New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Kannimara Teak

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kannimara teak

Mains level : Not Much

The legendary Kannimara teak of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is still growing in height and girth.

What is the news?

  • Over the last five years, the centuries-old teak has grown by 1.85 metres in height and 9 cm in girth.
  • This might be one of the largest and oldest teak tree in the world.

Kannimara teak

  • Worshipped by the tribes of Parambikulam, the Kannimara teak remains a flagship of the tiger reserve offering a spectacular view to visitors.
  • For the tribespeople of Parambikulam, it is still a ‘virgin tree’.
  • That was why they named it Kannimara (meaning virgin tree).
  • The tribal legend has it that the tree had bled when people tried to cut it.
  • So they protected it and started worshipping the tree by offering annual pujas.
  • The Kannimara tree had won the Union government’s Mahavriksha Puraskar in its first year of introduction in 1994.

 

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

World’s first Fishing Cat Census done in Chilika

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fishing Cats

Mains level : Not Much

The Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, has 176 fishing cats, according to a census done by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in collaboration with the Fishing Cat Project (TFCP).

About Fishing Cats

  • About twice the size of a typical house cat, the fishing cat is a feline with a powerful build and stocky legs.
  • It is an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish as its name suggests.
  • It is known to even dive to catch fish.
  • It is nocturnal and apart from fish also preys on frogs, crustaceans, snakes, birds, and scavenges on carcasses of larger animals.
  • It is capable of breeding all year round but in India its peak breeding season is known to be between March and May.

Conservation status

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Various threats

  • One of the major threats facing the fishing cat is the destruction of wetlands, which is its preferred habitat.
  • As a result of human settlement, drainage for agriculture, pollution, and wood-cutting most of the wetlands in India are under threat of destruction.
  • Another threat to the fishing cat is the depletion of its main prey-fish due to unsustainable fishing practices.
  • It is also occasionally poached for its skin.

Back2Basics: Chilika Lake

  • Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha.
  • It is located at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2.
  • It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the largest brackish water lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
  • It has been listed Ramsar Site as well as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.

Its formation

  • The process of the formation of the Chilika might have begun in the latter part of the Pleistocene epoch, around 20,000 years ago.
  • India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta.
  • As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sand bars were formed near its mouth.
  • These created a backflow of the seawater into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary, resulting in the huge brackish water lake.
  • Marine archaeological studies on the Odisha coast clearly show that the Chilika once acted as a safe harbor for cargo ships bound for Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Posidonia Australis: World’s Largest Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Posidonia Australis

Mains level : Not Much

The world’s largest plant has recently been discovered off the West Coast of Australia: a seagrass 180 km in length.

Posidonia australis

  • The ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis, has been discovered in Shark Bay by a group of researchers from Flinders University and The University of Western Australia.
  • These researchers have also found that the plant is 4,500 years old, is sterile, has double the number of chromosomes than other similar plants.
  • It has managed to survive the volatile atmosphere of the shallow Shark Bay.

So how remarkable is this plant’s size?

  • The ribbon weed covers an area of 20,000 hectares.
  • The next on the podium, the second largest plant, is the clonal colony of a quaking Aspen tree in Utah, which covers 43.6 hectares.
  • The largest tree in India, the Great Banyan in Howrah’s Botanical Garden, covers 1.41 hectares.

If it is so large, how come it has just been discovered?

  • The existence of the seagrass was known, that it is one single plant was not.
  • Researchers were interested in what they then thought was a meadow because they wanted to study its genetic diversity, and collect some parts for seagrass restoration.

How did it grow, and survive for, so long?

  • Sometime in the Harappan era, a plant took root in the Shark Bay.
  • Then it kept spreading through its rhizomes, overcoming everything in its way, and here we are today.
  • Ribbon weed rhizomes can usually grow to around 35cm per year, which is how the scientists arrived at its lifespan of 4,5000 years.
  • The researchers found that the ribbon weed cannot spread its seeds, something that helps plants overcome environmental threats.
  • Also, Shark Bay sees fluctuations in temperature and salinity and gets a lot of light, conditions challenging for any plant.

Ecological significance

  • Because seagrass performs a vital role in the environment, and if some of it is hardy, it is good news for everyone in a world threatened by climate change.
  • In India, seagrass is found in many coastal areas, most notably in Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.
  • Apart from being home to a variety of small organisms, seagrass trap sediments and prevent water from getting muddy, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and prevent coastal erosion.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Eublepharis pictus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eublepharis pictus

Mains level : NA

A gecko found in Visakhapatnam in 2017, then thought to belong to a known species, has now been identified as a member of a new species.

Eublepharis pictus

  • The species, Eublepharis pictus, also known as the Painted Leopard Gecko, has been described in the journal Evolutionary Systematics.
  • Phylogenetic study and morphological comparisons have distinguished it as a new species.
  • It is endemic to the forests of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • The gecko genus Eublepharis now has 7 species.

Conservation status

  • The species occurs outside protected areas.
  • Most leopard geckos are killed when encountered.
  • Activists have called for raising awareness about the fact that the species is actually harmless.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Sela Macaque

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sela Macaque, Sela Pass

Mains level : Not Much

A new species of old world monkey recorded from Arunachal Pradesh has been named after a strategic Sela pass at 13,700 ft above sea level.

Sela macaque (Macaca selai).

  • This new primate was identified and analysed by a team of experts from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the University of Calcutta.
  • Earlier it was called as White- Cheeked Macaque displaying white cheeks, long and thick hairs on the neck area, and a longer tail.
  • Their study has been published in the latest edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
  • Phylogenetics relate to the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms.
  • The phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Sela macaque was geographically separated from the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) of Tawang district by Sela.
  • This mountain pass acted as a barrier by restricting the migration of individuals of these two species for approximately two million years.

Protection status

  • It has NOT been yet included in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India.
  • The potential threat to all species of macaques in the landscape is due to hunting by locals for consumption and habitat degradation due to urbanization and infrastructure development.

 About Sela Pass

  • The Sela Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It has an elevation of 4170 m and connects the Indian Buddhist town of Tawang to Dirang and Guwahati.
  • The pass supports scarce amounts of vegetation and is usually snow-covered to some extent throughout the year.
  • While Sela Pass does get heavy snowfall in winters, it is usually open throughout the year unless landslides or snow require the pass to be shut down temporarily.
  • The strategically-significant Sela Tunnel project is now nearing completion well before the deadline.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian Tent Turtles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Tent Turtles

Mains level : Not Much

Indian tent turtle is now listed in Schedule –I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and is thereby provided the highest degree of protection.

Why in news?

  • The Indian tent turtle is threatened due to illegal mining in Narmada River.
  • This turtle has also been widely traded as a pet at aquariums.

Indian Tent Turtles

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Indian tent turtle (Pangshura tentoria) is a species of turtle in the family Geoemydidae. The species is endemic to India and Bangladesh.
  • Its preferred habitats are freshwater rivers and swamps.
  • The species is native to India, Nepal and Bangladesh, with three subspecies recorded from the region viz., P. t. tentoria, P. t. circumdata and P. t. flaviventer.
  • t. tentoria occurs in peninsular India and is recorded from Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Madhya Pradesh.
  • t. circumdata occurs in the western tributaries of Ganga and the rivers of Gujarat. It is found in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
  • t. flaviventer occurs in the northern tributaries of Ganga and is recorded from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.

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.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Rhino population up by 200 in Kaziranga

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Rhino

Mains level : Not Much

The population of the greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has increased by 200 (from 2413 in 2018) in four years, the latest census of the flagship animal has revealed.

About Indian Rhino

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List 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.

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:

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

 

Post your answers here.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Gahirmatha beach witnesses Arribada

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Olive Ridley Turtles

Mains level : Not Much

About 2.45 lakh Olive Ridley sea turtles crawled ashore on the Nasi-II beach of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary along the Odisha coast for laying eggs, marking one of the largest opening day arrivals of turtles at the site.

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 behavior 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.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Australia lists Koalas as Endangered Species

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Koalas

Mains level : NA

Once found in abundance, Australia’s much-loved koalas have now been officially classified as ‘endangered’ after widespread bushfires, drought and land clearing destroyed much of their eucalyptus-rich habitat.

Koalas

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

  • According to fossil records, Koala species have inhabited parts of Australia for at least 25 million years, a WWF report states.
  • But today, only one species remains — the Phascolarctos cinereus.
  • They are found in the wild in the southeast and eastern sides of Australia — in coastal Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

Threats to Koalas

  • Since Europeans first settled in the region, the Koala population has faced widespread habitat loss, particularly due to agriculture and the construction of urban settlements.
  • They survive on a strict diet of up to a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves every day.
  • Due to the low nutritional value of these leaves, koalas tend to sleep for extended periods, often up to 18 hours a day, to conserve energy.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Golden Langur

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Endangered species in India

Mains level : NA

Neighbours of a golden langur habitat in western Assam’s Bongaigaon district have opposed a move by the State government to upgrade it to a wildlife sanctuary.

Kajoijana Bamuni Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

  • The Assam Forest Department has issued a preliminary notification for converting the 19.85 sq. km. patch of forest into the Kajoijana Bamuni Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It is one of the better-known homes of the golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) found only in Assam and Bhutan.

About Golden Langur

  • Gee’s golden langur (Trachypithecus geei), also known as simply the golden langur, is an Old World monkey.
  • It is found in a small region of Western Assam and in the neighboring 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 Edward Pritchard Gee in the 1950s.
  • Adult males have a cream to golden coat with darker flanks while the females and juveniles are lighter.
  • It has a black face and a long tail up to 50 cm in length.

Its habitat

  • It lives in high trees and has a herbivorous diet of ripe and unripe fruits, mature and young leaves, seeds, buds and flowers.
  • The average group size is eight individuals, with a ratio of several females to each adult male.
  • It is one of the most endangered primate species of India and Bhutan.

Distribution

  • Its habitat is bounded on the south by the Brahmaputra River, on the east by the Manas River, on the west by the Sankosh River, in Assam and on the north by the Black Mountains of Bhutan.

Conservation status

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

 

Try this question from CSP 2014:

 

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

 

Post your answers here.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Septemeranthus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Septemeranthus

Mains level : NA

A new genus of a parasitic flowering plant has recently been discovered from the Nicobar group of islands.

Septemeranthus

  • The genus Septemeranthus grows on the plant species Horsfieldia glabra (Blume) Warb.
  • The parasitic flowering plants have a modified root structure spread on the stem of the tree and are anchored inside the bark of the host tree.
  • It has a distinct vegetative morphology, inflorescence architecture and floral characters.
  • The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped with a very long tip and the ovary,fruit and seeds are ‘urceolate’ (earthen pot-shaped).
  • Birds consume viscous seeds of this new genus and seeds have potential of pseudo viviparous germination that deposit on the leaves and branches of their same plant which is already attached to host plants.

Key features

  • They need a host tree or shrub in order to thrive and exhibit a worldwide distribution in tropical as well as temperate habitats.
  • They are important in forest ecology, pathology and medicine.
  • They play an important role as they provide food for frugivorous birds.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q.Recently, there was a growing awareness in our country about the importance of Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) because it is found to be a sustainable source of

(a) anti-malarial drug

(b) bio-diesel

(c) pulp for paper industry

(d) textile fibre

 

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Specie in news: Spot-billed Pelicans

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Spot-billed Pelicans

Mains level : NA

A nematode infestation has led to mass mortality of spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis) at Telineelapuram Important Bird Area (IBA) in Andhra Pradesh.

Spot-billed Pelicans

  • The spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) or grey pelican is a member of the pelican family.
  • It breeds in southern Asia from southern Iran across India east to Indonesia.
  • It is a bird of large inland and coastal waters, especially large lakes.
  • The breeding population of these pelican species is limited to India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
  • In the non-breeding season they are recorded in Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Conservation status

  • IUCN status: Near Threatened
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule IV (Hunting prohibited but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules)

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Miss Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Miss Kerala

Mains level : Illicit trade of exotic species

A section of aquarists and ornamental fish breeders are surprised that the Denison barb (Miss Kerala), a native freshwater fish species commonly found in parts of Karnataka and Kerala, has been included in Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1982 (amendment bill).

Miss Kerala

  • Miss Kerala is also known as Denison barb, red-line torpedo barb and roseline shark.
  • Its scientific name is Sahyadria denisonii.
  • The fish is featured with red and black stripes on its body.
  • It is found in the States of Kerala and Karnataka.
  • It has been listed on the IUCN Redlist as Vulnerable, in 2010.
  • This species is known to inhabit fast-flowing hill streams and is often found in rocky pools with thick vegetation along river banks.

Why included in Schedule I of WPA?

  • Ironically, its beauty is the biggest threat to its survival, as it is highly sought-after in the international aquarium trade, constituting 60 – 65% of the total live ornamental fish exported from India.
  • Its numbers are also decreasing owing to habitat degradation due to deforestation, mining, agriculture, urban expansion and hydro-electric projects.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Red Sanders falls back in IUCN’s ‘endangered’ category

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Red Sanders

Mains level : Illegal trade

Red Sanders (Red Sandalwood) has fallen back into the ‘endangered’ category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

A recently released and trending Telugu movie plot provides a fictional account of red sandal smuggling.

About Red Sanders

  • The species, Pterocarpus santalinus, is an Indian endemic tree species, with a restricted geographical range in the Eastern Ghats.
  • It is endemic to a distinct tract of forests in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is mainly found in Chittoor, Kadapa, Nandhyal, Nellore, Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It was classified as ‘near threatened’ in 2018 and has now joined the ‘endangered’ list once again in 2021.
  • It is listed under Appendix II of CITES and is banned from international trade.

Status of legal protection in India

  • The Union Environment Ministry had decided to keep Red Sanders (red sandalwood) OUT of the Schedule VI of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, arguing that this would discourage the cultivation of the rare plant species.
  • Schedule VI regulates and restricts the cultivation, possession, and sale of a rare plant species.

Significance of listing

  • It was a moment of celebration when the species was lifted off from the endangered category for the first time since 1997.
  • Over the last three generations, the species has experienced a population decline of 50-80 percent.
  • It is also scheduled in appendix II of the CITES and Wildlife Protection Act.

Threats to this species

  • Red Sanders are known for their rich hue and therapeutic properties, are high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan.
  • They are used in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.
  • Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that a tonne of Red Sanders costs anything between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the international market.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.With reference to ‘Red Sanders’, sometimes seen in the news, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a tree species found in a part of South India.
  2. It is one of the most important trees in the tropical rain forest areas of South India.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here.

Back2Basics: Red List Categories of IUCN

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

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

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Odisha radio-tags rescued Indian Pangolin

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pangolin

Mains level : Not Much

The Odisha Forest and Environment Department has completed its first-ever radio-tagging of the Indian pangolin in an attempt to standardize the rehabilitation protocol for the animal in the State.

Why 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.

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 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 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 the 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.

 

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Reintroduction of African Cheetahs in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic Cheetah

Mains level : Wildlife re-introduction Program

Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh was all prepped to welcome the African cheetahs — a project that has been a decade in the making — this year. The project has now been postponed, as the new coronavirus variant of concern omicron prompted travel restrictions.

Confused over Leopard and Cheetah?

The most common difference between these two animals is the patterns on their coat. At first glance, it may look like they both have spots, but in actual fact, a leopard has rosettes which are rose-like markings, and cheetahs have a solid round or oval spot shape.

About Asiatic Cheetah

  • Cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
  • It was expected to be re-introduced into the country after the Supreme Court lifted curbs for its re-introduction.
  • From 400 in the 1990s, their numbers are estimated to have reached to 50-70 today, because of poaching, hunting of their main prey (gazelles) and encroachment on their habitat.

Why reintroduce Cheetahs?

  • Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognized 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 worried whether the African cheetahs would find the sanctuary a favorable climate as far as the abundance of prey is concerned.
  • Those who challenged the plan argued that the habitat of cheetahs needed to support a genetically viable population.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Consider the following:

1. Black necked crane

2. Cheetah

3. Flying squirrel

4. Snow leopard

Which of the above are naturally found in India?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 and 4 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

Post your answers here:

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

After 50 years, Gharials return to Beas Conservation Reserve

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Gharial

Mains level : Species reintroduction and related issues

Gharial ( Gavialis gangeticus ) have been successfully reintroduced the in the Beas River of Punjab where it had become extinct half a century ago.

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.
  • 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.

Ambitious project in Punjab

  • The gharial reintroduction in the Beas Conservation Reserve is an ambitious programme of the Punjab government.
  • The reptiles were commonly sighted in the Beas River till the 1960s but later became extinct.

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

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Lesser Florican

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lesser Florican

Mains level : Not Much

In a major discovery, the longest in-country migration route of lesser floricans, the endangered birds of the bustard group, has been tracked for the first time from Rajasthan to Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.

Lesser Florican

  • The lesser florican (Sypheotides indicus), also known as the likh or kharmore, is the smallest in the bustard family.
  • It is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent where it is found in tall grasslands and is best known for the leaping breeding displays made by the males during the monsoon season.
  • The male has a contrasting black and white breeding plumage and distinctive elongated head feathers that extend behind the neck.
  • These bustards are found mainly in northwestern and central India during the summer but are found more widely distributed across India in winter.
  • The only similar species is the Bengal florican (Houbarobsis bengalensis) which is larger and lacks the white throat, collar and elongated plumes.

Conservation status

  • The Lesser Florican is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Lesser Florican
  • The bird is listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Threats

  • It is threatened both by hunting and habitat degradation.
  • The species is highly endangered and has been officially hunted to extinction in some parts of its range such as Pakistan.

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

 

Post your answers here.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Kaiser-i-Hind is Arunachal’s State butterfly

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kaiser-i-Hind

Mains level : Not Much

An elusive swallowtail butterfly carrying ‘India’ in its name and found in next-door China will become the State butterfly of Arunachal Pradesh.

Kaiser-i-Hind

Protection status: Schedule II of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  • Kaiser-i-Hind (Teinopalpus imperialis) literally means Emperor of India.
  • This butterfly with a 90-120 mm wingspan is found in six States along the Eastern Himalayas at elevations from 6,000-10,000 feet in well-wooded terrain.
  • The butterfly also flutters in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and southern China.
  • The move was made with a view to boosting butterfly tourism and saving the species from extinction in the State.

Other butterflies in news

  • The Malabar Banded Peacock or the Buddha Mayoori which was recently declared the ‘State Butterfly’ of Kerala will have a dedicated butterfly park in Kochi.
  • Tamil Nadu has also recently declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa Thais) as its state butterfly to symbolize its rich natural and cultural heritage.
  • Other states to have state butterflies are Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings).

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

India’s first Fishing Cat Collaring Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fishing Cats

Mains level : Not Much

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII-Dehradun) Conservation Biologists will begin collaring ten Fishing Cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Andhra Pradesh.

About Fishing Cats

  • About twice the size of a typical house cat, the fishing cat is a feline with a powerful build and stocky legs.
  • It is an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish as its name suggests.
  • It is known to even dive to catch fish.
  • It is nocturnal and apart from fish also preys on frogs, crustaceans, snakes, birds, and scavenges on carcasses of larger animals.
  • It is capable of breeding all year round but in India its peak breeding season is known to be between March and May.

Conservation status

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Various threats

  • One of the major threats facing the fishing cat is the destruction of wetlands, which is its preferred habitat.
  • As a result of human settlement, drainage for agriculture, pollution, and wood-cutting most of the wetlands in India are under threat of destruction.
  • Another threat to the fishing cat is the depletion of its main prey-fish due to unsustainable fishing practices.
  • It is also occasionally poached for its skin.

 

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