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.

(Note: Comment feature is not available on the app.)


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

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

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

 

Post your answers here.

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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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Animal Discoveries 2020 report by ZSI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species mentioned

Mains level : Not Much

India has added 557 new species to its fauna reveals Animal Discoveries 2020, a document published recently by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

Major species discovered

The number of faunal species in India has climbed to 1,02,718 species. Among the new species, some interesting species discovered in 2020 are:

  • Trimeresurus salazar, a new species of green pit viper discovered from Arunachal Pradesh;
  • Lycodon deccanensis, the Deccan wolf snake discovered from Karnataka; and
  • Sphaerotheca Bengaluru, a new species of burrowing frog named after the city of Bengaluru.
  • Xyrias anjaalai, a new deep-water species of snake eel from Kerala;
  • Glyptothorax giudikyensis, a new species of catfish from Manipur; and
  • Clyster galateansis, a new species of scarab beetles from the Great Nicobar Biosphere.

Visitor species

  • Myotis cf. frater, a bat species earlier known from China, Taiwan and Russia, has been reported for the first time from Uttarakhand in India
  • Zoothera citrina gibsonhilli, an orange-headed thrush earlier known from southern Myanmar to south Thailand (central Malay peninsula) was reported for the first time from India based on a collection made from the Narcondam island in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Significance

  • The ZSI publication shows that India is a mega biodiverse country, rich in biodiversity, with 23.39% of its geographical area under forest and tree cover.
  • India is positioned 8th in mega biodiversity countries in the world with 0.46 BioD index which is calculated by its percentage of species in each group relative to the total global number of species in each group.

About Zoological Survey of India

  • The ZSI was set up by British zoologist Thomas Nelson Annandale, in 1916.
  • It is the premier taxonomic research organization in India.
  • It was established to promote surveys, exploration and research leading to advancement of our knowledge of various aspects of the exceptionally rich animal life of India.
  • The ZSI had its genesis as the Zoological Section of the Indian Museum at Calcutta in 1875.
  • Since its inception, the ZSI has been documenting the diversity and distribution of the fauna of India towards carrying out its mandate of conducting exploration-cum-taxonomic-research programmes.
  • The ZSI has published an extremely large amount of information on all animal taxa, from Protozoa to Mammalia.

Try answering this PYQ:

Q.With reference to India’s Biodiversity, Ceylon frogmouth, Coppersmith barbet, Gray-chinned minivet and White-throated redstart are: (CSP 2020)

(a) Birds

(b) Primates

(c) Reptiles

(d) Amphibians

 

Post your answers here

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:

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

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

Wetland Conservation

[pib] Species in news: Avicennia Marina

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avicennia marina

Mains level : Mangroves and their significance

Scientists at the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have reported for the first time a reference-grade whole genome sequence of a highly salt-tolerant and salt-secreting true-mangrove species Avicennia Marina.

Avicennia marina

  • Avicennia marina is one of the most prominent mangroves species found in all mangrove formations in India.
  • It is a salt-secreting and extraordinarily salt-tolerant mangrove species that grows optimally in 75% seawater and tolerates >250% seawater.
  • It is among the rare plant species, which can excrete 40% of the salt through the salt glands in the leaves, besides its extraordinary capacity to exclude salt entry to the roots.

Why in news?

  • The A. marina genome assembled in this study is nearly complete and can be considered as a reference-grade genome reported so far for any mangrove species globally and the first report from India.
  • This study assumes significance as agriculture productivity globally is affected due to abiotic stress factors such as limited water availability and salinization of soil and water.

Its significance

  • Availability of water is a significant challenge to crop production in dryland areas, accounting for ~40 per cent of the world’s total land area.
  • Salinity is prevalent in ~900 million hectares globally (with an estimated 6.73 million ha in India), and it is estimated to cause an annual loss of 27 billion USD.
  • The genomic resources generated in the study will pave the way for researchers to study the potential of the identified genes for developing drought and salinity tolerant varieties of important crop species.
  • This is particularly important for the coastal region as India has 7,500m of coastline and two major island systems.

Try these PYQs:

Q.Which one of the following is the correct sequence of ecosystems in the order of decreasing productivity? (CSP 2013)

(a) Oceans, lakes, grasslands, mangroves

(b) Mangroves, oceans, grasslands, lakes

(c) Mangroves, grasslands, lakes, oceans

(d) Oceans, mangroves, lakes, grasslands

 

Q.The 2004 Tsunami made people realize that mangroves can serve as a reliable safety hedge against coastal calamities. How do mangroves function as a safety hedge? (CSP 2011)

(a) The mangrove swamps separate the human settlements from the sea by a wide zone in which people neither live nor venture out

(b) The mangroves provide both food and medicines which people are in need of after any natural disaster

(c) The mangrove trees are tall with dense canopies and serve as an excellent shelter during a cyclone or tsunami

(d) The mangrove trees do not get uprooted by storms and tides because of their extensive roots.


Back2Basics: Mangroves

  • A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water.
  • Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropics and subtropics, mainly between latitudes 30° N and 30° S, with the greatest mangrove area within 5° of the equator.
  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees, also called halophytes, and are adapted to live in harsh coastal conditions.
  • They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action.
  • They are adapted to the low-oxygen conditions of waterlogged mud.
  • They are a unique group of species found in marshy intertidal estuarine regions and survive a high degree of salinity through several adaptive mechanisms.
  • They form a link between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, protect shorelines, provide habitat for a diverse array of terrestrial organisms.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Euphlyctis Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Euphlyctis Kerala

Mains level : NA

A new species of skittering frog has been identified from the surroundings of the Thattekkad bird sanctuary.

Euphlyctis Kerala

  • The new species is named Euphlyctis Kerala in honor of the remarkable biodiversity of the State, which is also known for many endemic species of frogs.
  • The new species is known to be found in the freshwater bodies of the foothills of the Western Ghats, south of the Palakkad Gap.
  • Although multiple skittering frogs have been described from India for almost two centuries (since 1799), the taxonomic mess within this group created a lot of confusion due to “morphological character crypticity”.
  • Members of the genus Euphlyctis (skittering frogs) have their distribution range from Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  • As of now, Kerala is known to have 180 species of frogs and there could be many more new species awaiting formal descriptions.

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.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Bharitalasuchus Tapani

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharitalasuchus Tapani

Mains level : NA

In the mid 20th century, researchers from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, carried out extensive studies on rocks of the Yerrapalli Formation in what is now Telangana, uncovering several fossils of Bharitalasuchus Tapani.

Bharitalasuchus Tapani

  • This reptile belongs to a genus and species previously unknown to science. It is named Bharitalasuchus tapani considering Telugu etymology.
  • In the Telugu language, Bhari means huge, Tala means head, and Suchus is the name of the Egyptian crocodile-headed deity.
  • The species is named after paleontologist Tapan Roy Chowdhury in honour of his contribution to Indian vertebrate paleontology and especially his extensive work on the Yerrapalli Formation tetrapod fauna.

Details of the reptile

  • The reptile belonged to a family of extinct reptiles named Erythrosuchidae.
  • A precise identification had not been possible earlier because the family was not known from other examples in India.
  • It was neglected because the fossil specimen was not as complete as those of other erythrosuchids from other countries.
  • The team notes that tapani were robust animals with big heads and large teeth, and these probably predated other smaller reptiles.
  • They were approximately the size of an adult male lion and might have been the largest predators in their ecosystems.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Pyrostria Laljii

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pyrostria Laljii

Mains level : NA

A 15-meter-tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman Islands by a team of researchers from India and the Philippines.

Observe this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q.Recently, our scientists have discovered a new and distinct species of banana plant which attains a height of about 11 metres and has orange-coloured fruit pulp. In which part of India has it been discovered?

(a) Andaman Islands

(b) Anamalai Forests

(c) Maikala Hills

(d) Tropical rain forests of northeast

Pyrostria Laljii

  • The new species, Pyrostria laljii, is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India.
  • Plants belonging to the genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar but the recently discovered species is new to science.
  • The tree is distinguished by a long stem with a whitish coating on the trunk, and oblong-obovate leaves with a cuneate base, and was first reported from South Andaman’s Wandoor forest.
  • Pyrostria laljii has been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Litoria Mira

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Litoria mira

Mains level : NA

A species of frog lives in the rainforests of New Guinea that appears to be made from chocolate — just like the magical sweets popular in the wizarding world of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Litoria mira

  • The cocoa-colored frogs have turned out to be a new species — and an addition to our knowledge of the animal kingdom.
  • It has a well-known relative — the common green tree frog of Australia called Litoria cerulean.
  • Litoria Mira can be distinguished from all other Litoria by its unique combination of moderately large size, webbing on hand, relatively short and robust limbs, and a small violet patch of skin on the edge of its eyes.

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.

 

Native Indian turtles face U.S. slider threat across Northeast

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Red-eared slider

Mains level : Paper 3- Native Indian turtles face threat from red-eared slider

About red-eared slider

  • The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) derives its name from red stripes around the part where its ears would be and from its ability to slide quickly off any surface into the water.
  • Native to the U.S. and northern Mexico, this turtle is an extremely popular pet due to its small size, easy maintenance, and relatively low cost.

Reports about threat

  • Between August 2018 and June 2019, a team of herpetologists from NGO Help Earth published the finding in ‘Reptiles & Amphibians’, journal of the U.S.-based International Reptile Conservation Foundation in August 2020.
  • But the alarm was raised experts from Mizoram University’s Department of Zoology published another report in the same journal in April this year.

How is it a threat?

  • They grow fast and virtually leaves nothing for the native species to eat.
  •  People who keep it as pets become sensitive about turtle conservation but endanger the local ecosystem, probably unknowingly, by releasing them in natural water bodies after they outgrow an aquarium, tank or pool at home.
  • Much like the Burmese python that went to the U.S. as a pet to damage the South Florida Everglades ecosystem, the red-eared slider has already affected States such as Karnataka and Gujarat, where it has been found in 33 natural water bodies.
  • Preventing this invasive species from overtaking the Brahmaputra and other river ecosystems in the Northeast is crucial because the Northeast is home to more than 72% of the turtle and tortoise species in the country, all of them very rare.

Way forward

  • Although the red-eared slider is traded legally, the time has come for the government to come up with regulations against keeping invasive as pets.
  • There is a need to create awareness among pet traders for maintaining a database of red-eared slider buyers.
  • They can be contacted to hand over the turtles to the repository insulated from any wetland or natural water body.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Rare white-bellied heron spotted in Arunachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IUCN status of white-bellied heron

Mains level : Paper 3- White-bellied heron spotted

About the bird

  • The white-bellied heron is categorised as ‘critically endangered’ in International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book.
  • It is listed in Schedule IV in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It is one of the rarest birds in the world and is found only in Bhutan, Myanmar and the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It had also been recorded in the adjacent Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Lohit district in camera trap images.

Significance of recent sighting

  • The recent sighting at a height of 1,200 metres above sea level is a first at such a higher elevation in India.
  • The presence of nesting sites within this area is a positive sign for the future habitat as the breeding season of the white-bellied heron starts in February and lasts till June.
  • It is great news that the critically endangered bird is establishing new habitat beyond its traditional range.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Meghalaya records India’s first bat with sticky disks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Species of bats

Mains level : Paper 3- Disk-footed bat recorded for first time in India

About the species

  • A team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and a few European natural history museums stumbled upon very specialised small bat with “disk-like pads in the thumb and bright orange colouration”.
  • The flattened skull and sticky pads enabled the bats to roost inside cramped spaces, clinging to smooth surfaces such as bamboo internodes.
  • The disk-footed bat was also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk-like pads.

Significance

  • Meghalaya has yielded India’s first bamboo-dwelling bat with sticky disks, taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130.
  • The disk-footed bat has raised Meghalaya’s bat count to 66, the most for any State in India.
  • It has also helped add a genus and species to the bat fauna of India.
  • There are a couple of other bamboo-dwelling bats in India.
  • But the extent of adaptation for bamboo habitat in this species is not seen in the others.