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.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Raksasa Cockroach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bathynomus Raksasa

Mains level : NA

A team of researchers has discovered a supergiant cockroach when they explored waters of the Indian Ocean in Bantan, off the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The ‘Bathynomus Raksasa’, a species recently discovered is basically a:

a) Mollusc

b) Annelid

c) Arthropod

d) Flagella

Bathynomus Raksasa

  • The Bathynomus raksasa is a giant isopod (phylum: Arthropoda) in the genus Bathynomus.
  • It is described as the “cockroach of the sea”. The epithet is the Indonesian word “raksasa” for giant, alluding to its enormous size.
  • The giant isopods are distantly related to crabs, lobsters, and shrimps (which belong to the order of decapods), and are found in the cold depths of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
  • It has 14 legs but uses these only to crawl along the bed of oceans in search of food.
  • As a scavenger, Bathynomus raksasa eats the remains of dead marine animals, such as whales and fish, but can also go for long periods without food, a trait that it shares with the cockroach.

Why this cockroach matters?

  • Bathynomus raksasa is the sixth ‘supergiant’ species from the Indo-West Pacific and is one of the largest known members of the genus.
  • The discovery takes the number of known giant isopods to 20.
  • As the Bathynomus raksasa reveals its secrets, it will contribute towards increasing knowledge about the deep.

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.

Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Species in news: Cestrum nocturnum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cestrum nocturnum

Mains level : Invasive alien species

Nilgiris forest officials are restoring native Shola habitats in places overrun by the invasive species ‘Cestrum nocturnum’.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in the news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Cestrum nocturnum

  • Cestrum nocturnum is commonly known by the names night-blooming jasmine and raatrani.
  • It is native to the West Indies but naturalized in South Asia.
  • Its spread is a threat to all Shola and grassland habitats as it does not allow any native flora to thrive.
  • The plants unless completely removed with their roots, keep sprouting and keep taking over Shola and native grasslands.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Golden Birdwing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Birdwing

Mains level : NA

A Himalayan butterfly named golden birdwing is now India’s largest recorded butterfly.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Himalayan Golden Birdwing recently seen in news is a:

a)Biggest butterfly

b)Smallest avian specie

c)Biggest freshwater fish

d)Honeybee

Golden Birdwing

  • A Himalayan butterfly named golden birdwing is now India’s largest, a record the southern birdwing held for 88 years.
  • The male golden birdwing is much smaller at 106 mm.
  • With a wingspan of 194 mm, the female of the species is marginally larger than the southern birdwing (190 mm) that Brigadier William Harry Evans, a British military officer and lepidopterist, recorded in 1932.
  • It was an individual of the southern birdwing which was then treated as a subspecies of the common birdwing.

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 symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage, in a move aimed at boosting the conservation efforts of the attractive insects.
  • Other states to have state butterflies are Maharashtra (Blue Mormon), Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern birdwings).

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Globba Andersonii Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species in news: Globba Andersonii Plant

Mains level : NA

A team of researchers have “rediscovered” a rare species called Globba andersonii from the Sikkim Himalayas near the Teesta River valley region after a gap of nearly 136 years.

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

Globba Andersonii

IUCN status: Critically Endangered

  • Globba andersonii is characterised by white flowers, non-appendaged anthers (the part of a stamen that contains the pollen) and a “yellowish lip”.
  • The plant, known commonly as ‘dancing ladies’ or ‘swan flowers’ was thought to have been extinct until its “re-collection”, for the first time since 1875.
  • The earliest records of the collection of this plant were dated between the period 1862-70 when it was collected by Scottish botanist Thomas Anderson from Sikkim and Darjeeling.
  • Then, in 1875, the British botanist Sir George King, had collected this taxon from the Sikkim Himalayas.

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.

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Species in news: Hilsa Fish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hilsa Fish`

Mains level : NA

Fishermen in West Bengal are in for a pleasant surprise amid the COVID-19 gloom as they have exuded hope of a bumper yield of Hilsa, known as “maacher rani” (queen of fish).

Try this question from CSP 2019:

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?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Hilsa Fish

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Hilsa is a species of fish related to the herring, in the family Clupeidae.
  • It is a very popular and sought-after food fish in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • It is the national fish of Bangladesh and state symbol in the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura.
  • The fish contributes about 12% of the total fish production and about 1.15% of GDP in Bangladesh.

What’s so special about Hilsa?

  • Hilsa has a history of migrating to Allahabad in the Ganga river system from Bangladesh.
  • Though it’s a saltwater fish, it migrates to sweet waters of the Ganges from the Bay of Bengal.
  • It travels upstream of the river during the mating seasons and returns to its natural abode after spawning.

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.

Tribes in News

Tribes in news: Changpa Tribe

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pashmina Goats

Mains level : NA

The Chinese Army’s intrusion in Chumur and Demchok has left Ladakh’s nomadic herding Changpa community cut off from large parts of summer pastures.

Pashmina shawl is a landmark product of the Kashmir Valley. But make a note here. It carries only a BIS certification and not a Geographical Indicator.

Also try this PYQ from CSP 2014:

Q. With reference to ‘Changpa’ community of India, consider the following statement:

1. They live mainly in the State of Uttarakhand.
2. They rear the Pashmina goats that yield fine wool.
3. They are kept in the category of Scheduled Tribes.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

a) 1 only
b) 2 and 3 only
c) 3 only
d) 1, 2 and 3

Changpa Tribes

  • The Changpa of Ladakh is high altitude pastoralists, raising mainly yaks and goats.
  • Among the Ladakh Changpa, those who are still nomadic are known as Phalpa, and they take their herds from in the Hanley Valley to the village of Lato.
  • Hanley is home to six isolated settlements, where the sedentary Changpa, the Fangpa reside.
  • Despite their different lifestyles, both these groups intermarry.
  • The Changpa speak Changskhat, a dialect of Tibetan, and practice Tibetan Buddhism.

What is the issue?

  • The Chinese Army has taken over 16 kanals (two acres) of cultivable land in Chumur and advanced around 15 km inside Demchok, taking over traditional grazing pastures and cultivable lowlands.
  • In a cascading effect, this has resulted in a sharp rise in deaths of young Pashmina goats this year in the Korzok-Chumur belt of Changthang plateau in Ladakh.
  • This incursion has destabilized the annual seasonal migration of livestocks, including yaks and Pashmina goats.

Back2Basics: Pashmina

  • The Changthangi or Ladakh Pashmina is a breed of Cashmere goat native to the high plateau of Ladakh.
  • The much-valued wool from the Ladakh herds is essential for the prized Pashmina shawls woven in Kashmir and famous for their intricate handwork.
  • They survive on the grass in Ladakh, where temperatures plunge to as low as −20 °C.
  • These goats provide the wool for Kashmir’s famous pashmina shawls. Shawls made from Pashmina wool are considered very fine and are exported worldwide.
  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has recently published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products to certify its purity.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Species in news: Super mushroom “Cordyceps militaris”

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cordyceps militaris

Mains level : NA

A university in Assam has developed a fungal powder to help people boost their immunity to disease.

Try this question 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

A similar question related to Cordyceps militaris can be asked. UPSC may ask whether it is a Fungi, Algae, a Moss or a Lichen.

Cordyceps militaris

  • The powder is from a parasitic but rare “super mushroom” called Cordyceps militaris.
  • The militaris underwent powdering through lyophilisation or freeze-drying at –80°C.
  • The earth has more than 400 species of Cordyceps, a fungus parasitic on insects as well as other fungi.
  • Often referred to as a super mushroom, Cordyceps known for its anti-ageing, anti-viral, energy and immunity-boosting effect.
  • Natural Cordyceps is hard to get and if dried, costs at least ₹8 lakh per kg.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Charru mussel (Mytella strigata)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Charru mussel

Mains level : NA

An invasive mussel native to the South and Central American coasts is spreading quickly in the backwaters of Kerala.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q. Why is a plant called Prosopis juliflora often mentioned in news?

(a) Its extract is widely used in cosmetics.

(b) It tends to reduce the biodiversity in the area in which it grows

(c) Its extract is used in the pesticides.

(d) None of the above

Charru mussel

  • The rapid spread of the Charru mussel (Mytella strigata) may have been triggered by Cyclone Ockhi which struck the region in 2017.
  • With a population as high as 11,384 per sq metre here, it has replaced the Asian green mussel (Perna Viridis) and the edible oyster Magallana bilineata (known locally as muringa).
  • Externally, the Charru mussel resembles the green and brown mussels (kallummekka in Malayalam) but is much smaller in size. Its colour varies from black to brown, purple or dark green.
  • Surveys show the presence of the Charru mussel in the Kadinamkulam, Paravur, Edava-Nadayara, Ashtamudi, Kayamkulam, Vembanad, Chettuva and Ponnani estuaries/backwaters.
  • Ashtamudi Lake, a Ramsar site in Kollam district, remains the worst-hit.

Threats posed

  • Though this smaller mussel is edible, the overall economic loss and impact on biodiversity are much bigger, it is pointed out.
  • It is throwing out other mussel and clam species and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen engaged in shrimp fisheries.

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.

Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

[pib] Kangra Tea and its medicinal properties against the coronavirus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kangra Tea

Mains level : Not Much

The chemicals in Kangra tea are found to be effective in boosting immunity as they can block coronavirus activity better than anti-HIV drugs.

It would be no surprise to expect a question based on worldwide tea production:

Q. Among the following, which one is the largest exporter of rice in the world in the last five years? (CSP 2019)

(a) China

(b) India

(c) Myanmar

(d) Vietnam

Kangra Tea

  • Kangra tea is a tea from the Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • Both black tea and green tea have been produced in the Kangra Valley since the mid-19th century.
  • After a feasibility survey in 1848 showed the area of being suitable for tea plantation, a Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis was planted across the region.
  • Kangra tea is known for its unique colour and flavour.
  • The unique characteristics of the tea are attributed to the geographical properties of the region.
  • Kangra tea was given the Geographical Indication status in 2005. Tea was first grown in the Kangra region in the mid-19th century.

Benefits of Kangra Tea

  • Using computer-based models, the scientists screened 65 bioactive chemicals or polyphenols that could bind to a specific viral protein more efficiently than commercially available anti-HIV drugs approved for treating COVID-19 patients.
  • These chemicals might block the activity of the viral protein that helps the virus to thrive inside human cells.

Back2Basics: Lopinavir/ Ritonavir

  • Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r), sold under the brand name Kaletra among others, is a fixed-dose combination medication for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
  • It combines lopinavir with a low dose of ritonavir.
  • It is generally recommended for use with other antiretrovirals.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Western Ghats yield 3 new plant species

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Western Ghats and its biodiversity richness

A team of scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have reported the discovery of three new plant species from the evergreen forest patches of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

One may get carried away from the heavy botanical names. But UPSC is known for asking ruthless questions.

Q. Recently, our scientists have discovered new and distinct spices of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 meters and has orange – colored form of pulp. In which part of India has been discovered? (CSP 2016)

a) Andaman Islands

b) Anaimalai Forests

c) Maikala Hills

d) Tropical rainforest of North-East

Which are the new species?

The three new species found are:

1) Eugenia sphaerocarpa of the Myrtaceae or Rose apple family

  • A good population of Eugenia sphaerocarpa is growing in the Kakkayam area of the Malabar wildlife sanctuary in Kerala above 800 m.
  • The specific epithet ‘sphaerocarpa’ denotes to the large, showy lemon-yellow spherical fruit.
  • The fruits of Eugenia species are known for their palatability and many of them are harvested from the wild with some under cultivation.

2) Goniothalamus sericeus of the Annonaceae family of custard apple

  • A small number of Goniothalamus sericeus plants has been found in the Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Mature flowers with characteristic greenish-yellow to beige petals are fragrant while the fruits are very showy and an attractive golden yellow in colour.
  • The specific epithet ‘sericeus’ refers to the presence of dense silky hair on the petals.

3) Memecylon nervosum of the Melastomataceae (Kayamboo or Kaasavu in local parlance) family

  • A small population of Memecylon nervosum was also found at the same sanctuary at an altitude between 700-900 m with more that than 10 sub-populations located along the banks of a perennial rivulet.
  • The species have showy purplish-blue flowers and mauve to purplish-red fruits.
  • The specific epithet ‘nervosum’ alludes to the presence of prominently raised lateral and intramarginal veins on the lower surface of the lamina.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Pinanga Andamanensis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pinanga Andamanensis

Mains level : NA

A rare palm endemic to the South Andaman Island is finding a second home at Thiruvananthapuram-based Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI).

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.

Pinanga Andamanensis

  • Pinanga andamanensis is an IUCN critically endangered species and one of the least known among the endemic palms of the Andaman Islands.
  • The name is derived from ‘Penang’, the modern-day Malaysian state.
  • Its entire population of some 600 specimens naturally occurs only in a tiny, evergreen forest pocket in South Andaman’s Mount Harriet National Park.
  • It was originally described by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1934.
  • His description was based on an old herbarium specimen collected by E.H. Man, a late-19th century assistant superintendent in the Andaman administration.
  • After that first identification, it was thought to be extinct till 1992.