Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Indian Tent Turtles rescued in Lucknow

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indian Tent Turtles

Mains level: NA

Indian Tent Turtles

Central Idea

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Zonal Unit, Lucknow, acted on specific intelligence to intercept an illegal wildlife trade of 436 baby Indian Tent turtles.

About Indian Tent Turtles

Details
Scientific Classification Pangshura tentoria, Family: Geoemydidae
Diet Mainly herbivorous, active swimmer.
Habitat Prefers still water pools on river sides and slow running water near river banks.
Distribution Native to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Conservation Status – Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

– IUCN Status: Least Concern

– CITES: Appendix II.

Major Threats Illegal trade in the pet market due to its attractive appearance.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Specie in news: Saiga Antelope

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Saiga Antelope

Mains level: NA

Saiga Antelope

Central Idea

  • The Saiga Antelope has been reclassified from ‘Critically Endangered’ to ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

About Saiga Antelope

Details
Scientific Name Saiga tatarica
Physical Characteristics Notable for its distinctive bulbous nose; relatively small, with a thin build and long, thin legs
Habitat Primarily found in the steppe region of Central Asia and Eastern Europe
Population Distribution Predominantly in Kazakhstan and Russia, with smaller populations in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Mongolia
Conservation Status IUCN Red List: Near Threatened

CITES: Appendix II

Major Threats Poaching for horns (used in traditional medicine), habitat loss, and disease outbreaks like pasteurellosis
Diet Herbivorous, feeding on a variety of grasses and plants
Breeding Known for its rapid population growth under favorable conditions; breeds in large herds
Migration Notable for long-distance seasonal migrations
Cultural Significance Featured in the folklore and culture of the local steppe communities

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Mauritian Dodo

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mauritian Dodo

Mains level: NA

Mauritian Dodo

Central Idea

  • Mauritian authorities are now working to resurrect the human-caused extinct bird ‘Dodo’.

About Mauritian Dodo

Details
Scientific Name Raphus cucullatus
Physical Characteristics Large, flightless bird; about 1 meter tall, weighing 10-18 kg; large beak, stubby wings.
Habitat Endemic to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean; lived in forests and possibly coastal areas.
Discovery and Extinction Discovered by Dutch Colonist in late 16th century; extinct by the late 17th century, last sighting around 1662.
Causes of Extinction Human hunting and introduced species like rats, pigs, and monkeys.
Diet Likely fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs, and possibly small animals.
Behavior Exhibited no fear of humans due to lack of natural predators.
Cultural Impact Symbol of extinct and endangered species; featured in the phrase “as dead as a dodo.”
Representation Depicted in literature and art, notably in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Science of De-Extinction

  • Genetic Blueprint: The first step in de-extinction is obtaining a complete and accurate genome of the species.
  • Genome Sequencing: Paleo-geneticists have successfully sequenced the dodo’s genome using DNA from a museum specimen.
  • Comparative Genomics: The dodo’s genome is being compared with that of its closest extinct and extant relatives to identify unique dodo traits.

Process of Resurrecting

  • Editing Genetic Material: The project involves editing the primordial germ cells (PGCs) of the Nicobar pigeon, the dodo’s closest living relative, to express dodo traits.
  • Interspecies Surrogacy: These edited PGCs will be inserted into chicken embryos, with chickens acting as interspecies surrogates to potentially birth a dodo offspring.
  • Physical Resemblance: The aim is to create a bird physically indistinguishable from historical accounts of the dodo.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Scientific Hurdles: Experts emphasize the complexity of recreating a species and the time required for selective breeding to achieve dodo-like characteristics.
  • Habitat Restoration: Mauritius’ transformed landscape poses challenges for reintroducing the dodo, necessitating the control or removal of invasive species.
  • Alternative Habitats: The project considers reintroducing dodos to more pristine, uninhabited islands like Round Island and Aigrettes.

Motivations behind the Project

  • Ecosystem Restoration: Reintroducing the dodo could help restore mutualistic relationships in Mauritius’ ecosystem, particularly in seed dispersal.
  • Conservation Technology: The techniques developed could aid in conserving and restoring other endangered avian species.
  • Symbolic Value: The project is driven by a desire to create ‘conservation optimism’, using the dodo as a symbol of hope in the face of human-caused extinctions.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Specie in news: Megamouth Shark

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Megamouth Shark

Mains level: Not Much

Megamouth Shark

Central Idea

  • In a historic moment for marine biology, a pregnant megamouth shark, a rare and elusive deepwater species, was discovered washed up on a beach in the Philippines.
  • This is only the 60th ever seen and the first ever observed to be pregnant.

About Megamouth Shark

Details

Scientific Name Megachasma pelagios
Discovery First discovered in 1976 off the coast of Hawaii.
Appearance Large mouth, bulbous head, rubbery lip, dark grey/black body with a white underbelly.
Size Up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) in length.
Diet Filter feeder, consuming plankton, jellyfish, and small fish.
Habitat Deepwater species, found at depths of 150 to 1,000 meters (490 to 3,280 feet).
Behavior Rarely seen, swims with mouth open to filter food.
Reproduction Presumed to be ovoviviparous, but details are largely unknown.
Distribution Wide but rare distribution in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Conservation Status Least Concerned (IUCN)
Scientific Interest Valued for its unique anatomy and role in the deep-sea ecosystem.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Doubled-humped Camels

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Double-Humped Camels

Mains level: NA

camel

Central Idea

  • Indian Army has inducted double-humped camels for patrolling and logistical support along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

About Double-Humped Camels

  • The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), is also known as the Mongolian camel, domestic Bactrian camel or two-humped camel.
  • Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.
  • It is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia.
  • It has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary.
  • The humps are plump and pliable. They store fat, which can be converted into water and energy when food and water resources are scarce during harsh winters.
  • A small population of Bactrian camel exists in the Nubra valley of Ladakh.

Significance of deployment

  • These camels serve to patrol the LAC and provide logistical aid to troops in the difficult, barren landscape of Eastern Ladakh.
  • They can carry 170 kg and patrol up to 15 km without rest, surpassing the load capacity of mules previously used by the army.
  • The Army’s 14 corps is deploying these camels in strategic areas like Depsang and Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) along the LAC.

Try this PYQ from the 2019 CS Prelims:

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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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

New species: Abelmoschus Odishae

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Wild Okra (Abelmoschus Odishae)

Mains level: NA

odisha

Central Idea

  • A scientist from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) recently discovered a new plant species of ‘wild okra’ named ‘Abelmoschus Odishae’.

Wild Okra (Abelmoschus Odishae)

  • Its discovery occurred in a humid deciduous forest within the Banspal block of Keonjhar district, in Odisha.
  • This plant holds potential for use in hybridization to develop improved varieties with enhanced disease resistance.
  • It could significantly contribute to broadening the genetic diversity of okra.
  • Characteristics:
    1. This perennial shrub reaches up to 5 meters in height and features a densely hispid, spiny stem with backward-facing hairs.
    2. The plant is adorned with large, vibrant yellow flowers.
    3. Its seeds are nearly kidney-shaped, with short, robust, non-spiral trichomes.
    4. The seeds exhibit a high viability rate of 95 percent.

About Okra

  • Commonly referred to as gumbo or ladies’ fingers, okra is a vegetable favored in warm climates.
  • Originating from the Eastern Hemisphere’s tropics, it is now extensively grown or found naturally in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Western Hemisphere.
  • Rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, okra is a nutritious choice.
  • The vegetable is known for its mild flavor and distinctive texture, featuring a peach-like fuzz on its exterior and small, consumable seeds inside.

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Specie in news: Lantana Camara

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lantana Camara

Mains level: NA

Lantana Camara

Central Idea

  • In an exhibition in Bengaluru, sculptures of elephants made from Lantana camara gained popular attraction.

About Lantana Camara

  • Lantana camara, commonly known as lantana, belongs to the verbena family (Verbenaceae) and originates from the American tropics.
  • Lantana was introduced to India in the early 19th century as an ornamental plant during the British colonial period. Its colorful flowers made it popular in gardens.
  • This shrub has the ability to spread across forest floors, climb like a creeper over trees, and easily intertwine with native vegetation.
  • Lantana is highly adaptable, thriving in diverse ecosystems.

Impacts on Local ecosystem

  • Lantana’s invasive nature poses a serious threat to native flora and fauna. It competes with native plants for resources, often leading to a reduction in native biodiversity.
  • It forms dense thickets that alter the structure of habitats that impede the movement of animals and change the microhabitat conditions, such as light availability and soil composition.
  • It can invade agricultural land, reducing crop yields, and can also infest pastures, impacting grazing for livestock.
  • It is toxic to livestock and can cause health issues if ingested. This adds to the economic burden for farmers who need to ensure their animals do not graze on lantana-infested land.
  • The plant increases the risk of fire in the ecosystems it invades because it forms dense thickets that can easily catch and spread fire.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

‘Music Frog’ Species discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Music Frog

Mains level: NA

Music Frog

Central Idea

  • Scientists have identified a new species of ‘music frog’, named Nidirana noadihing, in Arunachal Pradesh, India.

Nidirana noadihing: The Music Frog

  • Location: It came from the place, Noa-Dihing River, from where the specimens were collected.
  • Size: The frogs grow up to 6 cm, with males measuring between 1.8 to 2.3 inches and females between 2.4 to 2.6 inches.
  • Appearance: They have a robust body, a rounded snout, smooth skin with bony protrusions on their backs, and a pale cream line bordered with dark brown running down their bodies.
  • Eye Features: The frogs have irregularly shaped spots on their eyelids, moderately large eyes with gold-rimmed pupils, and dark brown irises with a golden spackle.
  • Colouration: Their throat, forelimbs, thighs, and lower legs are light brown and pinkish, while their groin and the outside of their thighs are pale yellow with irregular dark olive patches.

Habitat and Behavior

  • Habitat: Nidirana noadihing inhabits swamps, ponds, and paddy fields, often constructing nests for egg-laying.
  • Vocalization: The species is distinguished by its unique call, which led to its discovery near the Noa-Dihing river.

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

Gujarat declares ‘Ghol’ as State Fish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ghol Fish

Mains level: NA

ghol

Central Idea

  • The Gujarat government’s decision to declare the ‘Ghol’ as the state fish highlights its uniqueness and economic value.

About Ghol Fish

  • The Ghol fish or the Blackspotted Croaker, is a significant species in marine fisheries.
  • It belongs to the family Sciaenidae and is scientifically known as Protonibea diacanthus.
  • It is commonly found in the Indo-Pacific region, ranging from the Persian Gulf to Indonesia and north to Japan.
  • The Ghol fish is characterized by its robust body, brownish color, and the presence of black spots on its sides.
  • It has a large mouth and a slightly protruding lower jaw.
  • This species can grow quite large, with some individuals reaching up to 1 meter in length and weighing around 25 kilograms.

Economic Value of Ghol

  • The Ghol fish is highly valued, especially for its fish maw (dried swim bladder), which is a delicacy and used in traditional medicines, particularly in East Asian markets.
  • The fish maw is believed to have various health benefits and is often used in soups and stews.
  • It can fetch high prices in the market, sometimes as much as Rs 25,000 per kilogram.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Gujarat bans Conocarpus Plant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Conocarpus Plant

Mains level: NA

Conocarpus

Central Idea

  • Gujarat has issued a circular to control the growth of the exotic species Conocarpus, citing adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

About Conocarpus Plant

  • Classified as invasive, Conocarpus is a mangrove
  • During the winter season, these trees produce flowers, releasing pollen in nearby regions.
  • In India, various public authorities have used it for landscaping purposes, including road medians, roadsides, and public gardens.
  • This tree is renowned for maintaining its dark green foliage year-round, even in harsh environmental conditions like extreme temperatures.
  • Its adaptability allows it to thrive in highly saline areas.
  • Conocarpus exhibits an excessive water-absorption trait from the soil, posing a threat to groundwater.
  • Its deep root system can disrupt infrastructure communication cables, drainage lines, and potable water pipelines.

Previous bans

  • Telangana had previously banned the same plant species due to concerns over its impact.
  • Conocarpus is not the sole exotic plant species to fall out of favor.
  • In recent years, Delhi and Kerala have grappled with the need to curb the growth of non-indigenous trees that were adversely affecting local environments, flora, and fauna due to their prolific presence.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Nilgiri Tahr

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nilgiri Tahr

Mains level: Not Much

nilgiri tahr

Central Idea

  • In a continued effort to conserve the Nilgiri Tahr, Tamil Nadu launched Project Nilgiri Tahr last year.
  • Now, the state is focusing on establishing a standardized protocol with Kerala for counting the population of this endangered species.

About Nilgiri Tahr

IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972: Schedule I

  • It is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
  • It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  • The Nilgiri tahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests eco-region.
  • At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, locally known as sholas.
  • Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population of this Tahr.
  • It is estimated that there are 3,122 Nilgiri Tahrs in the wild. It has become locally extinct in around 14% of its traditional shola forest-grassland habitat.

 

Nilgiri Tahr Conservation Project

  • Under The Nilgiri Tahr project, TN government plans to develop a better understanding of the Nilgiri Tahr population through-
  1. Surveys and radio telemetry studies;
  2. Reintroduce the Tahrs to their historical habitat;
  3. Address proximate threats; and
  4. Increase public awareness of the species.
  • The project is to be implemented from 2022 to 2027.
  • Furthermore, October 7 will be celebrated as ‘Niligiri Tahr Day’ in honour of E.R.C. Davidar, who was responsible for pioneering one of the first studies of the species in 1975.

Historic significance of Nilgiri Tahr

  • There are multiple references to the Nilgiri Tahr in Tamil Sangam literature dating back to 2,000 years.
  • The late Mesolithic (10,000-4,000 BC) paintings highlight the significance of the Tahr in folklore, culture and life.
  • It was designated as the State animal in recognition of its ecological and cultural significance.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Gurnards: New fish species discovered in Bengal’s Digha harbour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gurnards or Sea-robins

Mains level: NA

Gurnards

Central Idea

  • Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have unveiled a captivating discovery— Gurnards, a new species of deep water marine fish, displaying a striking orange hue.
  • This remarkable find was made off the coast of Digha Mohana in West Bengal.

Gurnards or Sea-robins

  • The newfound species falls within the Triglidae family, commonly referred to as gurnards or sea-robins.
  • Named Pterygotrigla intermedica, this species exhibits distinct characteristics that set it apart from its counterparts, such as Pterygotrigla hemisticta.
  • It marks the fourth species within the Pterygotrigla genus to be reported in India.
  • This family boasts a global diversity with a total of 178 species, emphasizing the significance of this discovery.

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

Northeast’s Mithun gets ‘Food Animal’ Tag

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mithun/Gayal

Mains level: NA

mithun

Central Idea

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently recognized the mithun as a ‘food animal,’ opening doors for its commercial use.

About Mithun

  • The Mithun, also known as the Gayal (scientifically Bos frontalis), is believed to have evolved from the Indian Gaur or bison.
  • It was first described in 1804 by Aylmer Bourke Lambert.
  • It holds significant cultural and socio-economic importance among tribes like the Nyishi, Apatani, Galo, and Adi in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Its habitat spans Northeast India, Bangladesh, northern Myanmar, and Yunnan, China.
  • It is often referred to as the ‘cattle of the mountain.’
  • The gayal serves as the state animal of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

Conservation status

  • IUCN: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I.

Recognition as a ‘Food Animal’

  • This move has sparked efforts to help farmers and tribal communities benefit economically from the sale and processing of mithun meat.
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has introduced the M-ANITRA app, facilitating the registration of Mithun farmers as both “buyers” and “sellers” to engage in competitive trade.
  • Mithun farmers from various villages in Northeast India have been participating in training programs conducted by organizations like the ICAR-National Research Centre on Mithun.
  • Farmers are adopting practices to protect mithun, including enclosures, night shelters, and vaccinations.
  • Mithuns, when sold as meat, can fetch high prices, with an average selling price of Rs 300 per kg.
  • The opportunity to commercially sell mithun meat is generating excitement among farmers.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Illicit Red Sand Boa Trade in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Red Sand Boa

Mains level: Not Much

red sand boa

Central Idea

  • A recent report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India exposes 172 incidents of red sand boa (Eryx johnii) seizures spanning 2016-2021.
  • It is illicitly traded under the notion of its role in black magic practices.

About Red Sand Boa

  • The Red Sand Boa is a rare non-poisonous snake with applications in medicine, cosmetics, and even black magic, making it highly valued in the global market.
  • Among the general public, it is referred to as the “Two-headed Snake” due to its thick tail with a rounded tip, resembling two heads.

Conservation Status

  • Trading and possessing the red sand boa violate the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • The species is categorized in Schedule IV of the WPA.
  • Additionally, the red sand boa is listed in Appendix II of CITES.
  • It holds a ‘Near Threatened’ classification by the IUCN, with a diminishing population trend.

Prime moving factor for trade: Social Media

  • The study underscores the pivotal role of social media, particularly platforms like YouTube, as conduits for illegal trade.
  • YouTube videos act as interfaces for buyers and sellers, occasionally facilitating transactions via WhatsApp.
  • In 2021, approximately 200 videos advertising sand boas for sale on YouTube were identified.

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Tachymenoides Harrisonfordi: Snake named after Celebrity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tachymenoides harrisonfordi

Mains level: Not Much

harrison

Central Idea

  • The snake, known as Tachymenoides harrisonfordi, was named after Harrison Ford for his commitment to environmental advocacy.

Tachymenoides harrisonfordi

  • It is a snake species that was named in honour of the actor Harrison Ford.
  • This naming was a recognition of Ford’s dedication to environmental advocacy.
  • Its characteristics include:
  1. Physical Attributes: Tachymenoides Harrisonfordi measures approximately 16 inches (40.6 centimetres) and features a yellowish-brown colour with scattered black blotches.
  2. Distinctive Features: The snake boasts a black belly, a vertical streak above its copper-coloured eye, and unique markings that contribute to its identity.
  3. Habitat and Elevation: The sole specimen, a male snake, was found sunbathing in a marsh at an altitude of 3,248 meters above sea level.

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Species in news: Tharosaurus Indicus

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tharosaurus Indicus

Mains level: NA

thar

Central Idea

  • The fossilized remains of an ancient, plant-eating dicraeosaurid dinosaur named ‘Tharosaurus Indicus’ were recently recovered near Jaisalmer.

Tharosaurus Indicus

  • Tharosaurus indicus is the name given to an ancient species of dinosaur discovered in the Thar Desert region of Jaisalmer, India.
  • It is a type of dicraeosaurid dinosaur, which was a group of long-necked, plant-eating dinosaurs that lived during the Jurassic period.
  • The fossils of Tharosaurus indicus were found to be around 167 million years old, making them one of the oldest known dicraeosaurids and diplodocoids globally.

Significance of the discovery

  • Dicraeosaurids are characterized by their relatively shorter necks compared to other sauropod dinosaurs and were known for their unique body proportions.
  • This newly discovered species provides valuable insights into the diversity of prehistoric life that existed in the region during ancient times.
  • The name “Tharosaurus indicus” reflects its origin, with “Thar” referring to the Thar Desert and “indicus” indicating its origin in India.
  • This discovery showcases India’s historical significance in the field of paleontology and contributes to our understanding of dinosaur evolution on a global scale.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Indian Eagle Owl

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indian Eagle Owl

Mains level: Not Much

indian owl

Central Idea

  • The Indian eagle owl was recently classified species distinct from the Eurasian eagle owl.

Indian Eagle-Owl

  • The Indian eagle-owl or rock eagle-owl, is a large horned owl species native to hilly and rocky scrub forests in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • It is splashed with brown and grey, and has a white throat patch with black small stripes.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concerned (IUCN), Appendix II (CITES)

Key features

  • Distinct Species: Classified separately from the Eurasian eagle-owl, the Indian eagle-owl stands out with its imposing size, reaching up to two and a half feet in length and six feet in wingspan.
  • Nocturnal Secrets: Due to its nocturnal nature, limited knowledge is available about the bird, contributing to its aura of mystery.
  • Menacing Appearance: Prominent ear tufts resembling horns may have evolved to deter predators, giving the bird a threatening appearance.

Threats from Superstitions

  • In rural India, the bird is considered a bearer of ill omens, and its loud double-hoot calls are linked to superstitions.
  • Folklore suggests that when trapped and starved, the Indian eagle-owl could speak in a human voice, foretelling the future of its listeners.

Ecological significance

  • The Indian eagle owl’s diet of rodents, including rats and bandicoots, aligns well with open scrublands and agricultural regions, making it beneficial for farmers.
  • Owls nesting near agricultural lands have shown higher numbers of healthier owlets due to the abundance of rodents.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Clouded Leopards

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Clouded Leopard

Mains level: NA

clouded leopard

Central Idea

  • International Clouded Leopard Day has been celebrated on 4th August since 2018.
  • Scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have conducted a study on clouded leopards in Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve in western Assam.

About Clouded Leopard

  • The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is a wild cat found in dense forests from the foothills of the Himalayas to mainland Southeast Asia and South China.
  • It has large dusky-grey blotches and irregular spots and stripes on a dark grey or ochreous fur, resembling clouds, hence its name.
  • It is the first cat that genetically diverged from the common ancestor of the pantherine cats around 9.32 to 4.47 million years ago.
  • Currently, the clouded leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  • It is listed in CITES Appendix I, and protected in most of its range.

Habitat in India

  • It inhabits dense forests in states such as Sikkim, northern West Bengal, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • It is the State animal of Meghalaya (Note: Clouded Leopard National Park is located in Tripura).

Features of Clouded Leopards

  • The mainland clouded leopard is agile and strong, often compared to the Ice Age sabretooth due to its large canines.
  • It has rotating rear ankles that enable it to climb down headfirst from trees, distinguishing it from other felines.
  • The cat has cloud-like spots on its hide, making it easily identifiable.

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Perucetus Colossus Whale:  Heaviest Animal that Ever Lived

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Perucetus Colossus Whale

Mains level: NA

Perucetus Colossus Whale

Central Idea

  • Scientists have unearthed fossils of an ancient giant whale species named Perucetus colossus in Peru.
  • With each vertebra weighing over 100 kgs and ribs measuring nearly 5 feet long, this colossal whale poses a potential contender for the title of the heaviest animal to have ever lived.

About Perucetus Colossus Whale

  • Discovery: Fossils of Perucetus colossus (lived approximately 39 million years ago) were found more than a decade ago in Peru’s Ica desert, a region known for its rich marine fossils.
  • Enormous Size: The whale’s estimated length was around 66 feet (20 meters), shorter than some blue whales that grow over 100 feet.
  • Unique Weight: The ancient giant’s dense and heavy bones contributed to its impressive estimated weight, making it a slow swimmer, most likely dwelling in shallow, coastal waters.
  • Feeding Habits: Without the discovery of the skull, scientists are uncertain about the whale’s diet, speculating it may have scavenged on the seafloor or consumed vast amounts of krill and other marine organisms.

Significance

  • Heaviest Known Animal: If confirmed, Perucetus colossus could surpass the blue whale’s title as the heaviest known animal, living or extinct.
  • Evolutionary Significance: The species highlights the capacity of evolution to generate organisms with characteristics beyond human imagination.
  • Paleontological Mystery: The absence of skull and tooth remains leaves the feeding behavior and ecological role of this ancient giant open to further investigation.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Atlantic Menhaden

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Atlantic Menhaden

Mains level: Not Much

atlantic

Central Idea

  • Researchers have discovered that the population of ospreys, a fish-eating bird, is facing a decline due to the decreasing numbers of Atlantic menhaden, their primary food source.
  • The depletion of menhaden, a small silvery fish, is attributed to commercial fishing practices.
  • The decline in osprey reproduction reflects the broader ecological impact of reduced menhaden numbers.

About Atlantic Menhaden

  • Atlantic menhaden, scientifically known as Brevoortia tyrannus, is a species of fish belonging to the Clupeidae family.
  • They are commonly found along the Atlantic coast of North America, ranging from Florida to Nova Scotia.
  • Atlantic menhaden play a vital ecological role and have significant commercial and ecological importance.

Importance of Atlantic Menhaden

  • Role in Coastal Ecosystem: Menhaden play a crucial role in the ecology of coastal waters along the Eastern Seaboard, providing sustenance for larger fish, marine mammals, and birds.
  • Nutrient-Rich and Filtering Capacity: Menhaden are nutrient-rich, containing omega-3 fatty acids, and they filter substantial quantities of ocean water while consuming smaller organisms like plankton.

Commercial Fishing Impact

  • Increased Catch Allowance: The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission raised the allowable catch of menhaden to 233,550 metric tons for the next two years, a 20% increase from previous years.
  • Fishery Quota: The commission maintained a quota of 51,000 metric tons for the Chesapeake Bay’s reduction fishery, where menhaden are used for bait and fish products.
  • Ecological Concerns: Critics argue that the removal of significant menhaden quantities is degrading the ecosystem, negatively affecting species like ospreys and striped bass that rely on menhaden.

Low Reproductive Numbers and Menhaden Depletion

  • In mid-June, researchers found only three young ospreys out of 84 nests checked in Mobjack Bay, part of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Scientists at the College of William & Mary, monitoring the local osprey population for over 50 years, recorded the lowest reproductive number.
  • The decline in breeding success is attributed to the depletion of Atlantic menhaden, the osprey’s primary food source.

Lawsuit and Ecosystem Protection

  • Recreational Fishermen Lawsuit: A group of recreational fishermen from Maryland sued the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, claiming it contributed to the menhaden decline by endorsing quotas that harm fish populations and the recreational fishing industry.
  • Commercial Fishing Practices: Critics highlight the negative impact of industrial techniques used by companies like Omega Protein, which catch menhaden in unsustainable quantities, contributing to the decline of other species and damaging ecosystems.
  • Restoring Menhaden Stocks: Non-profit organizations advocate for rebuilding menhaden populations along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

Positive Signs beyond Chesapeake Bay

  • Menhaden Recovery: Outside the Chesapeake Bay, menhaden populations have increased since the Atlantic commission took measures to address overfishing in 2012, leading to a recovery of the fish population within two years.
  • Ecological Impact: The recovery of menhaden populations has brought back various predators such as humpback whales, tuna, sharks, and bald eagles off the coasts of New York and New Jersey.

 

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