Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Rhino Horn Reverification Exercises

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Rhino

Mains level : NA

Assam will mark World Rhino Day — September 22 — with a special ceremony by burning a stockpile of nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros.

Rhino Horn Reverification

  • The public ceremony — scheduled at Bokakhat in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has been publicized as a “milestone towards rhino conservation” aimed at “busting myths about rhino horns”.
  • It’s a loud and clear message to the poachers and smugglers that such items have no value.
  • Thus the case for the destruction of horns — a process that is in compliance with Section 39(3)(c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.

Why are Rhinos poached for horns?

  • Ground rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers, and also as an aphrodisiac.
  • In Vietnam, possessing a rhino horn is considered a status symbol.
  • Due to demand in these countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent against which one cannot let the guard down.

Try this PYQ:

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

 

Post your answers here.
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Back2Basics: 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 and Schedule I animal in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • 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

Species in news: Sea Cucumber

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sea cucumber

Mains level : Illicit trade of exotic species

In a swift operation, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) at Mandapam, Tamil Nadu seized two tonnes of sea cucumber, a banned marine species.

Sea Cucumbers

  • Sea cucumbers are part of a larger animal group called echinoderms, which also contains starfish and sea urchins.
  • Their body shape is similar to a cucumber, but they have small tentacle-like tube feet that are used for locomotion and feeding.
  • One way that sea cucumbers can confuse or harm predators is by propelling their own toxic internal organs from their bodies in the direction of an attacker.
  • The organs grow back, and it may save them from being eaten.
  • They are found in virtually all marine environments throughout the world, from shallow to deep-sea environments.
  • They are benthic, meaning they live on the ocean floor. However, their larvae are planktonic, meaning they float in the ocean with the currents.

Conservation status

  • Sea cucumber in India is treated as an endangered species listed under schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • It is primarily smuggled from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka in fishing vessels from Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin districts.

(IUCN status is not available for this species)

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

How are Humboldts different from other penguins?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Humboldt Penguins

Mains level : In-situ conservation

Last week, Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo announced the addition of two new Humboldt penguin chicks this year.

Humboldt Penguins

  • Humboldt penguins are medium-sized species among at least 17 species.
  • The exact number of distinct species is debated, but it is generally agreed that there are between 17 and 19 species.
  • The largest, the Emperor penguin, stands at over 4 ft tall while the Little penguin has a maximum height of 1 ft. Humboldt penguins have an average height of just over 2 ft.
  • The Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus Humboldt) belongs to a genus that is commonly known as the ‘banded’ group.’

Relation with the Humboldt Oceanic Current

  • Humboldt penguins are endemic to the Pacific coasts of Chile and Peru.
  • They are so named because their habitat is located near the Humboldt Current, a large oceanic upwelling characterized by cold waters.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Mura-Drava-Danube (MDD) Biosphere Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MMD Biosphere Reserve, BRs in India

Mains level : Not Much

UNESCO has designated Mura-Drava-Danube (MDD) as the world’s first ‘five-country biosphere reserve’.

About Mura-Drava-Danube BR

  • The biosphere reserve covers 700 kilometres of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers and stretches across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia.
  • The total area of the reserve — a million hectares — in the so-called ‘Amazon of Europe’, makes it the largest riverine protected area on the continent.
  • The reserve is home to floodplain forests, gravel and sand banks, river islands, oxbows and meadows.
  • It is home to continental Europe’s highest density of breeding white-tailed eagle (more than 150 pairs), as well as endangered species such as the little tern, black stork, otters, beavers and sturgeons.
  • It is also an important annual resting and feeding place for more than 250,000 migratory birds, according to WWF.
  • Almost 900,000 people live in the biosphere reserve. (UPSC may ask if it is uninhabited.)

Significance of this BR

  • The new reserve represented an important contribution to the European Green Deal and contributes to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy in the Mura-Drava-Danube region.
  • The strategy’s aim is to revitalize 25,000 km of rivers and protect 30 per cent of the European Union’s land area by 2030.
  • The declaration as BR puts river revitalization, sustainable business practices enhancing cross-border cooperation into focus.

Ignore at your own risk! Its better to correct it here itself.

Such PYQs are ought to repeat any number of times in UPSC CSE.

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. The boundaries of a National Park are defined by legislation.
  2. A Biosphere Reserve is declared to conserve a few specific species of flora and fauna.
  3. In a Wildlife Sanctuary, limited biotic interference is permitted.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.
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Back2Basics: UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

  • Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’.
  • They are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.
  • They are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO following the decisions of the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB ICC).
  • Their status is internationally recognized. Member States can submit sites through the designation process.
  • Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems.

They integrate three main “functions”:

  1. Conservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity
  2. Economic development that is socio-culturally and environmentally sustainable
  3. Logistic support, underpinning development through research, monitoring, education and training

(a) Core Areas

It comprises a strictly protected zone that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation

(b) Buffer Zones

It surrounds or adjoins the core area(s), and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.

(c) Transition Area

The transition area is where communities foster socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable economic and human activities.

UNESCO recognized BRs in India

Year of

recognition

Name

States

2000 Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Tamil Nadu
2001 Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Tamil Nadu
2001 Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve West Bengal
2004 Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve Uttarakhand
2009 Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve Madhya Pradesh
2009 Nokrek Biosphere Reserve Meghalaya
2009 Simlipal Biosphere Reserve Odisha
2012 Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve Chhattisgarh
2013 Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve Great Nicobar
2016 Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve Kerala and Tamil Nadu
2018 Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve Part of North and West Sikkim districts
2020 Panna Biosphere Reserve Madhya Pradesh

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

First Dugong Conservation Reserve to be built in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dugong

Mains level : Not Much

India’s first Dugong conservation reserve will be built in Tamil Nadu for the conservation of Dugong, a marine mammal.

Try answering this PYQ:

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 I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1974.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

 

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Dugong Conservation Reserve

  • The reserve will spread over an area of 500 km in Palk Bay on the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu.
  • Palk Bay is a semi-enclosed shallow water body with a water depth maximum of 13 meters.
  • Located between India and Sri Lanka along the Tamil Nadu coast, the dugong is a flagship species in the region.

Dugong: The sea cow

  • Dugong or the sea cow is the State animal of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
  • This endangered marine species survive on seagrass and other aquatic vegetation found in the area.
  • It is the only herbivorous mammal that is strictly marine and is the only extant species in the family Dugongidae.
  • Dugongs are usually about three-meter long and weigh about 400 kg.
  • Dugongs have an expanded head and trunk-like upper lip.
  • Elephants are considered to be their closest relatives. However, unlike dolphins and other cetaceans, sea cows have two nostrils and no dorsal fin.

Their habitat

  • Distributed in shallow tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific region, in India, they are found in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
  • Dugongs are long-living animals, that have a low reproductive rate, long generation time, and high investment in each offspring.
  • The female dugongs do not bear their first calf until they are at least 10 and up to 17 years old.
  • A dugong population is unlikely to increase more than 5% per year. They take a long time to recover due to the slow breeding rate.

Causes of extinction

  • Having being declared vulnerable, the marine animal calls for conserving efforts.
  • Studies have suggested the reasons for the extinction of the animal such as slow breeding rate, fishing, and the loss of habitat.
  • They are also known to suffer due to accidental entanglement and drowning in gill-nets.

Conservation in India

  • The conservation reserve can promote growth and save vulnerable species from the verge of extinction.
  • Dugongs are protected in India under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Act 1972 which bans the killing and purchasing of dugong meat.
  • IUCN status: Vulnerable

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Behler Turtle Conservation Award

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species mentioned, Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)

Mains level : NA

Indian biologist Shailendra Singh has been awarded the Behler Turtle Conservation Award for bringing three critically endangered turtle conservation species back from the brink of extinction.

Behler Turtle Conservation Award

  • The Award is a major annual international award honoring excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation and biology, and leadership in the chelonian conservation and biology community.
  • It is co-presented by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) among others.
  • It is widely considered the “Nobel Prize” of turtle conservation and biology.

Citation for the 2021 Award

  • For some species, such as the Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga), Northern River Terrapin (Batagur Baska), and Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) Dr. Singh and his team’s efforts are the last hope for their wild survival in the country.
  • In just 15 years, there are few individuals that have made such monumental contributions to turtle conservation.

Turtles in India

  • The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur Baska) is being conserved at the Sunderbans; the Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) at Chambal; and the Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) at different temples in Assam.
  • These critically endangered turtles are being conserved as a part of TSA India’s research, conservation breeding and education programme in different parts of the country.
  • There are 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises in the country.

About Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)

  • The TSA was formed in 2001 as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) partnership for sustainable captive management of freshwater turtles and tortoises.
  • This alliance arose in response to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtle populations to supply Chinese markets, a situation known as the Asian Turtle Crisis.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Ladakh adopts State Animal and Bird

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Snow leopard, black-necked crane

Mains level : Not Much

Ladakh has adopted two endangered species, snow leopard and black-necked crane, as State animal and State bird, two years after it was carved out as a separate Union Territory (UT) from the erstwhile State of J&K.

Snow Leopard

  • The snow leopard (Panther unica) and black-necked crane (Grus nicricollis).
  • Snow leopard, whose numbers are dwindling worldwide, has been categorized as “vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
  • In total, there are about 7,500 snow leopards left in the world, out of which 500 are in India.
  • However, experts state that the population of snow leopards is between 200-300 in Ladakh alone.

Black-necked Crane

  • The black-necked crane is found in eastern Ladakh’s high-altitude wetlands and marshes.
  • It is mostly listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
  • Considered loyal couples, they are only found in Ladakh’s Changthang region. They arrive in March for breeding and migrate by October end or early November.
  • It was the State bird of J&K before August 5, 2019.

About Ladakh

  • Ladakh was established as a union territory of India on 31 October 2019, following the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act.
  • Prior to that, it was part of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Ladakh is the largest and the second least populous union territory of India.
  • It extends from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the north to the main Great Himalayas to the south.
  • The eastern end, consisting of the uninhabited Aksai Chin plains, is claimed by the Indian Government as part of Ladakh and has been under Chinese control since 1962.
  • The largest town in Ladakh is Leh, followed by Kargil, each of which headquarters is a district.
  • The Leh district contains the Indus, Shyok and Nubra river valleys. The Kargil district contains the Suru, Dras and Zanskar river valleys.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Slender Loris

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Slender Loris

Mains level : Various endemic species of India

The Kadavur hills in central Tamil Nadu’s Karur district are home to the Kadavur Reserve Forest. These forests are home to the shy and reclusive slender loris, a species of primate.

Slender Loris

  • Slender loris (Loris tardigradus) is secretive and has nocturnal habits. It usually travels from the canopy of one tree to another. But, at times, it also comes down to bushes at the ground level to feed.
  • It is also found in the adjoining forest areas on the eastern, southern and western slopes of the Kadavur hills.
  • It sleeps by day in the foliage or in a hole or crevice. It comes out at dusk in search of prey.
  • They are fond of lantana berries and also eat insects, lizards, small birds, tree frogs, tender leaves and buds.
  • They are usually solitary but sometimes found in pairs.

Conservation

  • The slender loris has been listed as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
  • It has been brought under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in order to provide the highest level of legal protection.

Threats

  • As it is believed that these animals have some medicinal properties, they are captured and sold.
  • Since there is great demand for keeping these animals as pets, they are illegally smuggled.
  • Habitat loss, electrocution of live wires, and road accidents are other threats that have caused its populations to dwindle.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Greater Adjutant Storks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Greater Adjutant Storks

Mains level : NA

In a first, Bihar has decided to tag endangered greater adjutant storks (Leptoptilos dubius), locally known as ‘Garuda’, with GPS trackers to monitor their movement as a part of their conservation.

Greater Adjutant Storks

  • Bhagalpur’s Kadwa Diara floodplains area is the third-most-popular breeding centre for the greater adjutant stork in the world after Assam and Cambodia.
  • Historically the range of the Greater Adjutant covered India and Southeast Asia, but today the endangered storks are mostly found in the Indian state of Assam and in Cambodia.
  • In India, the Greater Adjutant is now confined to the northeastern state of Assam, their last stronghold.

Try answering this PYQ:

Q.If you walk through the countryside, you are likely to see some birds stalking alongside the cattle to seize the insects, disturbed by their movement through grasses. Which of the following is/are such bird/ birds?

  1. Painted Stork
  2. Common Myna
  3. Black-necked Crane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

 

Post your answers here:
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Their conservation

  • The greater adjutant is one of the most threatened stork species of the world and is widely considered to be a rare bird.
  • However, the global population of the Greater Adjutant Stork is estimated to be roughly not more than 1,500 now.
  • Hence it is classified as ‘endangered ‘on the IUCN’s Red List 2004 of threatened species and listed under Schedule IV of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The Bombay Natural History Society will help and work along with the state forest, environment, and climate change department to start the process of tagging greater adjutant storks with GPS tracker.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Common survey to count India’s elephant and tiger populations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : NA

From December, India will move to a system that will count tigers and elephants as part of a common survey.

Common survey for elephants and tiger

  • Given that 90% of the area occupied by elephants and tigers is common, and once estimation methods are standardized, having a common survey can significantly save costs.
  • The tiger survey is usually held once in four years and elephants are counted once in five years.
  • According to the most recent 2018-19 survey, there were 2,997 tigers in India while in the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India.

Answer this PYQ:

With reference to Indian Elephants, consider the following statements :

1. The leader of an elephant group is a female.
2. The maximum gestation period can be 22 months.
3. An elephant can normally go on calving till the age of 40 years only.
4. Among the States in India, the highest population is in Kerala.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

(a) 1and 2 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1,3 and 4 only

 

Post your answers here:
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Why need a common survey?

  • Based on sightings in camera traps and indirect estimation methods, tiger numbers are computed.
  • Elephant numbers largely rely on States directly counting the number of elephants.
  • In recent years, techniques such as analyzing dung samples have also been deployed to estimate birth rates and population trends in elephants.

About All India Tiger Estimation

  • The tiger count is prepared after every four years by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) provides details on the number of tigers in the 18 tiger reign states with 50 tiger reserves.
  • It is conducted by the NTCA and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in collaboration with the State Forest Departments.
  • The entire exercise spanned over four years is considered to be the world’s largest wildlife survey effort in terms of coverage and intensity of sampling.
  • Over 15, 000 cameras are installed at various strategic points to capture the movement of tigers.
  • This is supported by extensive data collected by field personnel and satellite mapping.

 


Back2Basics: Asian Elephants

  • Asian elephants are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
  • This has been done as most of the range States except India have lost their viable elephant populations due to loss of habitat, poaching, etc.
  • Current population estimates indicate that there are about 50,000-60,000 Asian elephants in the world.
  • More than 60% of the world’s elephant population is in India.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] 14 Indian Tiger Reserves get Global CA/TS recognition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mapping of the tiger reserves mentioned

Mains level : Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS)

The Environment Ministry has released the names of the 14 tiger reserves that had received the accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured|Tiger Standards (CA|TS), an accreditation tool agreed upon by tiger range countries.

Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS)

  • CA|TS has been agreed upon as an accreditation tool by the global coalition of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and has been developed by tiger and protected area experts.
  • Officially launched in 2013, it sets minimum standards for effective management of target species and encourages the assessment of these standards in relevant conservation areas.
  • CA|TS is a set of criteria that allows tiger sites to check if their management will lead to successful tiger conservation.
  • The Global Tiger Forum (GTF), an international NGO working on tiger conservation, and World Wildlife Fund India are the two implementing partners of the National Tiger Conservation Authority for CATS assessment in India.

Which are the 14 reserves?

The 14 tiger reserves which have been accredited are:

  • Manas, Kaziranga and Orang in Assam,
  • Satpura, Kanha and Panna in Madhya Pradesh,
  • Pench in Maharashtra,
  • Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar,
  • Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh,
  • Sunderbans in West Bengal,
  • Parambikulam in Kerala,
  • Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka and
  • Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu

Significance

  • CATS accreditation is a global recognition of good tiger governance.
  • This recognition means a lot in the context of adaptation to climate change, sustainability of ecosystem services, and safeguarding disruption of zoonotic cycles, through an umbrella species approach.
  • The aspects monitored for accreditation include the importance and status of a reserve, management, community participation, tourism, protection, habitat management, and tiger populations.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Among the following Tiger Reserves, which one has the largest area under “Critical Tiger Habitat”? (CSP 2020)

(a) Corbett

(b) Ranthambore

(c) Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam

(d) Sundarbans

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary proposed as Ramsar Site

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary

Mains level : Not Much

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is likely to get its first Ramsar site at the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.

Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary

  • The Maharashtra Government has declared the area along the western bank of Thane Creek as the “Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary” since 2015.
  • It is Maharashtra’s second marine sanctuary after the Malvan sanctuary.
  • It is recognized as an “Important Bird Area” by the Bombay Natural History Society.

About 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 fresh water 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.

What does one mean by Ramsar Site?

  • A Ramsar Site is a wetland area designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • It provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Great Indian Bustards

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Indian Bustards

Mains level : Not Much

The Environment Ministry has informed the Parliament that there were no Great Indian Bustards (GIB) left in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (KBS) in Gujarat’s Kutch district.

Great Indian Bustards

  • GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican, and the Bengal florican.
  • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 percent of it. Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.
  • GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland.

On the brink of extinction

  • The GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
  • Pakistan is also believed to host a few GIBs and yet openly supports their hunting.

Protection accorded

  • Birdlife International: uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011)
  • Protection under CITES: Appendix I
  • IUCN status: Critically Endangered
  • Protection under Wildlife (Protection) Act: Schedule I

Threats

  • Overhead power transmission
  • Poor vision: Due to their poor frontal vision, can’t detect powerlines in time and their weight makes in-flight quick maneuvers difficult.
  • Windmills: Coincidentally, Kutch and Thar desert are the places that have witnessed the creation of huge renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Noise pollution: Noise affects the mating and courtship practices of the GIB.
  • Changes in the landscape: by way of farmers cultivating their land, which otherwise used to remain fallow due to frequent droughts in Kutch.
  • Cultivation changes: Cultivation of cotton and wheat instead of pulses and fodder are also cited as reasons for falling GIB numbers.

Supreme Court’s intervention

  • The Supreme Court has ordered that all overhead power transmission lines in core and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat should be undergrounded.
  • The SC also formed a three-member committee to help power companies comply with the order.

Conservation measures

  • In 2015, the Central government launched the GIB species recovery program.
  • Under the program, the WII and Rajasthan Forest departments have jointly set up conservation breeding centers where GIB eggs are harvested from the wild.
  • They have been incubated artificially and hatchlings raised in a controlled environment.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

Protected Area :: Well-known for

  1. Bhiterkanika, Odisha — Salt Water Crocodile
  2. Desert National Park, Rajasthan — Great Indian Bustard
  3. Eravikulam, Kerala — Hoolock Gibbon

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched? (CSP 2014)

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Re-wilding of wild animals and the challenges involved

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Re-wilding of tigers

Mains level : Animal reintroduction

The recent attempt of Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) to reintroduce into the wild tiger cub named Mangala after rearing it in ‘captivity’ has once again brought the controversial concept of ‘re-wilding’ of abandoned or injured animals under the lens.

What is the intervention known as ‘re-wilding’?

  • As per the Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, there are three ways to deal with orphaned or abandoned tiger cubs.
  1. The first is to make an effort to reunite the abandoned cubs with their mother.
  2. Second, if a reunion of the cub with its mother is not possible, then shift the cub to a suitable zoo.
  3. Third, reintroduction of the cub into the wild after a certain time when it appears that the cub is capable of surviving in the wild independently.
  • This is what is known as ‘re-wilding.

NTCA guidelines

  • NTCA stresses that the tiger cub should be reared in an in situ enclosure for a minimum of two years, and during this time, each cub should have a successful record of at least 50 ‘kills’.
  • Within the enclosure, the persons responsible for handling cubs must approach them by putting a tiger mask along with workday clothes of a tiger stripe pattern smeared with tiger urine and faeces.
  • Various conditions must be complied with at the time of releasing the cub in the wild.
  • The tiger cubs should be in prime health, and of dispersing age (three/four years).
  • There should be no abnormality/incapacitation.

How have attempts at re-wilding of carnivores gone in India?

  • The tiger conservationist Billy Arjan Singh was credited with the re-introduction of re-welding the Dudhwa forest area in the 1970s.
  • The attempt, however, ran into controversy after several incidents of the killing of humans were reported.
  • The re-wilding in Panna Tiger Reserve of two abandoned tigress cubs that were brought up at Kanha Tiger Reserve is considered to be a success in tiger conservation.

Re-wilding as a concept

  • There are 50-50 chances of success and failure of re-wilding of hand-reared carnivores in the wild.
  • Conservationists, however, maintain that the chances of success are far less than that — less than even 1 per cent.
  • Tigers in India are already occurring at naturally attainable densities.
  • Almost all translocations of captive-raised tigers have failed so far, with only rare successes such as in Panna after a tiger extinction, and some re-introductions in Russia into empty habitats with plenty of prey.

Way forward

  • The real need is to protect more habitat strictly so that the prey densities rise and more tigers can thrive.
  • Putting individual hand-reared tigers into the wild cannot certainly be called re-wilding says some wildlife activists.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Among the following Tiger Reserves, which one has the largest area under “Critical Tiger Habitat”? (CSP 2020)

(a) Corbett

(b) Ranthambore

(c) Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam

(d) Sunderbans

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Lemru Elephant Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lemru Elephant Reserve

Mains level : Man-Animal Conflict

The proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh, in the pipeline for 20 years, has become the subject of yet another controversy over the reduction of its size.

Lemru Elephant Reserve

  • The proposal for the reserve, in Korba district, was passed unanimously by the Assembly in 2005 and got central approval in 2007.
  • Lemru is one of two elephant reserves planned to prevent human-animal conflict in the region, with elephants moving into Chhattisgarh from Odisha and Jharkhand.
  • Its area was then proposed to be 450 sq km.

Why does the government want to reduce the size of the reserve?

  • The area proposed under the reserve is part of the Hasdeo Aranya forests, a very diverse biozone that is also rich in coal deposits.
  • Of 22 coal blocks in the area, seven have already been allotted with mines running in three, and in the process of being established in the other four.
  • Under the ‘No-Go Area’ policy from the UPA area, the entire area was considered out of bounds for mines, but in 2020, five coal blocks from the region were put on the auction list.

Why is the reserve important?

  • North Chhattisgarh alone is home to over 240 elephants.
  • Elephants in Chhattisgarh are relatively new; they started moving into undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1990.
  • Since these animals were relatively new, the human-animal conflict started once elephants started straying into inhabited areas, looking for food.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

What is Ambergris?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ambergris

Mains level : Not Much

In the past few weeks, there have been two cases where the Mumbai Police has arrested five persons trying to sell Ambergris or whale vomit.

What is Ambergris?

  • Ambergris, French for grey amber, is generally referred to as whale vomit.
  • It is a solid waxy substance that floats around the surface of the water body and at times settles on the coast.
  • A sperm whale eats several thousand squid beaks a day.
  • Occasionally, a beak makes it way to the whale’s stomach and into its looping convoluted intestines where it becomes ambergris through a complex process, and may ultimately be excreted by the whale.

Is it Ambergris valuable?

  • This excretion is so valuable it is referred to as floating gold.
  • As per the latest estimates given by Mumbai Police, 1 kg of ambergris is worth Rs 1 crore in the international market.
  • The reason for its high cost is its use in the perfume market, especially to create fragrances like musk.
  • It is believed to be in high demand in countries like Dubai that have a large perfume market. Ancient Egyptians used it as incense.
  • It is also believed to be used in some traditional medicines.

Why are the laws on Ambergris?

  • Due to its high value, Ambergris has been a target for smugglers especially in coastal areas.
  • There have been several cases where the coastline of Gujarat has been used for such smuggling.
  • Since the sperm whale is a protected species, hunting of the whale is not allowed.
  • However, smugglers are known to have illegally targeted the fish in order to obtain the valuable Ambergris from its stomach.
  • However, Ambergris is produced only by an estimated one per cent of sperm whales.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Pygmy Hogs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pygmy Hogs

Mains level : NA

Few captive-bred pygmy hogs, the world’s rarest and smallest wild pigs, were released in the Manas National Park of western Assam under the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP).

Pygmy Hogs

  • The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is a native to alluvial grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas at elevations of up to 300 m (980 ft).
  • Today, the only known population lives in Assam, India and possibly southern Bhutan.
  • As the population is estimated at less than 250 mature individuals, it is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • It is designated as a Schedule I species in India under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and offences against them invite heavy penalties.

About Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP)

  • The PHCP is a collaboration among Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust of UK, Assam Forest Department, Wild Pig Specialist Group of IUCN and Union Environment Ministry.
  • It is currently being implemented by NGOs Aaranyak and EcoSystems India.
  • Six hogs — two males and four females — were captured from the Bansbari range of the Manas National Park in 1996 for starting the breeding programme.
  • The reintroduction programme began in 2008 with the Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary (35 hogs), Orang National Park (59) and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary (22).

Now answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following :

  1. Star tortoise
  2. Monitor lizard
  3. Pygmy hog
  4. Spider monkey

Which of the above found in India?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Rare Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nilssonia nigricans

Mains level : Not Much

A major temple in Assam has signed a MoU with NGOs, the Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden and the Kamrup district administration for the long-term conservation of the rare freshwater black softshell turtle or the Nilssonia nigricans.

Two years back, one species from our newscard: Species in news: Hump-backed Mahseer made it into the CSP 2019.  The ‘Puntius Sanctus’ fish in the newscard creates such a vibe yet again.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time (and that too from Southern India) find their way into the prelims. Make special note here.

 

Q.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 correctly matched? (CSP 2019)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Nilssonia nigricans

  • Until sightings along the Brahmaputra’s drainage in Assam, the black softshell turtle was thought to be “extinct in the wild”.
  • It was confined only to ponds of temples in northeastern India and Bangladesh.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature had in 2021 listed the turtle as “critically endangered”.
  • But it does not enjoy legal protection under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, although it has traditionally been hunted for its meat and cartilage, traded in regional and international markets.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Operation Olivia to protect Olive Ridley Turtles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Olive Ridley Turtles

Mains level : NA

Every year, the Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia”, initiated in the early 1980s, helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December.

Answer this question from CSP 2012 in the comment box:

Q.Which one of the following is the national aquatic animal of India?

(a) Saltwater crocodile

(b) Olive ridley turtle

(c) Gangetic dolphin

(d) Gharial

Olive Ridley Turtles

  • The Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) is listed as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red list.
  • All five species of sea turtles found in India are included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and in the Appendix I of the CITES, which prohibits trade in turtle products by signatory countries.
  • Odisha has also formulated laws for protecting Olive Ridley turtles, and the Orissa Marine Fisheries Act empowers the Coast Guard as one of its enforcement agencies.
  • Studies have found three main factors that damage Olive Ridley turtles and their eggs — heavy predation of eggs by dogs and wild animals, indiscriminate fishing with trawlers and gill nets, and beach soil erosion.
  • Dense fishing activity along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, especially ocean-going trawlers, mechanized fishing boats, and gill-netters pose a severe threat to turtles.

Their habitats

  • The Olive Ridley has one of the most extraordinary nesting habits in the natural world, including mass nesting called arribadas.
  • The 480-km-long Odisha coast has three arribada beaches at Gahirmatha, the mouth of the Devi river, and in Rushikulya, where about 1 lakh nests are found annually.
  • They generally return to their natal beach, or where they were born, to lay eggs as adults.
  • Mating occurs in the offshore waters of the breeding grounds and females then come ashore to nest, usually several times during a season.
  • They crawl ashore, dig a flask-shaped nest about 1.5 to 2 foot deep, and lay 100 to 150 eggs in each clutch.
  • Hatchlings emerge from their nests together in about seven to 10 weeks.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Dihing Patkai is Assam’s 7th National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dihing Patkai NP

Mains level : NA

The Assam government has notified Dihing Patkai as a National Park, four days after creating the 422-sq. km Raimona National Park in western Assam’s Kokrajhar district.

Dihing Patkai NP

  • Dihing Patkai, in focus a year ago for illegal coal mining in the vicinity, encompasses the erstwhile Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, the Jeypore Reserve Forest and the western block of the Upper Dihing Reserve Forest.
  • The 234.26-sq. km Dihing Patkai straddling eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts is a major elephant habitat and 310 species of butterflies have been recorded there.
  • The park has 47 species each of reptiles and mammals, including the tiger and clouded leopard.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which one of the following National Parks has a climate that varies from tropical to subtropical, temperate and arctic?

(a) Khangchendzonga National Park

(b) Nandadevi National Park

(c) Neora Valley National Park

(d) Namdapha National Park

NPs in Assam

  • Assam now has the third most National Parks after the 12 in Madhya Pradesh and nine in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The five older National Parks in the State are Kaziranga, Manas, Nameri, Orang and Dibru-Saikhowa.
  • Kaziranga and Manas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • They are also tiger reserves along with Nameri and Orang.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Degradation of Aravalis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aravali Range and its geophysics

Mains level : NA

The Supreme Court has ordered the Haryana government to take “all essential measures” to remove encroachments, including some residential constructions, in the ecologically fragile Aravali forest land near a village.

Aravali Range

  • The Aravali is a mountain range in Northwestern India, running approximately 670 km in a southwest direction, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan, and ending in Gujarat.
  • The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 meters.
  • The Aravalli Range, an eroded stub of ancient mountains, is the oldest range of fold mountains in India.
  • The natural history of the Aravalli Range dates back to times when the Indian Plate was separated from the Eurasian Plate by an ocean.
  • Three major rivers and their tributaries flow from the Aravalli, namely Banas and Sahibi rivers which are tributaries of Yamuna, as well as Luni River which flows into the Rann of Kutch.
  • The Sariska-Delhi leopard wildlife corridor is a 200 km long important biodiversity and wildlife corridor which runs from the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan to Delhi Ridge.

Threats to its existence

  • Ecological degradation in the Aravalli region is in an alarming situation.
  • This is due to the increasing population of humans and cattle, injudicious use of natural resources, unscientific mining, uncontrolled grazing, and felling of trees.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.With reference to the river Luni, which one of the following statements is correct?

(a) It fl ows into Gulf of Khambhat

(b) It fl ows into Gulf of Kuchchh

(c) It fl ows into Pakistan and merges with a tributary of Indus

(d) It is lost in the marshy land of the Rann of Kuchchh

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Odisha’s blackbucks double in 6 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blackbuck

Mains level : Not Much

Odisha’s blackbuck population has doubled in the last six years, according to figures from the latest population census.

Blackbucks in Odisha

  • Blackbucks are found only in the Ganjam district in the southern part of the state, which is where the census was carried out.
  • It is known in Odisha and Ganjam as Krushnasara Mruga.
  • The people of Ganjam believe the sighting of a blackbuck in a paddy field is a harbinger of luck for them.
  • It used to be sighted in the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary in Puri district till 2012-13, but now has vanished from the area.
  • The blackbuck is a Schedule-1 animal according to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (amended in 1992) and is considered as ‘Vulnerable’ according to the Red Data Book.

Reasons for their rise

  • Improvement of habitats, the protection given by the local people and forest staff were some of the reasons for the increase of the population.
  • The people of Ganjam had been enthusiastically protecting the animal like the Bishnois of western Rajasthan and the Vala Rajputs of Saurashtra.

Answer this PYQ:

Q.With reference to ‘Eco-Sensitive Zones’, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas that are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  2. The purpose of the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones is to prohibit all kinds of human activities, in those zones except agriculture.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


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 the 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

Bustard Poaching in Pakistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Indian Bustard

Mains level : Wildlife conservation efforts

The recent shooting of two Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert has left wildlife activists in Rajasthan shocked and outraged.

Great Indian Bustards

  • The GIB is one of the heaviest flying birds and can weigh up to 15 kg which grows up to one metre in height.
  • In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
  • For a 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 the 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.

Why in news?

  • The GIB, which is the state bird of Rajasthan, is considered India’s most critically endangered bird.
  • It is one of the most critically threatened species in India, with less than 150 birds left in the wild.

Try this PYQ:

Q.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

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Indian Rhino Vision 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Rhino Vision 2020

Mains level : Not Much

The ambitious Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020) came to a close with the release of two rhinos — an adult male and a female — in Assam’s Manas National Park transported from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary about 185 km east.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Recently there was a proposal to translocate some of the lions from their natural habitat in Gujarat to which one of the following sites?

(a) Corbett National Park

(b) Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary

(c) Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary

(d) Sariska National Park

What is IRV 2020?

  • In 2005, conservationists, alongside the Bodoland Territorial Council and the Government of Assam, came together to develop a long-term strategy to manage the species.
  • Their vision was ambitious; to build a 3,000-strong wild population of Greater one-horned rhinos by 2020, spread across seven sites in the state of Assam.
  • Thus the “Indian Rhino Vision 2020” (IRV2020) was born.

Success of the IRV

  • Designed in 2005, the IRV2020 is believed to have achieved its target of attaining a population of 3,000 rhinos in Assam.
  • But the plan to spread the Rhinoceros unicornis across four protected areas beyond Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park and Pobitora could not materialise.
  • Assam had at least five rhino-bearing areas till the 1980s.
  • Manas, in focus for the near-extinction of the pygmy hog, lost the World Heritage Site tag it received in 1985 along with Kaziranga from the UNESCO.
  • The translocated rhinos helped Manas National Park get back its World Heritage Site status in 2011.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Indus and Ganges river dolphins are two different species

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic and Indus Dolphin

Mains level : Not Much

Detailed analysis of South Asian river dolphins has revealed that the Indus and Ganges River dolphins are not one, but two separate species.

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.

Indus Dolphin is the divergent specie

  • Currently, they are classified as two subspecies under Platanista gangetica. The study estimates that Indus and Ganges river dolphins may have diverged around 550,000 years ago.
  • The international team studied body growth, skull morphology, tooth counts, colouration and genetic makeup and published the findings last month in Marine Mammal Science.

Conservation status

  • The Indus and Ganges River dolphins are both classified as ‘Endangered’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It is the national aquatic animal and had been granted non-human personhood status by the government in 2017.
  • It is also protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
  • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bihar is India’s only sanctuary for the Gangetic dolphin.
  • It has been categorised as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species by the IUCN
  • Physical barriers such as dams and barrages created across the river, the declining river flows reduced the gene flow to a great extent making the species vulnerable.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Mahendragiri Hills

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mahendragiri Hills

Mains level : Biosphere reserves in India

The Odisha government has proposed a second biosphere reserve in the southern part of the state at Mahendragiri, a hill ecosystem having a rich biodiversity.

The 5,569-square kilometre Similipal Biosphere Reserve is Odisha’s first such reserve and was notified May 20, 1996.

Mahendragiri Hills

  • Mahendragiri is a mountain in the Rayagada subdivision of the district of Gajapati, Odisha, India.
  • It is situated amongst the Eastern Ghats at an elevation of 1,501 metres.
  • The hill and its surrounding areas are recognized as a biodiversity hot spot due to numerous medicinal plants and other species that are found here.
  • Mahendragiri is inhabited by the Soura people, a particularly vulnerable tribal group as well as the Kandha tribe.

Try this PYQ:

Q.From the ecological point of view, which one of the following assumes importance in being a good link between the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats? (CSP 2018)

(a) Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve

(b) Nallamala Forest

(c) Nagarhole National Park

(d) Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve

Why designate it as a biosphere reserve?

  • The area of the proposed Mahendragiri Biosphere Reserve is around 470,955 hectares and is spread over Gajapati and Ganjam districts in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The hill ecosystem acts as a transitional zone between the flora and fauna of southern India and the Himalayas, making the region an ecological estuary of genetic diversities.
  • The rich flora in Mahendragiri represents 40 per cent of the reported flora of Odisha, with around 1,358 species of plants.

Back2Basics:  Biosphere Reserves

  • A biosphere reserve is an area of land or water that is protected by law in order to support the conservation of ecosystems, as well as the sustainability of mankind’s impact on the environment.
  • Each reserve aims to help scientists and the environmental community figure out how to protect the world’s plant and animal species while dealing with a growing population and its resource needs.
  • To carry out the complementary activities of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, biosphere reserves are traditionally organized into 3 interrelated zones, known as:
    1. the core area
    2. the buffer zone and
    3. a transition zone or ‘area of cooperation

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Inter-state Tiger Relocation Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPs mentioned in the news

Mains level : Tiger relocation issues

Sundari — a tigress shifted as part of India’s first inter-state translocation project in 2018 from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha has returned home.

What is the news?

  • The five-year-old tigress Sundari spent 28 months in captivity in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha.
  • The two states lingered on the process for her relocation despite the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) shelving off the much-vaunted inter-state tiger translocation drive.

What was the Tiger Relocation Project?

  • The tiger relocation project was initiated in 2018 wherein two big cats, a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from MP were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha.
  • The relocation was meant to serve two purposes
  1. to reduce the tiger population in areas with excess tigers to majorly reduce territorial disputes and
  2. to reintroduce tigers in areas where the population has considerably reduced due to various reasons

How were Mahavir and Sundari chosen for the project?

  • Both the big cats were selected for the translocation project as per the NTCA guidelines and in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India and the GoI.
  • Two key factors were considered for choosing the animal — first, a dispersing young animal which is to find a new and second, an adult transient which was yet to establish any territory.

What is the Satkosia Tiger Reserve and why was it chosen?

  • Encompassing an area of 963.87 sq km, the Satkosia Tiger Reserve spreads across four districts and has as its core area 523 sq km.
  • According to NTCA, Satkosia falls under reserves where “there is a potential for increasing tiger populations”.
  • Declared as a Tiger Reserve in 2007, Satkosia had a population of 12 tigers then. The numbers reduced to two in 2018.
  • The purpose of the relocation was to repopulate tigers in the reserve areas.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q.With reference to India’s Desert National Park, which of the following statements is correct?

  1. It is spread over two districts.
  2. There is no human habitation inside the Park.
  3. It is one of the natural habitats of Great Indian Bustard.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1,2 and 3

Unexpected outcomes of the project

The project ran into trouble within weeks of initiation.

  • The arrival of the tigers was followed by severe protests by villagers living on the fringes of the reserve and the matter eventually snowballing into a poll issue.
  • Forest department officials were attacked and their offices burnt down by irate villagers most of whom were tribals.
  • The villagers feared the big cats would endanger their livelihoods, lives and livestocks. They also alleged that they were not consulted or informed prior to the translocation.
  • The major reason which contributed to the failure of the project was the lack of confidence and trust-building between the forest department and the villagers.
  • Within months of the translocation, Mahavir was found dead and was killed in poaching.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Zabarwan Mountains

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Zabarwan Mountains

Mains level : NA

Prime Minister has asked tourists to visit the tulip garden, located at the foothills of the Zabarwan range in Jammu and Kashmir.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q.Siachen Glacier is situated to the

(a) East of Aksai Chin

(b) East of Leh

(c)North of Gilgit

(d) North of Nubra Valley

Zabarwan Mountains

  • The Zabarwan Range is a short sub-mountain range between Pir Panjal and the Great Himalayan Range in the central part of the Kashmir Valley.
  • Specifically, the range is known to be what overlooks the Dal Lake and holds the Mughal gardens of Srinagar.
  • The Shankaracharya Temple is built on the edge of the central part of the Zabarwan Range.
  • The highest peak of this range is Mahadev Peak at 13,013 feet (3,966 m), which forms the distant background of the eastern mountain wall.
  • On the northern slopes of the central part of the range, there are three Mughal gardens built by Emperor Shah Jahan.
  • These include Chashma Shahi, Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Garden alongside the Pari Mahal (the fairy palace).
  • The Dachigam National Park is the main feature of the range which holds the last viable population of Kashmir stag (Hangul) and the largest population of black bear in Asia.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Project RE-HAB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project RE-HAB

Mains level : Man-animal conflict

The forest authorities intend to mitigate human-elephant conflict by installing bee boxes along the periphery of the forest and the villages under the Project RE-HAB.

On similar lines, try this PYQ:

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

Project RE-HAB

  • Project RE-HAB stands for Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees. It is an initiative of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
  • It intends to create “bee fences” to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honeybees.
  • Bee boxes have been placed on the ground as well as hung from the trees.
  • The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further.
  • This idea stems from the elephants’ proven fear of the bees.

Areas covered by the project

  • The pilot project was launched at four locations around Chelur village in the Kodagu district of Karnataka.
  • These spots are located on the periphery of Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve, known conflict zones.

Benefits offered

  • The biggest advantage of Project RE-HAB is that it dissuades elephants without causing any harm to them.
  • It is extremely cost-effective as compared to various other measures such as digging trenches or erecting fences.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Himalayan Serow

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Serow

Mains level : Not Much

A Himalayan mammal, somewhere between a goat and an antelope, has been confirmed as the newest creature to be spotted in Assam.

Himalayan Serow

  • Himalayan Serow resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
  • They are herbivores and are typically found at altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres (6,500 to 13,000 feet).
  • They are known to be found in the eastern, central, and western Himalayas, but not in the Trans Himalayan region.
  • They are medium-sized mammal with a large head, thick neck, short limbs, long, mule-like ears, and a coat of dark hair.
  • There are several species of Serow s, and all of them are found in Asia.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to India’s biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith Barbet, Gray-chinned mini yet and White-throated redstart are

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

Its’ conservation status

  • According to the IUCN, Himalayan Serow s have experienced significant declines in population size, range size and habitat in the last decade, and this is expected to continue due to intensive human impact.
  • Previously assessed as ‘near threatened’, the Himalayan Serow is now been categorised as ‘vulnerablein the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is listed under Schedule I of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides absolute protection.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Caracal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Caracal and its IUCN status

Mains level : Species Recovery Programme of NBWL

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and MoEFCC last month included the caracal, a medium-sized wildcat found in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, in the list of critically endangered species under the Species Recovery Programme.

Caracal in India

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The wildcat has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth, and distinctive ears — long and pointy, with tufts of black hair at their tips.
  • The iconic ears are what give the animal its name — caracal comes from the Turkish karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’.
  • In India, it is called siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’.
  • A Sanskrit fable exists about a small wild cat named deergha-karn or ‘long-eared’.
  • While it flourishes in parts of Africa, its numbers in Asia are declining.

Try this PYQ:

Q.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? (CSP 2018)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

In history and myth

  • The earliest evidence of the caracal in the subcontinent comes from a fossil dating back to the civilization of the Indus Valley c. 3000-2000 BC.
  • The caracal has traditionally been valued for its litheness and extraordinary ability to catch birds in flight; it was a favourite coursing or hunting animal in medieval India.
  • Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) had siyah-goshdar khana, stables that housed large numbers of coursing caracal.
  • It finds mention in Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama, like a hunting animal in the time of Akbar (1556-1605).
  • Descriptions and illustrations of the caracal can be found in medieval texts such as the Anvar-i-Suhayli, Tutinama, Khamsa-e-Nizami, and Shahnameh.
  • The East India Company’s Robert Clive is said to have been presented with a caracal after he defeated Siraj-ud-daullah in the Battle of Plassey (1757).

Back2Basics: Species Recovery Programme of NBWL

  • The programme is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).
  • Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for providing support to protected areas, protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
  • So far, the recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.
  • The NBWL in 2018 has added four species- the Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale, Red Panda- to the list.
  • Other species include the Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Giant Leatherback Turtle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Giant Leatherback Turtle

Mains level : Not Much

Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands has left conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle.

What is the news?

  • There is concern that at least three key nesting beaches — two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island — are under threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months.
  • These include NITI Aayog’s ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman and the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.

Giant Leatherback Turtle

IUCN status: Vulnerable

  • The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the A&N Islands.
  • They are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
  • The population in A&N Islands is among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.

About Galathea Bay

  • The Galathea Bay is adjacent to Galathea National Park in Great Nicobar Island.
  • It was earlier proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1997 for the protection of turtles and was also the site of a long-term monitoring programme.
  • The monitoring was stopped after the tsunami devastation of 2004, but it provided the first systematic evidence of numbers and importance of these beaches.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Mandarin Duck

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mandarin Duck, Dibru Saikhowa NP

Mains level : Not Much

A rare Mandarin duck was observed floating in the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) in Assam’s Tinsukia district for over a week is spectacular.

Mandarin duck

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • Considered the most beautiful duck in the world, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first identified by Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
  • The eBird website, a platform that documents birds world over, describes it as a “small-exotic looking bird” native to East Asia.
  • It’s very beautiful, with majestic colours and can be spotted from a distance.

Its habitat and breeding

  • The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and northeastern parts of China. It now has established populations in Western Europe and America too.
  • In 2018, when a Mandarin duck was spotted in a pond in New York City’s Central Park, it created a flutter among local residents.
  • It was recorded in 1902 in Dibru River in the Rongagora area in Tinsukia.

About Maguri beel

  • The Maguri Motapung wetland is an Important Bird Area as declared by the Bombay Natural History Society.
  • It is located close to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Upper Assam.
  • The entire ecosystem is very important as it is home to at least 304 bird species, including a number of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.
  • In May 2020, the beel was adversely affected by a blowout and fire at an Oil India Limited-owned gas well.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] National Marine Turtle Action Plan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Marine Turtle Action Plan

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched the National Marine Turtle Action Plan.

Do you know?

Most people use the term “turtle” to reference any reptile with a shell on its back, but there are several differences between these two unique creatures. In actual sense tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises.

Tortoises have more rounded and domed shells where turtles have thinner, more water-dynamic shells.  Turtle shells are more streamlined to aid in swimming. One major key difference is that tortoises spend most of their time on land and turtles are adapted for life spent in water.

National Marine Turtle Action Plan

Aim: To strengthen and sustain collective and collaborative sea turtle conservation through the monitoring of key sites and a network of partners in the Indian sub-continent

Project details

  • The project contains ways and means to not only promote inter-sectoral action for conservation but also guide improved coordination amongst the government, civil society and all relevant stakeholders.
  • It highlights actions to be taken for handling stranded animals on the shore, stranded or entangled animals in the sea or on a boat, reducing threats to marine species and their habitats, rehabilitation, etc.

Why need such a project?

  • India has rich marine biodiversity along a vast coastline of over 7,500 km.
  • It has significant  nesting  and  feeding  grounds  for  four  species  of  marine  turtles,  namely  leatherback  (Dermochelys  coriacea),  green  (Chelonia  mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys  imbricata)  and  olive  ridley  (Lepidochelys  olivacea)
  • Even though all four species are listed under Schedule I  of the  Indian  Wild  Life  (Protection)  Act,  1972,  their populations in the  Indian waters are under threat.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Sundarban Biosphere Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sundarban Delta

Mains level : Not Much

Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds, a recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) States.

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve

  • Sundarbans is the largest delta and mangrove forest in the world.
  • The Indian Sunderbans, which covers 4,200 sq km, comprises of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq km is home to about 96 Royal Bengal Tigers (2020) is also a world heritage site and a Ramsar Site.
  • The Indian Sunderbans is bound on the west by river Muriganga and on the east by rivers Harinbhahga and Raimangal.
  • Other major rivers flowing through this eco-system are Saptamukhi, Thakuran, Matla and Goasaba.
  • Recent studies claim that the Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

What is the latest research?

  • The scientists have listed 428 birds, some, like the Masked Finfoot and Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
  • India has over 1,300 species of birds and if 428 species of birds are from Sunderbans.
  • The area is home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well rare species such as the Goliath heron and Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

Try this PYQ:

With reference to India’s biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned miniyet and White-throated redstart are

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Protected Areas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MEE Survey

Mains level : Not Much

Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

Map the protected areas mentioned in the newscard in your Atlas.

MEE Survey

  • MEE is a very important document that provides valuable guidance on various aspects of wildlife and protected area expand MEE of Marine Protected Areas.
  • In order to assess the efficacy of Protected Areas, evaluation of management effectiveness was required.
  • MEE has emerged as a key tool for PA managers and is increasingly being used by governments and international bodies to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the protected area management systems.
  • The results of the present assessment are encouraging with an overall mean MEE score of 62.01% which is higher than the global mean of 56%.
  • With this round of evaluation, MoEFCC successfully completed one full cycle of evaluating all terrestrial National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of the country from 2006 to 2019.

India has systematically designated its Protected Areas in four legal categories — National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Areas surveyed

  • Under the WP 1972 Act, India has 903 formally designated Protected Areas with total coverage of 1,65,012.6 square km.
  • Among these are 101 National Parks, 553 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 86 Conservation Reserves and 163 Community Reserves.
  • For the survey, 146 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across 29 states and Union territories were evaluated.

Highlights of the MEE

  • Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary and Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh have performed the best among the surveyed protected areas.
  • The Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh was the worst performer in the survey.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021

Mains level : Wetland conservation in India

The two-day Asian Waterbird Census-2020 was recently held in Andhra Pradesh.

Anyone can participate!

By using eBird and filling an additional site form, one can take part in this multi-country effort to document the state of our wetlands and waterbirds.  To take part one simply visits a wetland and count the birds he/she see there.

Asian Waterbird Census

  • The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) takes place every January.
  • The AWC was started in 1987, and many birders were initiated into bird counting and monitoring through this project.
  • This citizen-science event is a part of the global International Waterbird Census (IWC) that supports the conservation and management of wetlands and waterbirds worldwide.
  • The data collected each year is shared by Wetlands International with global conservation organisations such as IUCN and Ramsar Convention.

Why need such census?

  • Waterbirds are one of the key indicators of wetlands health.
  • Wetlands provide feeding, resting, roosting and foraging habitats for these charismatic species.

AWC in India

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

Back2Basics: Waterbirds

  • The term water bird, alternatively waterbird or aquatic bird is used to refer to birds that live on or around water.
  • In some definitions, the term is especially applied to birds in freshwater habitats, though others make no distinction from birds that inhabit marine environments.
  • Also, some water birds are more terrestrial or aquatic than others, and their adaptations will vary depending on their environment.
  • These adaptations include webbed feet, bills, and legs adapted to feed in the water, and the ability to dive from the surface or the air to catch prey in water.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Mains level : Not Much

PC: Gmaps

Assam has asked the State’s Forest and Revenue departments to permanently rehabilitate the indigenous forest dwellers of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q. Which of the following are in Agasthyamalai 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

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 the 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.

 Why in news?

  • Rehabilitation of some 10,000 people has been hanging fire since 1999 when the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to a national park.
  • The park, home to a few wild horses, had been in focus since May when a blowout at an Oil India Limited gas well in the vicinity posed an ecological threat.

What is the issue?

  • The affected people belong to the Missing community.
  • The forest dwellers of the 425-sq. km. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park has been denied access to government schemes since 1986 through a notification.
  • It allowed them to continue staying until their shifting to a suitable place.
  • The organization said the villagers’ problems started when 765 sq. km. around their habitations was declared a biosphere reserve in 1997, limiting the access of the forest to the community.
  • The hardship compounded in 1999 when the national park came into existence.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Firefly Bird Diverters’ to save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Indian Bustard

Mains level : Not Much

The Environment Ministry along with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India has come up with a unique initiative a “firefly bird diverter” for overhead power lines in areas where Great Indian Bustard (GIB) populations are found in the wild.

Try this PYQ:

Q.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

Great Indian Bustard

  • The GIB is one of the heaviest flying birds and can weigh up to 15 kg which grows up to one metre in height.
  • In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • 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 the 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.

Bird Diverters

  • The diverters are called fireflies because they look like fireflies from a distance, shining on power lines in the night.
  • GIBs are one of the heaviest flying birds in India. Therefore, when they encounter these wires, they are unable to change the direction of their flight.
  • Death is most cases is due to impact with the wires and not due to electrocution.
  • The diverter will not only save GIB but other species of large birds, including migratory birds.

Why such a move?

  • GIB is one of the most critically threatened species in India, with less than 150 birds left in the wild.
  • A report has pointed out that power lines, especially high-voltage transmission lines with multiple overhead wires, are the most important current threat for GIBs in the Thar region.
  • They are causing unsustainably high mortality in about 15% of their population.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian bison (Gaur)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Bison (Gaur)

Mains level : Man-animal conflict

A gaur (Indian bison) strayed into a residential area in Pune city and allegedly died while being captured. This has depicted another ugly face of the man-animal conflicts.

Try this PYQ:                      

Q.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

Gaur/ Indian Bison

  • The Indian bison are also known as Gaur, 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.
  • Populations in well-protected areas are stable and increasing.
  • The Western Ghats and their outflanking hills in southern India constitute one of the most extensive extant strongholds of gaur, in particular in the Wayanad – Nagarhole – Mudumalai – Bandipur complex.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Himalayan Serow

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan Serow

Mains level : NA

A Himalayan Serow has been sighted for the first time in the Himalayan cold desert region.

Try this MCQ:

Q.In which one of the following State, the Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary is located?

(a) Himachal Pradesh

(b) Manipur

(c) Meghalaya

(d) Uttarakhand

Himalayan Serow

  • Himalayan Serow resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
  • They are herbivores and are typically found at altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres (6,500 to 13,000 feet).
  • They are known to be found in eastern, central, and western Himalayas, but not in the Trans Himalayan region.
  • They are a medium-sized mammal with a large head, thick neck, short limbs, long, mule-like ears, and a coat of dark hair.
  • There are several species of Serow s, and all of them are found in Asia.

Its’ conservation status

  • According to the IUCN, Himalayan Serow s have experienced significant declines in population size, range size and habitat in the last decade, and this is expected to continue due to intensive human impact.
  • Previously assessed as ‘near threatened’, the Himalayan Serow is now been categorised as ‘vulnerablein the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is listed under Schedule I of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides absolute protection.

What is so unusual this time?

  • The animal was spotted by locals and wildlife officials at a riverside rocky wall near Hurling village in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • This is the first recorded human sighting of the Serow in Himachal Pradesh.
  • Serow s are generally not found at this altitude, and never before has a Serow been seen in the Himalayan cold desert.
  • Wildlife officials believe this particular animal may have strayed into the Spiti valley from the Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary in adjoining Kinnaur.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Voluntary Disclosure of Exotic Pets

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CITES

Mains level : Exotic species trade

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld an Allahabad High Court order granting immunity from investigation and prosecution if one declared illegal acquisition or possession of exotic wildlife species.

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?

Voluntary disclosure scheme

  • The MoEFCC has come out with an advisory on a one-time voluntary disclosure amnesty scheme.
  • It allows owners of exotic live species that have been acquired illegally, or without documents, to declare their stock to the government between June and December 2020.
  • The scheme aims to address the challenge of zoonotic diseases and regulate their import. In its current form, however.
  • It shall develop an inventory of exotic live species for better compliance under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • However, the amnesty scheme is just an advisory, not a law

What kind of exotic wildlife is covered?

  • The advisory has defined exotic live species as animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the CITES.
  • It does not include species from the Schedules of the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.
  • So, a plain reading of the advisory excludes exotic birds from the amnesty scheme.

Why need such a scheme?

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which enforces anti-smuggling laws, says India has emerged as a big demand centre for exotic birds and animals.
  • There has been an increase in smuggling of endangered species from different parts of the world.
  • Most of these exotic wildlife is imported through Illegal channels and then sold in the domestic market as pets.
  • The long international border and air routes are used to source consignments from Bangkok, Malaysia and other top tourist destinations in South East Asia, as well as from Europe into India.

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:
  1. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade-in specimens of these species are permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  2. Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
  3. 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

Places in news: ‘Mini Kaziranga’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pobitora WLS, Kaziranga NP

Mains level : Rhino protection measures

Too many cattle are robbing the one-horned rhinos of Assam’s Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, referred to as ‘Mini Kaziranga’ for similar features, of their nutritious food.

Try this PYQ:

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

About Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Pobitora WLS is located on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra in Morigaon district in Assam.
  • It was declared in 1987 and covers 38.85 km2 (15.00 sq mi), providing grassland and wetland habitat for the Indian rhinoceros.
  • It provides a habitat and food resource for the Indian rhinoceros, hosting Assam’s second-largest population.
  • Other mammals occurring in the sanctuary are golden jackal, wild boar and feral water buffalo.
  • Barking deer, Indian leopard and rhesus macaque live foremost in the hilly parts. It is an Important Bird Area and home for more than 2000 migratory birds and various reptiles.

Why in news?

  • Pobitora is running a successful Rhino breeding program within its sanctuary.
  • It is running under the government as “Indian Rhino vision 2020”.

Back2Basics: 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.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Eco-ducts or Eco-bridges and their significance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eco-bridges

Mains level : Road accidents and wildlife

Ramnagar Forest Division in Nainital district, Uttarakhand, recently built its first eco-bridge for reptiles and smaller mammals.

Q.Discuss how Eco-ducts or eco-bridges provide the best alternative for wildlife connectivity which is disrupted because of manmade highways. Also, discuss various challenges in building such bridges.

What are Eco-bridges?

  • Eco-ducts or eco-bridges aim to enhance wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • These include canopy bridges (usually for monkeys, squirrels and other arboreal species); concrete underpasses or overpass tunnels or viaducts (usually for larger animals); and amphibian tunnels or culverts.
  • Usually, these bridges are overlaid with planting from the area to give it a contiguous look with the landscape.

Why need such bridges?

  • There are many roadkills on this route, especially of reptiles such as the monitor lizard.
  • The bridge is an awareness-building mechanism for this very congested tourist route.
  • These bridges are a way to see how we can preserve the ecosystem necessary for reptiles that feed on insects, for snakes that feed on reptiles, and for eagles that feed on snakes.

Need of the hour

  • A 2020 study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) noted that nearly 50,000 km of road projects have been identified for construction over the next five to six years.
  • Many highways are being upgraded to four lanes.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority had identified three major sites that were cutting across animal corridors.
  • These including National Highway 37 through the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape in Assam, and State Highway 33 through the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

Some considerations

  • The span and distribution of eco-bridges should depend on animal movement patterns.
  • The bigger bridges will see sambar, spotted deer, nilgai, wild pig using them, while for tigers or leopards if the bridge is 5m or 500 m, it doesn’t bother them.
  • But some animals like the deers, which prefer closed habitats, need smaller bridges.

Some successes

  • The observation on NH 44, which intersects Kanha-Pench and Pench-Navegaon-Nagzira corridors in various sections, is a success.
  • With five animal underpasses and four minor bridges on the 6.6-km road within the forests, it’s one of India’s success stories.

Such bridges in news

  • One of the largest underpasses – 1.4km – for animal conservation in India is being built along the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border.
  • Other proposals include the Chennai-Bangalore National Highway, in the Hosur-Krishnagiri segment, near reserve forests for elephant crossings, and in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur, Maharashtra.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Vulture Action Plan for 2020-25

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vulture Action Plan 2020-25

Mains level : Paper 3- Conservation efforts

Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country.

Vulture Action Plan

  • While the ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures since 2006, the plan is to now extend the project to 2025 to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.
  • There are nine recorded species of vultures in India — the Oriental white-backed, long-billed, slender-billed, Himalayan, red-headed, Egyptian, bearded, cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.
  • Vulture numbers saw a steep slide — as much as 90 per cent in some species — in India since the 1990s in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.

Decline in Populations

  • Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species – the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures — crashed massively with 99 per cent of the species having been wiped out.
  • The number of red-headed vultures, also critically-endangered now, declined by 91% while the Egyptian vultures by 80%.
  • The Egyptian vulture is listed as ‘endangered’ while the Himalayan, bearded and cinereous vultures are ‘near threatened’.

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.

Various threats

  • The crash in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s, and in 2004.
  • The cause of the crash was established as diclofenac — a veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as gout — in carcasses that vultures would feed off.
  • Just 0.4-0.7 per cent of animal carcasses contaminated with diclofenac was sufficient to decimate 99 per cent of vulture populations.

Various initiatives

  • The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the drugs controller banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year and the decline of the vulture population being arrested by 2011.
  • The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme.
  • It has been successful and had three critically-endangered species bred in captivity for the first time.
  • The ministry has now also launched conservation plans for the red-headed and Egyptian vultures, with breeding programmes for both.
  • The Vulture Safe Zone programme is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.

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.