as a source of green energy, but researchers say they pose a threat to wildlife in forests through collisions and noise.

Hazards of Windmills

  1. The impact of the giant structures in Karnataka was studied by researchers from Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) during a two-year project.
  2. They found that windmills killed birds and bats in collisions, and that birds and mammals also moved away due to the noise.
  3. The noise levels near windmills go up to 85 decibels (dB), the equivalent of large trucks.
  4. The drone of a turbine, which operates day and night, is above 70dB. By comparison, noise in urban areas is 55 dB and even in industrial areas, is lower at 75dB.
  5. Ambient noise in forests is less than 40 dB. Such avoidance and movement to forest fringes might increase conflict with humans.
  6. The study calls for protocols and policy guidelines before diverting forest land for wind farms, states the study.

Problem of Collision

  1. The team saw collisions of 10 animals — 6 bats and four birds — with a collision rate of 0.23 animals per year per turbine.
  2. While the collision rate was low compared to other locations, it could not be ignored as the bulk of them took place in a short span of time, the study says.
  3. Researchers found birds avoiding windmill sites.
  4. There are 50% fewer birds in the areas compared to undisturbed sites.

Mammals are also moving away

  1. The avoidance is seen among mammals too. Herbivores moved away, with predators following them.
  2. Following them are predators such as wolves and small carnivores. This is bound to increase conflict.
  3. And all these are moving away towards fringes of forests.
Oct, 09, 2018

Western Ghats is home to the Eurasian Otter

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Otters in India and their habitat

Mains level: Conservation of the rarely spotted specie of otters in India.


News

Seen after 70 years

  1. Researchers have confirmed the presence of the elusive Eurasian Otter one of the least-known of India’s three Otter species in the Western Ghats after more than 70 years.
  2. Researchers came across the otter road-killed animal’s photographs, several small carnivore experts concluded it was neither the small-clawed nor the smooth-coated otter (the commonly sighted otter species in south India).
  3. Later, scientists affiliated Hyderabad’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology conducted genetic analyses of its tail tissue to confirm that it was indeed the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra).

Rare in India

  1. Eurasian otter has been earliest recorded from the Western Ghats (Coorg in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri and Palani hill ranges, according to zoologist R.I. Pocock in 1941).
  2. This is the first photographic and genetic confirmation of its presence here.
  3. While the species is widespread across Europe, northern Africa and several south Asian countries, it is not as frequently seen as smooth-coated or small-clawed otters in India.

Detailed Surveys: Need of the Hour

  1. Though protected by the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), otters are often illegally poached for pelts.
  2. Similar physical features make it very difficult to identify otter species in the wild.
  3. It is still unclear whether significant number of Eurasian otters occurs in India.
  4. This paucity of information doesn’t help, with otters facing multiple threats.
  5. Otter road kills caused by increasing fragmentation of forests and modification of their original habitats are becoming increasingly common now.

Back2Basics

Otters in India

  1. IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  2. Species in India: Smooth-coated, Asian small-clawed and Eurasian Otters
  3. Habitat: Smooth-coated — all over India; Asian small-clawed — only in the Himalayan foothills, parts of the Eastern and southern Western Ghats; Eurasian — Western Ghats and Himalayas.
  4. Diet comprises several small animals, mainly crabs and small fishes.
  5. Lives in small packs, is mostly nocturnal, but can be diurnal in areas which are less disturbed.
Oct, 08, 2018

India’s first dolphin research centre to come up soon in Patna

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gangetic Dolphin and its Habitat

Mains level: Conservation status of Gangetic Dolphins


News

National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC)

  1. The much-awaited National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC), India’s and Asia’s first is set to be established in Patna.
  2. It will play an important role in strengthening conservation efforts and research to save the endangered mammal.
  3. University will shift it to Bhagalpur where the number of dolphins is higher.

Threats

  1. The water level has been decreasing and the flow has slowed down. Besides, siltation is increasing in the river. All this is not favorable for dolphins.
  2. The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal but frequently falls prey to poachers and is sometimes killed inadvertently after being trapped in plastic fishing nets and hit by mechanized boats.
  3. The mammals are being killed at an alarming rate with wildlife officials saying poachers covet them for their flesh, fat and oil.

Habitat of Gangetic Dolphins

  1. The mammal’s presence signals a healthy river ecosystem.
  2. Dolphins prefer water that is at least 5-8 feet deep. They are usually found in turbulent waters where there is enough fish for them to feed on.
  3. Gangetic dolphins prefer deep water with adjoining shallow water.
  4. They live in a zone where there is little or no current that helps them save energy. If they sense danger, they can go into deep waters.
  5. The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return.
  6. The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, India’s only dolphin sanctuary, spread over 50 km along the Ganges, is located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district.
  7. Bihar is home to around half of the country’s estimated 3,000 dolphin population.

Back2Basics

Gangetic Dolphin

  1. Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  2. It has been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  3. The Gangetic river species found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal is almost completely blind.
  4. It finds its way and prey using echoes with sound being everything for them to navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play.
  5. The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world.
  6. The other three are found in the Yangtze river, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river.

 

Oct, 05, 2018

[op-ed snap] Next steps at Gir

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gir lions

Mains level: Threat posed by reduced area of forests to various wildlife species and steps that can be taken to mitigate such threats


Context

Gir lions under threat

  1. The magnificent Asiatic lion is under threat
  2. Twenty-three lions have died in as many days in the eastern part of Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary
  3. This case is more worrisome as the big cat population in Gujarat is the last of the Asiatic lions in the wild
  4. The Supreme Court, noting that the death of so many lions was a serious matter has asked the Central government to look into it

Relocating lions

  1. In 2013, the Supreme Court had issued an order that lions from Gujarat be relocated to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh as a check against the threat of epidemic
  2. Gujarat has been unwilling to part with its lions, calling them “its pride” in an affidavit

Small area can be fatal

  1. A smaller population with limited genetic strength are more vulnerable to diseases and other catastrophes in comparison to a large and widespread population
  2. 30% of the lion population in Tanzania’s Serengeti was killed due to an outbreak of canine distemper, a viral disease that affects animals
  3. Asiatic lion has been restricted to only one single habitat, i.e. the Gir National Forest and its surrounding areas and an outbreak of a possible epidemic or natural calamity might wipe off the entire species

Artificial medical treatment not feasible

  1. Wildlife conservation concerns itself with maintaining ecological processes and reducing threats to endangered species
  2. It does not entail treating wild animals for disease (in the way domestic animals are) as this can go against the processes of natural selection
  3. It is not conducive to the ‘natural’ process of life and death and ultimately compromises immunity
  4. The role of wildlife managers should be to reduce unnatural threats, not unnaturally prolong life

What can be done?

  1. Gujarat should turn its attention to reducing the drivers of disease, which includes controlling feral dog populations
  2. It should work towards colonising new habitats outside the Gir landscape within the State

Way forward

  1. There are spatial limitations in this industrialised State
  2. But, there is no getting around the fact that a geographically separate population of Asiatic lions needs to be created
Oct, 04, 2018

Gujarat acts to save its pride

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Viruses mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Government’s efforts for lion conservation.


News

Context

  1. The Gujarat government got stunned by the deaths of 23 lions since September.
  2. It initially considered that the lions had died due to infighting for territorial domination.
  3. It has now launched rescue efforts and also called experts from outside, including London, and imported a vaccine from the United States.

Under treatment against Deadly Virus

  1.  More than 500 lions had already been screened to detect viral infections in the big cats in the Gir forests and revenue areas.
  2. Many are battling for their lives as a deadly outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and tick-borne Babesiosis is killing the cats.
  3. According to the State Forest Department, of the 23 deaths, four lions died of CDV, and 17 were killed by a tick-borne infection.
  4. According to experts, the Gujarat government was warned in 2011, when experts analysed tissues from a 2007 Gir lion carcass.
  5. It found the presence of highly contagious Peste Des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV), which carries an 80%-100% chance of mortality.
Sep, 11, 2018

Elusive snow leopard spotted in Himachal wildlife sanctuary

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lippa-Asra WLS, IUCN conservation status of the specie

Mains level: Habitat Change of Snow Leopard


News

Context

A snow leopard was spotted at a height of about 4,000 metres in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

Why is the spotting Important?

  1. It was only last year that the snow leopard improved from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ in terms of conservation status.
  2. The recent findings have ascertained that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.
  3. During the survey, two brown bears were snapped through another camera-trap placed inside the sanctuary at an altitude of about 3200m.

Conservation of Snow Leopard in India

  1. Project Snow Leopard was launched in 2009 for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes.
  2. It aims at promoting a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
  3. Snow leopards are given the same protection as the tiger, listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – the highest protection afforded to a species.
Sep, 06, 2018

[pib] Cabinet approves continuation of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats Scheme beyond 12th Plan

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH)

Mains level: Various efforts by the government to conserve wildlife through  elephant corridors, project tiger and other wildlife habitats.


News

Context

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the Centrally Sponsored Umbrella Scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH) beyond the 12thPlan period from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH)

  1. The Scheme consists of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of-
  • Project Tiger (CSS-PT),
  • Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-DWH) and
  • Project Elephant (CSS-PE).
  1. A total of 18 tiger range States, distributed in five landscapes of the country would be benefitted under the Project Tiger scheme.
  2. Similarly, for other two schemes, the coverage is entire country in case of Development of Wildlife Habitats (DWH) and 23 elephant range States for Project Elephant.

Benefits of the Scheme

  1. The schemes would result in overall strengthening/ consolidation of tiger, elephant and wildlife conservation in the country.
  2. The schemes would address the human wildlife conflict effectively.
  3. These schemes would generate employment opportunities resulting in economic upliftment of people in and around tiger reserves/ Protected Areas.
  4. It will generate direct employment of about 30 lakh mandays annually which shall include many local tribes besides non-tribal local workforce.
  5. Local populace would get opportunities to serve as guides, driver, hospitality personnel and in other ancillary jobs.
  6. These schemes would foster imparting various skills towards making people self-dependent through various eco-development projects, thereby enabling them to go for self-employment.
  7. These schemes would result in resource generation through tourist visits, thereby fostering in securing tiger source areas.
Sep, 03, 2018

Green Tribunal steps in to conserve Western Ghats

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kasthurirangan Committee Report, Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats

Mains level: Conservation of Western Ghats


News

NGT curbs States activities  

  1. The six Western Ghats States have been restrained by the NGT from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
  2. NGT directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
  3. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) was led by Madhav Gadgil.

Re-promulgating the earlier Order

  1. The NGT Bench noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.
  2. It was on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation that the Bench issued the order.
  3. The Principal Bench of the panel permitted the MoEFCC to re-publish the draft notification on Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26.
  4. It has ordered that the matter may be finalised within six months.
Aug, 31, 2018

The Nilgiri tahr climbs population charts

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read B2B

Mains level: The rise in numbers of the species is assign of successful conservation effort.


News

Nilgiri Tahr Population climbs ups

  1. A recent census has revealed that the population of the Nilgiri tahr (an endangered mountain goat) at the Mukurthi National Park has grown by an impressive 18% in the last two years, from 480 to 568.
  2. A count conducted in 2016 had put the population in the national park at around 480, but a revised count in 2017 pegged it at 438.
  3. Apart from the increase in numbers, the sex ratio, too, was encouraging. There are two adult females for every male.
  4. This indicates a viable breeding population, and hints at further population growth.
  5. The population estimation exercise, completed in May, was conducted jointly by the Forest Department and the Department of Zoology and Wildlife Biology, Government Arts College, Udhagamandalam.

Several threats

  1. The continuing spread of invasive species of flora, such as wattle and pine, and exotic weeds like scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and gorse diminishes grazing land.
  2. The impact of consumption of exotic weeds by the animals is still unknown.
  3. The rise in the animals’ population has led to a few herds migrating out of the national park.
  4. Incidences of hunting and poaching are also often.
  5. However the Forest Department was stepping up efforts to remove exotics, with wattle eliminated in over 125 hectares of Shola grasslands.

Back2Basics

Nilgiri tahr

  1. IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered
  2. The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) aka the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex.
  3. It is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
  4. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  5. The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests eco-region.
  6. At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, locally known as sholas.
  7. Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population of this Tahr.
Aug, 27, 2018

MP seeks revival of cheetah reintroduction project

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Asiatic Cheetah

Mains level: Reintroduction of the already extinct Cheetah in India


News

MP seeks reintroduction of Cheetah

  1. The Madhya Pradesh forest department has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority to revive the plan to reintroduce cheetahs in the State’s Nauradehi sanctuary.
  2. The ambitious project, conceived in 2009, had hit a roadblock for want of funds.
  3. The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild, he said.
  4. Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat.
  5. The country’s last spotted cheetah died in Chhattisgarh in 1947.
  6. Later, the cheetah which is the fastest land animal was declared extinct in India in 1952.

Financial Crunch – the key hurdle

  1. According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa.
  2. The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India, Mr. Dubey said.
  3. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
  4. The M.P. forest department need finances from the Centre for the project adding.
  5. It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi.
Aug, 25, 2018

[op-ed snap] Trouble in the hills: on Western Ghats ecology

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Gadgil & Kasturirangan committee reports and their rising importance in the wake of Kerela floods


Context

Reports on western ghats ecology & warning of another disaster

  1. The catastrophic monsoon floods in Kerala and parts of Karnataka have revived the debate on whether political expediency trumped science
  2. Seven years ago, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel issued recommendations for the preservation of the fragile western peninsular region
  3. Madhav Gadgil, who chaired the Union Environment Ministry’s WGEEP, has said the recent havoc in Kerala is a consequence of short-sighted policymaking and warned that Goa may also be in the line of nature’s fury

Westren ghats ecology conservation

  1. At issue in the Western Ghats — spread over 1,29,037 sq km according to the WGEEP estimate and 1,64,280 sq km as per the Kasturirangan panel — is the calculation of what constitutes the sensitive core and what activities can be carried out there
  2. The entire system is globally acknowledged as a biodiversity hotspot
  3. The goal has to be sustainable development for the Ghats as a whole

What needs to be done?

  1. The issue of allowing extractive industries such as quarrying and mining to operate is most contentious
  2. A way out could be to create the regulatory framework that was proposed by the Gadgil panel, in the form of an apex Western Ghats Ecology Authority and the State-level units, under the Environment (Protection) Act, and to adopt the zoning system that it proposed
  3. A moratorium on quarrying and mining in the identified sensitive zones, in Kerala and also other States, is necessary to assess their environmental impact
  4. This can keep incompatible activities out of the Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs)
  5. The role of big hydroelectric dams, built during an era of rising power demand and deficits, must now be considered afresh and proposals for new ones dropped

Way Forward

  1. The State governments that are mainly responsible for the Western Ghats — Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Maharashtra — must go back to the drawing table with the reports of both the Gadgil Committee and the Kasturirangan Committee, which was set up to examine the WGEEP report
  2. The task before them is to initiate correctives to environmental policy decisions
  3. Public consultation on the expert reports that includes people’s representatives will find greater resonance now, and help chart a sustainable path ahead
Aug, 22, 2018

[op-ed snap] Clearing the path: On protecting elephant corridors

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Elephant corridors, Nilgiri ranges (Geographical features)

Mains level: Various efforts by the government to conserve wildlife like elephant corridors, project tiger and lacunae in their implementation


Context

Elephant corridors verdict by SC

  1. The Supreme Court’s order to seal and close 27 resorts operating in corridors used by elephants in the Nilgiris is a necessary step to restore the ecology of these spaces
  2. The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable, and help regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend
  3. Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is a conservation imperative, more so because the animals are then not forced to seek alternative routes that bring them into conflict with people

Why such an order?

  1. Forests that have turned into farms and unbridled tourism are blocking their paths, resulting in growing incidents of elephant-human conflict
  2. These encounters claim the lives of about 450 people and lead to the death of nearly 100 elephants in retaliatory actions every year on average

Required steps

  1. About 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries and the corridors have no specific legal protection which needs to be given at the earliest
  2. Illegal structures in these pathways should be removed without delay
  3. The effort should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country, including the acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government

Way Forward

  1. Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats, and affecting animals that have large home ranges, like elephants
  2. Fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors
Aug, 14, 2018

National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank dedicated to nation

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Gene Resource Bank, LaCONES

Mains level: Conservation of threatened species


News

Genetic resource bank 

  1. Union Science and Technology Ministry dedicated to the nation, the National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank
  2. Genetic resources from 23 species of Indian wild animals have been collected and preserved.

Genetic Resource Bank

  1. This facility would increase the collection of genetic resources from wildlife through collaboration with zoos in India
  2. This would facilitate the exchange of genetic material between Indian zoos for maintaining genetic diversity and conservation management made accessible to scientists and wildlife managers for implementing conservation programmes.

LaCONES

  1. The Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) is a dedicated laboratory of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad
  2. CCMB-LaCONES is the only laboratory in India that has developed methods for collection and cryopreservation of semen and oocytes from wildlife and successfully reproducing endangered blackbuck, spotted deer and Nicobar pigeons
  3. Wildlife Genetic Resource Banking (GRB) is the systematic collection and preservation of tissues, sperm, eggs and embryos, genetic material (DNA/RNA)
  4. It helps prevent the loss of valuable individuals to the gene pool.

Reintroducing Indian Mouse Deer

  1. The Telangana Forest Department, Central Zoo Authority, Nehru Zoological Park and CCMB have joined hands to conduct the first-ever planned reintroduction of the Indian spotted chevrotain (Moschiola indica), also known as Indian mouse deer
  2. This follows more than seven years of conservation breeding of the elusive species at a dedicated facility in the premises of Nehru Zoological Park
  3. This helped increase the captive mouse deer population to around 230 individuals till March this year.
Aug, 06, 2018

Explained: How do roads impact wildlife, and why should anyone bother?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Major Highways passing through Conservation areas.

Mains Level: Importance of mitigation strategies to avoid loss of Wildlife in Road Accidents.


News

Habitat Loss – a serious implication

  1. Wild animals are vulnerable to vehicular traffic passing through forests, especially at night when, blinded by bright headlights, even swift species like cats freeze.
  2. Over time, as animals learn to avoid roads, busy multilane highways become barriers that hinder wildlife movement, fragment populations, and restrict gene flow.
  3. By blocking access to potential habitats, roads, railway lines and irrigation canals act as a major contributor to habitat loss.

India’s policy

  1. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex advisory body on all wildlife-related matters said no to new roads through protected forests in 2013.
  2. But it was open to the widening of existing roads with adequate mitigation measures irrespective of the cost, only if alternative alignments were not available. The government accepted this as policy in December 2014.
  3. In February 2018, the NBWL made it mandatory for every road/rail project proposal to include a wildlife passage plan as per guidelines framed by Wildlife Institute of India.
  4. However, features like underpasses are unlikely to suffice in dense wildlife-rich forests where too many animals compete for space.

Learning from Global examples

  1. Roads have destroyed tropical rainforests in South America, Asia and Africa.
  2. Though under severe pressure, the Amazon rainforests still hold over 1 million sq km of no-go zones, including national parks and territories for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.
  3. In North America and Europe, where the road network is extensive and wildlife density lower, wildlife passageways are more common. These features are seen in Malaysia and Kenya as well.
  4. In many protected areas such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, night traffic is prohibited.

Bandipur story

  1. In July 2008, Karnataka closed night traffic on the Mysore-Mananthavadi highway passing through Nagarhole Tiger Reserve.
  2. This and reports of frequent roadkills in Bandipur, prompted the Chamarajnagar district administration in June 2009 to restrict vehicular traffic between 9 pm and 6 am on two national highways passing through the reserve.
  3. Protests by Kerala however led to the order being withdrawn.After a PIL was filed, Karnataka High Court restored the ban on night traffic in July 2009 with reasonable restrictions.
  4. The state’s night traffic ban was subsequently replicated in Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve) and Gujarat (Gir National Park).

NTCA report seeking status-quo

  1. After the Bandipur matter went to the Supreme Court, the CMs of the concerned states agreed with an expert panel’s recommendation to maintain status quo.
  2. The expert committee included the Road Transport Secretary, with a representative each from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  3. In March the NTCA recommended maintaining status quo to continue with the existing restrictions over which all parties agreed.
  4. The report also included measures for mitigation strategies.

Limitations of the New Plan

  1. The proposal included elevating the road over four 1-km stretches to provide wildlife passageways below, and fencing the entire highway passing through the reserve with 8-foot-high steel wire barriers.
  2. While this may work for wandering elephants if the passageways cover their traditional routes, for territorial animals, just four openings in a 24-km stretch may not suffice.
  3. But big cats will use its immediate passageway (for hunting) to get over to its neighborhood territory split by the Highway.
  4. The argument for opening up and widening the restricted road is that the alternative road is 30 km longer, and apparently passes through hilly terrain — increasing travel time, fuel consumption, and pollution.
  5. So fencing the Highway is the only viable option available.

Way Forward

  1. The question is whether a 30-km detour to safeguard one of India’s most wildlife-rich forests is an unaffordable economic burden or a minor concession necessary in the national interest.
  2. This is a concern for all conservation areas intersected by major highways.
  3. A unified mitigation strategy needs to be developed to avoid the loss of habitation and subsequent deaths of wildlife in road accidents.
Jul, 07, 2018

4 species added to recovery programme by Wildlife Board

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read B2B

Mains level: Conservation of threatened species


News

4 new species added

  1. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species on the recommendation of a Standing Committee.
  • Northern River Terrapin (Sunderbans)
  • Clouded Leopard (Eastern and NE India , Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh)
  • Arabian Sea Humpback Whale
  • Red Panda (Sub-Himalayan areas of east and north east)

The progamme is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).

Difficulties in the recovery of Critically Endangered species

  1. The recovery of some of the Critically Endangered or Endangered fauna is a difficult task.
  2. Except for few cases, most of the recovery activities are restricted to study/research and monitoring.
  3. The recovery plan for the Great Indian Bustard and Wild Buffalo (Central India Population) was discussed two years ago and the plan was also sanctioned with financial allocation but it is yet to be grounded.
  4. Now, there are very less chance of recovery of these species. The planning should be done before a species reaches to a critical stage.

Wild Buffalo population increased in Chhattisgarh

  1. Once found in abundance across northeast India, northern and central India, the Wild Buffalo now has its last bastions in some pockets in northeast India and Chhattisgarh.
  2. According to a survey by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), not more than 50 individuals of the Wild Buffalo remain in three sub-populations in Indravati National Park, Pamed and Udanti Wildlife Sanctuaries in Chhattisgarh.
  3. According to the WTI, the number of wild buffalo in Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve, Chhattisgarh increased from 7 to 11 under the Central India Wild Buffalo Recovery Project, a joint venture between the state forest department and WTI.

Back2Basics

Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)

  1. The Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme launched during the 11th Plan period to provide technical and financial assistance to States/UTs for protection of wildlife habitat.
  2. The activities covered under the scheme include the staff development and capacity building, wildlife research and evaluation, anti-poaching activities, wildlife veterinary care, addressing man-animal conflicts and promoting eco-tourism.
  3. Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
  4. So far, 17 species have been identified under the recovery programme.
  5. These are the Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser

National Board for Wildlife

  1. National Board for Wild Life is a statutory body constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  2. The board is advisory in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
  3. It serves as apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  4. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  5. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
  6. The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister.
  7. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.
Jun, 21, 2018

Mammals go nocturnal to avoid humans, says study

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard exemplifies the impact of man-animal conflict on the patterns of wildlife


News

Man-Animal Conflict on a rise

  1. Human activity is causing the planet’s mammals to flee daylight for the protection of night, a study has found.
  2. The study, published in the journal Science, represents the first effort to quantify the global effects of human activity on the daily activity patterns of wildlife.
  3. Its results highlight the powerful and widespread process by which animals alter their behavior alongside people: human disturbance is creating a more nocturnal natural world.

Is the increasing animal nocturnality good?

  1. Wildlife adapting to avoid humans temporally could be viewed as a path for the coexistence of humans and wild animals on an increasingly crowded planet
  2. However, there are a range of potential negative consequences of the shifts they report in wildlife which include
  • mismatches between the environment and an animal’s traits
  • disruption of normal foraging behaviour
  • increased vulnerability to non-human predators
  • heightened competition
Jun, 01, 2018

Over 120 pregnant minke whales killed in Japan

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Minke whales, International Whaling Commission, International Court of Justice

Mains level: Killing of various animal species in name of culture and international efforts against it


News

Japan’s annual hunt

  1. More than 120 pregnant minke whales were killed during Japan’s latest annual hunt off the coast of Antarctica
  2. Japan’s latest hunting season in the Antarctic Ocean ran from early December to late February, lasting about 12 weeks
  3. International Whaling Commission report showed that 128 out of the 333 minke whales caught during the expedition in the Southern Ocean were female, and 122 of them were pregnant

Ban by ICJ

  1. In March 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled against Japan’s “research whaling”
  2. According to ICJ, it served as a front to allow commercial hunting and selling of whales under a scientific exemption
  3. The Japanese government continues to claim that the Antarctic program is necessary to study the managing methods of minke populations and that hunting whale is “an ancient part of its culture”
Feb, 28, 2018

In a record, over 4 lakh olive ridleys nest at Rushikulya

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Olive ridley turtles

Mains level: Wildlife conservation efforts in India


News

Mass nesting of olive ridley turtles

  1. The endangered species of olive ridley turtles has created an all-time record of mass nesting at the Rushikulya rookery coast in the Ganjam district of Odisha this year
  2. Mass nesting of olive ridley turtles has not yet started on the coasts along the Gahirmatha beach and the mouth of the Debi river, two other major nesting sites in Odisha

Conducive environment

  1. Increasing number of nests at Rushikulya indicate that the environment of this coast continues to be conducive for their mass nesting
  2. In 2016, for some unexplained reason, there was no mass nesting at this coast

Back2Basics

Olive ridley turtles

  1. The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans
  2. The species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list
  3. These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada
  4. During this phenomenal nesting, up to 600,000 and more females emerge from the waters, over a period of five to seven days, to lay eggs
  5. The coast of Orissa in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica
  6. The Olive ridley gets its name from its olive-colored carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded
  7. International trade in these turtles and their products is banned under CITES Appendix I
Feb, 28, 2018

What's inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault ?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Svalbard Global Seed Vault, India’s seed vault, Chang La, National Genebank

Mains level: Preservation of important agricultural species


News

The 10th anniversary of global seed vault

  1. Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway celebrated the 10th anniversary of its official opening

Where is India’s seed vault?

  1.  There is a storage facility with over 5,000 seed accessions at Chang La in the Himalayas, at a height of 17,300 feet
  2. One accession consists of a set of seeds of one species collected from different locations or different populations

Maintenance of the vault

  1. The vault is a joint venture of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (which comes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research) and the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (under Defence Research and Development Organisation)
  2. It was started as an additional storage or a safety duplicate for the seeds at the National Genebank in Delhi

Storage of seeds

  1. When a seed needs to be stored for few years, maintaining it at just 10 degree Celsius is enough
  2. For 10 to 20 years, they need to be kept at a minus 15 to minus 20 degree Celsius (range)
  3. Chang La has a prevalent temperature in this sub-zero range

Back2Basics

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  1. It is a facility located on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean
  2. It houses the world’s largest collection of seeds
  3. The seeds can be of use in the event of a global catastrophe or when some species are lost due to natural disasters
  4. There have been over a million seed samples deposited by 73 institutions till date
  5. The Nordic Genetic Research Centre (NordGen) is responsible for the Vault’s operation and management
  6. The Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) provides scientific guidance and assistance in arranging shipments to the Vault and also finances a large part of the day-to-day operation and management of the Vault
  7. After the FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, an international legal framework for conserving and accessing crop diversity, the ‘global’ Vault became a practical possibility
Feb, 19, 2018

Environment Ministry notifies draft rules of Compensatory Afforestation Act

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016

Mains level: Laws enacted for forest and wildlife conservation


News

Draft rules for the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016

  1. The Environment Ministry has notified the draft rules of the Compensatory Afforestation Act
  2. The act seeks to ensure expeditious utilization of amounts realized in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose

Provisions for using funds

  1. 80 percent of the monies received towards net present value (NPV) and penal net present value in the state fund in a fiscal will be used for 12 activities for forest and wildlife management
  2. The activities include assisted natural regeneration, artificial regeneration (by plantations), silvicultural operations in forests, protection of plantations and forests, pest and disease control in forest and forest fire prevention and control operations
  3. They also include soil and moisture conservation in the forest, improvement of wildlife habitat, relocation of villages from protected areas, planting, and rejuvenation of forest cover on non-forest land falling in wildlife corridors, establishment, operation and maintenance of animal rescue center and veterinary treatment facilities for wild animals
  4. The remaining 20 percent of the NPV will be utilised for strengthening the forest and wildlife-related infrastructure, capacity building of the personnel of state forest departments and other associated agencies and organisations

Back2Basics

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016

  1. This act provides for setting up Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) at both central and state level to ensure expeditious and transparent utilization of amounts realized in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose
  2. The act seeks to establish the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state
  3. The payments into the funds include compensatory afforestation, NPV, and any project-specific payments
  4. NPV quantifies the services provided by the forest. It includes goods and services (tourism and timber); regulating services (climate change); and non-material benefits (recreation)
  5. Levies are imposed on development projects that seek land inside a Reserved Forest or a Protected Area (PA) in a sanctuary or a national park
  6. These collected levies are accrued in the CAMPA Funds which are to be utilized to plant trees elsewhere in order to ostensibly compensate the loss of forest due to development projects
  7. The National Fund will get 10% of funds collected and the remaining 90% will go to respective State Fund
  8. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 governs diversion or use of forest land for non-forest purposes such as industrial or developmental projects
Jan, 02, 2018

New endemic ants from the Andamans

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tetramorium krishnani, Tetramorium Jarawa, Havelock Island, X-ray micro CT technology

Mains level: Endemic richness across various parts of India


News

Two new ant species discovered

  1. Scientists have discovered two new ant species of the genus Tetramorium in the evergreen forests of the Andaman archipelago
  2. The new species Tetramorium krishnani and Tetramorium Jarawa were discovered during a detailed island-wide survey of Havelock Island, a part of the Andaman archipelago
  3. The species are named in honor of late scientist K.S. Krishnan of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), and after the Jarawas, an indigenous people of the islands, who are thought to have inhabited the islands for at least several thousand years

About the species

  1. The newly discovered ants dwell in leaf litter in the evergreen forests of Havelock Island and are endemic to the Andamans
  2. In total, the study recorded the presence of 50 ant species, many of which have been recorded for the first time

Unique method adopted in identification

  1. In a first for India, the team used a novel X-ray micro CT technology to build 3D models of the ant specimens to observe anatomical structures in detail for easier taxonomic identification of the species
  2. These 3D images can be mapped with the genetic profiles of species using the new technology to study the evolution of ant morphology
Jan, 02, 2018

Species we lost in 2017 and the ones that managed to hold on

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IUCN Red list, species mentioned

Mains level: Efforts by various national and international agencies to conserve endangered flora and fauna


News

Updated IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list

Extinct species

  1. Christmas Island Pipistrelle: This small bat found exclusively on Christmas Island, Australia was listed as critically endangered last year. Predation, loss of habitat, and diseases were pointed out as causes for its extinction
  2. Christmas Island Whiptail-skink: Another species endemic to Christmas Island, this lizard went extinct this year. Non-native predators and insecticide poisoning drove it over the edge
  3. Christmas Island chained gekho: The species is listed as extinct in the wild, which means it is now found only in a captive breeding programme
  4. Gunthers Dwarf Burrowing skink: Though no record of the skink has been made for more than 125 years, this native of South Africa was officially confirmed to be extinct only this year

Critically endangered species

  1. Western Ringtail Possum: The number of this species has declined by almost 80 percent in the past 10 years. Australia’s increasingly dry and hot climate has led to its dramatic decline
  2. Yellow-breasted Bunting: Loss of roosting site and use of pesticides are major causes of their its decline
  3. Plains Wanderer: Exposure to pesticides, habitat loss, predation by foxes have all affected the survival of this small quail-like bird
  4. Green Poison Frog, Perret’s Toad, and Rose’s Mountain Toad are also listed as critically endangered

Vulnerable species

  1. Snow Leopard: Setting up of protected areas, anti-poaching measures, vaccination have helped save the mountain species of Asia
  2. North Brown Kiwi & Okarito Kiwi: Conservation efforts by the Australian Government and captive breeding has aided the change in their status
  3. Ouvea Parakeet: Native to Ouvea Island of France, conservation efforts by local population has helped increase its population

Recovery of tortoise species

  1. The C. duncanensis which was termed ‘extinct in the wild’ last year has recovered fully-thanks to conservationists
  2. A native of the Pinzon Island in Equador, it faced constant trouble from non-native rats who feed on its eggs
  3. The tortoise is now downlisted as vulnerable

 

Dec, 29, 2017

[op-ed snap] Growing forests: on expanding good green cover

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, Paris Agreement on climate change, Sustainable Development Goals, Green India Mission

Mains level: Forest conservation efforts


Context

Centre is not ready with the CAMPA rules

  1. There was a disclosure in Parliament that the Centre is not ready with the rules to implement the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016 (Read the news here)
  2. It demonstrates that the government’s resolve to meet a variety of environmental objectives, including major commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals, remains woefully weak

CAMPA Act alone not sufficient

  1. Diversion of forests for non-forest use seems inevitable to some degree, and the accumulation of about ₹40,000 crore in compensatory funds clearly points to the significant annexation of important habitats
  2. It is debatable whether the Act, with the disbursal mechanism through national and State funds that it mandates, is a sound remedy for loss of rich forests that continue to occur because of developmental and biotic pressures

A scientific national plan essential

  1. The sequestration of carbon through sustainably managed forests is a key component of the commitment made under the Paris Agreement
  2. There is already a Green India Mission, which is distinct from the framework envisaged for compensatory afforestation
  3. The task is to make an assessment of suitable lands, preferably contiguous with protected areas that can be turned over for management to a joint apparatus consisting of forest department staff and scientific experts

Way forward

  1. Centre needs to enable independent audit of all connected programmes, in order to sensibly deploy the financial resources now available
  2. Some of the momenta for compensatory afforestation has come from judicial directives, but now that there is a new law in place, it should be given a foundation of rules that rest on scientific credibility
Dec, 27, 2017

₹40,000-cr. forest fund in limbo

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, CAMPA

Mains level: All particulars related to bill


News

Centre still to frame rules regarding CAMPA bill

  1. Centre is still to frame rules to get the money disbursed from nearly ₹40,000 crore fund for regenerating forest land lost to industry
  2. Union government had brought in CAMPA law to allow the States to access this fund seamlessly

The CAMPA Bill

  1. The Supreme Court, in a 2009 order, had directed that an independent authority be charged with disbursing these funds
  2. This paved the way for the Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill envisaging the creation of a permanent Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)
  3. The Bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under each State

Apprehensions regarding provisions in bill

  1. The bill vested greater powers in the forest bureaucracy than on resident tribal people
  2. There would be possible violation of tribal rights
  3. Gram panchayats do not have the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown
  4. There were doubts whether it would lead to an ecologically sustainable replenishing of forests

Government assurance

  1. Government had promised that all these apprehensions would be addressed within the Rules of the Bill
Nov, 21, 2017

An app to get tiger numbers right

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: M-STRiPES, Hejje (Pugmark) app, Huli app, National Tiger estimates, Bandipur, Nagarahole

Mains level: Use of technology in forest wildlife conservation and monitoring


News

Field data collection for tiger enumeration to go digital

  1. In order to reduce human error and provide more reliable estimates, field data collection for tiger enumeration in the country is set to go digital
  2. In the forthcoming All-India Tiger Estimation, to be taken up in December-January, the authorities plan to eliminate the process of manual recording of signs of the carnivore and other habitat details

M-STRiPES to be used

  1. An app named M-STRiPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) developed by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun will be used for the first time
  2. Though the app has already been in place in some national parks, its usage and application has been made mandatory only now, for the fourth All-India Tiger Estimation
  3. With the availability of M-STRiPES, human error will be eliminated and the use of the app would ensure a more robust estimate

About the app

  1. It is a free app that will be made available to staff participating in the tiger census exercise, and they will feed in their observation during the carnivore sign survey and transect marking
  2. Details such as pellet density, vegetation status, and human disturbance, if any, will also be recorded

Not the first time that an app is being used

  1. Bandipur had Hejje or Pugmark, an Android-based app, while BRT started with Huli
  2. The GIS-based app will give real-time data on forest habitats besides providing live update of monitoring and patrolling activities

About National Tiger estimates

  1. The national tiger estimates are conducted once in four years, with the first conducted in 2006
  2. The last nationwide assessment, held in 2014, pegged the tiger figures across the country at 2,226
  3. Karnataka alone was home to 400 tigers, a bulk of them in Bandipur and Nagarahole
Nov, 10, 2017

Olive Ridleys keep date with Odisha

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Olive Ridley species

Mains level: Steps taken by the government


News

Oliver Ridleys are coming mating

  1. Olive Ridley turtles are coming to Gahirmatha beach in Odisha’s Kendrapara district for mating in large numbers
  2. Offshore congregation of Olive Ridley pairs has been observed along 8 km of the Habelighati shoreline
  3. The beach is known as world’s largest rookery of this endangered species

Steps taken by the government

  1. To ensure safe mating, day and night patrolling had been intensified so that fishing attempts could be checked
  2. Mechanised fishing spells the biggest trouble for turtles as they get entangled in the trawl net

Back2basics

Oliver Ridleys 

  1. The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, is a medium-sized species of sea turtle found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans
  2. They can also be found in warm waters of Atlantic ocean
  3. Olive ridley turtles are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas
  4. Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs
  5. They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers
  6. In the Indian Ocean, the majority of olive ridleys nest in two or three large groups near Gahirmatha in Odisha
  7. 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
  8. In 1991, over 600,000 turtles nested along the coast of Odisha in one week. Nesting occurs elsewhere along the Coromandel Coast and Sri Lanka, but in scattered locations
  9. However, olive ridleys are considered a rarity in most areas of the Indian Ocean
Nov, 08, 2017

Andaman’s new taste is sweet-and-sour

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biodiversity hotspot, Musa paramjitiana, Botanical Survey of India (BSI),

Mains level: Biodiversity hotspots and their conservation


News

Edible wild banana species discovered

  1. A new species of wild bananas have been discovered in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (the islands are a biodiversity hotspot)
  2. The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, six kilometers from any human habitation
  3. The latest discovery, published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, is a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana
  4. This is in honor of Paramjit Singh, who happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI)

About the plant

  1. The plant grows to a height of nine meters
  2. It bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds
  3. The fruits and seeds have ethnomedicinal importance. Pseudo-stem and leaves of these species are also used during religious and cultural ceremonies
  4. Its conservation status has been declared as ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump

Second such discovery

  1. In 2014, first such species was discovered, named Musa indandamanensis , another wild banana, in a remote tropical rainforest on the Little Andaman island
  2. It has dark green cylindrical flower buds
Oct, 09, 2017

Odisha hikes compensation for deaths caused by wild animals

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Important step taken by the state government. Odisha has many critical Biodiversity areas. The man-animal conflicts is one of the reasons behind decreasing population of critical wild animals. The step will help to counter this issue.


News

Increase in compensation by Odisha Government

  1. The State government has decided to increase the ex-gratia compensation for human deaths caused by wild animals to Rs. 4 lakh from the existing Rs. 3 lakh
  2. ‘Ex gratia’ means ‘done from a sense of moral obligation rather than because of any legal requirement’
  3. Why: Because the man-animal conflict is on rise in Odisha

The reasons behind Man-Animal conflicts

  1. According to the State Forest and Environment Department, increasing biotic and anthropogenic pressure on forests are affecting the biodiversity and the habitat as a whole
  2. As a result animals stray out of the forest towards human habitation in search of food, water or use these areas as routes to access other wilderness area to meet their ends
Oct, 06, 2017

Ganga Mission plans turtle sanctuary in Allahabad

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Remember the endangered species mentioned in the article

Mains level: Important step taken by the government to protect endangered species. One of its kind project in the recent times.


News

Turtle sanctuary in Allahabad

  1. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) will establish a turtle sanctuary in Allahabad
  2. The step can be seen as part of efforts to protect the rich aquatic biodiversity of river Ganga from “escalating anthropogenic pressures”
  3. The government had also planned such a sanctuary in Varanasi in 1989 under the Ganga Action Plan-I
  4. However, its future hangs in the balance as the Uttar Pradesh government and the Union Environment Ministry are considering de-notifying it over construction activities along the bank

Particulars of the project

  1. The project at an estimated cost Rs. 1.34 crore would contribute to the sustenance of more than 2,000 aquatic species, including threatened gharials, dolphins and turtles in the Ganga

Why is Allahabad important for aquatic biodiversity conservation?

  1. The Ganga and Yamuna at Allahabad are home to some of the most endangered fauna like turtles
  2. And the National Aquatic Animal — Gangetic dolphin, the Gharial and numerous migratory and resident birds
Sep, 09, 2017

Terms of co-existence

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Parks with with large Elephant population

Mains level: ‘Conservation’ is specially mentioned in the Main Syllabus


News

New regional plan to curb human-elephant conflict

  1. The regional plan was recently inaugurated by the wildlife wardens of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
  2. It requires their departments to come together, for the first time, to resolve a problem
  3. These five states have about 10 per cent of the country’s elephant population but account for over 50 per cent of deaths due to human-elephant conflict

Reason behind this conflict

  1. Elephants, like tigers, are among the flagship species of conservation
  2. But unlike tigers, the bulk of whose territories falls within protected areas, only about 20 per cent of the elephant’s range lies in national parks and sanctuaries
  3. With forests thinning out, elephants in most parts of the country have dispersed into areas with high density of human population
  4. This migration has meant that humans and elephants compete for the same resources

New Plan

  1. The new plan divides elephant habitats into three zones:
    (1) Areas with forest cover sufficient enough to conserve elephants
    (2) habitats where humans and animals will co-exist
    (3) elephant removal zones” in agricultural areas
  2.  In the agricultural areas, the plan envisages capturing the animals and removing them to other forest areas
  3. And if that fails, keeping some of the animals in captivity
Oct, 12, 2016

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
Oct, 12, 2016

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
Oct, 04, 2016

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)

Sep, 27, 2016

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
Sep, 20, 2016

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
Sep, 20, 2016

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]

Sep, 09, 2016

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
Sep, 07, 2016

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
Sep, 07, 2016

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
Aug, 25, 2016

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
Aug, 23, 2016

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
Jun, 21, 2016

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
Jun, 21, 2016

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
Jun, 21, 2016

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
Jun, 20, 2016

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
Apr, 20, 2016

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
Apr, 14, 2016

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
Apr, 05, 2016

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
Mar, 08, 2016

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
Mar, 04, 2016

3rd March observed as World Wildlife Day

24808397191_dc700416a9_z


  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
Feb, 05, 2016

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
Jan, 23, 2016

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.
Jan, 01, 2016

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.
Dec, 23, 2015

U.S. places Indian Lion in endangered species list

Oct, 13, 2015

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.
Oct, 10, 2015

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

Sep, 04, 2015

New hope for Wayanad’s vultures

Aug, 10, 2015

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.

 

Aug, 08, 2015

Mumbai gets a flamingo sanctuary

Aug, 07, 2015

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

Apr, 17, 2015

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.
Mar, 31, 2015

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.
Mar, 17, 2015

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

Feb, 02, 2015

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.
Feb, 02, 2015

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.
  • Subscribe

    Do not miss important study material

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
Notify of