Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Himalayan Brown Bear

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Brown Bear

Mains level : Not Much

A recent study has predicted massive habitat decline for the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) by 2050 due to climate change.

Try this PYQ:

Q. The Himalayan Range is very rich in species diversity. Which one among the following is the most appropriate reason for this phenomenon?

(a) It has a high rainfall that supports luxuriant vegetative growth.

(b) It is a confluence of different bio-geographical zones.

(c) Exotic and invasive species have not been invasive species have not been introduced in this region.

(d) It has less human interference.

Himalayan Brown Bear

  • The Himalayan brown bear is one of the largest carnivores in the highlands of Himalayas.
  • It occupies the higher reaches of the Himalayas in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan and India, in small and isolated populations, and is extremely rare in many of its ranges.
  • While the brown bear as a species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, this subspecies is highly endangered and populations are dwindling.
  • It is ‘Endangered’ in the Himalayas and Critically Endangered in the Hindu Kush.

What did the study say?

  • The study carried out in the western Himalayas by scientists of Zoological Survey of India, predicted a massive decline of about 73% of the bear’s habitat by the year 2050.
  • These losses in habitat will also result in loss of habitat from 13 protected areas (PAs), and eight of them will become completely uninhabitable by the year 2050, followed by loss of connectivity in the majority of PAs.
  • The study highlights for the need to adopt preemptive spatial planning of PAs in the Himalayan region for the long-term viability of the species.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vultures

Mains level : Not Much

Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre each, according to the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025.

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation

  • The action plan was approved by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) October 5, 2020. An earlier one was formulated in 2006 for three years.
  • The new plan has laid out strategies and actions to stem the decline in vulture population, especially of the three Gyps species:
  1. Oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
  2. Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
  3. Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus)

Note: These three vulture species were listed by  IUCN, in 2000 as ‘Critically  Endangered’,  which is the highest category of endangerment.

  • This would be done through both ex-situ and in-situ conservation.
  • The plan has also suggested that new veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) be tested on vultures before their commercial release. NSAIDS often poisons cattle whose carcasses the birds pray on.

Highlights of the new plan

  • A system to automatically remove a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be toxic to vultures, with the help of the Drugs Controller General of India.
  • Conservation breeding of red-Headed vultures and Egyptian vultures and the establishment at least one vulture-safe zone in each state for the conservation of the remnant populations in that state.
  • Coordinated nation-wide vulture counting, involving forest departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, research institutes, non-profits and members of the public.
  • A database on emerging threats to vulture conservation, including collision and electrocution, unintentional poisoning, etc.

Why protect vultures?

  • Vultures are often overlooked and perceived as lowly scavengers, but they play a crucial role in the environments in which they live.
  • The scavenging lifestyle that gives them a bad reputation is, in fact, that makes them so important for the environment, nature and society.
  • Vultures, also known as nature’s cleanup crew, do the dirty work of cleaning up after death, helping to keep ecosystems healthy as they act as natural carcass recyclers.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Lion-tailed Macaque

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shravathi river, Macaque

Mains level : Not Much

The Union government allowed a geotechnical investigation that involved drilling of 12 boreholes inside Sharavathi Valley Lion-tailed Macaque Sanctuary in the Western Ghats in Karnataka.

Try this PYQ:

Which one of the following groups of animals belongs to the category of endangered species?

(a) Great Indian Bustard, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Asiatic Wild Ass

(b) Kashmir Stag, Cheetah, Blue Bull, Great Indian Bustard.

(c) Snow Leopard, Swamp Deer, Rhesus Monkey, Saras (Crane)

(d) Lion Tailed Macaque, Blue Bull, Hanuman Langur, Cheetah

About Lion-tailed Macaque

  • Endemic to rainforests of the Western Ghats, the Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca Silenus) is an Endangered species, according to IUCN assessment.
  • It is listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
  • It is a Schedule 1 species under WPA, 1972 and thereby, accorded the highest protection under the Indian law.
  • Their total (global) population is 2,500 mature individuals.

Why in news?

  • Sharavathi is likely one of the most exploited rivers.
  • It flows for mere 132 km, but four major power projects on it produce 40 per cent of all hydroelectric power in Karnataka.
  • Yet, in an attempt to squeeze more power from the river flowing through the Western Ghats, a new pumped hydro-storage project has been proposed.
  • This will only intensify the cumulative adverse impact of previous projects on the biodiversity of the Sharavathi valley.
  • In particular, the impacts on the iconic Lion-tailed Macaque are likely to be huge.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

3 contenders for National Butterfly Status

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National butterflies

Mains level : Not Much

A citizen poll to identify the national butterfly concluded with three species garnering the highest number of votes.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are-
(a) Birds
(b) Primates
(c) Reptiles
(d) Amphibians

Which are the three species?

(1) Indian Jezebel

  • Blessed with a vibrant colour pattern, including vermilion (Haldi – kumkum), the Indian Jezebel (or Common Jezebel) is known to deter its predators with its flashy wing colours.
  • Regarded as soldiers of farmers, they also prey on parasites that infest fruit-bearing plants.
  • Widely distributed, the species can be spotted in gardens and other lightly wooded areas.

(2) Krishna Peacock

  • It is a flagship species for biodiversity and conservation, generally found in large numbers in the Himalayas.
  • Possessing a peculiarly large swallowtail, its iridescent green scales diffract light to coat itself in radiance.

(3) Orange Oakleaf

  • It is commonly known as ‘dead leaf’ for its ability to camouflage as a dry autumn leaf while striking a stationary pose with its wings closed.
  • The masquerade enables the species to prevent it from being devoured by birds in the moist forests of the northern Western Ghats, central, northern and northeastern parts of India where they are generally found.
  • Besides, the Oakleaf is also known to exhibit polyphenism as it assumes specific colour and size during dry and wet seasons.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Wildlife Week

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wildlife week

Mains level : Conservation of wildlife

Celebrating Wildlife Week

  • Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in India between October 1 and 8.
  • The annual theme of the campaign is to promote the preservation of fauna – i.e. animal life.
  • Wildlife Week was conceptualized in 1952 with the overall goal of raising awareness to serve the long-term goal of safeguarding the lives of wildlife through critical action.
  • In addition, the Indian Government established an Indian Board of Wild Life which works to improve awareness towards the preservation of wildlife.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Global Biodiversity Outlook-5 Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Biodiversity Outlook, CBD

Mains level : Biodiversity and its governance

The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) 5 report was leaked before its official release. Let’s look at the highlights of the report.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Terms sometimes seen in the news- Their origin

  1. Annex-I Countries- Cartagena Protocol
  2. Certified Emissions- Nagoya Protocol Reductions
  3. Clean Development- Kyoto Protocol Mechanism

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

About GBO report

  • The GBO is the flagship publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • It is a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on the status and trends of biodiversity and draws conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention.
  • It summarizes progress made towards achieving the objectives of the Convention, such as the Aichi Targets and identifies key actions to achieve these.

Highlights of the Report

  • GBO-5 is an overview of the state of nature. It is a final report card on the progress made by countries in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • What the world needed was a shift from business-as-usual, the report said. This transformation needed to take place in all human activities that were interlinked with natural resources.
  • This shift was crucial, the report added as natural resources would continue to decline and the world would not be able to meet the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The GBO-5 suggested some shifts that need to be implemented to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. These include:
  1. Transition within land and forests: The report called the restoration of all forests that had been degraded. It also urged restoring local ecosystems.
  2. Sustainable agriculture: Farmers would have to reduce the use of chemicals and instead focus more on agroecological farming practices, the report said.
  3. Sustainable food systems: The report urged people to eat healthier, plant-based food and less meat. It also called for a focus on the problem of food wastage within the supply chain and household.
  4. Climate action: The report called for nature-based solutions to reduce climate change
  5. One health: Agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as wildlife, should be managed in an integrated manner, it said.

Failure to meet the targets

None of the 20 ‘Aichi Biodiversity Targets’ agreed on by national governments through the CBD has been met, according to the report. The world was supposed to meet these targets by 2020. Whatever little progress has been made, has to do with the following:

  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 (Creating awareness about the value of biodiversity)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, to be effectively and equitably managed)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 16 (Access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 17 (Creation, adoption and implementation of an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan)
  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 19 (Improvement and dissemination of knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity).

Back2Basics: Convention on Biological Diversity

  • The CBD, known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty.
  • The Convention has three main goals including the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
  • It has two supplementary agreements:
  1. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety- An international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another
  2. Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS)
  • All UN member states—with the exception of the United States—have ratified the treaty.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

What is Project Dolphin?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project Dolphin

Mains level : NA

In his Independence Day Speech this year, PM has announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin. The proposed project is aimed at saving both river and marine dolphins.

Project Dolphin

  • The Project will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.
  • So far, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which implements the government’s flagship scheme Namami Gange, has been taking some initiatives for saving dolphins.
  • Now, Project Dolphin is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

About Gangetic Dolphin

  • The Gangetic river system is home to a vast variety of aquatic life, including the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
  • It is one of five species of river dolphin found around the world.
  • It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems.
  • An adult dolphin could weigh between 70 kg and 90 kg. The breeding season of the Gangetic dolphin extends from January to June.
  • They feed on several species of fishes, invertebrates etc.

Why is it important to save dolphins?

  • The construction of dams and barrages and increasing pollution has led to a decline in the population of aquatic animals in the rivers in general and of dolphins in particular.
  • Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems.
  • As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure

Aquatic life as an indicator of the health of a river system

  • Globally, there have been such examples. For instance, the Rhine Action Plan (1987) of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) brought back the salmon.
  • The return of the migratory fish is taken as an indicator of the river’s improved health.
  • Salmon used to migrate from the North Sea to the Rhine every year and reproduce, but this stopped when pollution increased in the river.
  • After a chemical accident in 1986 that caused the death of fish and microorganisms, the Action Plan was launched.
  • This led to an improvement in the quality of the river water, and the salmons began to return.

What has been done to save Gangetic dolphins so far?

  • Although efforts to save them were started in the mid-1980s, the estimates suggest the numbers have not risen as a result.
  • The Gangetic dolphin remains listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
  • After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government on November 24, 1986, included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972.
  • This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.

Conservation so far

  • The government has prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020.
  • It identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
  • On October 5, 2009, the then PM declared the Gangetic river dolphin as the national aquatic animal.
  • A notification was issued by the MoEFCC the following year. Now, the National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Barn Owl

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Barn Owl

Mains level : Not Much

With a thriving rat population playing havoc with its coconut yield, the UT of Lakshadweep hires barn owls for help.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The Red Data Books published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) contains lists of:

  1. Endemic plant and animal species present in the biodiversity hotspots.
  2. Threatened plant and animal species.
  3. Protected sites for conservation of nature and natural resources in various countries.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 3

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 3 only

Barn Owl

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The barn owl is the most widely distributed species of owl in the world and one of the most widespread of all species of birds.
  • It is found almost everywhere in the world except for the polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia, and some Pacific islands.

What is Barn?

  • A barn is an agricultural building usually on farms and used for various purposes.
  • It refers to structures that house livestock, including cattle and horses, as well as equipment and fodder, and often grain.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Gorumara National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Bison, Gorumara NP

Mains level : NA

A bison (Indian Gaur) was allegedly poached in Gorumara National Park.

Try this PYQ:

Which one of the following National Parks lies completely in the temperate alpine zone?(CSP 2019)

(a) Manas National Park

(b) Namdapha National Park

(c) Neora Valley National Park

(d) Valley of Flowers National Park

Gorumara NP

  • It is located in the Eastern Himalayas’ submontane Terai belt.
  • This region has rolling forests and riverine grasslands, and is known as the Dooars in West Bengal.
  • The park is located on the flood plains of the Murti River and Raidak River. The major river of the park is the Jaldhaka river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra river system.
  • In this regard, Gorumara is a significant watershed area between the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems.
  • The park is rich in large herbivores including Indian rhinoceros, gaur, Asian elephant, sloth bear, chital, and sambar deer. Small herbivores include barking deer, hog deer and wild boar.

About Gaur

  • The Gaur called the Indian bison, is native to South and Southeast Asia and has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986.
  • It is the largest species among the wild cattle.
  • The domesticated form of the gaur is called gayal (Bos frontalis) or mithun.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Great Indian Hornbill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hornbill

Mains level : NA

A study based on satellite data has flagged a high rate of deforestation in a major hornbill habitat in Arunachal Pradesh.

Try this PYQ:

Q. In which of the following regions of India are you most likely to come across the ‘Great Indian Hornbill’ in its natural habitat? (CSP 2016)

(a) Sand deserts of northwest India

(b) Higher Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir

(c) Salt marshes of western Gujarat

(d) Western Ghats

About Great Indian Hornbill

IUCN status: Vulnerable (uplisted from Near Threatened in 2018), CITES: Appendix I

  • The great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) also known as the great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family.
  • The great hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity.
  • It is predominantly fruit-eating, but is an opportunist and preys on small mammals, reptiles and birds.
  • Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals.
  • A large majority of their population is found in India with a significant proportion in the Western Ghats and the Nilgiris.
  • The nesting grounds of the birds in the Nilgiris North Eastern Range are also believed to support some of their highest densities.

Their ecological significance

  • Referred to as ‘forest engineers’ or ‘farmers of the forest’ for playing a key role in dispersing seeds of tropical trees, hornbills indicate the prosperity and balance of the forest they build nests in.

Threats

  • Hornbills used to be hunted for their casques — upper beak — and feathers for adorning headgear despite being cultural symbols of some ethnic communities in the northeast, specifically the Nyishi of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Illegal logging has led to fewer tall trees where the bird’s nest.

Back2Basics: Hornbill Festival

  • The Hornbill Festival is a celebration held every year from 1 – 10 December, in Kohima, Nagaland.
  • The festival was first held in the year 2000.
  • It is named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes.
  • Festival highlights include the traditional Naga Morungs exhibition and the sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, herbal medicine stalls, flower shows and sales, cultural medley – songs and dances, fashion shows etc.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian Peafowl

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Peafowl

Mains level : Wildlife conservation and various policy efforts

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the D2E.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is the national aquatic animal of India? (CSP 2015)

(a) Saltwater crocodile

(b) Olive ridley turtle

(c) Gangetic dolphin

(d) Gharial

Indian Peafowl

  • The Indian peafowl is a native of India and some parts of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • The Arakan hills prevented their spread further east while the Himalayas and the Karakoram did so northwards.
  • As our national bird, the peacock has the utmost level of legal protection.

Peacock vs. Peafowl

  • Only the males of the species are peacocks.
  • The females are properly called peahens, while young birds less than a year old are known as peachicks.
  • Collectively they are known as peafowl, regardless of age or gender.
  • Peacocks are male Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) belonging to the Phasianidae family

Various protections

  • It comes under Section 51 (1-A) of Schedule I of the Wild (Life) (Protection) Act, 1972, with imprisonment that may be extended up to seven years, along with a fine that shall not be less than Rs 10,000.
  • Since 2014, Indian Peafowl has been protected under Appendix III of the CITES.
  • They are listed under the ‘Least Concern’ (LC) category of the IUCN Red Data List.

Threats

  • Despite this, these birds experienced dwindling populations for many decades due to habitat loss, poaching and contamination of their food sources.
  • In 1991, the peafowl population census conducted by the WWF  revealed that 50 per cent of the species had declined, compared to their number at the time of independence.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Dhole

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dhole and thier significance

Mains level : Wildlife conservation and various policy efforts

Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh rank high in the conservation of dhole in India, according to a new study.

Dhole

  • The dhole is a canid native to Central, South, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.
  • India perhaps supports the largest number of dholes, with key populations found in three landscapes — Western Ghats, Central India and Northeast India.
  • It is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
  • It is listed as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN as populations are decreasing and are estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults.
  • Factors contributing to this decline include habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic dogs.

Their significance

  • Dholes play an important role as apex predators in forest ecosystems.
  • Besides the tiger, the dhole is the only large carnivore in India that is under IUCN’s ‘endangered’ category.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Hoolock Gibbons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hoolock Gibbons

Mains level : Wildlife conservation and various policy efforts

Hoolock Gibbons, the only species of apes found in India, are threatened with extinction in the Ukhrul and Kamjong districts of Manipur, a report has claimed.

Try this PYQ from CSP2013:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Protected area:: Well-known for

  1. Bhitarkanika, Orissa:: Salt Water Crocodile
  2. Desert National Park, Rajasthan:: Great Indian Bustard
  3. Eravikulam, Kerala:: Hoolock Gibbon

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Hoolock Gibbons

  • The two districts used to be covered with dense, tropical rainforests, which provided ideal tree canopies for the arboreal, brachiating ape species.
  • Rampant deforestation for timber, forest fires and indiscriminate hunting had led to the decline in their population.
  • Without the tree canopies, the gibbons cannot swing from branch to branch and stake out their territories.
  • They also cannot adapt to living on the ground and cannot bear the high temperatures brought about by the loss of green cover.

Conservation status (a/c to WWF India)

  • The gibbon has a much wider range, as it is found in all the states of the north-east, restricted between the south of the Brahmaputra River and east of the Dibang River.
  • Outside India, it is found in eastern Bangladesh and north-west Myanmar.
  • The eastern hoolock gibbon inhabits specific pockets of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India, and southern China and north-east Myanmar.
  • Of the two, the western hoolock is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Redlist, while the eastern hoolock is listed as Vulnerable.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Bats and their Ecological Significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bats and thier natural role

Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention

The COVID pandemic has magnified our fear of bats, but their conservation is crucial to prevent such events from arising again.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2014:

Q.Consider the following:

  1. Bats
  2. Bears
  3. Rodents

The phenomenon of hibernation can be observed in which of the above kinds of animals?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) Hibernation cannot be observed in any of the above

Bats

  • Bats are the largest mammalian group after rodents, with over 1,300 species making up a quarter of all mammals.
  • They occur on all continents except Antarctica and are particularly diverse in South Asia, with 114 species of insect-eating bats and 14 fruit bats, also known as “flying foxes”, occurring in India.
  • They roost in large colonies on trees, tree hollows, caves, rock crevices and abandoned manmade structures.
  • They play a unique role in maintaining ecosystem structure, making a singular contribution to our food production, economy and well-being.
  • They are the only mammals capable of true flight and have a unique sonar-based echolocation mechanism to capture prey at night.

Their significance

1) Seed dispersal

  • About 29 per cent of all bats depend upon plants for food.
  • The diet of fruit-eating bats consists largely of flowers and fruits such as mangoes, bananas, guavas, custard apples, figs, tamarind and many species of forest trees.
  • Therefore, bats play a vital role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration. Studies have shown that seedlings raised from bat dispersed seeds show higher germination and vigorous growth.

2) Pollination

  • Studies have found that bats play a vital role in pollination, mainly of large-flowered plants, and in crop protection.
  • Fruit bats (Megachiroptera) being large, require big flowers with copious amounts of nectar.
  • Bats are major pollinators for many species of mangroves which are important for coastal ecosystems and local livelihoods.

3) Production boost

  • Insects are a major problem for agriculture, destroying up to 26 per cent of the annual production of crops worldwide every year, roughly amounting to $470 billion.
  • Insectivorous bats, which make up 70 per cent of all bat species, are voracious predators of nocturnal insects and crop pests.
  • Some large insectivorous bats are also reported to feed on small rodents. Thus they contribute directly to enhancing the crop productivity with tremendous economic impact.

4) Soil fertility

  • Bats contribute significantly to soil fertility and nutrient distribution due to their large numbers, high mobility and varied habitats for roosting and foraging.
  • Bat droppings provide organic input to soil and facilitate nutrient transfer, contributing to soil fertility and agricultural productivity. The practice is harmless vis-a-vis human health.

5) Health benefits

  • Several species of bats, in fact, contribute to human health by reducing populations of mosquitoes and other insect vectors that spread malaria, dengue, chikungunya and other diseases.
  • It is reported that a small bat may feed on almost 5,000 mosquitoes each and every feeding night far more than other measures adopted to eliminate them.

Their conservation

  • According to the IUCN, about 5 per cent of bats are categorised as endangered and another 11 per cent are data deficient.
  • Further, some species of fruit bats are categorised under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1973, along with other vermin species like rats, making it difficult to legally conserve them.

Conclusion

  • The pandemic has demonstrated that conservation of biodiversity and natural habitats is absolutely essential to prevent such events from arising again.
  • Understanding the role played by bats helps us appreciate how their absence can greatly affect all facets of our lives.
  • Viruses don’t jump directly from bats or other animals to humans.
  • Rather, illicit trade in wildlife, high levels of hunting for the consumption of wild meat, and destruction of natural habitats are responsible for this.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaziranga NP

Mains level : Floods in India

As a fresh wave of floods ravages Assam, killing, 85 per cent of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) remains submerged.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Asiatic lion is naturally found in India only.
  2. Double-humped camel is naturally found in India only.
  3. One-horned rhinoceros is naturally found in India only.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve

  • The KNTPR is a national park in the Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam.
  • The sanctuary, which hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses, is a World Heritage Site.
  • Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 (now the highest tiger density is in Orang National Park, Assam).
  • The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
  • It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species.

Significance of floods in Kaziranga’s ecosystem

  • The entire area of Kaziranga — formed by alluvial deposits from the Brahmaputra and its tributaries — is centred on the river.
  • There is a consensus that floods are necessary for Kaziranga by virtue of it being riverine ecosystem.
  • The regenerative nature of floods helps replenish Kaziranga’s water bodies and maintain its landscape, a mix of wetlands, grasslands and semi-evergreen deciduous forests.
  • The floodwaters also function as a breeding ground for fish.
  • The same fish are carried away by the receding waters into the Brahmaputra — in a way, the park replenishes the river’s stock of fish too.
  • The waters also help get rid of unwanted plants such as water hyacinth which collect in huge masses in the landscape.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ESZs and its regulation

Mains level : Significance of ESZ

The Environment Ministry has approved the Zonal Master Plan (ZMP) for the Bhagirathi Eco-Sensitive Zone.

Note the following things with respect to the ESZs:

1) Its demarcation

2) Law/Regulation providing it

3) Boundary restrictions

Bhagirathi ESZ

It covers a watershed of about  100 kilometres stretch of the river  Bhagirathi from Gaumukh to Uttarakashi covering an area of  4179.59 square km.

What are the Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • 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.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

How are they demarcated?

  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones (NDZs).

Defining its boundaries

  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.
  • Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.
  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Pied Cuckoo

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Migration of Pied Cuckoo and its association with Indian monsoon onset

Mains level : NA

A new project by a number of agencies is using advancements in nanotechnology to study migratory patterns of the Pied Cuckoo.

This specie carries an unusual importance compared to other IUCN species. Go through this newscard to read more about it.

Pied Cuckoo

  • There are basically three subspecies of the Pied Cuckoo of which one is resident in Africa while another is resident in South.
  • The third is a migrant moving between India and Africa.
  • The Pied Cuckoo is famous in North Indian folklore as ‘chatak’, a bird that quenches its thirst only with raindrops.
  • From Southern Africa, it comes to the Himalayan foothills stretching from Jammu to Assam to breed every year. The birds come to the same localities every year.
  • It is also a brood parasite in that it does not make its own nest and instead lays its egg in the nest of other birds, particularly the Jungle Babbler.

About the Study

  • The project is a joint effort by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), which comes under the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO.
  • The Pied Cuckoo migration study is part of a larger project — Indian Bioresource Information portal (IBIN) funded by the Department of Biotechnology under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • It aims to deliver relevant bioresources (plant, animal and other biological organisms) information of India through a web portal.
  • The project aims to assess the likely impacts of projected climate change on the potential distribution of Pied Cuckoo in the altered climate change scenarios.

Why study Pied Cuckoo?

  • It is closely linked with the arrival of the south-west monsoon in India.
  • It moves to India during the summer.
  • Being a small, terrestrial bird, a sea crossing holds a lot of risk for this cuckoo.
  • Before it migrates back to its home in the southern African region, by flying over the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, it must be stopping somewhere.
  • It is these stopovers that researchers want to find out about.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Dehing Patkai WLS to be upgraded into National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dehing Patkai WLS

Mains level : Wildlife conservation and various policy efforts

The Assam government has decided to upgrade Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a National Park.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Which one of the following National Parks lies completely in the temperate alpine zone?

(a) Manas National Park

(b) Namdapha National Park

(c) Neora Valley National Park

(d) Valley of Flowers National Park

Dehing Patkai WLS

  • Dehing Patkai WLS is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts of Assam and covers an area of 111.19 sq. km rainforest.
  • It is located in the Dehing Patkai landscape which is a dipterocarp-dominated lowland rainforest.
  • It spreads across the coal- and oil-rich districts of Upper Assam (Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar) and is believed to be the last remaining contiguous patch of lowland rainforest area in Assam.
  • The WLS due to their importance for elephant habitat was declared as Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant.
  • Post upgradation, Dehing Patkai will be the sixth national park in Assam — the other five being Kaziranga, Nameri, Manas, Orang and Dibru-Saikhowa.

Back2Basics:

[Prelims Spotlight] National Parks, Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries in India – Part 2

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Tillari Conservation Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Difference between Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves

Mains level : Wildlife conservation and various policy efforts

The Maharashtra state forest department on declared 29.53 sq. km area of Dodamarg forest range in Sindhudurg district as ‘Tillari Conservation Reserve’.

Note the differences between Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves. Their shuffled meanings can be asked directly in statements based MCQs.

Tillari Conservation Reserve

  • This area is known to serve as a corridor and even as a habitat for the population of tigers and elephants moving between the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • The 38-km-long Dodamarg wildlife corridor that connects Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka frequently witnesses elephant and tiger movement.
  • Tillari will be the seventh corridor in the state to be declared as a ‘conservation reserve’.

What are Conservation Reserves?

  • They denote protected areas which typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests.
  • Such areas are designated if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities if part of the lands is privately owned.
  • Administration of such reserves would be through local people and local agencies like the gram panchayat, as in the case of communal forests.

What are Community Reserves?

  • They are the first instances of private land being accorded protection under the legislature.
  • It opens up the possibility of communally owned for-profit wildlife resorts, and also causes privately held areas under non-profit organizations like land trusts to be given protection.
  • These protected area categories were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002 − the amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • These categories were added because of reduced protection in and around existing or proposed protected areas due to private ownership of land, and land use.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Central Zoo Authority (CZA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Central Zoo Authority (CZA)

Mains level : NA

The Environment Ministry has reconstituted the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to include an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, and a molecular biologist.

Note following things about CZA:

1)Its constitution under any Act

2)Composition

3)Roles and functions

About CZA

  • The CZA is the body of the government responsible for oversight of zoos constituted under the section 38A of Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.
  • The main objective of the authority is to complement the national effort in the conservation of wildlife.
  • Standards and norms for housing, upkeep, health care and overall management of animals in zoos have been laid down under the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992.

Roles & Functions

  • The Authority’s role is more of a facilitator than a regulator.
  • It, therefore, provides technical and financial assistance to such zoos which have the potential to attain the desired standard in animal management.
  • Primary function– grant of recognition and release of financial assistance.
  • It also regulates the exchange of animals of endangered category Listed under Schedule-I and II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act among zoos.
  • Exchange of animals between Indian and foreign zoos is also approved by the Authority before the requisite clearances under EXIM Policy and the CITES permits are issued by the competent authority.
  • The Authority also coordinates and implements programmes on capacity building of zoo personnel, planned breeding programmes and ex-situ research including biotechnological intervention for the conservation of species for complementing in-situ conservation efforts in the country.

Composition

  • Apart from the chairman, it consists of 10 members and a member-secretary.
  • Almost all of them are officials in the Environment Ministry and NGO experts are those who are wildlife conservationists or retired forest officers.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

New rules to regulate exotic animal trade

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CITES

Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention

The Environment Ministry’s wildlife division has introduced new rules to regulate the import and export of ‘exotic wildlife species’.

Practice questions for mains:

Q.What are Zoonotic Diseases? Discuss how the illicit trade in wildlife has resulted in the spread of zoonotic diseases of the scale of the ongoing COVID-19?

Which exotic species are these new regulations talking about?

  • The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is an organisation that is tasked with monitoring illegal trade.
  • The advisory says ‘exotic live species’ will cover animals under Appendices I, II and III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • It will not include species from the Schedules of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

What are the new rules?

  • Currently, it is the Directorate-General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce that oversees such trade.
  • Under the new rules, owners and possessors of such animals and birds must also register their stock with the Chief Wildlife Warden of their States.
  • Officials of the Wildlife Department will also prepare an inventory of such species and have the right to inspect the facilities of such traders to check if these plants and animals are being housed in inhumane conditions.
  • Additionally, stockists will have six months to declare their stock.

Why such a move?

  • The illegal trade is estimated to generate revenues of up to $23 billion a year, a/c to FATF.
  • India continues to battle wildlife crime, with reports suggesting that many times such species are available for trade on online market places.

Also read:

Guidelines for Import of Exotic Species


Back2Basics: CITES

  • CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • It is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
  • It was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
  • It entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
  • The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
  • India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.

CITES Appendices

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.

It has three appendices:

  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade-in specimens of these species are permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Jungle Fowl

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jungle Fowl

Mains level : NA

A recent study by scientists has revealed new details about the earliest domestication of chicken from the Jungle Fowl.

Try this question from CSP 2012:

Q.What is the difference between the antelopes’ Oryx and Chiru?

(a) Oryx is adapted to live in hot and arid areas like Africa and Arabia whereas Chiru is adapted to live in steppes and semi-desert areas of cold high mountains of Tibetan Plateau.

(b) Oryx is poached for its antlers whereas Chiru is poached for its musk

(c) Oryx exists in western India only whereas Chiru exists in northeast India only.

(d) None of the statements (a), (b) and (c) given above is correct.

Jungle Fowl

  • The DNA sequencing of 863 genomes has shown the first domestication of chicken occurred in southwestern China, northern Thailand and Myanmar.
  • The study involved sequencing of genomes from all four species of the genus Gallus, five subspecies of Red Jungle Fowl and various domestic chicken breeds collected worldwide.
  • It revealed single domestication from Red Jungle Fowl sub-species Gallus spadiceous.
  • The study also demonstrated that all five Red Jungle Fowl sub-species were genetically differentiated from each other approximately 50,000 years ago much earlier than domestication.
  • The results contradicted the earlier claim that chickens were domesticated in northern China and the Indus Valley.

Domestication of Chicken

  • The question of domestication of chickens has intrigued scientists for centuries and has been the subject of debate.
  • Charles Darwin postulated that chickens were domesticated around 4,000 B.C. from a single ancestor, Red Jungle Fowl in the Indus Valley.
  • An important study published earlier from Uppsala University claimed the Grey Jungle Fowl had contributed to chicken domestication.
  • With this, a couple of studies from India, China and other South-Asian countries have argued the monophyletic origin of chicken.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

“Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade” Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FATF

Mains level : Wildlife trade and its prevention

A first global report on the illegal wildlife trade has been recently published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Try this MCQ:

Q.The report “Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade”  recently seen in news is released by:

A. TRAFFIC/ B. CITES/ C. IUCN/ D. FATF

Highlights of the Report

  • FATF has described illegal wildlife trade as a “global threat”, which also has links with other organised crimes like modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade.
  • The illegal trade is estimated to generate revenues of up to $23 billion a year.
  • The report flagged a lack of focus on the financial aspects of wildlife crime.

(1)Economy of illicit wildlife trade

  • It said that criminals are frequently misusing the legitimate wildlife trade, as well as other import-export type businesses.
  • The FATF found that jurisdictions often did not have the required knowledge, legislative basis and resources to assess and combat the threat posed by the funds generated through the illegal trade.
  • The study has highlighted the growing role of online marketplaces and mobile and social media-based payments to facilitate the movement of proceeds warranting a coordinated response from government bodies, the private sector and the civil society.

(2)Money laundering is prominent

  • According to the report, criminal syndicates are misusing the formal financial sector to launder the proceeds.
  • Funds are laundered through cash deposits, under the guise of loans or payments, e-banking platforms, licensed money value transfer systems, and third-party wire transfers via banks.
  • Accounts of innocent victims are also used and high-value payments avoided evading detection.

(3)Misuse of front companies

  • Another common trend is the misuse of front companies with links to the legal wildlife trade, said the report.
  • Front companies, often linked to import-export industries, and shell firms are used for the movement of goods and trans-border money transfers.

Recommendations of the report

  • The report says the financial probe is the key to dismantling the syndicates involved, which can in turn significantly impact the associated criminal activities.
  • It recommended that jurisdictions should consider implementing good practices, as observed during the study.
  • They include providing all relevant agencies with the necessary mandate and tools; and cooperating with other jurisdictions, international bodies and the private sector.
  • The FATF said that legislative changes were necessary to increase the applicability of anti-money laundering laws to the illegal wildlife trade-linked offences.

Back2Basics

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Golden Langurs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Langur

Mains level : NA

Primatologists have observed that the Gee’s golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) induce stillbirth of babies killed inside the womb of females, besides practising infanticide.

Try this question from CSP 2013:

Q. In which of the following States is lion-tailed macaque found in its natural habitat?

  1. Tamil Nadu
  2. Kerala
  3. Karnataka
  4. Andhra Pradesh

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

a) 1, 2 and 3 only

b) 2 only

c) 1, 3 and 4 only

d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Golden Langurs

IUCN status: Endangered

  • It is an Old World monkey found in a small region of western Assam, and in the neighbouring foothills of the Black Mountains of Bhutan.
  • Long considered sacred by many Himalayan people, the golden langur was first brought to the attention of the western world by the naturalist E. P. Gee in the 1950s.
  • Their habitat lies in the region, south of the Brahmaputra River, on the east by the Manas River, on the west by the Sankosh River, all in Assam, India, and on the north by the Black Mountains of Bhutan
  • Chakrashila WLS in Assam is India’s first wildlife sanctuary with golden langur as the primary species.
  • They are listed in Appendix I of CITES and Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Horseshoe Crab

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Horseshoe Crab

Mains level : NA

Horseshoe crabs face an uncertain future in Odisha, their largest habitat in India, even as the world gets ready to celebrate the first-ever ‘International Horseshoe Crab Day’ on June 20, 2020.

Try this question from CSP 2012:

Q. Which one of the following groups of animals belongs to the category of endangered species?

(a) Great Indian Bustard, Musk Deer, Red Panda and Asiatic Wild Ass

(b) Kashmir Stag, Cheetal, Blue Bull and Great Indian Bustard

(c) Snow Leopard, Swamp Deer, Rhesus Monkey and Saras (Crane)

(d) Lion-tailed Macaque, Blue Bull, Hanuman Langur and Cheetal

Horseshoe Crabs

IUCN status: (Data insufficient for the Indian variant)

  • Horseshoe crabs are marine and brackish water arthropods. They are not true crabs, which are crustaceans.
  • The crabs are represented by four extant species in the world. Out of the four, two species are distributed along the northeast coast of India.
  • Only T gigas species of the horseshoe crab is found along Balasore coast of Odisha.
  • The crab was included on September 9, 2009, in the Schedule IV of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972, under which, the catching and killing of a horseshoe crab is an offence.

Their significance

  • The horseshoe crab is one of the oldest marine living fossils whose origin date back to 445 million years before the dinosaurs existed.
  • One of their ecological functions is to lay millions of eggs on beaches to feed shorebirds, fish and other wildlife.

Threats

  • Poachers kill them for their meat that is popularly believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • The blood of horseshoe crabs, which is blue in colour, is used for detection of bacterial endotoxins in medical applications.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Pangolin

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangolin

Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention

China accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the endangered mammal from its list of approved traditional medicines amid links between wild meat and the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What are Zoonotic Diseases? Discuss the hazards of importing zoonotic diseases through wildlife trade.

About Pangolin

IUCN status: Endangered

  • India is home to two species of pangolin.
  • While the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is found in northeastern India, the Indian Pangolin is distributed in other parts of the country as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • Both these species are protected and are listed under the Schedule I Part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Commonly known as ‘scaly anteaters’, the toothless animals are unique, a result of millions of years of evolution.
  • Pangolins evolved scales as a means of protection. When threatened by big carnivores like lions or tigers they usually curl into a ball.
  • The scales defend them against dental attacks from the predators.

Pangolin in China

  • Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.
  • Their scales which are made of keratin, the same protein present in human nails — are believed to improve lactation, promote blood circulation, and remove blood stasis.
  • These so-called health benefits are so far unproven.

What makes pangolins the most trafficked animals in the world?

  • Their alleged health benefits in traditional Chinese medicines prompted a booming illicit export of scales from Africa over the past decade.
  • Officials quote trafficking price of Pangolin and its scale anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 1 crore for a single animal.
  • Conservation of pangolins received its first shot in the arm when the 2017 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) enforced an international trade ban.

How will China’s decision impact pangolin trafficking?

  • The immediate impact would be pangolin scales losing their legitimacy in traditional Chinese medicines. However, the history of the ban on wildlife trade in China is not encouraging.
  • The continued availability of tiger bone wine — believed to cure a host of conditions ranging from dysentery to rheumatism — despite its ban on tiger products in 1993. The price of elephant ivory plummeted by two-thirds after China banned it.
  • India, where the trade largely remains local, has been registering a decline from before China’s ban.
  • The trade-in pangolin scales are already showing a decreasing trend in India and the only trade is the trade-in live animals by unorganised traders, who ask for a few crores for each live animal.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Guidelines for Import of Exotic Species

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CITES appendices

Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has issued an advisory saying people importing “exotic live species” will have to make a voluntary disclosure.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. What are Zoonotic Diseases? Discuss how the illicit trade in wildlife has resulted in the spread of zoonotic diseases of the scale of the ongoing COVID-19?

What is the new Advisory?

  • According to the advisory, the phrase “exotic live species” includes “animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora”.
  • It does not include species from the Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • This will create a process where all imports will be screened.
  • As of now, the imports are being made through the Director-General of Foreign Trade and State Forest departments are not kept in the loop.
  • For new “exotic live species”, the importer should obtain a no-objection certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the State.
  • For existing species, stocks shall be declared by the owner/ holder (stock, as on 1 January 2020) to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the concerned State or UT.

Why need such advisory?

  • Many exotic species of birds, reptiles and amphibians are imported into India for commercial purposes.
  • Some of the most sought after exotic species in India are Ball python, Scarlet Macaw, sea turtles, sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), marmoset and grey African parrots.
  • These imports were happening through the Director-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), but they were beyond the purview of the forest departments and the chief wildlife wardens weren’t aware of them.
  • Wildlife experts have long been asking for stringent laws and guidelines to document and regulate numbers of exotic species being kept as pets by individuals and breeders in India.

Significance

  • The move comes as the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised global concern about illegal wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases.
  • Often these species are illegally trafficked into the country to avoid lengthy documentation and scrutiny.

Issues with guidelines

  • Matters such as the spread of invasive species as well as zoonotic diseases had not been taken care of in the advisory.
  • There is a growing domestic trade in exotic species of wildlife that is unfortunately not listed under the various appendices of CITES (such as sugar gliders, corn snakes).
  • Hence limiting the scope of the latest advisory to only those species covered under CITES drastically limits the scope of the advisory itself.
  • It does not have the force of law and could potentially incentivize illegal trade by offering a long amnesty period.

Back2Basics: CITES

  • CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • It is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
  • It was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
  • It entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
  • The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
  • India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.

CITES Appendices

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.

It has three appendices:

  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade-in specimens of these species are permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian Gaur

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Gaur

Mains level : Not Much

The first population estimation exercise of the Indian gaur carried out in the Nilgiris Forest Division has revealed that more than an estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs inhabit the entire division.

Try this question from CSP 2012:

Q. Which one of the following groups of animals belongs to the category of endangered species?(2012)

(a) Great Indian Bustard, Musk Deer, Red Panda and Asiatic Wild Ass

(b) Kashmir Stag, Cheetal, Blue Bull and Great Indian Bustard

(c) Snow Leopard, Swamp Deer, Rhesus Monkey and Saras (Crane)

(d) Lion-tailed Macaque, Blue Bull, Hanuman Langur and Cheetal

Indian Gaur

  • The Indian Gaur also called the Indian bison is one of the largest extant bovines found in India.
  • It is native to South and Southeast Asia and has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986.
  • The global population has been estimated at maximum 21,000 mature individuals by 2016.
  • It declined by more than 70% during the last three generations, and is extinct in Sri Lanka and probably also in Bangladesh.
  • In Malaysia, it is called Seladang and Pyaung in Myanmar. The domesticated form of the gaur is called Gayal (Bos frontalis) or Mithun.
  • They are highly threatened by poaching for trade to supply international markets, but also by opportunistic hunting, and specific hunting for home consumption.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Asiatic Lion

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Poonam Awalokan

Mains level : Man-Animal conflict

Asiatic lions have now significantly risen in number at an estimated population of 674 in the Gir forest region of Gujarat. Unlike in previous years, this count was estimated not from a Census, but from a population “observation” exercise called Poonam Avlokan.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q. The term ‘M-STrIPES’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of

(a) Captive breeding of Wild Fauna

(b) Maintenance of Tiger Reserves

(c) Indigenous Satellite Navigation System

(d) Security of National Highways

Asiatic Lion

  • Indian Lion (Panthera Leo Persica) is listed as Endangered and exists as a single population in Gujarat.
  • It is one of five big cat species found in India and Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only habitat for Asiatic lions.
  • Historically, it inhabited much of Western Asia and the Middle East up to northern India.
  • On the IUCN Red List, it is listed under its former scientific name Panthera leo persica as Endangered because of its small population size and area of occupancy.
  • More than two dozen lions died last year in an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) and Babesiosis.

What is Poonam Avlokan?

It includes two methods:

  • Block counting method — in which census enumerators remain stationed at water points in a given block and estimate abundance of lions in that block, based on the direct sighting of lions who need to drink water at least once in 24 hours during the summer.
  • Other teams keep moving in their respective territories and make their estimates based on inputs provided by lion trackers and on chance sightings.

Back2Basics: Lion Census in India

  • The first Lion Census was conducted by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1936; since 1965, the Forest Department has been regularly conducting the Lion Census every five years.
  • The 6th, 8th and 11th Censuses were each delayed by a year, for various reasons.
  • This year it was postponed after the lockdown was announced.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Cruelty against Animals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Various Permissions

Mains level : Protection of Animals rights

The death of the elephant, nicknamed Saumya, in Kerala invited outrage from many sections of the society. The wild animal, which was pregnant with a calf, had eaten a pineapple stuffed with crackers. It had succumbed to its injuries standing in a river.

How prevalent is animal cruelty in India?

  • Acts of cruelty against animals is not a new occurrence. Mankind has been committing such horrendous acts since ancient times.
  • The issue intensified with the expansion of human settlement- increasingly eating into the homes, feeding grounds and traditional migration routes of these wild animals.
  • The increased pressure on the resources has led to competition between the species and humans have resorted to violence to claim a larger part of the pie.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, more than 24,000 cases of animal cruelty were reported under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
  • The recent incident involving the death of the pregnant elephant in Kerala is not the first of its kind. The practice of stuffing fruits with firecrackers is used to kill wild boars in Kerala and Maharashtra.
  • Farmers across India resort to brutal tactics to target wild animals that stray into their farmlands and poach their crops.
  • Electric fencing, snare traps, poisoned fruits, firecrackers, etc are some of the means adopted by these communities.
  • Such acts are not exclusive to the farming community and rural India. In recent years, numerous animals had to be rescued from private research labs.
  • There have been cases of langurs and stray dogs being killed using abrasive chemicals or poisons and dumped en mass.
  • Such cruel acts are mainly directed towards ‘marginal animals’ i.e. considered as alien, economically useless or vermin.
  • However, animal rights activists have been raising concern about the mistreatment of even economically significant animals like elephants at temples, safaris, etc. and horses at ceremonies.

Why is there violence against animals in India?

  • Violence against animals is considered ‘legal’ as long as it is directed against animals that are declared as ‘vermin’.
  • This can be understood in the context of the state of the agricultural community in India. Agricultural losses due to climate change and inefficient policies have been added to by invasion of wild animals. Many of these affected farmers are themselves marginal.
  • The cause of such violence is two-fold:
  1. Society has delegated the law for handling the ‘vermin category’ of animals to the farmers. They can ‘destroy’ these animals at free-will in whatever manner they see fit.
  2. Government policies have failed to address farmers’ distress. Agriculture has become unviable for many of these communities.
  • This culture of brutal treatment of animals is kept alive by the exclusion of those animals considered ‘vermin’ from the protection of the Indian Wildlife Act.
  • India has a large population of stray animals. These animals often get into conflict with the local population and end up facing violence from the people.
  • Religion and culture: The issue of animal rights in India is entangled with history, tradition and religion, making it difficult to draw a line of distinction. Eg: the efforts to ban Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu were met with large-scale resistance.
  • Lax regulation of animal testing for research- ranging from the current race to develop treatment for COVID-19 (when animal rights are bound to take a backseat) to cosmetic tests.
  • Animal cruelty is also a product of the commercialization of the general public’s fascination with wildlife and animals in general. Eg: abuse of elephants, horses etc. for joy-rides, safaris, circuses, etc.

What are the safeguards against animal cruelty in India?

  • Compassionate treatment of animals is one of the Fundamental Duties of citizens of India, according to Article 51A.
  • The Indian Penal Code has provisions for punishing acts like killing, maiming, poisoning etc. of animals that are valued at 10 INR or more under Section 428 and in case of such acts against animals valued at 50 INR and above, under Section 429.
  • In 2012, the centre asked life science institutes to adopt alternatives to animal dissection for teaching purposes.
  • In 2014, the University Grants Commission suspended animal dissection and experimentations in life science courses and the Medical Council of India amended regulations to bring in non-animal teaching methods for teaching subjects like pharmacology and physiology.
  • In 2015, India became the first country in South Asia to ban the use of animal testing for manufacturing cosmetics such as lipsticks, eye make-ups and even toothpastes.

Wildlife Protection Act

  • The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 is concerned not only about wildlife conservation but also covers the issue of animal cruelty to a certain extent. Teasing, disturbing and even feeding of animals in zoos is a punishable offence in India.
  • Such acts invite a 25,000 INR fine or a prison term of up to 3 years or both.
  • Section 9 of the WPA makes capturing, baiting, trapping or poisoning of wild animals and even attempting to do such acts punishable with 25,000 INR fine or a prison term of up to 7 years or both.
  • The Section recognizes disturbing/ destroying eggs and nests of birds and reptiles, cutting down of trees bearing such nests and even attempts to do so as ‘hunting’.
  • It is punishable with fines and a prison term of up to 7 years or both.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 is the most prominent animal cruelty prevention law in India.
  • Section 11 is its most significant part with respect to punishing animal cruelty.
  • The Section renders acts that cause unnecessary pain and sufferings- such as beating, torture, kicking, over-loading, over-riding, etc.- to any animals as punishable offences.
  • The Section makes abandoning any animal as an offence punishable with a prison term of up to 3 months.

Various rules have been put in place to safeguard animals from cruelty- such as:

  1. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Transport of Animal) Rules, 2001 makes transport of animals (especially in livestock sector) in a manner that causes them pain, suffering or discomfort a punishable offence.
  2. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001 prohibits the slaughtering of pregnant or sick animals. The animals cannot be slaughtered in any place other than a slaughterhouse. The rule applies even to the poultry industry.
  3. There are also specific rules for pet shops, dog breeding and marketing, animal birth control, etc.

Animal Welfare Board of India

  • The Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory body established in 1962 under the PCA Act, 1960 for the promotion of animal welfare in India.
  • It is an advisory body that functions under the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.

What are the shortcomings of these safeguards?

  • There is an issue of contradictory classification under the WPA of 1972 with respect to elephants. While the law protects these pachyderms as wildlife, administrative policies allow for a loophole in the form of ownership exception. The elephant is the only wild animal that can be owned in India.
  • These elephants that are held captive or are owned may be revered (such as in temples) but are subject to forced labor under inhumane conditions and torture. India has the highest number of captive elephants with the 2019 census estimating a whooping 2,675 elephants.
  • These captive elephants are of 3 categories:
  1. The smallest percentage is owned by the government through the zoos and forest departments
  2. The quickly disappearing section of elephants for entertainment purposes
  3. The largest percentage is under private ownership– especially under the custody of temples for various ceremonies and processions
  • This ‘artificial administrative dichotomy’ has inadvertently allowed for illegal capture of elephants from the wild- thus removing them from the protection of WPA and consequently exposing them to the risk of cruelty.
  • Apart from this, the insensitivity towards these owned elephants can be seen from the decision to transport elephants for the Jagannath Rath Yatra in 2019 from Assam to Gujarat- a journey of over 3,100 km in the midst of drought-like conditions and prevailing heatwave– via train that was not climate controlled.
  • The PCA Act is yet to undergo a significant amendment. The fines specified for conditions in the 1960s are still followed for penalizing offences in 2020.
  • There is a dearth of proportionality between the offences and penalty under the PCA Act.
  • The proportionality doctrine basically means that the punishment should fit the crime.
  • The proportionality in imposition of punishment should satisfy 2 purposes:
  1. Fairness towards the society
  2. Fairness towards the offender
  • Currently, the penalty can be as low as 50 INR and the prison term is dependent on the ‘monetary value’ of the victim animal. This is often criticized as ‘little more than a slap on the wrist’.
  • The lack of proportionality between the crime and punishment has failed to bring in the desired deterrence effect.
  • People continue to commit such violent act with impunity.
  • While animal cruelty prevention laws see better success in punishing poachers, tracing offenders who make use of snare traps and poisons to kill animals in agricultural fields is much more difficult- let alone their being brought to justice.
  • The role of the AWBI as an advisory body has limited its role in protection of animal welfare. This is evident from how the centre had shot down the AWBI’s attempts to get the Supreme Court to stay the government’s order allowing Jallikattu (against a previous SC directive banning the controversial bull-taming sport).
  • There is also the conflict between cultural rights and animal rights in India. The former often takes precedence as seen from the Jallikattu case.
  • Though the use of animal testing is banned in India for manufacturing cosmetics, the marketing of animal tested products that are manufactured abroad is yet to be banned.
  • The efforts to address animal cruelty is compounded by ‘speciesism’e. discrimination based on species.

What is the way forward?

  • Mass awareness and sensitization campaigns are needed to make the general public alert to the animal cruelty issue.
  • Though the Animal Welfare Movement in India is gaining currency with more animal enthusiasts stepping up to provide assistance to animals in need, efforts are still lacking.
  • Even the current uproar on social media is late in coming given that at least 25 elephants have died in the same manner in the same region since 1998. There is a need to carry the momentum to solid changes in the way we tackle the issue.
  • Farmers have been moving away from measures like electric fencing to more humane methods to protect their crops. Eg: Farmers in TN are making use of the Italian honey bee– a natural elephant deterrent.
  • The manner in which the states address the man-animal conflict in the forest fringes and other areas shared by people and animals must be tailored to address the local challenges.
  • There is a need for wide spread adoption of early warning systems to reduce man-animal conflict in the areas bordering forests inhabited by elephants and other wild animals.
  • The agriculture and forest departments must cooperate and share the burden of distribution of compensation for crop lost to raids by wild animals. The dispensation of this compensation must be speedy to reduce resentment.
  • Provision of sufficient financial assistance to initiatives like the Animal Birth Control Program of the AWBI that humanely address the issue of stray dog population.
  • The ABC program makes use of sterilization and vaccination rather than outright killing to control the issue of dog bites and the spread of diseases like rabies.
  • It is high time that the PCA Act is subject to amendments and the penalties must be made proportional to the crimes to have an actual deterrent effect.
  • Private owners of elephants must be held responsible for well-being of the animals. There must be accountability for mistreatment of these animals.
  • Nearly 19 million animals can be saved each year by adopting alternative teaching and training methods in UG and PG courses in life science.
  • Marketing and use of imported products developed by animal testing should be banned. Israel imposed such a ban in 2010 and the EU banned them in 2013. Its high time India follows suit.
  • Phasing out traditional animal testing has become easier with the increasing viability of techniques like computer modeling (in silico models), cell cultures (in vitro methods), lab on a chip, etc.

Conclusion

India is noted for its traditional worship of nature and wildlife and hence should be the last place on earth to have an issue like animal cruelty. It should be a mainstream issue- not something that is discussed only when another animal gets subjected to unimaginable cruelty and catches the social media’s attention. The level of our very civilization is reflected from how we treat our voiceless- a sentiment shared by Gandhi when he said ‘the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated’.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

In news: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Mains level : NA

The Oil India Ltd (OIL) leak in Assam has contaminated water bodies that flow into the Maguri Motapung Beel, a large wetland, and the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP).

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q. Which of the following are in Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve?

(a) Neyyar, Peppara and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

(b) Mudumalai, Sathyamangalam and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Silent Valley National Park

(c) Kaundinya, Gundla Brahme-swaram and Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Mukurthi National Park

(d) Kawal and Sri Venkateswara Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

About Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

  • DSNP is a national park in Assam located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.
  • It was designated a Biosphere Reserve in July 1997 with an area of 765 sq.km.
  • The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers in the north and Dibru river in the south.
  • It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, canebrakes and grasslands.
  • It is the largest Salix swamp forest in north-eastern India, with a tropical monsoon climate with a hot and wet summer and cool and usually dry winter.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Dugong

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dugong

Mains level : NA

The dugong, commonly known as the sea cow, is fighting for its survival in Indian waters experts have said on the eve of ‘World Dugong Day’ on May 28, 2020.

Try this question from CSP 2015:

Q) With reference to ‘dugong’, a mammal found in India, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1) It is a herbivorous marine animal.

2) It is found along the entire coast of India

3) It is given legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 3 only

Dugong

  • Dugongs are mammals, which means they give birth to live young and then produce milk and nurse them.
  • It is the flagship animal of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.
  • Once the female is pregnant, she will carry the unborn baby, called a foetus for 12-14 months before giving birth.
  • Female dugongs give birth underwater to a single calf at three to seven-year intervals.
  • Dugongs graze on seagrass, especially young shoots and roots in shallow coastal waters. They can consume up to 40 kilograms of seagrass in a day.
  • Dugongs are an IUCN Endangered marine species like sea turtles, seahorses, sea cucumbers and others.
  • They are protected in India under Schedule I of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972.

Threats to dugongs

  • Human activities such as the destruction and modification of habitat, pollution, rampant illegal fishing activities, vessel strikes, unsustainable hunting or poaching and unplanned tourism are the main threats to dugongs.
  • The loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling was the most important factor behind dwindling dugong populations in many parts of the world.

Why needs urgent attention?

  • There were just 250 dugongs in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat according to the 2013 survey report of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
  • Hundreds of dugongs inhabited waters off the Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh coasts two centuries back. But they are extinct in these areas now, he added.
  • Seagrass in Odisha’s Chilika Lake is a proper habitat for dugongs. However, there is not an extant population in Chilika.

Other facts:

  • The 13th CoP of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of the UNEP, was hosted by India this year at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
  • India is a signatory to the CMS since 1983.
  • India has signed non-legally binding Memorandums of Understanding with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
  • Proper conservation is the only way to save dugongs from extinction. Conservation in other places like Australia has seen their population crossing 85,000.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Initiatives launched on International Day of Biodiversity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Initiaitives mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much

In a virtual celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity 2020, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched key initiatives towards conservation of biodiversity.

Possible prelim question:

The ‘Not all Animals Migrate by Choice’ campaign recently seen in news is an initiative by __________.

About the International Day for Biological Diversity

  • This Day is a United Nations-sanctioned international day for the promotion of biodiversity issues.
  • It is currently held on May 22.
  • The year 2020 is also the “Super Year for Biodiversity”, as the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity with 20 global Aichi targets adopted in 2010 ends in 2020.

1) Biodiversity Samrakshan Internship Programme

  • The program proposes to engage 20 students with postgraduate degrees for a period of one year through an open, transparent, online competitive process.
  • It has the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) as a nodal agency.

 2) ‘Not all Animals Migrate by Choice’ campaign

  • It is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Campaign launched by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau on Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Species.
  • It aims to curb illegal trade in wildlife which carries the risk of spreading dangerous pandemics.

Back2Basics: Aichi Targets

  • The ‘Aichi Targets’ were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference.
  • The short term plan provides a set of 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.
  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: 40 Gharials released into Ghaghara River in UP

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gharial, Mugger , Saltwater Crocodile

Mains level : Species reintroduction and various associated issues in news

Forty gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) were released in the Ghaghara River by the Bahraich forest division of Uttar Pradesh.

This year, we have seen many news focusing on species reintroduction into the wild. Can you recall them?? If not, Click Here.

And one may often get confused between the Mugger, Gharial and the Saltwater Crocodile. Note the differences about their IUCN status, habitat (freshwater/saltwater) etc..

Gharials

  • The Gharial is a fish-eating crocodile is native to the Indian subcontinent. They are a crucial indicator of clean river water.
  • 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.
  • Gharials are ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List of Species.
  • The species is also listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

Into the wild

  • A major chunk of gharials in India is found in the Chambal River, which has about 1,000 adults.
  • The Ghaghara acts as an important aquatic corridor for gharials in Uttar Pradesh. The river is a major left-bank tributary of the Ganges.
  • About 250 gharials have been released in the Ghaghara since 2014.
  • However, there are satellite populations of less than 100 adults in the Girwa River (Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, the Ramganga River in Jim Corbett National Park and the Son River).
  • Like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar too is releasing gharials in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve as part of restocking the wild population. Unlike crocodiles, gharials do not pose any danger to humans.

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

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Sal Forest Tortoise

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sal Forest Tortoise

Mains level : NA

A recent study by ecologists in the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, has found that the area designated as a protected area network has only a small overlap with the actual habitat of Sal forest tortoise. Over 90% of the potential distribution of the species falls outside the current protected area’s network.

What you should focus on?

On map, identify areas where Sal forest tortoise are found.

Revise the map of various Forest system of India and their characteristics as well.

Also…..Is tortoise a mammal or an amphibian?…..or something else??

Sal Forest/ Elongated Tortoise

  • Also known as the elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), the sal forest tortoise, recently assessed as Critically Endangered, is heavily hunted for food.
  • It is collected both for local use, such as decorative masks, and international wildlife trade.
  • The Sal forest tortoise is widely distributed over eastern and northern India and Southeast Asia.
  • It is one of the only four land tortoises found in India. It is legally protected under Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as amended up to 2006.
  • According to the IUCN, the population of the species may have fallen by about 80% in the last three generations (90 years).

About Sal Forest

  • It is a forest type dominated by a single plant species, commonly known as Sal tree (Shorea robusta).
  • It belongs to the category ‘Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest’.
  • The distribution of Sal forests is controlled by the conditions of topography, geology, and soil.
  • Sal forests are mainly distributed in the South and Southeast Asia, occurring along the base of Tropical Himalayas from Assam to Punjab, in the eastern districts of Central India, and on the Western Bengal Hills.

Also read the complete series on-

Natural Vegetation and Wildlife- Part 1 | An Overview of Natural Vegetation Types Found in India

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Mass Hatching of Olive Ridley Turtles begins

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arribadas, Olive Ridley Turtles

Mains level : Not Much

Mass hatching of Olive Ridley turtles began at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery, a major nesting site of these marine turtles.

Mass hatching of Olive Ridley turtles is a very celebrated news every year. Also make sure to look at the Rivers system in the region from the map above.

Olive Ridley Turtles

  • 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.
  • In the Indian Ocean, the majority of olive ridleys nest in two or three large groups at Rushikulya rookery near Gahirmatha in Odisha.
  • 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.
  • The species is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, Appendix 1 in CITES, and Schedule 1 in Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Special feature: Mass nesting

  • They are best known for their behaviour of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed Arribadas.
  • Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs.
  • They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers.
  • They hatch in 45 to 60 days, depending on the temperature of the sand and atmosphere during the incubation period.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Rare Black Panther spotted in Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary

Mains level : Not Much

A rare Black Panther was spotted in the Netravali WLS in South Goa.

There are many WLS and National Park in the tiny state of Goa. Unlike others, they rarely find any mention in news. Here a quick revision for you.

Make sure to locate them on map.

  • Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary,

  • Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary,

  • Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary,

  • Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary,

  • Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary,

  • Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary,

  • Anshi National Park.

Black Panther

  • Black Panther or Black Leopard is a color variant of spotted Indian leopards, reported from densely forested areas of south India, mostly from the state of Karnataka.
  • A black panther is the melanistic colour variant of any Panthera, particularly of the leopard (P. pardus) in Asia and Africa, and the jaguar (P. onca) in the Americas.
  • They are also known as the ghost of the forest.

About Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is located in South-Eastern Goa, India.
  • It constitutes one of the vital corridors of the Western Ghats and covers an area of about 211 sq.km.
  • Netravali or Neturli is an important tributary of River Zuari, which originates in the sanctuary.
  • Forests mostly consist of moist deciduous vegetation interspersed with evergreen and semi-evergreen habitat; there are also two all-season waterfalls in the sanctuary.
  • The Gaur or Indian Bison, Malabar giant squirrel, four-horned antelope or chousingha, leopard, black sloth bear along with a host of other predators and herbivores find home in the sanctuary.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Study of flowering plant endemism of Northern Western Ghats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Abutilon ranadei

Mains level : NA

Scientists at the Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune have come up with plant data of the Northern Western Ghats which indicates that plateaus, in addition to the forests, should be prioritized for the conservation of the Northern Western Ghats.

Last year one  species from our newscard : Species in news: Hump-backed Mahseer made it into the CSP 2019.  The ‘Abutilon ranadei’ flower in the newscard creates such a vibe yet again.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time often find their way into the prelims. Make a special note here.

Why conserve Plateaus?

  • The Western Ghats of India is one of the global biodiversity hotspots owing to the endemism that is sheltered by a chain of mountains.
  • The northern part of this along with the Konkan region is considerably different from its southern and central counterparts on account of lesser precipitation and extended dry season.
  • It is the plateaus and the cliffs that harbour most of the endemic species.

What did the study find?

  • The study found that the Northern Western Ghats has 181 local endemic plant species, including four monospecific genera.
  • They have found that a majority of the endemic species are therophytes, which complete their life cycle in a short period during monsoon.
  • A notable geographical feature of the Northern Western Ghats is the presence of plateaus and cliffs that display maximum endemic species, unlike forests.
  • It is the region of rapid diversification of specific herbaceous endemic genera like Ceropegia, Glyphochloa, Dipcadi, and Eriocaulon.

One such specie is-

Abutilon ranadei

  • Abutilon ranadei is a shrub, measuring 2.5-3.5 m high and bears star-shaped hairs.
  • It is a Critically Endangered endemic species from the northern Western Ghats.

Bonus:

Consider the following pairs:

Wildlife Naturally found in
1. Blue-finned Mahseer Cauvery River
2. Irrawaddy Dolphin Chambal River
3. Rusty-spotted Cat Eastern Ghats

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Back in news: International Whaling Commission (IWC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Whaling Commission (IWC)

Mains level : Not Much

Iceland will not be hunting any whales in 2020. Iceland, alongside Norway and Japan, has frequently broken the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 worldwide moratorium, which indefinitely “paused” commercial whaling.

Regarding IWC, we can expect a statement based prelim question asking-

1) If IWC has a UN or any other parent organization

2) If India is a member/observer etc.

About 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 governs 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.

Earlier reference

  • Japan has last year withdrawn from the IWC citing domestic reasons.
  • Thus, it resumed commercial whaling after 31 years, meeting a long-cherished goal of its traditionalists.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Sariska Tiger reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sariska Tiger Reserve

Mains level : Not Much

 

The Ministry of Tourism’s Dekho Apna Desh webinar featured a presentation and virtual tour of ‘Destination- Sariska Tiger reserve’.

Tourism and tourist sites carry high stakes for possible prelims questions.  Take time to quickly revise the Swadesh Darshan , PRASHAD Schemes.   Click here for the repository of all such initiatives.

Sariska Tiger Reserve

  • It is located in the Aravalli Hills, 35 km from Alwar, 250 km SW of Delhi and 110 km NE of Jaipur.
  • The former hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Alwar, the Sariska valley is home to a variety of flora and fauna.
  • The park has populations of tigers, leopards, Nilgai, Sambar, chital etc.
  • The place is a paradise for bird lovers as it shelters a large population of Indian peafowl, crested serpent eagles, sand grouse, golden-backed woodpeckers, great Indian horned owls, tree pies, vultures and many others.
  • It is the first reserve in the world with successfully relocated tigers. It is an important biodiversity area in the Northern Aravalli leopard and wildlife corridor.

Features of this episode

  • Alwar is a city dotted with heritage buildings, Forts, tombs and palaces. Some of the important sights not to be missed are Bala Qila, Vijai Mandir Lake Palaces, Fateh Jung ki Gumbad, Moti Doongri etc.
  • The sanctuary is strewn with ruins of ancient temples dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
  • Some of the highlights are the ruins of the Kankwari Fort and the 10th-century Neelkanth temples, which have Khajuraho-like carvings as key features.
  • Neelkanth Mahadeva houses the ruins of over 300 Hindu and Jain temples constructed between the 8th and 12th Centuries.
  • Chand Baoli (stepwell) at Abhaneri is enormous with 3500 steep steps built by the Nikhumbha dynasty is one of the largest step-wells in the world.

About DekhoApnaDesh

  • Under this, a series of webinars will showcase the diverse and remarkable history and culture of India through a documentary series on various cities.
  • It will be including various monuments, cuisine, arts, dance forms, natural landscapes, festivals and many other aspects of the rich Indian civilization.
  • The objective of the webinar series is to create awareness about and promote various tourism destinations of India – including the lesser-known destinations and lesser-known facets of popular destinations.
  • The webinar will be available in the public domain through the Ministry’s social media handles- “Incredible India” on Instagram and Facebook.

Back2Basics: Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 by during PM Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
  • It is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the distribution of tigers in the country.
  • The project’s task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests.
  • The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Trimeresurus Salazar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Trimeresurus Salazar

Mains level : Not Much

The new species, Trimeresurus Salazar is a snake been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh.

Another specie spotted with one more peculiarity, the name Salazar 🙂 Such species are most likely to be asked in prelims to match the columns with their habitat state.

Trimeresurus Salazar

  • Salazar’s pit viper belongs to the genus Trimeresurus Lacépède comprising “charismatic venomous serpents with morphologically as well as ecologically diverse species”.
  • Pit vipers are venomous snakes distinguished by their heat-sensing pit organs between the eye and the nostril.
  • The name was inspired by Salazar Slytherin, the co-founder of J.K. Rowlings’ fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Know all about the National Board for Wildlife

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wildlife Protection Act, National Board for Wildlife

Mains level : Environmental clearances: Major bottlenecks in the process

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) hasn’t met since 2014. Policy decisions and clearances have, meanwhile, come from a standing committee to the dismay of experts.

This newscard is all about the factoids on National Board for Wildlife. The fact that they haven’t met since 2014 makes it interesting for UPSC to quiz you on its details.

About National Board for Wildlife

  • The NBWL is constituted by the Central Government under Section 5 A of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA).
  • It serves as an apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
  • The board is advisory in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.

Composition

  • It is chaired by India’s Prime Minister and its vice-chairman is Minister of Environment.
  • The NBWL has 47 members including the chairperson.
  • Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members.
  • Every new government constitutes a new board, based on the provisions of the WLPA, with the new PM as the chair.

Functioning

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

Working through a Standing Committee

  • The National Board may, at its discretion, constitute a Standing Committee.
  • The Committee shall consist of the MoEFCC in charge as Vice-Chairperson, Member Secretary and not more than ten members to be nominated by the Vice-Chairperson from amongst the members of the National Board.
  • The WLPA mandates that without the approval/recommendation of the NBWL, construction of tourist lodges, alteration of the boundaries of PAs, destruction or diversion of wildlife habitat and de-notification of Tiger Reserves, cannot be done.

Seeking clearances

  • Several proposals seeking statutory approvals for such projects come up before the Standing Committee.
  • Every proposal requires to be submitted by the State Government in the approved format with complete details (maps, field assessments, alternatives explored…).
  • It must also contain the clear opinion of the officer in charge of a PA, the Chief Wildlife Warden and the State Government in consultation with the State Board for Wildlife.
  • The Standing Committee will then have to consider such proposals in accordance with the provisions of the WLPA.

Back2Basics: Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  • WPA provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
  • It provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.
  • It provides for various types of protected areas such as Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks etc.
  • There are six schedules provided in the WPA for protection of wildlife species which can be concisely summarized as under:
Schedule I: These species need rigorous protection and therefore, the harshest penalties for violation of the law are for species under this Schedule.
Schedule II: Animals under this list are accorded high protection. They cannot be hunted except under threat to human life.
Schedule III & IV: This list is for species that are not endangered. This includes protected species but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules.
Schedule V: This schedule contains animals which can be hunted.
Schedule VI: This list contains plants that are forbidden from cultivation.

 

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Tropical Butterfly Conservatory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tropical Butterfly Conservatory

Mains level : Significance of butterflies for ecosystem

The Tropical Butterfly Conservatory Tiruchirappalli (TBCT) has been developed in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli to create awareness among the public about the importance of the butterfly and its ecology.

Tropical Butterfly Conservatory

  • The TBC is located in the Upper Anaicut Reserve Forest, sandwiched between the Cauvery and Kollidam rivers in Tiruchirappalli.
  • It was inaugurated during November 2015 at Tiruchirappalli with the objective of propagating the importance of butterflies and conserving the biodiversity of the district through environmental education.
  • It  is spread over 27 acres and is considered to be Asia’s largest butterfly park.
  • The park has an outdoor as well as indoor conservatory, a ‘Nakshatra Vanam’ and a ‘Rasi Vanam’ in addition to a breeding lab for non-scheduled species.
  • So far, about 109 butterfly species have been observed here.

Conservation measures

  • Eggs of non-scheduled butterfly species are collected and bred in captivity in the in-house incubation laboratory by keeping them in ventilated plastic containers with the leaves of host plants as feed.
  • After attaining the transformation of larva (caterpillar) and pupa (transition), the adult butterfly finally comes out with gorgeous colours and at this stage they are released into the natural habitat.
  • Non-scheduled butterfly species are bred and released by the park authorities into their natural surroundings.

Significance of butterflies

  • Butterflies are known for their intrinsic, aesthetic, educational, scientific, ecological, health and economic values.
  • As butterflies form an important part of nature’s food web, it is very essential to protect the species for ecological balance.
  • They play a key role in the pollination of plant species, the global food chain depends on their well-being.

Various threats

  • The major threats to butterfly diversity are destruction, degradation and fragmentation of their habitats, grazing, fires and application of pesticides and weedicides in agricultural and urban ecosystems.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Himalayan Ibex

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Ibex

Mains level : NA

A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex, distributed in the trans-Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.

Himalayan Ibex

IUCN/WPA Status:    Least Concern / Schedule I

  • Himalayan Ibex (Capra ibex sibirica) is widely found in arid and rocky mountain of Karakoram, Hindukush and Himalayas of Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • The males are characterized by heavy body, large horns, long bears while females have small body small horns.
  • The threats that Himalayan ibex face are the illegal hunting, human disturbance, habitat loss and competition for forage with domestic livestock.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Red Panda

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAWEN, TRAFFIC, Red Panda

Mains level : Not Much

 

 

According to a report by the TRAFFIC report, there has been a considerable reduction in the poaching of Red Panda (ailurus fulgens). The report also recommended trans-boundary law enforcement co-operation through the use of multi-government platforms like SAWEN (South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network).

Red Panda

IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

  • The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.
  • Its wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression.
  • Despite its name, it is not closely related to the giant panda
  • The animal has been hunted for meat and fur, besides illegal capture for the pet trade.
  • An estimated 14,500 animals are left in the wild across Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Myanmar.
  • About 5,000-6,000 red pandas are estimated to be present in four Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and West Bengal.
  • The diminishing habitat is a major threat to the species which is a very selective feeder and survives on selected species of bamboos.

About South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN)

  • SAWEN is a Regional network is comprised of eight countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • It aims at working as a strong regional intergovernmental body for combating wildlife crime by attempting common goals and approaches for combating illegal trade in the region.
  • The South Asia region is very vulnerable to illegal traffic and wildlife crimes due to the presence of precious biodiversity and large markets as well as traffic routes for wildlife products in the south East Asian region.
  • The collaboration in harmonizing as well as enforcing the wildlife protection in the region is considered very important for effective conservation of such precious biodiversity.
  • India adopted the Statute of the SAWEN and became its formal member in 2016.

Back2Basics

TRAFFIC

  • The TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, is a leading non-governmental organisation working on wildlife trade in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
  • It is a joint program of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the IUCN.
  • It aims to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
  • The TRAFFIC is governed by the TRAFFIC Committee, a steering group composed of members of TRAFFIC’s partner organizations, WWF and IUCN.
  • TRAFFIC also works in close co-operation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Swamp Wallaby

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swamp Wallaby and its uniqueness

Mains level : NA

 

Researchers reported that the swamp wallaby, a marsupial related to the kangaroo, is pregnant throughout its adult life. It typically conceives a new embryo days before delivering the newborn from its previous pregnancy.

Swamp wallaby

IUCN Status: Least Concerned

  • The swamp wallaby is a small macropod marsupial of eastern Australia. It is likely the only mammal pregnant and lactating all lifelong.
  • Female wallabies and kangaroos have two uteri and two separate ovaries.
  • At the end of a pregnancy in one uterus, a new embryo develops in the other uterus.
  • Kangaroos and wallabies regularly have an embryo in the uterus, a young joey in the pouch, and a third semi-dependent young at foot, still drinking its mother’s milk.

How it is different from Kangaroo?

  • In kangaroos, the new embryo is conceived a day or two after the previous birth.
  • In the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), the new conception happens one or two days before the previous joey is delivered.

What happens after?

  • As soon as the mature foetus is born and settles in the pouch, the swamp wallaby arrests the development of the new embryo.
  • This is called embryonic diapause, which happens in many animals to pause reproduction until the conditions are right — season, climate, food availability.
  • For wallabies, this is also to ensure that the new one is born only when the pouch is free again.
  • If this did not happen, the swamp wallaby would be birthing new young every 30 days — it has a short gestation period — and its pouch could not support that.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Migratory species in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Not Much

 

 

With new additions to the wildlife list put out by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), scientists say that the total number of migratory fauna from India comes to 457 species.

Migratory species in India

  • Globally, more than 650 species are listed under the CMS appendices and India, with over 450 species, plays a very important role in their conservation.
  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) had for the first time compiled the list of migratory species of India under the CMS before the Conference of Parties (COP 13) held in Gujarat recently.
  • It had put the number at 451. They are the Asian elephant, great Indian bustard, Bengal florican, oceanic white-tip shark, urial and smooth hammerhead shark.
  • Birds comprise 83% (380 species) of this figure.

Various species mentioned

  • India has three flyways (flight paths used by birds): the Central Asian flyway, East Asian flyway and East Asian–Australasian flyway.
  • In India, their migratory species number 41, followed by ducks (38) belonging to the family Anatidae.
  • The estimate of 44 migratory mammal species in India has risen to 46 after COP 13.
  • The largest group of mammals is definitely bats belonging to the family Vespertilionidae. Dolphins are the second highest group of mammals with nine migratory species of dolphins listed.
  • Fishes make up another important group of migratory species. Before COP 13, the ZSI had compiled 22 species, including 12 sharks and 10 ray fish.
  • Seven reptiles, which include five species of turtles and the Indian gharial and salt water crocodile, are among the CMS species found in India. There was no addition to the reptiles list.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Eurasian Otters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eurasian Otters

Mains level : NA

 

 

Researchers conducting a study in Odisha’s Chilika Lake have found the presence of a viable, breeding population of Eurasian Otters, a fishing cat in the brackish water lagoon.

Eurasian Otters

  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  • Species in India: Smooth-coated, Asian small-clawed and Eurasian Otters
  • 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.
  • Diet comprises several small animals, mainly crabs and small fishes.
  • Lives in small packs, is mostly nocturnal, but can be diurnal in areas which are less disturbed.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Locust Invasions and its mitigation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Locusts invasion

Mains level : Locusts invasion and its threats

 

 

The locust, a short-horned, desert grasshopper that attacks standing crops and green vegetation, has been making news in India since May-June 2019 when it appeared in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Kharif season last year, it was also seen in a few areas along Punjab’s border with Rajasthan.

Context

  • The Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) has been taking measures to control attacks by the pest for the past eight decades in the country.
  • Despite all of LWO’s efforts, the chain of periodic locust attacks in India is yet to be broken.

Why Locusts attacks are deadly?

  • Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km (93 miles) a day with the wind and adult insects can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day.
  • A very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people.
  • If allowed to breed unchecked in favourable conditions, locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas.

About LWO

  • In India, the scheme Locust Control and Research (LC&R) is responsible for control of Desert Locust.
  • It is being implemented through Organisation known as “Locust Warning Organisation (LWO)” established in 1939 and later amalgamated with the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage in 1946.
  • Locust Warning organization (LWO) is responsible to monitor and control the locust situation in Scheduled Desert Area (SDA) mainly in the States of Rajasthan and Gujarat while partly in the States of Punjab and Haryana.
  • It keeps itself abreast with the prevailing locust situation at National and International level through monthly Desert Locust Bulletins of FAO.

What measures are being taken by the LWO to control locust breeding/attacks in India?

  • Experts at the LWO said around three dozen offices including 10 circle offices are working on this issue.
  • They have been doing regular field surveys to keeping a close and regular watch on an over two lakh sq. km area (nearly 11,500 villages) of three states including 1.79 lakh sq. km in Rajasthan (52 per cent of the state’s total area), and the remaining in Gujarat and Haryana.
  • To observe the locust, intensive surveys are conducted by walking along the wind direction and driving at low speed to count flying locusts.

How often have there been locust attacks in India?

  • The pests have been appearing periodically after a gap of 2-3 or 5-7 years. Around 26 locust attacks have taken place in India in two major cycles.
  • After independence (1947), 25 attacks were observed. Among these, the attacks of 1949-55, 1962 and 1993 were most devastating when 167 and 172 swarms were noticed in 1962 and 1993 respectively.
  • Since 1993, locust attacks have occurred less frequently. The latest attack of 2019-20, has had quite a severe effect on crops in Rajasthan.

Financial losses incurred

  • According to LWO, to date, the financial loss due to locusts is said to be Rs 50 lakh, Rs 2 lakh and Rs 7.18 lakh in 1962, 1978 and 1993 respectively.
  • A loss of Rs 2 crore was incurred in 1940-46 and 1949-55. Before the LWO was formed, a loss of Rs 10 crore is estimated in the 1926-31 cycle.

Why has the chain not been broken even after 80 years?

  • LWO experts said it is because there are 30 countries in four regions of different continents that have an arid climate with large deserts that provide an ideal breeding ground for the locust.
  • Most of the time, locusts are coming to India from Pakistan, or from the Middle East via Pakistan.
  • There are four commissions for these 30 countries which include Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
  • Laxity by any country would lead to its spread in all these countries which they invade one after another by following almost the same path.
  • The swarms which are coming to India (Rajasthan) have been following the same path, starting from central or western region and then Pakistan mostly in summers.
  • Apart from breaking the chain of summer attacks, the winter swarm has now posed another challenge.

Where did the current locust attack originate?

  • The locust breeds in high temperatures and high humidity, which is prevalent in areas around the Red Sea.
  • The current attack in India, which started in 2019, has its origin in Yemen, where there was internal conflict and civil war.
  • When the locust was breeding in heavy numbers there in 2018-19, the country could not take care due to its attention towards the civil war and lack of resources to control it.
  • The insect went out of control, took the route of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Ethiopia and other countries located on both sides of the Red Sea where they multiplied rapidly.

Control measures

  • The chain can be broken only when the pest is killed at the time of breeding or before migration to another country.
  • Farmers used to try to drive away the locusts by lighting fires. They also dug up the eggs.
  • Now crops can be sprayed with insecticides from vehicles or airplanes.
  • Scientists are trying to improve the control of locusts, by preventing or dispersing swarms.

Also read:

Massive locust invasion threatens Gujarat farmers

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Pakke Tiger Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pakke Tiger Reserve

Mains level : Not Much

 

The government in Arunachal Pradesh is planning to build a 692.7 km highway through the 862 sq km Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR). Named the East-West Industrial Corridor, the highway aims to connect Bhairabhunda in West Kameng district and Manmao in Changlang district along Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Assam.

About Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR)

  • Pakke Tiger Reserve, also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve, is a Project Tiger reserve in the East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The 862 km2 reserve is protected by the Department of Environment and Forest of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • This Tiger Reserve has won India Biodiversity Award 2016 in the category of ‘Conservation of threatened species’ for its Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme.
  • It falls within the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] International protection for Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican and Asian Elephant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Conservation of migratory species

India’s proposal to include Great Indian Bustard, Asian Elephant and Bengal Florican in Appendix I of UN Convention on migratory species was unanimously accepted at the undergoing CMS CoP in Gandhinagar.

Great Indian Bustard

  • The Great Indian Bustard, an iconic, critically endangered and conservation dependent species, exhibits transboundary movements, and its migration exposes it to threats such as hunting in the boundary area of Pakistan-India and power-line collisions in India.
  • Inclusion of the species in Appendix I of CMS will aide in transboundary conservation efforts facilitated by International conservation bodies and existing international laws and agreement.

Asian Elephant

  • The Government of India has declared Indian elephant as National Heritage Animal. It is also provided with the highest degree of legal protection by listing it in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The Great Indian Bustard is a Critically Endangered species with a small population of about 100–150 individuals that is largely restricted to Thar desert in Rajasthan, India.
  • The species has disappeared from 90% of this range; their population has reduced by 90% within 50 years (six generations), and their threats are expected to increase in future.

Bengal Florican

  • The Bengal Florican an iconic, critically endangered species of topmost conservation priority, exhibits transboundary movements, and its migration exposes it to threats such as land-use changes, collision with power transmission line at the boundary area of India-Nepal and probable power-line collisions.
  • Inclusion of the species in Appendix I of CMS will aid in transboundary conservation efforts facilitated by International conservation bodies and existing international laws and agreement.
  • It populations has declined as a result of habitat loss, hunting and the species no longer breeds outside Protected Areas in the Indian subcontinent, except in a few areas of Assam.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) Assessment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Highlights of the report

 

State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment was recently released.

Highlights of the report

 

 

  • The SoIB was produced using a base of 867 species (among 1,333 birds ever recorded in India), and analysed with the help of data uploaded by birdwatchers to the online platform, eBird.
  • Adequate data on how birds fared over a period of over 25 years (long-term trend) are available only for 261 species.
  • Current annual trends are calculated over a five-year period.

Alarming declines

  • The SoIB assessment raises the alarm that several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins including pesticides, hunting and trapping for the pet trade.
  • Diminishing population sizes of many birds because of one factor brings them closer to extinction because of the accelerated effects of others, the report warned.
  • Over a fifth of India’s bird diversity, ranging from the Short-toed Snake Eagle to the Sirkeer Malkoha, has suffered strong long-term declines over a 25-year period.
  • More recent annual trends point to a drastic 80% loss among several common birds.

Various species mentioned

  • Of 101 species categorised as being of High Conservation Concern — 59 based on range and abundance and the rest included from high-risk birds on the IUCN Red List.
  • Endemics such as the Rufous-fronted Prinia, Nilgiri Thrush, Nilgiri Pipit and Indian vulture were confirmed as suffering current decline.
  • And all except 13 had a restricted or highly restricted range, indicating greater vulnerability to man-made threats.
  • Peafowl, on the other hand, are rising in numbers, expanding their range into places such as Kerala, which is drying overall, and areas in the Thar desert where canals and irrigation have been introduced. Stricter protection for peacocks under law also could be at work.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian Pangolin

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Pangolins

Mains level : Wildlife trade and its prevention

 

The Madhya Pradesh forest department has radio-tagged an Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) for the first time.

Pangolins

IUCN status: Endangered

  • India is home to two species of pangolin.
  • While the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is found in northeastern India, the Indian Pangolin is distributed in other parts of the country as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • Both these species are protected and are listed under the Schedule I Part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Commonly known as ‘scaly anteaters’, the toothless animals are unique, a result of millions of years of evolution.
  • Pangolins evolved scales as a means of protection. When threatened by big carnivores like lions or tigers they usually curl into a ball.
  • The scales defend them against dental attacks from the predators.

Why this radio-tagging?

  • The radio-tagging aims to know its ecology and develop an effective conservation plan for it.
  • The radio-tagging is part of a joint project by the department and non-profit, the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) that also involves the species’ monitoring apart from other activities.

Why protect Pangolins?

  • Pangolins are currently the most trafficked wildlife species in the world.
  • These Scales has now become the main cause of the pangolin’s disappearance.
  • The scales are in high demand in China, where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Pangolin meat is also in high demand in China and Southeast Asia.
  • Consequently, pangolins have seen a rapid reduction in population globally. The projected population declines range from 50 per cent to 80 per cent across the genus.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] 13th COP of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CMS, Central Asian Flyway

Mains level : Conservation of migratory species

 

The 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is going to be hosted by India at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

13th COP of CMS

  • The theme of CMS COP13 in India is, “Migratory species connect the planet and we welcome them home.
  • The CMS COP 13 logo is inspired by ‘Kolam’, a traditional artform from southern India.
  • In the logo of CMS COP-13, Kolam art form is used to depict key migratory species in India like Amur falcon, humpback whale and marine turtles.
  • The mascot for CMS COP13, “Gibi – The Great Indian Bustard” is a critically endangered species which has been accorded the highest protection status under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

About CMS

  • CMS is an international treaty concluded under aegis of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), concerned with conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.
  • It is commonly abbreviated as Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention.
  • It aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • It was signed in 1979 in Bonn (hence the name), Germany and entered into force in 1983.
  • Its headquarters are in Bonn, Germany.
  • 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.

Prospects for India

  • As the host, India shall be designated the President for the next three years.
  • India is Signatory to the CMS since 1983.
  • India has been taking necessary actions to protect and conserve migratory marine species.
  • Seven species that include Dugong, Whale Shark, Marine Turtle (two species), have been identified for preparation of Conservation and Recovery Action Plan.

Other facts

  • The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, and covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory water bird species, including 29 globally threatened species.
  • India is home to several migratory species of wildlife including snow leopard, Amur falcons, bar headed Geese, black necked cranes, marine turtles, dugongs, humpbacked whales, etc.
  • It has signed non legally binding MOU with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Archimedes Principle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Archimedes Principle

Mains level : NA

Recently, Archimedes Principle was used in Jharkhand to rescue baby elephant stuck in a well. The rescue team filled the well with water using motorized pipes, after which the struggling elephant floated to the top and was able to climb out through a ramp placed for it.

What is the ‘Archimedes Principle’?

  • In physics, the Archimedes Principle refers to the law of buoyancy (the ability or tendency of something to float in water or other fluids).
  • According to the principle, when an object is completely or partially submerged in a fluid, whether gas or liquid, it is acted upon by an upward force (buoyancy) equal to the weight of the fluid it has displaced.
  • The force acting downward on the object is the weight of the object. The upward force is the one given by the Archimedes Principle.
  • The difference between the two forces is the net force acting on the object.
  • If the buoyant force is more than the weight, the object rises; if it is less, the object sinks.
  • If the net force is zero, the object remains in place, and neither rises nor sinks.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Flame-throated Bulbul

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Flame-throated Bulbul

Mains level : NA

The flame-throated bulbul, also called the Rubigula, was chosen as the mascot of the 36th National Games to be held in Goa. It is the State bird of Goa.

Flame-throated Bulbul

IUCN status: Least Concern

  • The Flame-throated Bulbul is endemic to southern peninsular India where it is locally distributed in southern Andhra Pradesh, eastern Karnataka, Goa, Orissa, eastern Kerala and northern Tamil Nadu.
  • It prefer habitats like rocky, scrub-covered hills mostly in the Eastern Ghats and central peninsular India but also in some places in the Western Ghats.
  • It is a Schedule – IV bird under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Reintroduction of African Cheetahs in Indian forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic and African Cheetah

Mains level : Translocation of Species and its impacts

 

The Supreme Court lifted its seven-year stay on a proposal to introduce African cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat on an experimental basis. The plan was to revive the Indian cheetah population.

Asiatic cheetahs in India

  • In 1947, Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh of Deoghar of Koriya, Chhattisgarh — who was infamous for shooting over 1,150 tigers — reportedly killed the last known Asiatic cheetah in India.
  • In that year, a few miles from Ramgarh village in the state, the Maharaja killed three of the animals — brothers — during a night drive.
  • After that, the Maharaja’s kin continued to report the presence of a few stragglers in the forests of Surguja district, including a pregnant female, up until the late 1960s.
  • Some more unconfirmed sightings were reported in 1951 and 1952, from the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border and Chittoor district.
  • The latter sighting is generally accepted to be the final credible sighting of a cheetah in India. In 1952, the cheetah was officially declared extinct from India.

African cheetah and Asiatic cheetah

  • Before Namibia, India had approached Iran for Asiatic cheetahs, but had been refused.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
  • From 400 in the 1990s, their numbers are estimated to have plummetted to 50-70 today, because of poaching, hunting of their main prey (gazelles) and encroachment on their habitat.
  • ‘Critically endangered’ means that the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Why does NTCA want to reintroduce cheetahs?

  • A section of conservationists has long advocated the reintroduction of the species in the country.
  • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
  • The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
  • India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.

Why was the project halted?

  • The court was also worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favourable clime as far as abundance of prey is concerned.
  • Those who challenged the plan argued that the habitat of cheetahs needed to support a genetically viable population.

What did court say?

  • The Supreme Court made it clear that a proper survey should be done to identify the best possible habitat for the cheetahs.
  • Every effort should be taken to ensure that they adapt to the Indian conditions.
  • The committee would help, advice and monitor the NTCA on these issues. The action of the introduction of the animal would be left to the NTCA’s discretion.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Ophichthus Kailashchandrai

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ophichthus Kailashchandrai

Mains level : NA

  

Ophichthus Kailashchandrai

  • A new species of fish has been named Ophichthus Kailashchandrai to honour the vast contributions of Dr. Kailash Chandra, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), to Indian animal taxonomy.
  • Ophichthus kailashchandrai is the eighth species of the Ophichthus genus found on the Indian coast.
  • It feeds on small fish and crabs. The outer surface of their bodies is slimy and they are not poisonous.
  • It is the fifth new species discovered by the Gopalpur ZSI in the last two years.
  • In 2019, two new species of marine eel, Gymnothorax andamanensesis and Gymnothorax smithi were been discovered by this ZSI centre.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Steppe Eagle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Steppe Eagle

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India

 

A lone endangered steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) has been sighted by a group of birdwatchers in a paddy field near Vijayawada.

Steppe Eagle

  • The Steppe Eagle is a migratory raptor which has undergone extremely rapid population declines within all its range.
  • It breeds in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia during the winter season.
  • Steppe eagle is the second-largest migratory eagle species to India.
  • IUCN Status: It has moved from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Endangered’

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Irrawaddy Dolphins

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Irrawaddy Dolphins

Mains level : Not Much

146 Irrawaddy dolphins were recently sighted in Chilika Lake of Odisha. The lake has highest single lagoon population of the aquatic mammal in the world.

Irrawaddy Dolphins

  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • Scientific Name: Orcaella brevirostris
  • Habitats: Lakes, Rivers, Estuaries, and Coasts

  • The Irrawaddy dolphin is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.
  • They are also found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, and in three rivers: the Ayeyarwady (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong.
  • The total population of these aquatic mammals in the world is estimated to be less than 7,500.
  • Of these, more than 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins have been reported from Bangladesh, while the dolphin distribution in Chilika is considered to be the highest single lagoon population.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Kaziranga National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Major species found in Kaziranga NP

Mains level : NA

Kaziranga, home of the world’s most one-horned rhinos, has 96 species of wetland birds — one of the highest for wildlife preserves in India.

Kaziranga National Park

  • It is a protected area in the northeast state of Assam.
  • Spread across the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River, its forests, wetlands and grasslands are home to tigers, elephants and the world’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses.
  • Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the ‘big four’ species— rhino, elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
  • The 2018 census had yielded 2,413 rhinos and approximately 1,100 elephants.
  • The tiger census of 2014 said Kaziranga had an estimated 103 tigers, the third highest population of the striped cat in India after Jim Corbett National Park (215) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (120) in Karnataka.
  • Kaziranga is also home to nine of the 14 species of primates found in the Indian subcontinent.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Greylag Goose

  • Greylag goose, a migratory specie was recently spotted in Telangana
  • This is the third recorded sighting of the large-sized bird in Telangana, which makes it ‘eligible’ to be the latest addition to the State’s exhaustive list of birds.
  • As per scientific and accepted norms, a species has to be seen three different times in three different places, or by three independent observers, before it can be accepted as an addition to a State’s list.
  • The Greylag geese are common visitors to North India in winters, and are found mostly in wetlands there feeding generally on aquatic weeds and grass.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concerned

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/ts-list-of-birds-likely-to-get-greylag-goose/article30504660.ece

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile

The population of the saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has increased in the water bodies of Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park with 1,757 individuals in this year’s annual reptile census on January 3, 2020.

Also read:

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.

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/bhitarkanika-census-finds-an-increase-of-15-saltwater-crocodiles-from-last-year-68672

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Chinese paddlefish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN , Red List, Chinese paddlefish

Mains level : IUCN mechanism of listing

One of the largest freshwater species, Chinese paddlefish has been declared extinct.

Chinese paddlefish

  • The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) was an iconic species, measuring up to 7 m in length, dating back from 200 million years ago, and therefore swimming the rivers when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
  • Its ancestral home was the Yangtze River.
  • It was once common in the Yangtze, before overfishing and habitat fragmentation — including dam building — caused its population to dwindle from the 1970s onwards.
  • Between 1981 and 2003, there were just around 210 sightings of the fish. The researchers estimate that it became functionally extinct by 1993, and extinct sometime between 2005-2010.

How did the study determine that it has gone extinct?

  • Chinese researchers made this conclusion based on the Red List criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The Red List has several categories for extinction, or for how endangered a species is.
  • For example, “extinct in the wild” means a species survives only in a captive environment while “locally extinct” means a species has ceased to exist in a particular area but may exist in other areas.
  • Then there is “functionally extinct”, which means the species continues to exist but it has too few members to enable to reproduce meaningfully enough to ensure survival.
  • To be “globally extinct”, it means a species has no surviving member anywhere. Such a conclusion is reached when there is no reasonable doubt left that its last member has died.

How does extinction status matters for conservation?

  • Declaring a species extinct is an elaborate process.
  • It involves a series of exhaustive surveys, which need to be taken at appropriate times, throughout the species’ historic range and over a time-frame that is appropriate to the species’ life cycle and form.
  • When these surveys fail to record the existence of any individuals belonging to that species, a species may be presumed to be extinct.
  • Once declared extinct, a species is not eligible for protective measures and conservation funding; therefore, the declaration has significant consequences.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Why Australia is killing thousands of camels

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Impacts of the invasive alien species

Australia began a five-day cull of up to 10,000 camels, using sniper fire from helicopters. The exercise is taking place in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (called APY Lands) in South Australia state where the animals will be killed according to the “highest standards of animal welfare”.

Australia’s camel woes

  • Australia is believed to have the largest population of wild camels in the world — over 10 lakh, which is rapidly growing.
  • The herds roam in the country’s inland deserts and are considered a pest, as they foul water sources and trample native flora while foraging for food over vast distances each day.
  • Unless their breeding is controlled, the camel population doubles every nine years.
  • The animals also have a massive carbon footprint, each camel emitting methane equivalent to one tonne of carbon ¬dioxide a year.
  • Some in the APY Lands are now demanding legislation that would allow them to legally cull the animals, which could help offset greenhouse emissions.

Camels from India

  • Camels in Australia, which number over 10 lakh today, were first brought to the continent in the late 19th century from India when Australia’s massive interior region was first being discovered.
  • Over 20,000 were imported from India between the 1840s and the 1900s.

Why is Australia killing the camels?

  • The year 2019 was the driest and hottest on record in Australia.
  • A catastrophic bushfire season, that began months before usual, has left over 25 people dead and has burned over 1.5 crore acres of land, killing an estimated 100 crore animals.
  • The acute drought has pushed massive herds of feral or wild camels towards remote towns looking for water, endangering indigenous communities.
  • According to South Australia’s environment department, some camels have died of thirst or trampled each other as they rushed to find water.
  • The camels have been threatening scarce reserves of food and water, besides damaging infrastructure and creating a hazard for drivers, authorities have said.
  • The herds have also contaminated important water sources and cultural sites.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Great Indian Bustard

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Indian Bustard

Mains level : Protection measures for GIB

Since June last year, nine GIB eggs collected from the Desert National Park in Jaisalmer where a conservation centre has been set up, have hatched, and the chicks are reported to be doing well.

Great Indian Bustard

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

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.

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Elephant colony in Bandhavgarh NP

  • For the first time, Bandhavgarh Reserve forest located in Madhya Pradesh (MP), has a colony of elephants who migrated from Chhattisgarh and has stayed on.
  • Bandhavgarh is a large reserve forest that has plenty of food and water which is the possible reason for this migration and stay.
  • In 1968, it was notified as a national park and in 1993 was declared a tiger reserve- under the Project Tiger Network at the neighbouring Panpatha Sanctuary.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Private: Greater Adjutant (Hargila)

  • The Assam State Zoo has successfully hatched a pair of Greater Adjutant chicks in an artificial platform within the zoo enclosure in the first ever experiment of its kind.
  • The Endangered Greater Adjutant stork (Leptoptilosdubius) is one of the rarest species of Storks out of twenty species of Storks in the world.
  • In India, eight species of residential storks are found, out of which Greater Adjutant is one of them.
  • Once abundantly distributed in Southeast Asia, this stork is now restricted to a few isolated pockets in Assam and Bihar in India and Prek-Toal in Cambodia.
  • This colonial bird’s breeds in traditional nesting colonies within thickly populated villages in Assam and breeds in tall trees species.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Turtle rehab centre in Bhagalpur, Bihar

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Op Save Kurma

Mains level : Wildlife conservation in India

A first-of-its-kind rehabilitation centre for freshwater turtles will be inaugurated in Bihar’s Bhagalpur forest division in January 2020.

About the rehab centre

  • The centre, spread over half a hectare, will be able to shelter 500 turtles at a time.
  • Earlier, rescued turtles were released into rivers without much treatment in the absence of any facility.
  • In the rehab centre they will be properly monitored before being released in their natural habitat.

Why need such centre?

  • The need to build such a centre was felt after several turtles were found severely wounded and sick when rescued from smuggles by rescue teams.
  • This centre will play a significant role in treating these animals and their proper upkeep before being returned to their natural habitat.

Why Bhagalpur?

  • Eastern Bihar has been an ideal breeding ground for turtles.
  • In Bhagalpur, the flow of water in the Ganga is ample. Also, there are many sandbanks in the middle of the river, which are ideal breeding ground for turtles.

Significance of turtles

  • According to environmentalists, the turtles play a significant role in the river by scavenging dead organic materials and diseased fish.
  • They control fish population by their predation and control aquatic plants and weeds.
  • They are also described as indicators of healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Various threats

  • According to a recent study conducted by Traffic India, around 11,000 turtles are being smuggled in India every year. In the past 10 years, as many as 110,000 turtles have been traded.
  • These species are now under severe threats due to habitat fragmentation and loss through dams and barrages, pollution, illegal poaching, accidental drowning through fishing nets and threats to their nesting habitats etc.
  • The turtles have come under serious threat primarily for two reasons — food and the flourishing pet trade.
  • Turtles are being frequently targeted for meat due to the prevailing belief that it gives an energy boost and keeps various diseases away.

Back2Basics

Operation Save Kurma

  • It is a periodic species specific operation on turtles conducted by Wildlife Crimes Control Bureau since 2017.
  • Under this, a total of 15,739 live turtles were recovered from 45 suspects, having inter-state linkages.
  • It helped the enforcement agencies to focus on the existing trade routes and major trade hubs in the country, which will be continued in future.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Bar-headed goose

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bar-headed goose

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India


Bar-headed goose, a rare goose species was sighted in the wetlands of Karingali Puncha in Kerala.

Bar-headed goose

  • IUCN conservation status: Least Concern.
  • The Bar-headed geese (Anser Indicus) are found in central China and Mangolia and they breed there.
  • They start migration to the Indian sub-continent during the winter and stay here till the end of the season.
  • They return to their homes by crossing the Himalayan ranges.
  • Their migration has been a fascination for birders as they cross the Himalayas on one of the most high-altitude migrations in the world.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Houbara bustard

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Houbara Bustard

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population

Pakistan has issued special permits to the Emir of Qatar and nine other members of the royal family to hunt the houbara bustard, an internationally protected bird species.

Houbara bustard

IUCN Conservation status: Vulnerable

  • Bustards are large, terrestrial birds that belong to several species, including some of the largest flying birds.
  • The houbara bustard, which lives in arid climates, comes in two distinct species as recognised by the IUCN, one residing in North Africa (Chlamydotis undulata) and the other in Asia (Chlamydotis macqueenii).
  • The population of the Asian houbara bustards extends from northeast Asia, across central Asia, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula to reach the Sinai desert.
  • Roughly 33,000 Asian houbara bustards and over 22,000 of the North African houbara bustards remain today.
  • After breeding in the spring, the Asian bustards migrate south to spend the winter in Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and nearby Southwest Asia.

Various threats

  • The main reasons for the houbara’s decline are poaching, unregulated hunting, along with degradation of its natural habitat.
  • The Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt the bird, the government invites Arab royals to hunt it every year.
  • These people are granted permission to hunt for a sum of upto $100,000.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Project Dolphin

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic Dolphin

Mains level : Project Dolphin

The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by PM Modi, met for the first time at Kanpur to discuss various issues.

Project Dolphin

  • The proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin was one of the agendas discussed.
  • There is an expectation that at the meeting a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” will be cleared to enhance the population of these dolphins.

About Gangetic Dolphins

  • The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves.
  • These dolphins prefer deep waters and, as per WWF, they are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.

Protection status

  • The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, a/c to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
  • In 2009, the Gangetic dolphins were declared India’s National Aquatic animal during the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • It is placed under the “endangered” category by the IUCN.
  • Additionally, the Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting.
  • They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.

In numbers

  • According to the MoEFCC, at last count, the rivers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh had 962 and 1,275 Gangetic dolphins, respectively.
  • According to the ministry, in Assam, the assessment was carried out in three rivers, with the Brahmaputra accounting for 877 of the 962 dolphins in the state.
  • In addition to the species being India’s national aquatic animal, the Gangetic dolphin has been notified by the Assam government as the state aquatic animal, too.
  • Silting and sand lifting from rivers in Assam has been stopped to maintain its population.
  • As per WWF estimates, they number somewhere between 1200-1800.

What are some of the efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?

  • Some of the efforts made to preserve and increase the numbers of these dolphins include the setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020).
  • This plan has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

FrogPhone

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FrogPhone

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers have developed a device that will allow scientists to monitor frogs in the wild.

FrogPhone

  • Described as the world’s first solar-powered remote survey device that can be installed at any frog pond and which receives a 3G or 4G cellular network, it has been named “FrogPhone”.
  • It has been developed by a team from various Australian institutions, including the University of New South Wales and the University of Canberra.

How it works?

  • With FrogPhone, researchers can simply “call” a frog habitat.
  • After a call is made to one of the FrogPhones already on a site, the device will take three seconds to receive it.
  • During these few seconds, the device’s temperature sensors will get activated and environmental data such as air temperature, water temperature and battery voltage will be sent to the caller’s phone via a text message.
  • Because frogs are most active during night, researchers are usually required to make nightly observations in order to monitor them on site.
  • The FrogPhone will allow researchers to dial these devices remotely, and analyse the data later.

Benefits

  • It will reduce costs and risks, including the negative impact of human presence on the field site.
  • These devices also allow for monitoring of local frog populations more frequently than before, which is important because these populations are recognised as indicators of environmental health.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

Mains level : Elephant connservation efforts


The 10th Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) Meeting has started at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.

Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG)

  • The IUCN AsESG is a global network of specialists concerned with the study, monitoring, management, and conservation of Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus).
  • The overall aim of the AsESG is to promote the long-term conservation of Asia’s elephants and, where possible, the recovery of their populations to viable levels.
  • The AsESG acts as the Red List Authority for the Asian Elephant, carrying out Red List assessments for inclusion in the IUCN Red List
  • Group members have also helped in the development of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) system for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) and The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS).

Membership

  • There are currently over 110 volunteer members from 18 countries led by the Chair Vivek Menon from India.
  • All AsESG members are actively involved in some aspect of elephant conservation and/or management.
  • Apart from the members, the Group also has Ex-officio officials from all Range States nominated by the Ministry looking after elephant conservation in the country.
  • Membership is reviewed and reappointed approximately every four years.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Operation ‘Clean Art’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Operation Clean Art

Mains level : Wildlife conservation in India


Recently a planned raid, was held in UP to check on organised factories that were making paint brushes with mongoose hair.

Operation Clean Art

  • Operation Clean Art was the first pan India operation to crackdown on the smuggling of mongoose hair in the country.
  • It was conceived by WCCB with the singular aim of ensuring that the mongoose hair brush trade should be closed down across the country.
  • There is also a campaign on social media where concerned organisations are urging artists to take a pledge to refrain from using brushes made of mongoose hair.
  • For about 1kg of hair, at least 40 mongooses are killed.

Protection of Mongoose

  • The mongoose is listed in Schedule II Part 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act.
  • Any smuggling or possession of its body part is a non-bailable offence.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Trachischium apteii

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Trachischium apteii

Mains level : Not Much


Researchers have discovered a new species of non-venomous burrowing snake in Arunachal Pradesh, named Trachischium apteii.

Trachischium apteii

  • It was found under fallen logs inside a thickly forested area of the Tally Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near the town of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh during a field expedition by researchers in July 2019.
  • It belongs to a group of fossorial snakes that live mostly underground, and surface mainly during or after a heavy monsoon shower.
  • Due to the burrowing habits of species of this genus, snakes belonging to the group are seldom seen and hence remain poorly studied.
  • This could have been one of the reasons that the species had eluded the researchers.

Physical features

  • Morphologically, the snake is distinguished by smooth and dorsal scales arranged in 15 rows throughout the body.
  • The dorsal colour of the holotype is dark brown to black with faint dorsal longitudinal lines.
  • Large-sized members of the genus measure about 293 mm to 299 mm (measuring less than a foot, that is 300 mm or 30 cm).

Behind the name

  • Trachischium apteii was named so to honour the contribution of Deepak Apte, well-known marine biologist and Director of the BNHS.
  • Trachischium species are commonly called slender snakes, and are currently known by seven species that are distributed across the Himalayas, and the Indo-Burma and Indo-China regions.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Assamese Gamosa

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assamese Gamosa

Mains level : Not Much


The multipurpose Assamese gamosa, a ubiquitous, white cotton towel, has been assigned a new function — conservation of rare freshwater turtles.

Assamese Gamosa

  • Few cultural symbols are as utilitarian as the white handmade cotton gamosa, with its characteristic red border of woven motifs.
  • It is valued as a gift for visitors, used as a scarf, anti-dust mask, wrapped around the head as a turban.
  • Conservationists are now banking on this cultural icon to carry forward the message of turtle conservation, with gamosas woven with turtle images.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Malabar Tree Toad

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Malabar Tree Toad

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness


A Bengaluru-based non-profit is working to train and equip residents of villages in the Western Ghats stretching from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu for mapping the range of an extremely rare species of Malabar Tree toad.

Malabar tree toad

  • The Malabar tree toad (Pedostibes tuberculosus), or warty Asian tree toad, is a species of toad found in forests along the Western Ghats of India south of Goa.
  • It is a small species and is found in wet tree hollows or leaf bases containing water.
  • It is an endangered species and spends most of its life on trees, coming to the ground only during the first monsoon showers to mate.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Paris bans wild animals from circuses

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Central Zoo Authority

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population


  • Amid ongoing concerns of animal cruelty, Paris last week outlawed the use of wild animals in circuses in the city.
  • France, meanwhile, is still considering enforcing a nation-wide ban on the use of wild animals to perform under the big top.

Why ban wild animals from circuses?

  • The debate concerning animal rights, animals being subjected to cruelty and being forced to live and perform in poor conditions have been a long-standing one.
  • Although the numbers of wild animals being forced to perform in circuses around the world has dramatically reduced, especially over the past two decades, wild animals continue to be used in circuses in some countries.
  • Most of these animals are kept in cages that are too small for their size and in deplorable, filthy conditions.
  • The ill-treatment and physical abuse that animals are subjected to in circuses is also common knowledge, especially the circumstances in which they are forced to perform circus acts that are unnatural to them.
  • Over the years, these performances under extreme physical and psychological duress lead to prolonged physical and psychological health issues for these animals that cannot perform circus acts.
  • In most cases, wild animals are also not evolved for the kind of domestication that circuses put them through.
  • Due to these reasons, many countries around the world have outlawed the forcing of wild animals to perform in circuses.

Few instances of abuse

  • Elephants, for instance, are forced to stand for prolonged periods on only their hind legs or on one single leg on a stage prop, despite their large bodies, forcing their entire weight on one limb or two limbs.
  • Loud music inside the big top, loud microphones and loud cheers and noise from the audience also cause added distress to the animals.
  • If animals refuse to perform, circus owners and animal handlers withhold food and subject the creatures to cruelty in a bid to exert control over the creatures.

Other countries with ban

  • According to data by the Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights group that monitors the use of animals for human entertainment, most European countries have nationwide bans on wild animals in circuses.
  • According to the ADI, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil & Australia are the nations that presently have only local bans.

India’s stance on wild animals in circuses

  • Wild animals have been used in circuses across India for decades, but in November last year, the central government issued draft rules proposing a ban on the use of all animals in circuses.
  • Under section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960) MoEFCC proposed the ‘Performing Animals (Registration) (Amendment) Rules, 2018’.
  • This issued a “prohibition on exhibiting and training of animals for specified performances.”
  • The draft rules added that under these proposed provisions, “no animals shall be used for any performances or exhibition at any circus or mobile entertainment facility.”
  • In 2016, the Central Zoo Authority (a national government body that oversees the conditions of animals used in circuses and entertainment) cancelled recognition it had granted to 21 circuses across the country following reports of rampant abuse of animals.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Idris Elba

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Idris Elba

Mains level : NA


  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe British actor Idris Elba stars as Heimdall. Now, scientists have given the name Idris elba to a species of wasp that is again a protector — of crops.

Idris Elba

  • The wasp, recently discovered in Mexico, was found living as a parasite in the eggs of another insect, known as the bagrada bug, which is a major pest of cruciferous vegetables.
  • In fact, the genus Idris already exists, having been described in 1856.
  • It now contains over 300 species, including the newest one discovered and given the species name elba.
  • While other species of the Idris genus were known to only parasitise spider eggs, specimens of Idris elba have now been found to emerge from eggs of the bagrada bug.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Avian Botulism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avian Botulism

Mains level : Conservation of migratory birds in India


On November 10, visitors at Sambhar Lake, India’s largest inland saltwater lake located about 80 km southwest of Jaipur, spotted a very large number of dead birds.

Why and how did these birds die?

  • Nearly 10 days into the tragedy, the government is yet to determine the cause of the deaths.
  • The investigation so far points to Avian Botulism — a paralytic, frequently fatal disease caused by the ingestion of toxins — as a possible cause.
  • This has not, however, been officially confirmed.
  • After studying bird samples and on the basis of history, epidemiological observations, classical clinical symptoms and post-mortem findings, the most probable diagnosis is avian botulism.
  • The clinical signs exhibited by affected birds included dullness, depression, anorexia, flaccid paralysis in legs and wings, and neck touching the ground.
  • The birds were unable to walk, swim, or take flight. There was no rise of body temperature, no nasal discharge, no respiratory distress or any other sign.

Other possible reasons

  • After a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court took cognizance of the bird deaths, the Rajasthan government listed four likely reasons.
  1. Viral infection
  2. Toxicity, as new area has been filled up after almost 20 years, and there could be higher concentration of salts along the edges
  3. Bacteriological infection
  4. Higher temperature and high water levels due to good monsoon might have led to an increase in intra-species and inter-species competition for resources.
  • The weaker individuals, exhausted from the long journey, perhaps were unable to compete, and may have succumbed to stress emanating from the shortage of food, susceptibility to disease/pollutants/toxins and other habitat-related factors in the wintering grounds.
  • In such an eventuality, it is expected that with fall of temperature and lowering of water levels, the incidence of such mortality will go down.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Butterflies survey in Western Ghats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness


The Western Ghats is still home to large varieties of butterflies points out a survey in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS).

Highlights of the survey

  • The survey was done jointly by the Forest and Wildlife Department in association with the Ferns Nature Conservation Society (FNCS).
  • The survey was mainly aimed at assessing the butterfly diversity in the forest areas of the region, which is vulnerable to climatic changes.
  • Researchers sighted 191 species, 12 of which are endemic to the biodiversity-rich region.
  • The first-time sighting of Silver forget me not, Common three ring, and Brown onyx was also recorded.
  • The diversity was very rich in areas where plants such as Mikania micrantha and Lantana camera remained dominant.

Significance of butterflies

  • Butterflies are one of the best bio-indicators.
  • The sighting of 191 species of butterflies is an evidence of a healthy butterfly habitat in the region.
  • But the degradation of the riparian forest in many part of the region may adversely affect the butterfly habitat in the near future.
  • The diversity of butterflies is affected where alien invasive plants such as Senna spectabilis invade other endemic plants.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Polypedates bengalensis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polypedates bengalensis

Mains level : NA


  • Researchers have recorded a new species of tree frog in West Bengal.

Polypedates bengalensis

  • The new species has been named Brown Blotched Bengal Tree Frog (Polypedates bengalensis).
  • The name is derived from a series of six to nine dark brown blotches that extend laterally from behind the frog’s eye to the vent.
  • The frog’s body colour is yellowish-brown to greenish-brown.
  • The frogs were seen perched on vegetation, including bamboo, banana and taro leaves, and were calling from a height of 1.2-1.8 m above ground, over stagnant waters bodies that were mostly rainwater pools.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Specie in news: Nelloptodes gretae

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nelloptodes gretae

Mains level : Not Much


Nelloptodes gretae

  • Between 1964 and 1965, an entomologist called William Brock collected samples of soil from around east Africa.
  • Inside one of these samples, taken in Kenya and stored in the British Natural History Museum until now, was a tiny species of beetle, pale yellow and gold.
  • Measuring just 0.79 millimetres, the beetle has no eyes or wings, with a small pit between where the eyes should have been.
  • The species has just got a name Nelloptodes gretae, after the teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

What’s behind the name?

  • Biological names comprise two words, one for the genus and the second for the species.
  • Traditionally, it is the species name that scientists coin to honour a prominent personality, and sometimes even a friend or a relative.
  • While the species name gretae derives from Greta, the genus Nelloptodes too is new.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Protocol to assess Snow Leopard population

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Program (GSLEP)

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • In a major boost towards protecting and conserving Snow Leopards MoEFCC launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India.

Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Program (GSLEP)

  • GSLEP is a high-level intergovernmental alliance of 12 snow leopard range countries.
  • They are India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  • It has been prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India, Nature Conservation Foundation, GSLEP technical committee, Global Tiger Initiative council, World Wide Fund for Nature, World Bank, Global Tiger Forum, and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
  • Snow Leopard enumeration has been developed by scientific experts in association with the Snow Leopard States/UTs namely, Ladakh, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh.
  • This is the first time that survey use technology such as camera traps and scientific surveys to estimate the numbers.

Conservation of Snow Leopard in India

  • Project Snow Leopard was launched in 2009 for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: White bellbird- the world’s loudest bird

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bellbirds

Mains level : NA


  • Bellbirds have the loudest bird calls yet documented in the world, according to a study.

Bellbirds

  • The study found that their mating songs pack more decibels than the screams of howler monkeys and the bellows of bisons.
  • The male white bellbird’s mating call is about three times louder than screaming phias — the previously loudest bird singer.
  • The bellbird’s calls were so loud that they wondered how the females of the species listened to them at close range without permanent damage to their hearing.
  • The loud singing ability also came with a trade-off, according to the researchers, who said that as the songs of bellbirds became louder, they also got shorter in duration.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pobitora WLS

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Veterinarians have confirmed anthrax as the cause of death of two Asiatic water buffaloes in central Assam’s Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

What is Anthrax?

  • Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis which can be found naturally in soil.
  • It can occur in four forms: skin, lungs, intestinal, and injection.
  • It is characterized by blisters around swellings on the skin, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever.
  • It commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. Cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, and deer can become infected when they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water.
  • People can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products.
  • Contact with anthrax can cause severe illness in both humans and animals. Anthrax is not contagious, which means you can’t catch it like the cold or flu.

About Asiatic water buffaloes

  • The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) also called Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo and wild Asian buffalo, is a large bovine native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
  • It is found in the Central Indian Forests and is mostly restricted to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Asiatic buffalo has the widest horn span among all bovids found globally.
  • They are of enormous economic significance as they are the direct ancestors of all the breeds of the domestic buffaloes.
  • However, over time their population has decreased at an alarming rate because of various reasons such as poaching, loss of habitat and breeding with domestic buffaloes.

Conservation status

  • It has been listed as an Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It is listed under Schedule-1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It is included in CITES Appendix-III and is legally protected in Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Thailand.

Back2Basics

Pobitora WLS

  • Pobitora WLS is a wildlife sanctuary on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra in Morigaon district in Assam, India.
  • It has the highest concentration of one-horned rhinos in the world and is often called ‘Mini Kaziranga’ due to similar landscape and vegetation.
  • Pobitora is running a successful Rhino breeding program within its sanctuary.
  • It is running under Indian Government as “Indian Rhino vision 2020”.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Tasmanian Tiger

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tasmanian Tiger

Mains level : NA


  • Several mentions of sightings of the ‘extinct’ Tasmanian Tiger are being reported these days.

Tasmanian tiger

  • The Tasmanian tiger or thylacine (a dog headed pouched dog) was an exclusively carnivorous marsupial that is considered to be extinct.
  • It has resemblance to a dog, with its distinguishing features being the dark stripes beginning at the rear of its body and extending into its tail, its stiff tail and abdominal pouch.
  • The last known thylacine died in captivity over 80 years ago, in Tasmania’s Hobart Zoo in 1936.
  • It may also be the only mammal to have become extinct in Tasmania since the European settlement.

Why did they become extinct?

  • It was confined to Tasmania in recent times and disappeared from mainland Australia over 2000 years ago, mainly because of over-hunting by humans, diseases and competition from the Dingo (Canis lupus), a wild dog native to Australia.
  • The Thylacine was also persecuted because it was believed to be a threat to sheep and in its latter years it was hunted for the purposes of collection by museums and zoos.
  • As per some accounts, the introduction of sheep in 1824 led to a conflict between the settlers and thylacine.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Deemed Forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deemed Forests

Mains level : Forest management in India

  • It has been 23 years since the Supreme Court asked all states in the country to identify deemed forests, but their status in several states is still unclear.

Deemed Forests

  • The SC, in a Dec 12, 1996 judgement, had broadened the definition of forest to include not just land classified as forest under forest or revenue departments, but also those that are forests according to the definition of a forest.
  • It had then also asked states to form committees to identify forests, irrespective of the nature of land ownership or whether they are notified, recognised or classified in a time-bound manner.
  • There are forests that are notified either with the forest department or revenue department.
  • Then there are those areas that are like forests but are neither recorded, nor notified. The Supreme Court had ordered that the states identify and classify these as deemed forests.
  • Deemed forests are already a legal category of forests in some states and they are not defined according to the dictionary definition.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Annual Ganges River Dolphin Census

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic Dolphin

Mains level : Conservation of Gangetic Dolphin


  • The annual Ganges river dolphin census site has begun.

Annual Ganges River Dolphin Census

  • It is undertaken by World Wide Fund for Nature-India in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.
  • It is being held along the 250-km-long riverine stretch of Upper Ganga between Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary and Narora Ramsar.
  • Unlike previous years, when direct counting method was used, this year the tandem boat survey method is being used.

What is Tandem Boat Survey Method?

  • Here the officials use two inflated boats which move in tandem to count the dolphins.
  • After collating the data, statistical tools are employed to arrive at the final count.
  • The method is developed by the renowned river and marine ecologist Gill Braulik, provides a more accurate count of the endangered species.
  • This new method is likely to yield more accurate count of the endangered species

Back2Basics

Gangetic Dolphin

  • Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • It has been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The Gangetic river species found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal is almost completely blind.
  • It finds its way and prey using echoes with a peculiar ‘su-su’ sound being everything for them to navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play.
  • Like bats, they produce high-frequency sounds which help them ‘see’ objects when the sound waves bounce off them.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Explained: The fight over Mumbai’s Aarey Colony

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mithi River

Mains level : Urbanization at the cost of environment


Context

Aarey Colony

  • The Aarey Milk Colony was envisioned by Dara N Khurody, the less famous colleague of Verghese Kurien. The two shared Ramon Magsaysay Award for their work in 1963.
  • The Colony was established in 1949 and was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1951.

Why under siege?

  • The felling of trees is aimed at creating space for the construction of a Mumbai Metro train shed, is being opposed by environmentalists as well as local residents.
  • This has sparked campaigns and protests all across the country.
  • The Aarey forest is very close to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The activists argue that the Aarey forest is part of the same vegetation cover.

Where do things stand in the Aarey Milk Colony tree-felling case matter?

  • A special Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday ordered status quo to be maintained till the next date of hearing with respect to cutting of trees.
  • This means that while the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) cannot cut any more trees at the site of the proposed car shed, it can go ahead with construction activity related to the project.
  • The court directed that everyone arrested for protesting the felling of the trees should be released.

What is the core issue?

  • The site is on the bank of the Mithi River, with several channels and tributaries flowing into it — and construction for the “polluting industry” could flood Mumbai.
  • The court accepted the letter of litigant as PIL and set up the special Bench.
  • The petitioners had questioned the propriety and legality of the BMC Tree Authority’s permission for the tree-felling, and asked for Aarey to be declared a flood plain and a forest.
  • Activists argue that Aarey is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and that the car shed would pave the way for greater commercial exploitation of the area.

Why does Metro want the car shed here?

  • MMRCL argues that this land belongs to the state — it is with the Dairy Development Department — and therefore, the long, messy, and expensive process of acquisition can be avoided, with zero additional cost to citizens.
  • Aarey is located 800 metres from SEEPZ, the last station on the 33.5-km Colaba-SEEPZ line — the optimum distance from where operations can be serviced swiftly.
  • In case of an emergency, the depot must be easily accessible for operating staff by alternative means. Alternate route would also delay the project, and add to the cost.

How will this affect Aarey environment?

  • The proposed car shed will house washing, maintenance, and repair works facilities.
  • A railway car shed is a “Red Category” industry, which causes the highest level of pollution.
  • Activists say activities at the shed will generate oil, grease, and electrical waste, besides hazardous materials such as acid and paints.
  • Effluents will be discharged into the Mithi, and could pollute the groundwater, they say.
  • Also, construction of the depot will increase exploitation of ground water resources, they say.

What is the argument about the environmental cost of the project?

  • According to a report the area is home to 86 species of butterfly, 90 species of spider, 46 species of reptiles, 34 species of wildflower, and nine leopards.
  • As per the BMC’s tree census, there about 4.5 lakh trees in Aarey, which is described as Mumbai’s green lung.
  • Activists says the Aarey depot plot is the sole surviving natural floodplain of the Mithi, whose reclamation through construction and felling of trees would lead to greater inundation during the monsoon.

Arguments for the Project

  • The proposed car shed will be set up on only 33 hectares, which is barely 2% of the 1,278 hectares of the green belt.
  • Beyond this plot, no other part of Aarey will be disturbed, as the site is accessible by road from three sides.
  • Also, the trees that were felled over the weekend stood on only 17% of the land earmarked for the car shed.
  • The MMRCL has said that 60% of the trees are non-native and exotic, and can be replaced by native species.
  • The MMRCL has argued that the Metro will bring enormous environmental benefits by reducing the overall carbon footprint:
  • seven days of Metro operation is projected to cut carbon dioxide equivalent to that absorbed by 2,700 trees in a year.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes-virus (EEHV)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EEHV

Mains level : Treating rare diseases


  • A rare disease has killed five elephants in Odisha.
  • The four deaths in Nandan Kanan Zoo are the first reported cases of EEHV-related deaths in an Indian zoo while the death in the forest too is the first known such case in the wild in India.

EEHV

  • EEHV is a type of herpesvirus that can cause a highly fatal haemorrhagic disease in young Asian elephants.
  • The disease is caused by a virus called EEHV, or elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.
  • EEHV is lethal for young elephants between the ages of one and 12.

Symptoms

  • Most elephants carry just as most humans carry a cold virus.
  • When EEHV is triggered, the elephant dies of massive internal bleeding and symptoms which are hardly visible.
  • Some elephants show symptoms such as reduced appetite, nasal discharge and swollen glands, researchers say.
  • The disease is usually fatal, with a short course of 28-35 hours.

No cure yet

  • There is no true cure for herpes-viruses in animals or in humans because herpes viruses go latent.
  • The disease has a short course which means that we have to take a very quick call on a suspected EEHV case and kick off treatment protocols.
  • This treatment is a combination of anti-viral therapy, aggressive fluid therapy (to counter haemorrhaging), immuno-stimulant drugs (selenium and Vitamins C, E), anti-pyretics and analgesics (to bring down fever).

Why it is a concern?

  • The death of the Chandaka forest elephant has worried officials in Odisha.
  • If elephants in the wild start falling prey to the virus, then treatment will be very difficult.
  • If a young elephant dies before reproducing, it affects the population of the species as a whole in the concerned geography.
  • It will be extremely hard to track down every wild elephant in the state and test whether they are positive for EEHV, and the state government cannot afford the manpower.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Bio-fencing to check man-animal conflict

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bio-fencing

Mains level : Benefits of Bio-fencing


  • To prevent wild animals from entering residential areas and to protect agricultural crops and livestock in areas adjoining to forests, the Uttarakhand government has decided to opt for bio-fencing.

Bio-fencing

  • Bio-fencings are lines of trees or shrubs planted on farm or field boundaries that provide protection against cattle and wildlife, act as windbreaks, enrich the soil, provide bee forage, provide shade, and control dust.
  • They are less expensive and more useful than fences made of wood, barbed wire, or stone masonry.
  • Various species have been tested to discover their suitability for use as biofencing plants ex. thorny species have been widely used.

A case in Uttarakhand

  • According to Uttarakhand officials, lemongrass, agave, rambans, and certain species of chilly and some other plant species have been identified to be grown for fencing.
  • Leopards and bears, along with elephants and wild boars are a major threat to human life, livestock and crops.
  • Traditional methods like solar-powered wire fencings, walls and pits in the woods prevents the entry of elephants, wild boars, tigers, leopards and others in residential areas.
  • Bio-fencing with lemongrass will be done to prevent entry of elephants because elephants do not like the smell of lemongrass.
  • Likewise, agave will be grown to deter elephant and wild boars.
  • This biotic method is environment-friendly and harvesting of such plants can also be economical for farmers.

Why bio-fencing?

  • Solar-powered wire fencing is effective only when local villagers maintain them.
  • About erection of walls in forest areas, building and repairing them is a costly affair.
  • If local farmers agree to be part of the bio-fencing exercise, they can earn by growing lemongrass, a good source of oil.
  • Once these plants are in place, the department will string beehives in the next phase to deter elephants.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBCs)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Diclofenac, Indian Vulture

Mains level : Not Much


  • Starting with just a few vultures, the total number of vultures in the VCBCs has increased to more than 700.

Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres

  • The VCBC were started in 2004 when the vulture population had already crashed significantly, almost by 99 %.
  • At present there are nine (VCBC) in India, of which three are directly administered by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
  • The three species of vultures bred in the VCBC are the White-backed, Long-billed and the Slender-billed vulture.
  • The objective of the VCBCs was not only to look after the vultures and breed them in captivity, but also to release them into the wild.
  • The first objective of the VCBC was to produce a few hundred pairs of each of the three species of the endangered vultures.

Threat to vultures

  • The major reason behind the vulture population getting nearly wiped out was the drug Diclofenac found in the carcass of cattle the vultures fed on.
  • The drug, whose veterinary use was banned in 2008, was commonly administered to cattle to treat inflammation.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Nilgiri Tahr

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nilgiri Tahr

Mains level : Conservation of wildlife species in India


  • In more good news for the State animal, the Nilgiri tahr, its sightings in the Mukurthi National Park have risen from 568 in 2018 to 612 this year.

Why a good news?

  • There was a decrease in tahr numbers in 2017, when a population of only 438 was recorded, down from 480 in 2016.
  • This was the second consecutive year that an increase in the population of the animal had been recorded in the park, meaning the population of the Nilgiri tahr, also known as the Nilgiri ibex, has risen by 132 since 2016.

Nilgiri tahr

  • IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered
  • The Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) aka the Nilgiri ibex or simply ibex.
  • 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.
  • It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  • The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests eco-region.
  • 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.
  • Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population of this Tahr.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Star tortoise, otters get higher protection at CITES

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CITES, Species mentioned

Mains level : Conservation of wildlife species in India

  • India’s proposal to upgrade the protection of star tortoises (Geochelone elegans), the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and small-clawed otters (Anoyx cinereus) in CITES have been approved.
  • The proposal to remove Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of Convention is also under consideration.

Benefits of the move

  • These species have been listed under Appendix I of CITES and will now enjoy the highest degree of protection as there will be a complete international ban enforced on their trade.

About CITES

  • CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • It is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
  • It was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
  • It entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
  • The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
  • India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.

CITES Appendices

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.

It has three appendices:

  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES parties for assistance in controlling trade.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

18th CoP of CITES, Geneva

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : CITES and its mandate

  • Over a hundred nations approved a proposal by India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to prohibit commercial international trade in a species of otter native to the subcontinent and some other parts of Asia.
  • India’s proposal to remove Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of Convention is also under consideration.

Indian proposals

  • Members at the Conference have voted to move the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I because it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction.
  • It is detrimentally affected by international trade, as well as habitat loss and degradation and persecution associated with conflict with people (and fisheries).
  • The other proposal that was passed was to include the Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) in CITES Appendix II.
  • The proposal on protecting the Tokay gecko mentioned threats from hunting and collection for use in traditional medicine.
  • Apart from the smooth-coated otter, India had proposed Appendix I status for the small-clawed otter, mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), the Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) and the Tokay gecko.

About CITES

  • The CITES is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
  • CITES was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
  • CITES entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
  • The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
  • India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.

CITES Appendices

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
  • It has three appendices. Appendix I include species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES parties for assistance in controlling trade.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Vulture population on the rise in the Nilgiris

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population


  • The population of vultures in the Nilgiris has increased by more than 26 % since 2012.
  • However the major threats, such as deliberate poisoning of cattle carcasses, are still prevalent in the region.

Vultures in Nilgiri BR

  • In 2012, the number of vultures seen in the Nilgiris was around 152 individuals, comprising the White-rumped vulture, Asian king vulture and the Long-billed vulture.
  • Since then, the population increased each year till 2014, before sudden crashes in 2015 and 2016.
  • It then recovered to 192 individuals in 2018.
  • While these three species of vulture are known to nest almost exclusively in the Mudumalai and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserves in Southern India, other vulture species, such as the Cinereous vulture, the Himalayan griffon vulture and Egyptian vulture have been spotted visiting the Nilgiris each year.

Drug threat

  • After vulture populations across the Western Ghats, and the rest of India, plummeted in the 1990s, sustained monitoring and concerted conservation efforts led to a recovery in the last decade.
  • The effects diclofenac and other anti-inflammatory drugs had on vultures were first detailed in 2008, at a workshop in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.
  • This was done in subsequent workshops in the Nilgiris and Coimbatore in 2011 and 2015.
  • Unlike in other landscapes in India with high vulture population, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac, nimesulides and flunixin, was not as big a threat in the Nilgiris.
  • There was a demand for beef in the region. Cattle were beinge sold to slaughterhouses, which meant that people had very little reason to use expensive drugs to try and keep the animals alive when they fell ill.

Key resolution

  • One of the major resolutions adopted was that the Department of Animal Husbandry would stop procuring non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, which were given to cattle to cure them of illnesses.
  • This was to ensure that vultures did not die of scavenging carcasses that contained diclofenac residue.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Tamil Yeoman declared state butterfly of TN

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tamil Yeoman

Mains level : Significance of Insects


  • 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’.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDV

Mains level : Various threats to wildlife population

  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species extinction in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extinct species mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much

  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

IUCN ‘Red List’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN , Red List

Mains level : Conservation of wildlife

  • 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)

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Plan Bee

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plan Bee

Mains level : Elephant connservation efforts


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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Coral Rehabilitation Programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coral Rehab Programme

Mains level : Artificial coral reefs

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Tamil Yeoman declared Tamil Nadu’s state butterfly

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tamil yeoman

Mains level : Not Much


  • 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).

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Japan resumes commercial whaling after 31 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IWC

Mains level : Mandate of IWC

  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDVI

Mains level : Utility of NDVI


  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Great Indian Bustard

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Indian Bustards

Mains level : Species Recovery Programme


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

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the specie

Mains level : What is Iterative Evolution?


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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the campaign

Mains level : Curbing illicit trade in wildlife


  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Herbivore census in Gujarat’s Gir forest

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic Lion Census

Mains level : Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

  • 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

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

DNA database for Indian Rhino

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DNA Database for Indian Rhino

Mains level : Conservation of Rhinos

  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Purple frog set to be crowned Kerala’s state amphibian

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Purple Frog

Click here for Image

  • 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).

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the squirrel

Mains level : Not Much

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Global Assessment Report by IPBES

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : Threats of mass extinction

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Kashmir Stag (Hangul)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kashmir Stag (Hangul)

Mains level : Not Much

  • 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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”.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

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.