Species | Flora | Fauna in news 2021


Biodiversity and conservation

Due to human intervention in the ecosystem, many species have either extinct or on the verge of extinction. Many initiatives are ongoing all around for the conservation of biodiversity. In this section, we will provide you with updates on all related aspects:

Biodiversity and conservation updates/news
  • “Black Softshell Turtle” – Pact Signed for Conservation in Assam

    What is the News? The Hayagriva Madhava Temple Committee in Assam has signed an MoU with Turtle Survival Alliance India, Help Earth, and Assam Forests Department to conserve the Black Softshell Turtle.

    As part of the pact, a Vision Document 2030 was also released. The document aims to raise at least 1,000 black softshell turtles by 2030.

    About Black Softshell Turtle(Nilssonia nigricans):
    • Black Softshell Turtle is a species of freshwater turtle. It is found in India and Bangladesh.
    • Distribution:
      • Brahmaputra’s drainage and Near Temple Ponds in Assam
      • Bangladesh (Chittagong and Sylhet)
    • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
    • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: It does not enjoy legal protection.
    • Significance:
      • Temple Ponds in Assam conserve Turtles based on religious grounds.
      • At the Bayazid Bostami shrine in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the black softshell turtle is known as mazari(inhabitant).
    • Threats:
      • Hunted for turtle meat and cartilage in regional and international markets.

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    About Hayagriva Madhava temple
    • The Hayagriva Madhava temple exists in a hilly place which is located at Hajo nearby Guwahati, Assam. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
    • Built by: The present temple structure was constructed by King Raghudeva Narayan in 1583.
      • According to Historians, the temple was built during the Pala period of 10th-12th century A. D.
    • Significance: The temple is revered by Buddhists also, as they believe that Hayagriva Madhava temple is the place where Buddha attained Nirvana. Thus, the temple becomes an ancient pilgrimage center for both Hindus and Buddhists.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “Bharitalasuchus tapani”- A carnivorous reptile, lived 240 million years ago
    What is the News?

    Researchers from the Indian Statistical Institute had carried out extensive studies on rocks of the Yerrapalli Formation in Telangana during the mid 20th Century. During that time, they uncovered several fossils. By studying some of these fossils, the team has now provided information on one of the reptiles(Bharitalasuchus tapani).

    What information they have provided on the Bharitalasuchus tapani?

    Bharitalasuchus tapani

    • The reptile has been named Bharitalasuchus tapani. It is a carnivorous reptile that lived 240 million years ago.
      • In the Telugu language, Bhari means huge, Tala means head, and Suchus is the name of the Egyptian crocodile-headed deity.
    • Named after: The reptile has been named after palaeontologist Tapan Roy Chowdhury. For his contribution to Indian vertebrate palaeontology, and especially his extensive work at Yerrapalli Formation.
    • Genus: The reptile belonged to a family of extinct reptiles named Erythrosuchidae.
    • Key Features:
      • Bharitalasuchus 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.

    Read Also :What are Eco-ducts or Eco-bridges?

    About Erythrosuchidae:
    • Erythrosuchidae (meaning red crocodiles) are a family of large basal archosauriform carnivores. They lived from the later Early Triassic to the early Middle Triassic.
      • The Triassic is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period to the beginning of the Jurassic Period. It is the first and shortest period of the Mesozoic Era.
    • The first Erythrosuchidae remains were discovered in South Africa in 1905 and more were found in China and Russia.
      • The South African one is about 245 million years old, while the ones from China and Russia are around 240 million years old.
    About Yerrapalli Formation:
    • Yerrapalli Formation is located primarily in the Pranhita–Godavari Basin in Telangana.
    • It is a Triassic rock formation consisting primarily of red mudstones. The area preserves fossils of freshwater and terrestrial vertebrates, as well as trace fossils of invertebrates.

    Source: The Hindu

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  • Govt. report flags lapses in “filovirus study” among Nagaland bats
    What is the News?

    The government of India has concluded that there have been lapses in the conduct and protocols followed for the filovirus study of bats in Nagaland.

    What was the filovirus study about?
    • Researchers from India, China and the US had conducted a study in Nagaland on bats and humans carrying antibodies to deadly viruses like Ebola.
      • From India, the National Centre for Biological Sciences(NCBS) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research(TIFR) participated in the study.
    • Findings: The study found the presence of filovirus reactive antibodies in human and bat populations in northeast India. Hence, the study suggested that Bats in South Asia act as reservoir hosts of a diverse range of filoviruses.

    Note:

    • Filoviruses belong to a virus family called Filoviridae and can cause severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates.
    • So far, three varieties of this virus family have been identified: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus and Ebolavirus.
    Significance of this filovirus study:
    • The findings of the study became significant given the debate over the origins of COVID-19 worldwide and the handling of bat samples at the Wuhan Institute laboratory.
    • However, scientific experts and officials have made it clear that the Nagaland bat study on filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) was in no way related to the coronavirus(SARS) studies at Wuhan.
    Government of India’s inquiry into filovirus study:
    • The Government of India had ordered an inquiry in 2020 into this study. The inquiry investigated how the scientists were allowed to access live samples of bats and bat hunters (humans) without due permission.
    • The inquiry concluded that there have been lapses in the conduct and the protocols followed by the study. The lapses include:
      • Firstly, the study did not have the approval of the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR)
      • Secondly, the Bangalore based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) is not equipped in terms of Biosafety and Biosecurity for testing samples.

    Source: The Hindu

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  • “Gharials Conservation” – Odisha Forest department Announces Cash Reward

    What is the News?

    The Mahanadi Wildlife Division in Odisha has announced a cash reward of Rs 1,000 for rescuing Gharials and informing wildlife personnel. The division will also provide compensation to fishermen whose fishing nets are destroyed by gharials.

    About Gharials:
    • Gharials are one of the longest of all living crocodilians. They derive their name from ghara, an Indian word for pot. It is named so because of a bulbous knob (narial excrescence) present at the end of their snout.
    • Features: Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is a fish-eating crocodile. It is also the only living crocodilian with visible sexual dimorphism.
    • Indicator Species: They are also a crucial indicator of clean river water.
    • Distribution:
      • Gharials were once abundant in the main rivers and tributaries of the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Mahanadi-Brahmani river systems.
      • But they are now limited to only 14 widely spaced and restricted localities of India and Nepal.
      • In India, Gharials are present in Son River, Girwa River, the Ganges, Mahanadi River, and the Chambal River.
      • The Satkosia gorge in the Mahanadi is the southernmost limit of gharials.
    • Protected areas: National Chambal Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
    • Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • Threat: Construction of Dam, barrages, and water abstraction, entanglement in fishing nets, River bed cultivation, and sand mining.
    • Initiatives: Indian government launched Project Crocodile with UNDP and FAO in 1975. It included an intensive captive rearing and breeding programme intended to revive the dwindling gharial population.
    Crocodiles in India: India has three species of Crocodiles, namely:
    1. Gharials (Gharials are genetically weaker than salt water crocodiles and muggers)
    2. Mugger crocodile IUCN Status: Vulnerable
    3. Saltwater crocodile IUCN Status: Least Concern.
    Crocodiles in Odisha:
    • Odisha is the only state in India having all three species of crocodiles (gharial, mugger and saltwater crocodiles).
    • Odisha State Forest Department has begun conservation of these three crocodile species since 1975 by establishing three rearing centres
      • Tikarpada for gharials in Angul district,
      • Ramatirtha for muggers in Mayurbhanj, and
      • Bhitarkanika for saltwater crocodiles in Kendrapara district.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • Global studies on “vulnerability of animals to Covid-19”
    What is the news?

    A lion at Chennai’s Vandalur Zoo has died of suspected coronavirus infection. Similarly, a tiger died at Jharkhand’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park after suffering from fever. This sparked the debate regarding the study of the vulnerability of animals to Covid-19.

    Mechanism of Coronavirus Infection:
    • The coronavirus initiates infection using the spike protein on its surface. On the surface of the human cell are proteins called ACE2 receptors. The spike protein binds with the ACE2 receptor, then invades the cell and goes on to replicate.
    • Different species express ACE2 to different extents and this plays a key role in determining how much a species is susceptible to coronavirus infection.
    Global studies on vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:

    A study by PLOS Computational Biology regarding vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:

    • Research: In December 2020, researchers looked at the ACE2 receptors of 10 different species and compared their affinity for binding with the virus spike protein.
    • Method: The researchers used computer modelling to test this. They compared the “codon adaptation index” which is a measure of how efficiently the virus replicates after entering the cell.
    • Findings: The most vulnerable species to coronavirus infection next to humans are ferrets followed by cats and civets.

    Read Also :-National Climate Vulnerability Assessment Report

    A study by PNAS, a research journal of US:

    Researchers studied a detailed genomic analysis of the relative coronavirus risks faced by 410 species.

    • Method: In humans, 25 amino acids of ACE2 are important for the virus to bind with the cell. The researchers used modelling to evaluate how many of these 25 are found in the ACE2 of other species. The more the matches with the human ACE2, the lower the risk of infection.
    • Findings:
      • At very high risk are primates such as chimpanzee, rhesus macaque.
      • At high risk are species such as blue-eyed black lemur.
      • Cats were found to have medium risk, while dogs had a low risk.

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    A study by the University of Bologna regarding vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:
    • Researchers at the University of Bologna collected tissues from six cats and a tiger. They found wide expression of ACE2 in their gastrointestinal tracts. This was more prominent in the cats than in the tiger.

    Source: Indian Express

     

  • Role of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being on India’s Biodiversity

    Synopsis: The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature. The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being will help India to restore that dysfunctional relationship.

    Background
    • Globally, there is a decline in biodiversity. Since 2000, 7% of intact forests have been lost.
    • Further, Climate change and the ongoing pandemic will add additional stresses to our natural ecosystems.
    • Protecting Biodiversity loss is critical for India’s development. Effective implementation of The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being can safeguard and reclaim India’s Biodiversity
    Significance of Biodiversity

    India is home to nearly 8% of global biodiversity on just 2.3% of the global land area. India contains four of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots. The varied ecosystems across land, rivers, and oceans provide us with the following benefits

    • Food security
    • Enhanced public health security
    • Protection from environmental disasters.
    • Source of spiritual enrichment, catering to our physical and mental well-being.
    • The economic value provided by ecosystem services.

    Thus, preserving biodiversity is directly relevant to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our people

    Significance of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (NMBHWB)
    • The mission was approved in 2018 by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with MoEF&CC and other Ministries.
    • The Mission will strengthen the science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage.
    • It will enable biodiversity as a key consideration in all developmental programmes, particularly in agriculture, ecosystem services, health, bio-economy, and climate change mitigation.
    • It will establish a citizen and policy-oriented biodiversity information system.
    • The Mission will enhance capacity across all sectors for the realisation of India’s national biodiversity targets and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
    • Furthermore, it will allow India to emerge as a leader in demonstrating the linkage between the conservation of natural assets and societal well-being.
    • Above all, the Mission offers a holistic framework, integrated approaches, and widespread societal participation.

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    Effective implementation of the mission will benefit India in many ways
    • The Mission’s comprehensive efforts will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
    • It will help in rejuvenating agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture.
    • It will also result in creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism.
      • For instance, Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands (1/3rd of our land area), alone could generate several million jobs.
    • The Mission will help India to meet its international commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs by facilitating poverty alleviation, justice and equity.
    • It will facilitate the creation of climate-resilient communities by offering nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges.
    • Further, it will aid in conservation and ecosystem management by gaining from the Scientific inputs related to geospatial informatics and policy.
    • More importantly, it has the potential to curtail future pandemics. Since, the mission encompasses the “One Health” Programme, integrating human health with animal, plant, soil and environmental health.
    Way forward

    To improve the results of the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being further, India can implement the following suggestions. Such as

    • India needs to build an extensive cadre of human resources required to meet the enormous and complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.
    • Capacity building of professionals in sustainability and biodiversity science.
    • Investment in civil society outreach.
    • Public engagement, in the exploration, restoration and conservation of biodiversity, is critical.

    Source:  The Hindu

  • “Blue finned Mahseer” now placed under Least Concern (LC) status of IUCN red list
    What is the news?

    Blue Finned Mahseer which was on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of endangered species has now moved to the ‘Least Concern (LC)’ status.

    About Blue Finned Mahseer:

    Blue-finned Mahseer

    Source: The Indian Express

    • Blue Finned Mahseer is a freshwater fish. It is also known as Deccan Mahseer or Tor Khudree.
    • It is one of the sub-species of Mahseer.
    • IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)
    • Features:
      • It is a silvery-bluish coloured fish with blood-red fins or fins tipped with a bluish tinge.
      • Indicator species: Blue finned Mahseer is very sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels, water temperature and sudden climatic changes. It just cannot bear pollution.
        • Hence, it acts as an indicator of ecosystem health because its prime requirement is a clean and pure environment.
    • Diet: The fish feeds on plants, fruits, insects, shrimps and molluscs and may be grown in ponds. They are also predatory and prey on smaller mahseer.
    • Habitat: Blue Finned Mahseer is found in the Mula-Mutha River close to the Indian city of Pune, a part of the Krishna River basin. It is also found in other rivers of the Deccan Plateau.
    • The species is migratory and moves upstream during rains
    Conservation Initiative by Tata power:
    • Tata Group is involved in the conservation of the blue-finned and golden mahseer for 50 years in an Artificial Lake at the Walvan Hatchery in Lonavala (near Pune), Maharashtra.
      • The company created a huge lake by damming the Indrayani River. It is at this artificial lake where Blue-Finned and Golden species of Mahseer congregate. Once the eggs hatch, they remain in the lake for 4-6 months.
      • They are then handed over to various fisheries departments across the country, who in turn introduce them to lakes and rivers in their states.
    • Hence, due to these initiatives, Blue Finned Mahseer has now been moved to the ‘least concern’ status. However, the golden mahseer is still in danger of going extinct.

    Source: Indian Express

  • “Litoria Mira” — A Chocolate Frog Species found in New Guinea
    What is the News?

    A research team led by Griffith University has discovered a new Frog Species in New Guinea. It has been named Litoria Mira.

    About Litoria Mira:
    Source: – Indian Express
    • The Litoria Mira or chocolate frog is a tree frog belonging to the genus Litoria.
    • Name: Litoria is the genus of the common tree frog, and Mira comes from Latin mirum which means strange or surprised.
    • When was it discovered? The frog was first discovered in 2016 in the rainforest swamps of New Guinea. However, it took years to complete the genetic analysis and found out that it is a completely new tree frog species.
    Features:
    • Litoria Mira can be distinguished from all other Litoria. It has a unique combination of moderately large size, webbing on hand, relatively short and robust limbs, and small violet patch of skin on the edge of its eyes.
    • Moreover, it was found that the litoria Mira looks similar to the Australian green tree frog. However, there is only one difference, the former is usually green while Litoria Mira usually has chocolate coloring.
    Why do chocolate frogs and Australian green tree frogs look similar?
    • Australia and New Guinea used to be linked by land for much of the late Tertiary period (2.6 million years ago) and share many biotic elements.
    • However, today the island of New Guinea is separated from the ‘horn’ of Queensland by the Torres Strait. New Guinea is dominated by rainforest, and northern Australia by the savannah.
    • Hence, the two frog species have now evolved to become genetically distinct to a point where they will not be able to breed.

    Source: Indian Express

  • Declining “forest bird species” in Western Himalayan region


    What is the News?

    According to research published in Global Ecology and Conservation, there has been a decline in forest bird species in the Western Himalayas Region.

    Note: The State of Uttarakhand has extremely cold winters and pleasant summers. It is home to the Western Himalayan temperate forests. These forests harbour a large number of endemic bird species.

    About the Research:
    • The researchers studied an area of about 1,285 square kilometres between the altitudes of 1,700 and 2,400 metres in the Western Himalayas Region.
    • Land Types: They studied six land-use types within moist temperate forest which includes:
      • Natural (protected) oak forest,
      • Degraded (lightly used) oak forest,
      • Looped (heavily used) oak forest,
      • Pine forest
      • Agricultural cultivation area and
      • Sites with buildings.
    Key Findings:
    • Firstly, there was a moderate to drastic forest bird species loss in all modified land-use types in comparison to natural oak forest.
    • Secondly, a strong decline was noticed in some habitats guilds. It was especially in the areas of visible land-use change.
      • Habitats guilds are groups of bird species that have common habitat preferences.
    • Thirdly, the species that dropped out of the modified land areas were recognised as oak forest specialists. Such as Rufous-bellied woodpecker, greater yellow nape, rufous sibia, white-throated laughing thrush and black-faced warbler.
      • Forests Specialists include species that search for food and breed only in dense protected oak forests at this altitude.
      • On the other hand, Forest Generalists include species that can adapt to modified habitats such as orchards and degraded forests.
    • Lastly, the reasons for the loss of forest bird species in the region were found to be:
      • Tourism and other anthropogenic activities
      • Rapid Invasion by non-native species. For example, Pigeon and Black Kites are not found in these High Altitudes. But with increasing concrete urban ghettos, these birds have become common in this region.
    Study on Woodpeckers:
    • Firstly, the researchers also studied the woodpeckers in the Western Himalayas region. This is to understand how they can be used as indicators of bird diversity and also to understand habitat degradation:
    • Secondly, they found that the higher number of woodpeckers at a site, results in higher richness of all other birds.
      • Reason: The cavities that woodpeckers make on trees are used by a number of other birds to nest in. This may be the primary reason how woodpeckers enhance the diversity in a region.
    • Thirdly, the two species (Rufous-bellied woodpecker and greater yellow nape) have shown great potential as indicators of forest quality. They are most likely to be found in dense canopied forests with larger and taller trees on which they preferred to forage.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • Odisha’s “blackbucks” double in 6 years, reveals census
    What is the News?

    According to a census carried out by the Odisha State Forest Department, Odisha’s blackbuck population has doubled in the last six years.

    Blackbucks in Odisha:
    • Firstly, the Blackbuck is known in Odisha as Krushnasara Mruga.
    • Secondly, Blackbucks are found only in the Ganjam district in the southern part of Odisha. It used to be sighted in the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary till 2012-13. But now has vanished from the area.
    • Thirdly, according to Census 2021, Blackbuck is numbered around 7,358 in Odisha in 2021. This means that the blackbuck population in Odisha has doubled in the last six years(3,806 in 2015).
    • Reasons for the increase in population:
      • Improvement of habitats,
      • The protection given by the local people and forest staff.
    About Blackbucks:

    Blackbuck

    Source: Deccan Herald

    • The blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is also known as the Indian antelope. It is an antelope native to India and Nepal.
    • Habitat: It inhabits grassy plains and lightly forested areas with perennial water sources.
    • Features:
      • Males weigh heavier than Female Blackbucks. Males have long, ringed horns. Females may also develop horns.
      • The blackbuck is a diurnal antelope (active mainly during the day).
      • Blackbuck is considered to be the fastest animal in the world next to Cheetah.
      • The blackbuck is a herbivore and grazes on low grasses as well.
    • State Animal: Blackbuck has been declared as the State Animal of Punjab, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh.
    • Protection Status:
      • IUCN Status: Least Concern
      • Wildlife Protection Act 1972: Schedule I
      • CITES: Appendix III
    • Religious Significance:
      • The blackbuck is routinely depicted in miniature paintings of the Mughal era (16th to 19th centuries) depicting royal hunts often using cheetahs.
      • Blackbuck is mentioned in Sanskrit texts such as Krishna Mrig. According to Hindu mythology, the blackbuck draws the chariot of Lord Krishna.
      • Villagers in India and Nepal generally do not harm the blackbuck. Tribes such as the Bishnois revere and care for most animals including the blackbuck.
    • Protected Areas:
      • Gujarat: Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary, Gir Forest National Park
      • Bihar: Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
      • Maharashtra: Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary
      • Madhya Pradesh: Kanha National Park
      • Among others.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • A study found the reason behind “crocodile tears”
    What is the News?

    Around the world, the phrase Crocodile Tears is most often used for politicians who are seen as being fake and theatrical in their reactions to misery and suffering. But scientists so far never understood the complete reason behind Crocodile tears.

    When do Crocodiles Cry?
    • A study was conducted in 2006 by the researchers to understand when crocodiles cry.
    • The researchers filmed seven crocodiles as they were fed on dry land in a park away from the water.
    • They found that five of the seven crocodiles developed moisture in their eyes. Apart from moisture, they also develop bubbles or overflow bubbles within minutes before, during or after eating.
    • Hence, the conclusion was made that crocodiles do indeed cry when they eat.
    What makes the crocodiles cry while eating?
    • While eating the aggressive movement of jaws might be a possible reason for tears. As the movement forces air into the sinuses of the crocodiles and stimulates the tear glands. Hence, crocodile tears are not from emotional distress.
    Can a human being also cry while eating?
    • In humans, there is something called “crocodile tear syndrome” or Bogorad syndrome. It is a medical condition in which patients who are recovering from Bell’s Palsy shed tears while eating or drinking.
      • Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It can occur when the nerve that controls facial muscles becomes inflamed, swollen, or compressed. It can also occur due to a viral infection.

    Source: Indian Express

  • How Whiteflies are Damaging Crops in India?

    What is the News?

    According to a study by ICAR– National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources, Invasive Whiteflies Species are increasing in India.

    Whiteflies:
    • Whiteflies are sap-sucking insects. They are members of the insect family Aleyrodidae (order Homoptera). These insects become abundant during warm climates and are found on houseplants and in greenhouses.
    • Origin: Most of the whitefly species are native to the Caribbean islands or Central America.
    • India: Around eight types of whitefly species are found in India. The first invasive whitefly was reported from Kerala in 1995. These species are now distributed throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir.
    • Invasive Species: Whitefly species reduce the yield and also damage crops. Hence, they are considered as invasive species. These insects excrete sticky honeydew and cause the yellowing or death of leaves.
    Key Findings of the study:
    • Expanding host range: Whitefly species are expanding their host range (Species on which they feed) on valuable plant species like coconut, banana, mango, sapota, guava, cashew, oil palm, and important medicinal plants.
    • Reason for expanding host range: The host range of all the whiteflies is increasing due to their polyphagous nature (ability to feed on various kinds of food) and prolific breeding.
    • Resistance to available insecticides: Whiteflies have also been difficult to control by using available synthetic insecticides.
    Suggestions:
    • Firstly, Monitoring of Whitefly Species: The administration should ensure continuous monitoring of the whitefly species, their host plants, and geographical expansion.
    • Secondly, Phytosanitary Measures: States should ensure stricter phytosanitary measures at relevant places to reduce the chances of incoming exotic species.
    • Thirdly, Awareness among citizens: The state should work towards increasing awareness among the public about the threat posed by invasive species. This will help reduce the chances of the public indulging in illegal or unintentional import of invasive species.
    • Fourthly, Biological Control Methods: As the whiteflies are getting difficult to control by using synthetic insecticides. Therefore, naturally occurring insect predators, parasitoids and entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can kill insects) could be used as novel biological control of the invasive whiteflies.

    Source: The Hindu

  • WWF Report on Snow Leopards

    What is the News? The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has released a report. Its title is “Over 100 Years of Snow Leopards Research — A spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range”.

    About the Report:
    • The report provides a comprehensive overview of research carried out across the snow leopard range.
    • It also identifies gaps that need to be addressed to ensure effective snow leopard conservation.
    Key Findings of the Report:
    • The studies on snow leopard started in the 1970s, and it continued to increase exponentially since then.
    • However, just four hotspots of snow leopard have been researched so far (sites with continued multi-year research). It constitutes less than 23% of the snow leopard range.
    • Hence, more than 70% of the habitat of the species spanning over 12 Asian countries remains un-researched.
      • Reason: This species of leopard lives in rugged terrain — some of the harshest landscapes on the planet. Therefore, research poses significant logistical challenges.
    • Nepal, India, and China had conducted the most snow leopard research, followed by Mongolia and Pakistan.
    Threats :
    • Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia’s high mountains. This remaining population also faces continued and emerging threats such as:
      • Increased habitat loss and degradation
      • poaching
      • conflict with communities among others.
    About Snow Leopards:
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule I
    • State Animal: It is the State animal of Himachal Pradesh.
    • It lives at high altitudes in the steep mountains of Central and Southern Asia, where the climate is extremely cold.
    • Indicator Species: The Snow Leopard (also known as Ghost of the mountains) acts as an indicator of the health of the mountain ecosystem in which they live. It is because of their position as the top predator in the food web.
    • Range Countries: Further, it is found in 12 range countries namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
    • India: In India, it inhabits the higher Himalayan and trans-Himalayan landscape in the states/union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

    Click Here to Read more

    Source: Down To Earth

     

  • Can a Single Lightning Flash kill 18 Elephants?
    What is the News?

    Recently, 18 elephants died on a hilltop in Assam. The preliminary post-mortem report indicates they had been struck by lightning.

    Process of formation of lightning
    • During a storm or rain, particles of rain, ice, or snow inside storm clouds collide with each other. It creates a negative charge in the lower reaches of storm clouds and a positive charge in the upper reaches of clouds. This imbalance results in inter-cloud lightning.
    • Ground Objects like trees and earth itself during storms become positively charged due to friction with particles. It creates an imbalance between earth and cloud. Thus, nature seeks to balance this by passing current between the two charges i.e. from clouds to earth.
    • Thus, lightning is the process of occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud. It is accompanied by a bright flash and sound and sometimes thunderstorms.
    • Types:
      • Inter cloud or intra cloud(IC) lightning are visible and are harmless.
      • It is cloud to ground (CG) lightning that is harmful as the ‘high electric voltage and electric current’ leads to electrocution.

    How does lightning kill animals? Lightning may injure or kill animals in a number of ways such as:

    • Direct Flash: An animal in an open field may be struck directly by lightning if part of its body covers or is over other objects in the vicinity. Taller animals are more vulnerable.
    • Side Flash: When lightning strikes a tall object such as a tree, it may generate a side flash that can strike an animal standing underneath the tree.
    • Touch Potential: If one part of a tall animal’s body is in contact with the ground, while another part touches a lightning-struck object like a tree, a partial current may pass through its body.
    • Step Potential: It is the most common lightning hazard among four-legged animals. When an animal’s front and hind feet are far enough apart, a partial current may pass through the body in certain circumstances.

    As per the investigation team, it may be the step potential that killed the Elephants.

    Why are elephants more vulnerable to lightning?
    • An elephant’s front and hind feet are wide apart. Therefore, it would appear to make it more vulnerable than a smaller animal, such as a rat.
    • This is because the potential difference increases with the increasing distance between the two feet. The larger the potential difference, the greater the current through the body.

    Source: Indian Express

  • Understanding the feeding behaviour of “Northern Elephant seals”
    What is the News?

    Scientists have conducted the most thorough study of the unique feeding behaviour of northern elephant seals, especially focusing on the female elephant seals.

    About the study:
    • The Northern Elephant seals are famous for their large breeding assembling. So the reproductive behaviour of them is well studied. But the female Seals are not observed in Coastal areas after breeding. So, the scientists know only a little about feeding behaviour.
    • To solve this, the scientists tracked 48 female elephant seals from Año Nuevo State Park in California. (this site is an important breeding colony).

    Key Findings:

    • Elephant Seals were found to spend more than 20 hours every day – and sometimes a full 24 hours in continuous deep-diving to feeding. They feed on multitudes of small fish instead of larger prey favoured by other deep-diving marine mammals.
      • This is being done to gain the body fat essential for successful reproduction and insulation in the frozen depths.
    • Female elephant seals are only about one-third of the size compared to male elephant seals. So, they hunt smaller fish in a deep-sea region. On the other hand, male elephant seals feed only in coastal waters.
    Elephant Seals:
    • Elephant seals are the largest seals on earth. They get their name from the prominent noses of the males that resemble an elephant’s trunk.
    • Features: Male Elephant seals grow to over 13 feet long and weigh up to 4,500 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, measuring up to 10 feet in length and weighing in at 1,500 pounds.
    • Diet: Elephant seals eat rays, skates, fish, squid, and sharks that live near the bottom of the ocean.

    Species: There are two species of elephant seals:

    Northern Elephant Seals:
    • Northern elephant seals are found across the Pacific coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
    • They generally breed and give birth in California and Baja California. That too usually on offshore islands from December to March. They fast during mating season, losing perhaps a third of their body weight.
    Southern Elephant Seals:
    • Southern elephant seals are the largest of all seals. They live in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters that feature brutally cold conditions.
    • But these regions are rich in the fish, squid, and other marine foods these seals enjoy.
    • Southern elephant seals breed on land but spend their winters in the frigid Antarctic waters near the Antarctic pack ice.

    Source: The Hindu


    “African Forest Elephants” declared Critically Endangered

  • New species of “Asian gracile skink” found from Western Ghats
    What is the News?

    A new species of an Asian gracile skink has been discovered recently at Anaikatti hills, Coimbatore.

    About the new species of Asian gracile skink:

    Asian gracile skink

    Source: The Hindu

    • The New Species of Asian Gracile Skink has been named Subdoluseps nilgiriensis after Nilgiris. The species is closely related to Subdoluseps pruthi found in parts of the Eastern Ghats.
    • Features: The species has a slender body of just about 7 cm. It is sandy brown in colour. The unnoticeable limbs of skinks make them resemble snakes.
    • Protection Status: Subdoluseps nilgiriensis is currently considered a vulnerable species.
    • Significance: This species is only the third skink species discovered from mainland India in the last millennium.
    • Threats:
      • Seasonal forest fires
      • Housing constructions and brick kiln industries in the area.
      • Rapid urbanisation has also increased the road networks in the area.
    Significance of this discovery:
    • The new species of Skink was found in a dry deciduous area. This shows that even the dry zones of our country are home to unrealised skink diversity. So these regions needs to be further explored.
      • Hence, there is an urgent need to change the notion that high biodiversity can be found only in wet and evergreen forests.
    • Further, most of the studies in Tamil Nadu are carried out only in the protected areas and focus only on megafaunas such as tigers, elephants and other such charismatic species.
      • However, we also need to study the little-known animal groups inside our forests. They are fundamental and indispensable components of our biodiversity.
    About Skinks:
    • Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae, a family in the infraorder Scincomorpha.
    • Features: Skinks are characterized by their smaller legs in comparison to typical lizards. They are mostly found in a variety of habitats except for arctic and subarctic regions.
    • Behaviour: Many species of skink does digging and burrowing. They also spend the majority of their time underground. As they can stay safe from predators and the underground tunnels also help them with easy navigation.
    • Diet: Skinks are generally carnivorous and in particular insectivorous. They are known to feed on insects such as termites, crickets and small spiders.
    • Most skinks are diurnal and are usually secretive in their habits. So not much is known about their natural and evolutionary history.
    • The skinks are also non-venomous. They resemble snakes because of the inconspicuous limbs and the way they move on land.
    • Protection Status: Most of the species are placed under the data-deficient category.

    Source: The Hindu


     

     

    Forest Survey of India

  • 186 Elephants killed by Trains in Over 10 Years: MoEFCC Data

    What is the News?

    Project Elephant Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has published data. It highlights the number of elephants killed by trains on railway tracks.

    Key Highlights from the Published data:
    • There was killing of a total of 186 elephants after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21.
    • Assam accounts for the highest number of elephant casualties on railway tracks. It was followed by West Bengal, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.
    •  In the year 2012-13, 27 elephants were killed in 10 States. It is the highest number of elephants killed in a year due to trains.
    Measures taken to avoid elephant casualties on railway lines:

     Permanent Coordination Committee to prevent elephant deaths by trains:

    • A Permanent Coordination Committee has been constituted between the Ministry of Railways(Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.
    • Composition: The committee comprises officers from the Indian Railways and State Forest Departments.
    • Steps Taken: The committee has taken steps such as:
      • clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots;
      • signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence;
      • moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks; underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants;
      • regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise on vulnerable stretches; and
      • regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by the frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.
    Funds released under Project Elephant:
    • The MoEFCC has released 212.49 crores between 2011-12 and 2020-21 to elephant range States under Project Elephant to:
      • Firstly, to protect habitats and corridors of elephants
      • Secondly, to address issues of man-elephant conflict and
      • Thirdly, to protect captive elephants.
    • Kerala stood at the top in getting funds during the above period. On the other hand, Punjab received the lowest of the funds.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “Red Eared Slider Turtles” Threaten Native Indian turtles across Northeast
    What is the News?

    Red Eared Slider Turtles are threatening to invade the natural water bodies across the Northeast region in India.

    About Red-eared slider:

    • Firstly, the red-eared slider is a semi-aquatic turtle belonging to the family Emydidae.
    • Secondly, Origin: They are native to the Southern United States and northern Mexico. But they are found in other countries as well because they are famous as pets.
      • People keep the Red-Eared slider turtle as pets. They release them in natural water bodies after they outgrow an aquarium, tank, or pool at home.
    • Thirdly, Invasive Species: These turtles are considered one of the world’s worst invasive species. This is because they grow fast and virtually leave nothing for the native species to eat.
      • Invasive Species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.
    • Fourthly, Name: They get their name from the small, red stripe around its ears or where its ears would be and from its ability to slide quickly off rocks and logs into the water.
    • Fifthly, Description: The females of the species are usually larger than the males. They typically live between 20 and 30 years, although some individuals have lived for more than 40 years.
    • Sixthly, Significance: Red-eared sliders are poikilotherms. This means that they are unable to regulate their body temperatures independently. Hence, they are completely dependent on the temperature of their environment.
      • For this reason, they need to sunbathe frequently to warm themselves and maintain their body temperatures.
    Red-eared Slider Turtle in India:
    • A team of herpetologists from the NGO ‘Help Earth’ found red­ eared sliders in the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ugratara temple pond in Assam.
      • The turtle was also collected from an unnamed stream, connected to the Tlawng River, on a farm near Mizoram capital Aizawl.
    • Concerns: As Red Eared Sliders are considered invasive, they are threatening to invade the natural water bodies across the Northeast region.
      • The North East Region is home to 21 of the 29 vulnerable native Indian species of freshwater turtles and tortoises.

    Source: The Hindu

    Environment laws and initiatives in India

  • ZSI research helps in categorising “Indian and Chinese Pangolin” scales

    What is the News?

    Researchers at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkata have developed tools to differentiate the scales of Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).

    About the Research:
    • The researchers characterised the morphological features of the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.
    • They also investigated genetic variations between the two species. The researchers investigated this by sequencing 624 scales of pangolins. After sequencing, they compared the sequences with all eight pangolin species.
    • Based on the size, shape, weight and ridge counts on the scales, the team was able to categorise the difference between the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.
    Difference between Indian and Chinese Pangolin:

    Indian vs Chinese Pangolin

    Source: The Hindu

    • The Chinese Pangolin has smaller scales compared to the Indian pangolin.
    • A terminal scale is present on the lower side of the tail in the Indian Pangolin. But the terminal scale is absent in the Chinese Pangolin.
    • The dry weight of the scales from one Chinese pangolin is roughly about 500 to 700 grams. However, in the case of Indian pangolin, it goes up from 1.5 kg to 1.8 kg.
    Significance of this research:
    • The wildlife officers during the confiscation of Pangolin scales can just weigh and estimate how many pangolins might have been killed.
    • These findings will also helpful for law enforcement agencies to identify the pangolin species on the spot during large seizures.
    About Pangolin:
    • Firstly, Pangolins are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota. They have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin. They are the only known mammals on earth to have this feature.
    • Secondly, Pangolins in India: Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India.
    • Thirdly, Indian Pangolin:
      • Distribution of Indian Pangolin is wide in India, except in the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East. The species also occurs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
      • IUCN Status: Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: under Schedule I.
    • Fourthly, Chinese Pangolin:
      • Distribution of Pangolins happen widely in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the northeastern part of India.
      • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Under Schedule I
    • Fifthly, Threats:
      • Between 2000 and 2019, an estimate of about 8.9 lakh pangolins was trafficked globally. This mainly involved Asian and African pangolins. This has led to a drastic decline of the species.
      • Traditional East Asian medicines also use the Pangolins scale. So, Pangolins are killed for their scales.
      • All this has led to an estimated illegal trade worth $2.5 billion every year.

    Click Here to Read more about Pangolins

     Source: The Hindu


    Wildlife Crime Control Bureau(WCCB)

  • “Olive Ridley turtles” likely to skip mass nesting on Rushikulya river mouth this year

    What is the News?

    The annual mass nesting of millions of Olive Ridley sea turtles near the Rushikulya river mouth in Odisha is likely to be missed this year.

    Mass nesting of Olive Ridley Turtles:
    • The Rushikulya river mouth is considered the second-biggest nesting site for Olive Ridley Turtles in India.
    • The Gahirmatha marine sanctuary in Odisha is considered the world’s largest nesting beach for Olive Ridley Turtles. The mass nesting in the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary occurred in March 2021.
    • However, the mass nesting near the Rushikulya river mouth is likely to be missed in 2021. As the time for nesting is almost over.
    • But this won’t be the first time they won’t come for mass nesting. In 2002, 2007, 2016 and 2019, the turtles had not shown up at Rushikulya.
    About Olive Ridley Turtles:
    • The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
    • They are found in warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.

    Characteristics:

    • Features: Males and female Olive Ridley Turtles grow to the same size. However, the females have a slightly more rounded carapace(shell) as compared to the male.
    • Diet: These turtles are carnivores. They feed mainly on jellyfish, shrimp, snails, crabs, molluscs and a variety of fish and their eggs.
    • Migration: They spend their entire lives in the ocean. Further, they migrate thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in a year.
    • Arribada (Mass Nesting): They are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada. Under this, thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
    • Nesting Sites: The coast of Odisha in India is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive-ridley. This is followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica.
    Conservation status:

    Threats: The major threats to Olive Ridley turtles are:

    • Firstly, poor fishing practices,
    • Secondly, development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and tourist centres,
    • And lastly, poaching for their meat, shell and leather.
    Initiatives:
    • Indian Coast Guard undertakes “Operation Olivia” every year. It is an Olive Ridley Turtle protection program.
    • To reduce the accidental killing in India, the Odisha government has made it mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices(TEDs). It is a net specially designed with an exit cover that allows the turtles to escape while retaining the catch.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • “White-Bellied Heron” spotted in Arunachal Pradesh

    What is the News?

    The white-bellied heron was spotted at Walong in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh. This is the first time the white-bellied heron was sighted at a height of 1,200 meters above sea level in India.

    About White-Bellied Heron:

    White-bellied heron

    Source: eBird

    • The White-bellied Heron is a rare and elusive bird. It is the second-largest living species of heron.
    • Characteristics: The White-bellied Heron is extremely shy to human presence. It is plain dark grey in colour except for the white belly part. It has a long neck.
    • Habitat:
      • It is one of the rarest birds in the world. At present, it is found only in Bhutan, Myanmar and the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, India.
      • But the bird has also recorded in the Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Lohit district in Arunachal Pradesh through camera trap images.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
      • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule IV
    • Threats:
      • Loss and degradation of lowland forests and wetlands through direct exploitation and disturbance by humans
      • Natural forest fires have destroyed nests of Heron

    Source: TOI

  • “Great Indian Bustard” Poaching in Pakistan desert

     


    What is the News?

    A group of hunters shot down two Great Indian Bustards(GIBs) in a protected area of southern Punjab’s Cholistan in Pakistan. This has left wildlife activists in India shocked and outraged.

    Why is India Concerned?
    • Firstly, the Grassland Habitat in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert is very similar to the habitat in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park(DNP). Where the Great Indian Bustard(GIB) was killed.
    • Secondly, in these areas, the last remaining populations of  Great Indian Bustard reside.
    • Thirdly, Rajasthan shares the international border with Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces. The remaining Indian-bred GIBs may also fly across to Pakistan’s desert and become easy prey for the gun-toting poachers.
    • Hence, the hunting of the GIB will not only drastically reduce India’s GIB population but will also affect the desert ecosystem.

    Note: The hunting of the Houbara bustards in Pakistan has also led to an alarming decline in their numbers. It also has drastically reduced India’s share of annual winter migration of this bird.

    Read Also: Sonneratia alba or mangrove apple

    About Great Indian Bustard:
    • The Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world.
    • Vegetation: It inhabits dry grasslands and scrublands on the Indian subcontinent.
    • Flagship Species: It is the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
    • Habitat: It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. In India, the population confines mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat.
      • In Rajasthan also GIB’s population is less than 100. This accounts for 95% of its total world population.
    • State Bird: GIB is the State bird of Rajasthan.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972: Schedule I
    • Threats: The bird under constant threat due to a) Collision/ electrocution with power transmission lines b) Hunting (still prevalent in Pakistan) c) Irrigation and farming technology among others.
    Initiatives for Protection of GIB:
    • Great Indian Bustard Project: It was launched by the Rajasthan Government. It aims at the conservation of the remaining population of Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) locally called Godawan.
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has included the Great Indian Bustard(GIB) under the Species Recovery Programme.

    Source: The Hindu


    ‘Firefly bird diverters’ to save the Great Indian Bustard

  • Meghalaya Records India’s First “Disc Footed Bat” with Sticky Disks
    What is the News? 

    Researchers from the Zoological Survey of India(ZSI) discovers India’s first disc footed bat with sticky nodes, near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary in Meghalaya. This location is about 1,000 km west of its nearest habitat in Myanmar.

    Also Read – Other Species in News for Prelims, 2021

    About Disc Footed Bat:
    • This bat(Eudiscopus denticulus) is a bat species that is very different. It has a flat skull, prominent disk-like pads in the thumb, and bright orange colouration.
    • This bat rests inside bamboo internodes. Their sticky disks and flattened skull help them in this.
    • Habitat: So far, this species only thrive in a few localities in Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.
    • The disc-footed bat is genetically very different from all other bats bearing disc-like pads.
    Significance of this discovery:
    • Firstly, the disc footed has raised Meghalaya’s bat count to 66, the most for any State in India.
    • Secondly, it has also helped add a genus and species to the bat fauna of India taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130.

    Source: The Hindu


    Conservation plan on table to save bat species in Kolar caves

  • “Indus and Ganges River Dolphins” are two different species

    What is the News? According to an analysis of the Indus and Ganges River dolphins, it was found they are not one but two separate different species.

    What is the current classification?
    • Currently, Indus and Ganges River dolphins are classified as two subspecies under South Asian river dolphins(Platanista gangetica).

    What has the analysis revealed?

    • Firstly, the researchers examined the DNA samples of the Indus and Gangetic River Dolphins.
    • Secondly, they found out that the Indus and Ganges river dolphins have clear genetic differences. Also, there is a difference in the numbers of teeth, colouration, growth patterns, and skull shapes.
    • Hence, they concluded that the Indus River dolphin and the Ganges river dolphin are two separate different species.
    About Gangetic River Dolphin:
    • Gangetic River Dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
    • Habitat: They prefer deep waters in and around the confluence of rivers. They also act as an indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem as they can only live in freshwater.
    • Population: The population of the Ganges river dolphins is declining. As per estimates, several thousand individuals spread across rivers systems in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN Status: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I (It means we cannot transfer any tissue or sample to foreign countries without getting CITES permission from the Competent Authority of Government of India)
      • Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972: Schedule 1
    • Threats:
      • Physical barriers such as dams and barrages created across the river have reduced the flow to a great extent making the species endangered.
      • The River flow is also declining very fast. It is because of the diversion of the river water through the barrages, and this has affected the dolphin habitats.
      • Mechanized boats are also causing accidental injury to the dolphins.

    Click Here to Read more about Gangetic River Dolphin

     About Indus River Dolphin:
    • Indus Water Dolphin is a freshwater Dolphin. They are found in Pakistan and River Beas, a tributary of the Indus River in Punjab, India.
    • Population: The population of Indus River dolphins has achieved an impressive recovery over the last 20 years. Their numbers going up from approximately 1,200 in 2001 to almost 2,000 in 2017.
    • State Animal: Indus River Dolphin is the state aquatic animal of Punjab.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “Indian Rhino Vision 2020” – Last 2 Rhinos Translocated


    What is the News?

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

    Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020:
    • Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020 was launched in 2005.
    • Vision: The vision of IRV is to:
      • Increase the Rhino Population in Assam from about 2000 to 3000 by 2020.
      • Ensure that one-horned rhinos are spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
    • Seven Protected Areas: The seven protected areas are Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park, Manas National Park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary, and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.
    • Implementation: The Department of Environment and Forest, Assam in partnership with Bodo Autonomous Council implemented the plan.
    • Supported by:  WWF India, WWF areas (Asian Rhino and Elephant action strategy) program, the international rhino Foundation(IRF), US fish and wildlife service, and others support the plan.
    Achievements of Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020:
    • The Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020 has likely achieved its target of attaining a population of 3,000 rhinos in Assam.
    • However, the plan to spread the one-horned rhinos across four protected areas beyond Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park, and Pobitora could not materialize.
    Reasons for the launching of the Indian Rhino Vision plan:
    • Assam had at least five rhino-bearing areas till the 1980s. Better conservation efforts helped maintain the population of the one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga, Orange and Pobitora National Parks.
    • But the encroachment and poaching wiped out the one-horned rhinos from Manas and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • This led to the Manas National Park (known for the near-extinction of the pygmy hog) losing the World Heritage Site tag it received in 1985 along with Kaziranga from UNESCO.
    • However, the translocated rhinos helped Manas National Park get back its World Heritage Site status in 2011.

    Source: The Hindu

  • “Dolphin Census” Registers Increase in Numbers of Dolphins

    What is the News?

    The Odisha State Forest and Environment Department released the final data on the dolphin census. The census covers almost the entire coast of Odisha.

    What are the Key Findings of the Dolphin Census?
    • Number of Dolphins: The number of dolphins increased by 311 in Odisha taking the total number up to 544 Dolphins. In the 2020 census, there were a total of 233 dolphins in the Odisha state.
    • Dolphin Species: Census recorded three species of Dolphins: Irrawaddy, bottle-nose, and humpback dolphins.
    • Irrawaddy Dolphins: The population of Irrawaddy dolphins jumps from 146 in 2020 to 162 this year. These Dolphins mostly reside in Chilika lake. Apart from Chilika, 39 Irrawaddy dolphins also sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove division.
      • The rise in the Irrawaddy dolphin population in Chilika is due to the eviction of illegal fish enclosures.
    • Humpback Dolphins: The highest growth is observed in the case of humpback dolphins. In 2021, their population increased to 281.
    • Bottlenose Dolphin: The number of bottle-nose dolphins increases from 23 in 2020 to 54 in 2021.
    About Irrawaddy Dolphins:
    • Firstly, Irrawaddy Dolphins(Orcaella Brevirostris) are oceanic dolphins. Thus, It resides in brackish water near coasts, river mouths, and estuaries in South and Southeast Asia.
    • Secondly, Features: They have a bulging forehead and short beak. Further, They pop out their head out of the water to breathe.
    • Thirdly, Habitat: It extends from the Bay of Bengal to New Guinea and the Philippines.
    • Fourthly, Rivers: They reside in three rivers namely The Irrawaddy (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo), and the Mekong.
    • Fifthly, Population: As per estimations, there are less than 7500 Irrawaddy Dolphins in the world. More than 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins have been reported from Bangladesh.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    About Humpback Dolphin:
    • Humpback dolphins stay in relatively shallow nearshore waters throughout their range. It includes most of the coastlines in Australia, Africa, and Asia.
    • Species: There are four species of humpback dolphins with very little overlap between their ranges:
      • Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (IUCN Status: Vulnerable)
      • Indian Ocean humpback dolphin(IUCN Status: Endangered)
      • Atlantic humpback dolphin(IUCN Status: Critically Endangered)
      • Australian humpback dolphin(IUCN Status:  Vulnerable)
    About Bottlenose Dolphin:
    • Firstly, Bottlenose dolphins are the most common members of the family of oceanic dolphins.
    • Secondly, Bottlenose dolphins inhabit warm and temperate seas worldwide. Thus, they are found everywhere except for the Arctic and Antarctic Circle regions.
    • Species: Following are three species of Bottlenose dolphins:
      • Common bottlenose dolphin (IUCN Status: Least Concern)
      • Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (IUCN Status: Near Threatened)
      • Burrunan dolphin (IUCN Status: Yet to be categorised).

    Source: The Hindu

    Terms to Know

  • Government aims to boost “opium production”
    What is the News?

    The Union government has decided to bring in the private sector in the production of poppy straw from opium production.

    This move is expected to boost the yield of alkaloids which are used for medical purposes and exported to several countries.

    Opium Production in India:
    • India is one of the few countries that grow opium legally. It currently only extracts alkaloids from opium gum at few facilities. The Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry controls these facilities.
      • This is done by using the poppy straw method. Under this, the farmers extract gum by manually cutting the opium pods and selling the gum to government factories.
        Note:  Alkaloids are a huge group of naturally occurring organic compounds that contain nitrogen atom or atoms (amino or amido in some cases) in their structures. This includes morphine, strychnine, quinine, ephedrine, and nicotine.
    • However, India’s opium production has been declining over the years. It is depending heavily on imports. Especially to meet the need for Poppyseed for edible purposes and codeine (extracted from opium) for medicinal uses.
      Codeine is the methyl ether derivative of morphine found in the opium poppy
    • Hence, the government decided to adopt the public-private partnership(PPP). Under this, the government will switch to new technologies after trial cultivation by two private firms showed higher extraction of alkaloids using the Concentrated Poppy Straw(CPS).
      • CPS is a mechanised system under which the entire harvest will be cut by machine and transferred to government factories.
    Issues in bringing Private Sector in Opium Production:
    • The government will need to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act,1985 to bring in the private players in opium production.
    • Hence, the government has appointed a consultant to help frame an appropriate public-private partnership(PPP) model. It will advise on the changes needed to the rules and laws to facilitate the process. Further, it will also recommend security measures to protect the crop and the final product.

    About Opium:

    • Firstly, Opium is dried latex obtained from the seed capsules of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum.
    • Secondly, India is one among 12 countries in the world where legal cultivation of opium is permissible. It is permissible within the ambit of the United Nations, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
    • Thirdly, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh are the three traditional opium-growing States. In those states, poppy cultivation is allowed based on licences issued annually by the Central Bureau of Narcotics.

    About Poppy Straw:
    Poppystraw

    • Poppy Straw is the husk left after the opium is extracted from pods. They are used in the commercial manufacture of morphine or other poppy alkaloid derived drugs.
    • Poppy straw is one of the narcotic drugs under the NDPS Act, 1985. Hence, anyone who possesses, selling, purchasing, or using poppy straw without a license or authorization is liable to prosecution under the NDPS Act.
    • Further, the Possession, sale, use of poppy straw is regulated by the State Governments under the State NDPS Rules.
    • Farmers sell the poppy straw to those licensed by the State Governments to purchase poppy straw. Any excess poppy straw is ploughed back into the field.

    Source: The Hindu

  • “Culex or Common House Mosquitoes” Reappears in Delhi
    What is the News?

    With the change in season and rise in temperature, culex or common house mosquitoes have made a reappearance across Delhi.

    About Culex or Common House Mosquitoes:
    • Culex is a genus of mosquitoes. They are carriers of some serious diseases. They can fly up to a distance of 1-1.5 km.
    • Diseases: Culex mosquitoes serve as a vector of one or more serious diseases. Such as the West Nile virus, Japanese Encephalitis or St. Louis encephalitis, Cat Que Virus (CQV), filariasis and avian malaria.
    • Presence of Culex Mosquitoes: They are present in hot and humid regions throughout the globe. They are not found in extreme northern latitudes.
    • Ideal Temperature: The ideal condition for Culex mosquitoes to breed is between 10 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius.
    • Breeding Ground: They breed in dirty, stagnant water and preferred oviposition habitats. Like rainwater barrels, catch basins, and septic tanks are rich in organic material.
      Oviposition: It is the method of expulsion of the egg from the oviduct to the external environment

    How is the Government responding? The Government has taken several initiatives to control Culex Mosquitoes such as:

    • Firstly, Putting mosquito larvicidal oil-coated blocks in the breeding grounds. This will create a layer that the mosquitoes cannot evade.
    • Secondly, Underground Insecticide fogging is also an another method to paralyse the mosquitoes.
    • Thirdly, Sprays and medicines. They are being put inside the drains as a preventive measure.
    • Fourthly, Visiting homes to inspect coolers, tanks surroundings. This helps in removing stagnant water or other favourable breeding ground in their surroundings.

    Source: Indian Express


    Gardening as a hobby

  • “Nacaduba Sinhala” – the new butterfly species

    What is the News?

    A group of lepidopterists discovered a new species of butterfly. It is called “Nacaduba Sinhala Ramaswamii Sadasivan”.

    Note: A lepidopterist is a person who specializes in studying butterflies and moths.

    About the Nacaduba Sinhala Butterfly Species:

    Nacaduba Sinhala

    • Nacaduba Sinhala is a Line Blue Butterfly Species that belongs to the Nacaduba genus group.
      • Line Blues are small butterflies belonging to the subfamily Lycaenidae. Their distribution ranges from India and Sri Lanka to the whole of southeastern Asia, Australia and Samoa.
    • Where was it discovered? This butterfly species was discovered in the Agasthyamalai in the Western Ghats a decade ago. But now it found a place in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
    • Significance: It is the first time that a butterfly species was discovered by an all-Indian research team from the Western Ghats.

    About Journal of Threatened Taxa(JoTT):

    • Journal of Threatened Taxa(JoTT) is an open-access peer-reviewed, monthly international journal on conservation and taxonomy.
    • Published by: The journal is published by the wildlife conservation and research NGO Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO).

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “African Forest Elephants” declared Critically Endangered
    What is the news?

    The IUCN declares African Forest elephants as ‘critically endangered’ and Savanna (or bush) elephants as ‘endangered’.

    Note: Previously IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) listed both African elephants as “vulnerable”. But now it has opted to list them separately. It is after genetic evidence has proved that both are different species.

    About African Elephants
    1. African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are slightly larger than Asian Elephants and can be identified by their larger ears. (Asian elephants have smaller, rounded ears)
    2. Elephants are matriarchal. It means they live in female-led groups. The matriarch is usually the biggest and oldest.
    3. Keystone Species: African elephants are keystone species, i.e., they play a critical role in their ecosystem. They are also known as “ecosystem engineers” as they shape their habitat in many ways.
    4. Range: Distribution of African elephants is throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and the rainforests of Central and West Africa.
    5. Types: There are two subspecies of African elephants:
      • African Savanna (or bush) elephant: They are larger animals that roam the plains of sub-Saharan Africa. They are listed as endangered under the IUCN Red List.
      • African Forest Elephants: They are smaller animals that live in the forests of Central and West Africa. They are listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List.
    About Asian Elephants:
    1. IUCN Red List: Endangered 
    2. CITES: Appendix I.
    3. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
    4. The Asian elephant is the largest land mammal on the Asian continent. They inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 range countries spanning South and Southeast Asia.
    5. Significance: Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of six to seven related females that are led by the oldest female, the matriarch.
    6. Subspecies: There are three subspecies of Asian elephants – the Indian, Sumatran, and Sri Lankan. The Indian has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
    7. In India, the Asian elephant is found in four fragmented populations, in south, north, central and north-east India.

    Source: The Hindu

    Biodiversity and conservation

  • The first “Inter-State Tiger Relocation Project” Suspended
    What is the News?

    The first inter-state tiger relocation project has been suspended.

    About the First Tiger Relocation Project:
    •  The National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) launched the first Tiger Relocation Project in 2018.
    • Under the Project, two tigers a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from MP, were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha.

    Why Relocation of Tigers? The relocation serves two purposes:

    1. To reduce the tiger population in areas with excess tigers to majorly reduce territorial disputes
    2. To reintroduce tigers in areas where the population has considerably reduced due to various reasons.
    About Satkosia Tiger Reserve, and why was it chosen for Relocation?
    • Satkosia Tiger Reserve comprises two adjoining sanctuaries of central Odisha named Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary and Baisipalli Sanctuary.
    • The reserve lies in a transitional zone extending between the Chhota Nagpur Plateau and the Deccan Plateau.
    • Satkosia was declared as a Tiger Reserve in 2007. It had a population of 12 tigers then. However, the numbers reduced to two in 2018.
    • Hence, the purpose of the relocation was to repopulate tigers in the reserve areas. Also, Satkosia was found to fall under reserves where there is a potential for increasing tiger populations.

    Why has then the Tiger Relocation Project suspended? The project got suspended due to the following reasons:

    • Protests by villagers living on the sidelines of the forest as they felt that their lives and livestocks were endangered.
    • Lack of confidence and trust-building between the forest department and the villagers.
    • One of the tigers, Mahavir was found dead and a field inspection report claimed poaching as the cause of death.
    • Further, the tigress Sundari was blamed for the death of a woman and another person. Hence, the tigress Sundari was then tranquilized and was shifted.
    • Following this, the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) suspended the first tiger relocation project.

    Source: Indian Express

     

  • “House Sparrow” population is increasing in India
    What is the News?

    House Sparrow population was on the decline in cities, for decades. But now, as per Nature Forever Society (NFS) president, due to the citizen-led movements across various states, their population has started increasing.

    About House Sparrow:
    • House Sparrow(Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in most parts of the world.
    Characteristics of House Sparrow:
    • The male and female House Sparrow are easily distinguishable not in size but in colouration. The male is dark brown with a black bib, grey chest, and white cheeks. Whereas, the female is light brown throughout its body, with no black bib, crown, or white cheeks.
    • The bird is known to stay close to human habitations. So it is among the most commonly found bird species in urban cities.
    Habitat of House Sparrow:
    • Firstly, the house sparrow is widespread across the world, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica, and countries like China and Japan. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa.
    • Secondly, in India, House Sparrow is found throughout the country. It is found up to the Assam valley and lower parts of the Assam hills. In the eastern Himalayas, the house sparrow species is replaced by the Eurasian tree sparrow.
    Protection:
    • State Bird: House Sparrow is the State bird of Bihar and Delhi.
    • World Sparrow Day: It is celebrated every year on March 20 to raise awareness about the bird.
    • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

    Causes of Decline:

    • The unfriendly architecture of our homes.
    • The use of chemical fertilizers in crops.
    • Noise pollution.
    • Exhaust fumes from vehicles.
    House Sparrow Conservation Initiatives:
    • In Odisha, the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee started a campaign in 2007. They distributed earthen pot bird nests to homes in Odisha. This has led to an increase in the sparrow population.
    • In Visakhapatnam, a filmmaker in association with city-based NGO Green Climate has made a film on sparrow conservation. In that, they mentioned the need to save the house sparrow species. Further, they also mentioned the ways to create an ecosystem to make the bird thrive.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Himachal Pradesh to start “Seabuckthorn plantations”

    What is the News?

    The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to start SeaBuckthorn Plantation in the cold desert areas.

    About Seabuckthorn:

    • It is a shrub that produces an orange-yellow coloured edible berry.
    • In India, it is found above the tree line in the Himalayan region. It is generally in dry areas such as the cold deserts of Ladakh and Spiti.
    • In Himachal Pradesh, it is locally called Himalayan chharma and grows in the wild in Lahaul and Spiti and parts of Kinnaur.
    Benefits of Seabuckthorn Plantation:

    Medicinal Benefits:

    • It is used as a medicine for treating stomach, heart, and skin problems.
    • It is rich in vitamins, carotenoids, and omega fatty acids. Moreover, it can help troops in acclimatizing to high-altitude.
    Ecological Benefits:
    • It is an important source of fuelwood and fodder.
    • It is a soil-binding plant that prevents soil erosion. Furthermore, it checks siltation in rivers and helps preserve floral biodiversity.
      • Example: In the Lahaul valley, Seabuckthorn is a good alternative for protecting the local ecology. Willow trees there are dying in large numbers due to pest attack,
    Commercial Benefits:
    • It is used in making juices, jams, nutritional capsules among others.
    • It is also used in the manufacturing of cosmetics and anti-ageing products.

    Source: Indian Express

  • KVIC launches “Project REHAB”
    What is the News?

    Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) has launched a unique project called Project REHAB (Reducing Elephant – Human Attacks using Bees).

    About Project REHAB:
    • Under this project, bee boxes would get used as a fence to prevent the attack of elephants.
    • Aim: The aim is to create “bee-fences” to mitigate human– elephant conflicts in the country. It will reduce the loss of lives of both, humans and elephants.
    • Where was it launched? It was launched as a pilot project at four places. These places are located on the periphery of Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka.
    • Sub Mission: The project has gotten launched as a sub-mission of KVIC’s National Honey Mission.
    National Honey Mission:
    • Launched by: Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC)
    • Aim:
      1. To provide sustainable employment and income to rural and urban unemployed youth.
      2. To conserve the honeybee habitat and tapping untapped natural resources.
      3. Moreover, to promote beekeeping for increasing crop productivity and pollination services avenue for beekeepers and farmers.

    Source: PIB

     

  • Petition in SC for Protection of “Great Indian Bustard”

    What is the News?

    The Supreme Court gave several suggestions to protect the Great Indian Bustard in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

    What was the case?
    • A petition has been filed in the SC regarding the deaths of the Great Indian bustard (GIB). The deaths happened due to a collision with high voltage power lines.
    • The petitioner asked the court to order the government to make power transmission lines underground to avoid collision with the GIB.
    What has the Supreme Court said?
    • Firstly, the Supreme Court asked the government about the possibility of placing underground and overhead power cables.
    • Secondly, the government replied that only low voltage lines could go underground. But not the high voltage ones.
    • Hence, the court has suggested a middle path. It said the low voltage lines could get made underground. And for the high voltage transmission lines that could not get made underground, the court could direct the installation of firefly bird diverters.

    Note: Firefly bird diverters are flaps installed on power lines. They work as reflectors for bird species like the GIB. Birds can spot them from a distance of about 50 meters. It will help them to change their path of flight to avoid collision with power lines.

    About the Great Indian Bustard:
    • The Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. It inhabits dry grasslands and scrublands on the Indian subcontinent.
    • Habitat: It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. In India, the population is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. A small population occurs in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered species
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972: Schedule I
    • Threats:
      • Collision/electrocution with power transmission lines,
      • Hunting (still prevalent in Pakistan),
      • Irrigation and farming technology
      • Mining
      • Wind turbines and Solar farms (photovoltaic power stations)
      • Plantation of exotic shrub/tree species in deserts and grasslands in the name of afforestation.

    Click Here to Read more about Great Indian Bustard

     Source: The Hindu

  • Conservation Initiatives for Sharks in India


    What is the news?

    As per a recent study, the global population of sharks and rays reduced by over 70% in the past five decades. But a few conservation initiatives in India show that well-crafted policies and awareness programmes can make a difference.

    About Sharks:
    • Sharks come under a subclass of fish species called elasmobranchii. The species in this subclass have skeletons made from cartilage and not bones. They also have five to seven gill slits on each side of their heads. They use gills to filter oxygen from the water.
    • Habitat: Sharks inhabit three major marine habitats such as continental shelves, deep-sea and open ocean.
    • Timescale: Based on fossilized teeth and scales, scientists believe that sharks have been around for more than 400 million years—long before the dinosaurs.
    • India is the second-largest shark fishing nation in the world.
    Conservation Measures launched in India:

    Inclusion of Sharks under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act

    • Whale Sharks were the first-ever species to be included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972.
    • After this, the Ganges shark and spear tooth shark were also added to Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
    Whale Shark Conservation Programme:
    • Why was it launched? Whale Sharks were usually caught in Gujarat as bycatch when fishermen target economically benefiting species. It was then used for the liver that was used for commercial trade. Due to this, the Whale Sharks population was reducing and the programme was launched.
    • Whale Shark Conservation Programme: It was launched by Wildlife Trust of India in Gujarat in 2004. Under the programme, workshops were conducted in villages and street plays were written and enacted to convey the consequences of hunting whale sharks.
      • This awareness programme was later expanded to Kerala and Lakshadweep after it was found that sharks that were saved in Gujarat were hunted down in Kerala and Lakshadweep.
    Awareness Programmes in the East Coast of India:
    • Why is it conducted? Shark species such as Blacktip sharks, bull sharks, pelagic and big-eye thresher sharks, smooth and scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks were hunted frequently, at the East Coast of India.
      • Among these, Smooth Hammerhead is categorised as Vulnerable and Scalloped Hammerhead as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List.
    • Awareness Programme: Forest Department of Andhra Pradesh along with The East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem has been conducting awareness programmes to educate fishing communities since 2013.
    Ban on Export of Shark Fins:
    • Shark skin is used for leather which is made into boots and bags and liver for oil. The fins were earlier harvested for shark fin soup, a sought-after delicacy in Southeast Asia and China.
    • To stop this, the exporting of shark fins was banned in India in 2015.

    Source – : The Hindu

  • “Black-Browed Babbler” rediscovered after 170 years

    What is the News?

    Black-browed Babbler(Malacocincla perspicillata) has been rediscovered. It is spotted in southeastern Kalimantan, Borneo in Indonesia after 170 years.

    About Black Browed Babbler:

    • Black Browed Babbler is a songbird species in the family of Pellorneidae.
    • The single specimen of the bird was first found between 1843 through 1848 during an expedition. However, after that, the species was never seen in the wild again.
    • Significance: The bird is known for the longest known missing period (170 years) for any Asian species. It is also often called ‘the biggest enigma in Indonesian ornithology’.
    • Features of the bird:
      • The upper parts of the bird were rich brown while the underparts up to the breast were greyish with fine white streaking.
      • The bird has a broad black eye stripe and the iris was found to be deep red. The legs are dark slate-grey.
    • IUCN Status: Data Deficient. However, IUCN says that the global population size of the bird has not been quantified, but the species is described as possibly extinct.

    Source: Indian Express

     

    The issue of Road Safety in India – Explained pointwise

  • First-ever Survey on “Fishing Cats” of the Chilika starts

    What is the News?

    The first-ever survey of the fishing cats in and around the Chilika lake in Odisha started.

    About Fishing Cat:

    • Fishing cats are elusive nocturnal mammals. It is almost twice the size of the house cat.
    • They are generally found in the marshy wetlands of northern and eastern India and on the mangroves of the east coast.
    • Threats: The loss of habitat due to the destruction of wetlands is a major threat to the fishing cat. Besides, the animal is also killed by people under the wrong assumption that it is a juvenile tiger and thus dangerous.

    Click Here to Read more about Fishing Cat

     About the Fishing Cat Survey:

    • Conducted by: Chilika Development Authority(CDA) is conducting the survey in collaboration with the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance(FCCA).
      • Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance is a team of conservationists, researchers, and enthusiasts. It is working to achieve functioning floodplains and coastal ecosystems to ensure the survival of the fishing cat.
    • Process: Local fishermen along with wildlife activists will be assisting in the survey. They will install camera traps around the lake shore and nearby areas where fishing cats were sighted earlier.

    Initiatives taken by Odisha Government for Fishing Cat Conservation:

    • Ambassador of Chilika Lake: The Odisha government designated Fishing Cats as ambassadors of the Chilika during ‘Wildlife Week’ in 2020.
    • Fishing Cat Project: CDA in collaboration with FCCA has launched a fishing cat project. It will spread awareness among the local people and fishermen for animal’s conservation,
    • The Odisha forest department launched a two-year project for the conservation of the fishing cat in the Bhitarkanika National Park in 2020.

    About Chilika Lake:

    • Location: Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon. It spreads over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha. The lake is located at the mouth of the Daya River flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
    • Significance: It is Asia’s largest and world’s second-largest lagoon after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
    • Migratory Birds: The lake is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian subcontinent.
    • Ramsar Sites: In 1981, Chilika Lake became the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
    • Temple: Kalijai Temple is located on an island in Chilika Lake. It is considered to be the abode of the Goddess Kalijai.
    • Bird Sanctuary: The Nalabana Island (Forest of Reeds) covering about 16 Sq. km of the Chilika lake declared a bird sanctuary in 1987.
    • Fauna: The major attraction at the Chilika lake is Irrawaddy dolphins.

    Source: Down To Earth

    Fishing cat is now ambassador of Chilika Lake

  • “Himalayan serow” spotted in the Manas Tiger Reserve, Assam

    What is the News?

    Himalayan Serow has been spotted in the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam.

     About Himalayan Serow:

    • Himalayan serow is a subspecies of the mainland serow. It resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
    • Species: There are several species of serows in the world. All of them are found in Asia. However, the Himalayan serow is restricted to the Himalayan region.
    • Habitat: They are found at high altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres. They are known to be found in the eastern, central and western Himalayas but not in the Trans Himalayan region.
    • Diet: Himalayan serows are herbivores animals.
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • The Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I.

    Significance of the sighting of Himalayan Serow:

    • Himalayan serow has been spotted for the first time in the Manas tiger reserve or anywhere else in Assam. However, this does not mean the animal never visited Assam forests before.
      • The sightings of these rare animals and birds are due to better access to remote parts of the protected area.
      • The other rare animals and birds sighted recently in Manas National Park were,

    Manas National Park:

    • Manas national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger reserve, an elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve.
    • Location: It is located in the Himalayan foothills in Assam. It is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
    • Origin of Name: The name of the park is originated from the Manas River.
    • Significance: The park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur and pygmy hog. It is also famous for its population of wild water buffalo.
    • Human History: Pagrang is the only forest village located in the core of the Manas national park. Apart from this village 56 more villages surround the park. Many more fringe villages are directly or indirectly dependent on the park.
    • River: The Manas river flows through the west of the park. Manas is a major tributary of Brahmaputra river. The river is named after the serpent goddess Manasa

    Source: The Hindu

    Environment laws and initiatives in India

  • “The Caracal” is now critically endangered

    What is the news?

    The National Board for Wildlife includes the caracal in the list of critically endangered species. The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.

    About Caracal:

    • It is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia including India. The population of this cat is increasing in Africa while its numbers are declining in Asia.

    Characteristics:

    • Features: The caracal has long legs, a short face, long canine teeth. It has distinctive ears that are long and pointy with tufts of black hair at their tips.
    • Nocturnal Animal: It is an elusive, primarily nocturnal animal. Its sightings are not common.
    • Diet: The caracal is a carnivore. It typically preys upon small mammals, birds, and rodents.
    • Significance: The caracal has traditionally been valued for its flexibility and its extraordinary ability to catch birds in flight.

    Why is the wild cat named Caracal?

    • Its name is on the basis of the Turkish word karakulak, meaning ‘black ears’. It is named due to its iconic ears.
    • Different Names:
      • In India, Caracal is called Siya gosh, a Persian name that translates as ‘black Ear’.
      • A Sanskrit fable (short story) exists about a small wild cat named deergha karn or ‘long-eared’.

    Habitat:

    • Earlier Caracals could be found in arid and semi-arid scrub forest regions of 13 Indian states. It was also found in nine out of the 26 biotic provinces.
    • However, currently, its presence is restricted to Rajasthan, Kutch, and parts of Madhya Pradesh(MP).

    Conservation Status:

    • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
    • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • CITES Listing: Appendix I for the Asian population and Appendix II for others.

    Threats:

    • Loss of habitat and increasing urbanisation
      • Example: Chambal ravines which are caracal’s natural habitat has been often officially notified as wasteland.
    • Infrastructure projects such as the building of roads lead to the fragmentation of the caracal’s ecology and disruption of its movement.

    Historical significance of Caracal:

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

    Source: Indian Express

    Issue of cruelty against wild animals in India

  • What are “Hedgehog Species”?

    About Hedgehog

    • Hedgehog is an insectivorous spiny(needle-like anatomical structure) mammal of the subfamily Erinaceidae.
    • These mammals have been on this land even before human evolution. However, there is no mention of them even in our folk tales.

    Characteristics of Hedgehog:

    • Features: They have short limbs and a body low to the ground. Their most distinctive characteristic is the thousands of stiff, sharp thorns that cover their back and sides.
    • Nocturnal Mammals:
      • They are nocturnal mammals. It means they usually sleep in during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
      • They usually go into their burrows(hole or tunnel) and sleep continuously for two months to reduce their metabolic activity.
      • They don’t dig much but instead use burrows previously dug by other mammals, like pangolins.
    • Diet: Hedgehogs can eat one-third of their body weights in one night. Their favorite foods are insects, earthworms, snails, and slugs. It makes them a welcome guest in many suburban gardens, and they are even kept as a pet.

    Species of Hedgehog:

    • There are seventeen species of hedgehog found through parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and New Zealand. However, there are no hedgehogs native to Australia and America.

    Hedgehog Species in India: Of the 17 species of hedgehog around the world, India is home to three:

    • Indian Long-eared or collared hedgehog: It is native to northern India and Pakistan
    • Indian hedgehog: It is native to India and Pakistan. It mainly lives in sandy desert areas but can be found in other environments.
    • Bare-bellied or Madras hedgehog:
      • It was discovered in 1851. In Tamil, they are called as mul eli – mul meaning thorn and eli meaning rat – or irmal eli aka cough rat.
      • In Tamil Nadu, it is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine, or in household remedies for coughs and rheumatism.

    How are Hedgehog species in India different from other countries?

    • Hedgehogs in India are distinct in many ways. For instance, hedgehogs in the UK, Africa, and Central Asia hibernates in winter, but the ones in South India go into Estivation in summer instead.

    Note:

    • Hibernation: It is a state of dormancy that warm-blooded animals go into during winter, preserving energy at a time when food sources are scarce
    • Brumation: It is similar to hibernation but practiced only by cold-blooded animals like reptiles
    • Estivation: It is a state, when an animal goes into a dormant state during a hot period. It is to wait for passing water scarcity or harsh heat. Many desert creatures estivate
    • Diapause: It is a time of arrested growth and metabolism in insects, mites, crustaceans and other creatures most prominently in butterflies.

    Threats to Hedgehogs species in India: In the last 20 years, hedgehogs species in India are on decline drastically due to habitat changes, development and its capture for domestication or sale.

    Source: The Hindu

    Biodiversity and conservation

  • “Black-Necked Crane” named in Assam

    What is the News?

    Black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) have been sighted for the first time in Assam. To celebrate this, the bird was given an Assamese name: “Deu Korchon” (Deu means god and Korchon means crane).

    Black Necked Crane:

    • The black-necked crane is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau. It is a medium-sized crane that is mostly grey with a black head and neck with a red crown on the head.

    Characteristics:

    • Both the sexes of Black Necked Crane are almost of the same size, but the male is slightly bigger than the female.
    • The juveniles have a brownish head and neck and plumage is slightly paler than that of an adult.

    Distribution and Habitat:

    • The largest populations of the bird are in China with smaller numbers extending into Vietnam, Bhutan, and India.
    • The high altitude wetlands in the Tibetan plateau are the main breeding ground of the species.
    • The major wintering breeding grounds are in Tibet, Yunnan and Guizhou (China), and Bhutan. A small wintering population is also found in the Sangti and Zimithang valleys of Arunachal Pradesh.

    Significance:

    • The black-necked crane is central to Buddhist mythology and culture. According to a World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF), previous incarnations of the Dalai Lama were carried from monastery to monastery on the backs of these holy birds.
    • The Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in India considers it as the state bird.

    Conservation Status:

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

    Threats: The major threats are:

    • Loss and degradation of habitat
    • Wetlands being extensively affected by human activity including irrigation, dam construction, draining, and grazing pressure among others.

    Initiatives:

    • Worldwide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu & Kashmir has been working towards the conservation of high altitude wetlands, with black-necked cranes as a priority species in the Ladakh region.

    Source: Indian Express

    Conservation of migratory birds

  • Elephants died of Haemorrhagic Septicaemia(HS) in Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary

    What is the News?

    6 elephants died of Haemorrhagic Septicaemia(HS) in Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is located in Odisha’s Kalahandi district.

    Haemorrhagic septicaemia(HS)

    • It is a contagious bacterial disease caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida.
    • In this disease, the respiratory tract and lungs of the animals are affected, leading to severe pneumonia.
    • Vulnerable Group: It commonly affects cattle and water buffaloes. The Mortality rate is high in infected animals. There are no reported cases of human infection.
    • Transmission: The disease is spread through direct contact with infected animals, through ingestion or inhalation of the bacteria among others.
    • Symptoms: Primary symptoms include swishing tails, undigested food in faeces, and reduced milk yield.
    • Distribution: The disease occurs mostly in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and most of Africa. In Asia, this disease outbreak is concentrated mostly in areas with climatic conditions typical of monsoon (high humidity and high temperatures).
    • Treatment: Treatment is usually effective in the early stage only when fever sets in.

    Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary

    • It is a wildlife sanctuary located in the Kalahandi district in Odisha. The sanctuary is famous for the lush green dry deciduous forest.
    • Fauna: The sanctuary is home to a plethora of wildlife animals such as leopard, gaur, sambar, nilgai, barking deer, mouse deer, soft claws ottawa and a wide variety of birds.
    • Flora: The sanctuary consists of flora like Sal, Bija, Asan, Harida, Amala, Bahada, and Bamboo and varieties of medicinal plants.
    • Waterfalls: There are several small and big waterfalls inside the sanctuary like Phurlijharan, Ghusrigudi, Dumnijhola, Kamalajharan, Koyirupa, Kuang, and Raja Rani.

    Source: Indian Express

    Issue of cruelty against wild animals in India

     

  • Conservation of migratory birds

    Synopsis- Migratory birds are important for ecological balance. However, they are facing several threats, leading to their extinction.

    What are migratory birds?

    • Bird migration is their regular seasonal movement. Birds fly hundreds and thousands of KMs to find the best habitats for feeding, breeding, and raising their young ones.
    • Migratory birds come to India from about 29 countries between September and October during the winter migration season. For example, Pallikaranai in Chennai attracts many flamingoes, ducks, and waders.
    • However, India witnessed a decrease in the number of migratory birds.

    Threats to Migratory Birds in India

    Migratory birds are under threat from the following factors:

    1. Loss of biodiversity- Overexploitation, unsustainable use of natural resources, population explosion along with increased weather variabilities, and climate change has resulted in the loss of biodiversity.
    2. Declining water sources
    3. Illegal killing – Hunting along migration routes threatens some migratory bird species.
    4. Stopover habitat loss – Migratory birds use stopover sites to feed, rest and reenergize during their migration period. But many stopover sites are threatened due to increased urbanization and overexploitation.
    5. Collision – Structures such as power lines, windmills, and offshore oil-rigs have also affect migratory birds.
    6. Poisoning by pesticides– Pesticides has an adverse effect on migratory birds as they can directly kill some birds.
    7. Increasing illumination – The artificial light at night adversely affects migration by confusing the birds.
    8. Increasing encroachment and human interferences, lack of food become a challenge, and birds can die of starvation.

    Importance of migratory birds

    1. Migratory birds play a critical role in the ecosystem by maintaining balance. They are helpful in pollinating plants, dispersing seeds, act as pest control agents, and consuming insects and small mammals.
    2. The absence of these birds from an area can result in disasters like a Locust attack.
    3. Duck helps in the transportation of fish eggs in their guts to other water bodies. Bird droppings are a rich source of Nitrogen and Organic fertilizers.

    What are the measures required to address the issues?

    • Long-term monitoring programs to assess the migration trends in birds, diseases monitoring and enumeration
    • Educating people about bird migrations and their impacts. Seeking local support for nesting and conservation of migratory birds
    • Fishing operation to be minimized/abandoned/banned during the migration season.
    • Need to create Bird-friendly landscaping and maintain natural habitat to help birds roost and build their nests.
    • Banning single-use plastics and avoiding dumping of single-use plastics in water bodies.
    • Strict law enforcement is required to support the conservation of migratory birds.
    • Modern technologies like drones can be used to track poachers in areas where birds converge
    • Minimizing night illumination along the migration paths.
    • Promote awareness regarding the conservation and protection of migratory birds and their natural habitats.
  • “Mandarin Duck” spotted in Assam’s Maguri Beel after 118 years

    What is the News?

    Mandarin ducks appeared after 118 years in the Maguri-Motapung beel in Assam’s Tinsukia district.

    Mandarin Duck:

    • It is provided with a tag of the most beautiful duck in the world. Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist Carl Linnaeus first spotted and identified this bird in 1758.

    Key Characteristics of Mandarin Duck:

    • Features: Male mandarins are colorful compared to females. Males have elaborate plumage (feathers) with orange plumes on their cheeks, orange ‘sails’ on their back, and pale orange sides. On the other hand, females are dull in comparison, with grey heads, brown backs, and white eyestripe.
    • Feed on: These birds feed on seeds, acorns, small fruit, insects, snails, and small fish.
    • Habitat: Its habitats include temperate forests near wetlands including rivers, streams, bogs, marshes, swamps, and freshwater lakes.
    • Distribution: It is native to East Asia but has established populations in Western Europe and America too. It breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan, and the northeastern parts of China.
    • India: The duck does not visit India regularly. It is because India is not on its usual migratory route. It was recorded in 1902 in the Dibru river in the Rongagora area in Tinsukia (Assam). More recently, it was sighted in Manipur’s Loktak Lake in 2013 and in Savoini Beel in Manas National Park in Assam in 2014.
    • IUCN Red List: Least Concern.

    Maguri Motapung Beel

    • It is a wetland and lake located near to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam. It serves as a natural home to wildlife. Furthermore, it is also a source of livelihood for the local communities.
    • Important Bird Area: It was declared as an Important Bird Area by the Bombay Natural History Society.
    • Significance: The wetland is very important. It is home to at least 304 bird species, including a number of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.
    • Concerns: In 2020, a blowout and fire at an Oil India Limited-owned gas well affected this wetland adversely. The resulting oil spill killed a number of fish, snakes as well as an endangered Gangetic dolphin.

    Source: The Hindu

  • ‘Spatial Mark-Resight'(SMR) model to estimate Leopard population

    What is the news?

    Scientists from three organizations namely Aaranyak, Panthera, and WWF-India have developed a model called ‘Spatial Mark-Resight'(SMR). It will precisely estimate the population size of leopards.

    Why ‘Spatial Mark-Resight'(SMR) model developed?

    • Leopards can be identified like tigers with the help of their unique shape and size of the rosettes (black circular marks). It is present across their body coat.
    • However, like many other wildlife species, leopards also exhibit phenotypic polymorphism (body colour variation determined by gene).
    • Leopards are either rosettes (having black circular marks) or melanistic (full black, commonly called black leopard or Black Panther).
    • The melanism presents a unique challenge in estimating and monitoring the leopard population. Natural marks (rosettes in case of leopard) are absent on these Leopards.
    • This problem is more in the tropical and subtropical moist forests of south and south-east Asia. Here the frequency of melanistic leopards is high and leopards also face the greatest threat.
    • Hence, the SMR model was developed. It will estimate the leopard population in areas having a mix of the rosette and melanistic individuals.

    How Spatial-Mark-Resight (SMR) model used?

    • The team used the three years of camera trapping data between 2017 and 2019. Info obtained from Manas National Park(Assam).
    • The camera trapping data used to identify Rosette Leopards individually.  It also prepared the capture history (GPS locations, the individual ID of each unique photo-capture of leopard) information.
    • They then borrowed the capture history information of the rosette leopards and applied the information to the melanistic leopards. It provided an estimate pf the entire population size of leopards.
    • They found that the population density of leopards in Manas is 3.37 per 100 sq km. About 22.6% of images of the leopards were of the melanistic kind.

    Significance of the model:

    • The model can help assess the population of leopards across a great part of the species range from where population estimates are scant.
    • This model can also be widely applied for other species that exhibit colour variation in nature.

    Click Here to read about Leopard

    Source: The Hindu

  • “Giant Leatherback Turtle” nesting sites threatened by Andamans development project

    What is the News?
    In the Andaman and Nicobar(A&N) Islands tourism and port development projects are under the proposal. However, it is threatening some of the most important nesting populations of the “Giant Leatherback turtle”.

    Giant Leatherback turtle

    • Giant Leatherback turtles are named for their shell. Their shells are leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
    • They are the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
    • Found in: They are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
    • India’s Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

    Characteristics:

    • Nesting: In the Indian Ocean, their nesting sites are only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
      • Further, the surveys conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are of the view that it could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
    • Uniqueness: Leatherbacks have been viewed as unique among extant reptiles. They are able to maintain high body temperatures using metabolically generated heat.
    • Swimming Pattern: A project was set up at West Bay in A&N islands to monitor the leatherback turtle. It has been found that the numbers of females turtle nesting here are significant. After that, they swim towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

    Concerns:

    • Nesting Beaches under Threat: At least three key nesting beaches are under threat due to mega-development plans. Two of these are on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island.
      • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman. It also proposed a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
    • Tourism in Little Andaman: For the implementation of this plan, NITI Aayog has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest. And about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve. These two sites are key nesting sites.

    National Marine Turtle Action Plan:

    • Released by: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • The plan notes that India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1.
    • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar find a specific mention as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India”.
    • The plan also identifies coastal development, including the construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.

    Source: The Hindu

  • 175% rise in waterfowls in “Kaziranga National Park”

    What is the News?

    The third annual census of birds in the Kaziranga National Park has been released. The main objective of the census was to record and estimate waterfowls and winter migratory birds. It also monitors and assesses the health of wetlands in the Park.

    Water fowls and Winter Migratory Birds:

    • The Park has recorded a 175% increase in the number of waterfowl and winter migratory birds.
      • Waterfowl are birds that are strong swimmers with waterproof feathers and webbed feet. They use their webbed feet as flippers to push through the water. Ducks, geese, and swans are waterfowl.
    • Reason: Better conservation of water bodies, improved habitat management, and lesser human interference within the core area of the park and sensitive areas are the reasons for an increase in their numbers.
    • The highest number of these bird species was from the family Anatidae comprising ducks and geese.
    • The maximum increase was witnessed in Laokhowa-Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary
    • The top three species counted by the number are Eurasian Coot, Bar Headed Geese, and Common Teal.

    Kaziranga National Park:

    • It is located in the State of Assam. It is the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain.
    • The park was declared as a National Park in 1974 and was also declared as a Tiger Reserve in 2006. In 1985, the park was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
    • It is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International for the conservation of avifaunal species.
    • It also houses the world’s largest population of Great One-horned Rhinoceros (IUCN Status- Vulnerable).
    • Area Under Wetland: The area under wetlands in Kaziranga has reduced from 8.5% of the total area to 6.7% over a period of 30 years till 1977.
      • However, efforts to check siltation, erosion, and fragmentation of the beels (wetlands) and removal of invasive species have breathed fresh life into the park’s ecosystem.

    Source: The Hindu

  • The “fishing cat” in India is under threat

    What is the News?
    The Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance will be starting a worldwide month-long campaign. It will raise awareness and garner support across the globe for the conservation of the Fishing Cat.

    About Fishing Cat

    • It is a highly elusive wild cat feline species found primarily in wetland and mangrove habitats.

    Characteristics:

    • Adept swimmers: The fishing cat is an adept swimmer and enters water frequently to prey on fish as its name suggests. It is known to even dive to catch fish.
    • Food Habits: They are nocturnal (active at night).  Apart from fish also prey on frogs, crustaceans, snakes, birds, and scavengers on carcasses of larger animals.
    • Breeding: It is capable of breeding all year round. But in India, its peak breeding season is known to be between March and May.

    Habitat:

    • Globally: They are found in South and Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, images of fishing cats are found carved in the walls of ancient structures and are known as Kla Trey, ‘Tiger fish’.
    • India:
      • Foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats.
      • Patchy distribution along the Eastern Ghats.
      • Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh
      • Chilika lagoon and surrounding wetlands in Odisha
      • Coringa and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh.

    Conservation Status:

    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
    • CITES: Appendix II
    • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

    Threats:

    • Habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects],
    • Sand mining along river banks,
    • Agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer and
    • Conflict with humans in certain areas resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings.

    Conservation Initiatives:

    • State Animal: In 2012, the West Bengal government officially declared the Fishing Cat as the State Animal.
    • Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance: It is a team of conservationists, researchers, working to achieve a world with functioning floodplains and coastal ecosystems. It will ensure the survival of the fishing cat and all species with which it shares a home.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Nilgiri Elephant Corridor and Biosphere Reserve

    What is the News?
    The Supreme Court has appointed a new member to the Technical Committee on Nilgiri Elephant Corridor.

    The Supreme court last year constituted a committee to hear complaints by landowners against the action taken by the Nilgris Collector. The Nilgiris collector’s action includes the sealing of landowners’ buildings in the Nilgiris Elephant Corridor.

    Facts:

    Nilgiris Elephant Corridor:

    • Elephant corridors allow elephants to continue their nomadic mode of survival. Despite the shrinking forest cover, the corridors facilitate the travelling of elephants between distinct forest habitats.
    • Nilgiris elephant corridor is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau. The plateau connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats. Apart from that, the plateau also sustains elephant populations and their genetic diversity.
    • It has the Nilgiri Hills on its southwestern side and the Moyar River Valley on its north-eastern side. The elephants cross the plateau in search of food and water.

    Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve:

    • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected forest area in India. The Biosphere Reserve spread across three states. Namely, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
    • The Nilgiri Sub-Cluster is a part of the Western Ghats which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.
    • The reserve includes the Aralam, Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Silent Valley national parks. Similarly, the reserve also includes the Wayanad, Karimpuzha, and Sathyamangalam wildlife sanctuaries.
    • It has the largest population of two endangered species, the lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri tahr. The reserve hosts more than 400 tigers. Most importantly, the reserve is having more tigers than any other place on earth.
    • About 80% of flowering plants reported from the Western Ghats occur in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Sunderbans is home to 428 species of birds, says ZSI

    Why in News?

    Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has released a study titled “Birds of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve”. The study documents the avifauna of the Sundarbans and also serves as a comprehensive photographic field guide with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region.

    Sunderbans:

    • Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal. It spans from the Hooghly River in India’s state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh.

    Indian Sunder bans:

    • Location: It is located in the southwestern part of the delta. It constitutes over 60% of India’s total mangrove forest area. It covers 4,200 sq. km and includes the Sunder ban Tiger Reserve — home to about 96 royal Bengal tigers.
    • Recognition: It is a World Heritage site and a Ramsar site (a wetland site designated to be of international importance).
    • Fauna in the region:
      • Indian Sunder bans is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world and is home to 428 species of birds.
      • Among these birds listed, some like the masked finfoot and the Buffy fish owl are recorded only from the Sundarbans.
      • The area is also home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well as rare species such as the Goliath heron and the spoon-billed sandpiper.
    • Significance: India has over 1,300 species of birds and if 428 species of birds are from the Sunder bans, it means that one in every three birds in the country is found in the unique ecosystem.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Issue of cruelty against wild animals in India

    Recently an elephant died in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), Tamil Nadu. The death was caused by a burning tyre thrown at the elephant by some people.

    This is not the first instance when a wild animal has been killed due to fire, firecrackers or by a mob with sticks. The violence against wild animals has increased many folds in recent years. But such news gets attention only when a video gets viral or some mainstream media airs it.

    There is an urgent need to know the root causes of this increasing threat to wildlife.

    Present status of cruelty against wild animals in India:

    Before this incident, in June 2020 a pregnant elephant died due to hunger and fatigue. This happened after a local fed a cracker stuffed pineapple to her.

    Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, between 2012 and 2016, more than 24000 cases of animal cruelty have been reported in India.

    In India, cruelty against wild animals is mainly prevalent in the areas where a man comes in contact with wild animals or vice versa. About 20-25% of people directly derive their livelihood from the forest or the agricultural land in the vicinity.

    Why there is a high prevalence of cruelty against wildlife?

    First, the prevalence of Illegal wildlife trade: Wild animals in India are hunted for their body parts such as tiger and leopard skins, their bones and other body parts. These products are smuggled at very high prices in markets such as China, South East Asia, Europe and the Gulf.

    Second, in India, there is increased pressure on natural resources. This has led to a decrease in wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors are the lifeline of wild animals. This is resulting in human-animal conflict and conflicts are used to justify violence against wild animals.

    Third, The threat to farmers: Farmers in India have only fragmented landholdings (The average farm size in India is only 1.15 hectares). Farmers see wild animals as a threat to their livelihood. They resort to cruelty against animals to protect crops by Electric fencing, poisoned fruits, firecrackers, snare traps,  etc.

    Fourth, people generally see wild animals as a threat to humanity. Even though wild animals don’t want to harm humans, Human see the wild animal as a threat at the moment they saw the animal.

    Laws to stop cruelty against animals in India

    “Prevention of cruelty to animals.” and “Protection of wild animals and birds.” are present in Concurrent List (both the Centre and the States have the power to legislate).

    1. The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972:

    First, this Act prohibited the capturing, trapping, baiting, or poisoning of wild animals (even attempting to do) as a punishable offence. The Act prescribes punishments such as 25,000 INR fine or a prison term (up to 7 years) or both.

    Second, The Act also makes it unlawful to injure, destroys wild birds or reptiles, damaging their eggs or disturbing their eggs or nests. If the person found guilty he/she can be punished with imprisonment (3 to 7 years) and a fine of Rs 25,000.

    Third, the Act established the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. The Bureau aims to combat organized wildlife crime in the country

    2. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960  

    First, This Act defines “animal” as any living creature other than a human being.

    Second, The Act generally focuses on all the animals, but it has certain specific provisions aimed towards the cruelty of wild animals. They are

      • Beating, overriding, kicking, torturing, overloading, and causing unnecessary pain to any animal.
      • Administering an injurious drug/medicine to any animal.
      • Killing or Mutilating any animal in cruel manners such as using strychnine injections.
      • Shooting an animal when it is released from captivity.

    Third, This Act established the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). The AWBI aims to promote the promotion of animal welfare.

    Fourth, the Act does not consider the following acts as cruelty against wildlife.

      • Extermination of any animal under the authority of law
      • Dehorning/castration of cattle in the prescribed manner,
      • Destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers in the prescribed manner

    Challenges in controlling Cruelty against wildlife

    First, the Supreme Court has issued a directive to states for setting up a State Animal Welfare Board.  But the majority of the states have not formed the state welfare boards yet.

    Few states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan formed State Animal Welfare Boards. But in those states, the Boards faces challenges like inadequate budgetary allocation, lack of forest personnel, etc.

    Second, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 has few serious lapses. They are,

      • The Act doesn’t differentiate between different form of cruelties against animals. For example, the law prescribes similar punishment to the person who kicks a wild animal and the person who killed the wild animal.
      • Most serious forms of animal violence receive the maximum punishment of a fine of 50 rupees or imprisonment up to three months or both.

    Third, there is a huge difficulty in tracing violators: The wild animal is harmed either in the forest or in farmland. Not every incident is reported or documented. Apart from that, finding proof against the violator is difficult unless there is a witness or media like images/videos.

    Fourth, there is a contradiction in the classification of elephants as wild and domesticated: While the WPA, 1972 protects elephants as a wild animal. The administrative policies allow for an ownership exception. For example, there are almost 500 privately owned elephants in Kerala alone.

    Way forward

    First, Amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act:  In this regard in 2011, The AWBI recommended amendments to The PCA Act, that are required to be implemented. The major provisions of the bill include,

      • The PCA Act has to move away from a ‘defensive position’ to a more ‘welfare-oriented approach’. It should be done by expanding the definition of animal abuse and empowerment of Animal welfare organizations.
      • The PCA Act should multiply the penalty for repeat offenders by a factor of 1,000

    Second, State governments have to establish the State Animal Welfare Board. Further, Boards should be allocated adequate finances and manpower.

    Third, encouraging farmers to move away from cruel measures to humane methods to protect their crops. Eg: Farmers in Tamil Nadu are making use of the Italian honey bee (natural elephant deterrent). The government can provide technological solutions like radio-collaring, etc to monitor the movement of wild animals.

    Fourth, The agriculture and forest departments must cooperate and share the burden of compensation to farmers for crop loss due to wild animals.

    Fifth, the government has to involve the civil society, NGOs and local administration in creating awareness. Awareness has to be created about the seasonal migration of animals, Man-wild animal ecosystem balance etc.

    Gandhi once mentioned, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. The Cruelty to wild animals is the evidence where human losing humanity. So apart from government initiatives, we also have to understand the seriousness of the issue.

     

  • Indian star tortoises   

    Why in News:  

    Indian star tortoises have been seized by the Forest officials while being smuggled from Andhra Pradesh to Odisha. 

     Facts: 

    iucn

     Source: IUCN 

    • Indian star tortoise (Geochelone Elegans): It is a species of tortoise found in dry areas and scrub forests of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is accustomed to monsoon seasons. 
    • These tortoises are easily recognizable by their star-patterned shells. 
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable 
    • Wild Life Protection Act 1972: Schedule IV 
    • CITES: Appendix I 
    • Threats: It is the single most confiscated species of freshwater tortoise in the world. It faces threats such as loss of habitat to agriculture and illegal harvesting for the pet trade.  

    Article Source

  • Winter migratory water birds make a beeline to Punjab’s Harike wetland

    News: Winter migratory waterbirds using the central Asian flyway have started making a beeline to Punjab’s Harike wetland.

    Facts:

    • Harike Wetland: It is one of the largest man-made wetlands of northern India which shares its area with the Tarntaran, Ferozpur and Kapurthala districts of Punjab.
    • It came into existence in 1952 after the construction of a barrage near the confluence of rivers Sutlej and Beas. The grand Indira Gandhi Canal in Rajasthan is fed from this wetland.
    • The wetland was accorded the wetland status in 1990 by the Ramsar Convention.
    • Migratory Birds:
      • The wetland is a significant abode for the migratory birds as every winter, the birds make their way to India through the central Asian flyway which covers a large continental area of Europe-Asia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans.
      • Birds such as the Eurasian coot, Greylag goose, Bar-headed goose, Gadwall and the northern shoveler are the prominent ones that could be sighted at Harike Wetland.
    • Fauna: The wetland also harbors endangered aquatic mammalian as well as reptilian fauna like the Indus river dolphin, smooth-coated otter and seven species of rare freshwater turtles.
    • Concerns: Over the years, the number of certain species visiting the wetland has been falling. The key reasons attributed to the drop are increased human interference in their breeding regions, oil exploration, use of pesticides in farms, climate change and rising air and water pollution.

    Article source

    UPSC Syllabus 2021

     

     

  • Explained: What is Houbara Bustard?

    News: Eleven members of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) royal family arrived in Pakistan to hunt the Houbara Bustard under a license issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

    Facts:

    Houbara Bustard

    Source: Wikipedia

    • Houbara Bustard: It is a large terrestrial bird found in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
    • Types: Houbara Bustard comes in two distinct types as recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one residing in North Africa (Chlamydotis undulata) and the other in Asia (Chlamydotis macqueenii).
    • Characteristics:
      • The species lives in Arid Climate. It is omnivorous taking seeds, insects and other small creatures.
      • Asian Houbara bustards are known to migrate in thousands to the Indian subcontinent every winter. In fact, it is similar to the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard which is native to India.
      • After breeding during the spring season, the Asian Houbara bustards migrate south to spend the winter in Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and nearby Southwest Asia.
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • Reason for Decline: The main reasons for the decline in the species’ population are poaching, unregulated hunting and the degradation of its natural habitat.
    • Hunting in Pakistan: While Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt the bird, the government invites Arab royals to hunt it every year.

    Article Source

     

     

  • More wildlife in Aravallis at Faridabad, Gurgaon than at Asola, need better protection: Study

    News: According to a Study, the wildlife corridor of the Aravallis in Gurgaon and Faridabad harbours a richer variety of mammals than the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary despite not having as much protection.

    Facts:

    • About the Study: The study was conducted under the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s small grants programme and was supported by the non-profit Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR).
      • Small Grants Programme: It is an initiative of WWF. It aims to encourage young Indians to respond innovatively and independently to the conservation issues which affect the country by offering eligible individuals a one-time grant of upto INR 400,000 over a maximum period of 2 years for undertaking conservation research/ action research.

    Key Takeaways from the study:

    • Aravallis: Aravallis in both Faridabad and Gurugram has a larger variety of mammals compared to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary which is classified as a protected area and enjoys legal protection under the Wild Life (Protection) Act.
      • Reason: It can be attributed to the attitude of tolerance to wildlife amongst the local population, general low density of people and “subsistence agricultural practices prevalent in the two districts.
    • Significance: The hotspot of wildlife in Aravallis is between Damdama and Mangar Bani and wildlife moves from there to Asola through the Aravalli in Faridabad. This indicates that Asola will survive as long as the Aravalli region of Gurgaon and Faridabad survives.
    • Mammals Species: The study has revealed that around 15 species of mammals were recorded in the 200 sq km area that was covered including Gurgaon Aravallis, Mangar Bani, Faridabad Aravallis and Asola Wildlife Sanctuary.
      • Among these mammals, two species—the leopard and the honey badger- are classified as endangered under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act.
    • Concerns: Increasing construction is a major threat to the wildlife corridor. Hence, it is imperative to control land-use change and protect the wildlife corridor and habitat from further fragmentation, construction and deforestation.
    • Suggestions: Construction of expressways and highways also needs to take into account wildlife in the city such as by constructing underpasses or flyovers that allow at least a portion of the wildlife to cross from one part to the other and prevent complete fragmentation of wildlife populations between Aravallis of Delhi and Haryana.

    Additional Facts:

    leopard and the honey badger

    Source: Wikipedia

    • Aravallis Range: It is a mountain range in Northwestern India running approximately 692 km starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan and ending in Gujarat. The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 metres.

    Article Source

     

  • Govt. included Caracal as Critically Endangered species

    News: The Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife(SC-NBWL) in its 60th meeting held has approved the advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict(HWC) in the country.

    Facts:

    • Empowers Gram Panchayats: The advisory empowers gram panchayats in dealing with the problematic wild animals as per the section 11 (1) (b) of WildLife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • Crop Damage: Utilising add-on coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Yojna for crop compensation against crop damage due to HWC are some key steps envisaged to reduce HWC.
    • Compensation: Payment of a portion of ex-gratia as interim relief within 24 hours of the incident to the victim/family.
    • Other Key advisories: The advisory also envisages prescribing inter-departmental committees at local/state level, adoption of early warning systems, creation of barriers, dedicated circle wise Control Rooms with toll free hotline numbers which could be operated on 24X7 basis among others.

    Other Key Decisions: The committee also approved the inclusion of Caracal into the list of critically endangered species. Now, there are 22 wildlife species under the recovery programme for critically endangered species.

    Source: Wikipedia

    • Caracal: It is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. It is characterised by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth.
    • Characteristics: Typically nocturnal, the caracal is highly secretive and difficult to observe. It is territorial and lives mainly alone or in pairs. The caracal is a carnivore that typically preys upon small mammals, birds, and rodents.
    • India: In India, the Caracal can be found in some parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
    • IUCN Status: Least Concern mainly due to their large numbers in Africa.
    • Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

    Additional Facts:

    • Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species program: It is one of the three components of the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats(IDWH).
      • IDWH: It was started in 2008-09 as a Centrally sponsored Scheme. It is meant for providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), protection of wildlife outside protected areas and recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
    • 22 wildlife species under the recovery programme: Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer, Jerdon’s Courser, Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale, Red Panda and Caracal.

    Article Source

  • Equip forest officers adequately to fight poachers – SC

    News: The Supreme Court has expressed serious concern about the absence of security for forest officials in the country against poachers.

    Facts:

    • Background: A petition was filed in the apex court challenging the prosecution launched against few forest officers in Rajasthan. The petitioner submitted that the FIRs against the forest officials were a ‘counter-action’ for their action taken against poachers.

    Key Observations made by the Supreme Court:

    • The central government should provide weapons and bulletproof vests and vehicles to the officials as India accounted for 30% of fatalities among forest rangers in the world(highest in the world).
    • Centre should consider involving premier organisations such as the CBI to help the forest staff. There should even be a separate wing or wildlife division in the Enforcement Directorate with clean officials to track and investigate crimes of the poachers and the proceeds of their crime.
    • The court noted that states such as Assam and Maharashtra have deployed armed guards to protect forest officers and no one dares come near them.

    Article Source

     

  • Gangetic River Dolphin beaten to death in UP

    News: Gangetic River Dolphin was beaten to death by a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh leading to the arrest of three people.

    Facts:

    Gangetic Dolphins

    Source: Indian Express

    • Gangetic River Dolphin: It is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
    • Key Characteristics:
      • The female Gangetic Dolphins are larger than males. They are generally blind and catch their prey in a unique manner. They emit an ultrasonic sound which reaches the prey.
      • They are popularly known as ‘Susu’ which refers to the noise the dolphin is said to make when it breathes.
      • They prefer deep waters in and around the confluence of rivers and can be an indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem as they can only live in freshwater.
      • The Government of India has recognised them as National Aquatic Animal and is the official animal of the Indian city of Guwahati.
      • It is also among the four freshwater dolphins in the world- the other three are: Baiji (likely extinct) found in Yangtze river in China, the Bhulan in Indus river of Pakistan and the Boto in Amazon river in Latin America.
    • Population: While no exact count is available, various estimates suggest that the Gangetic dolphin population in India could be about 2,500-3,000.However, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had told Lok Sabha last year that there were about 1,272 dolphins in Uttar Pradesh and 962 in Assam.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • Threats: Direct killing, Habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing, Pollution, absence of a coordinated conservation plan, lack of awareness and continuing anthropogenic pressure are posing incessant threats to the existing Gangetic dolphin population.
    • Government Initiatives:
      • Wildlife Act Protection: After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government in 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection),Act 1972. This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
      • Conservation Plan: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
      • Project Dolphin: It was announced by Indian Prime Minister in August,2020.It is a ten year project that focuses on both river and marine Dolphins. It is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

    Article Source

     

  • Two-day Asian Waterbird Census off to a flying start

    News: The two-day Asian Waterbird Census-2020 commenced in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday under the aegis of experts from the Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS).

    Facts:

    • Asian Waterbird Census(AWC): It was started in the year 1987.It is an annual event in which thousands of volunteers across Asia and Australasia count waterbirds in the wetlands of their country.
    • Objectives of the Census:
        • To obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January), as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations.
        • To monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands.
        • To encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst citizens.
    • Conducted by: The census is conducted by the wetlands International and forms part of a global waterbird monitoring programme called the International Waterbird Census(IWC).
    • India: In India, the AWC is annually coordinated by the Bombay Natural history Society(BNHS) and Wetlands International.
      Read Also : current affairs for upsc
      Asian Waterbird Census 2020 in Andhra Pradesh:
    • The census will cover at least two dozen sites including Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Kolleru Lake and Krishna Sanctuary. The Kumbhabhishekam mudflat, the wetland opposite the Coromandel industrial area and other Important Bird Areas(IBAs) are also being covered.
    • Previously, the census had explored the avian diversity in the Godavari estuary and has presented a demonstration on the 90 species of birds sighted in the Godavari estuary and finalised 12 sites being covered in the census.
    • However, on the endangered Indian Skimmer more study was still required to establish that the species breeds on the Kakinada coast, which supports a great number of Indian Skimmer.

    Article Source

  • Track social media to check pangolin poaching

    The Odisha Forest Department has stressed the need for stricter monitoring of social media platforms to check pangolin poaching and trading.

    Facts:

    Picture1

    Source: Wikipedia

    • Pangolin: They are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota.
    • Characteristics:
      • They have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin and they are the only known mammals with this feature.
      • If under threat, a pangolin will immediately curl into a tight ball and will use their sharp-scaled tails to defend themselves.
      • They are nocturnal animals and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites which they capture using their long tongues.
      • They tend to be solitary animals meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring which they raise for about two years.
    • Pangolins in India: Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India:
    • Indian Pangolin:
      • Indian Pangolin is a large anteater covered by 11-13 rows of scales on the back. A terminal scale is also present on the lower side of the tail of the Indian Pangolin, which is absent in the Chinese Pangolin.
      • The species is understood to occur in various types of tropical forests as well as open land, grasslands, and degraded habitats, including in close proximity to villages.
      • Indian Pangolin is widely distributed in India, except the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East. It can be found at elevation up to 2500 m.The species also occurs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
      • IUCN Status: Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Under Schedule I of WPA, 1972
    • Chinese Pangolin:
      • It is found in the Himalayan foothills in Eastern Nepal, Bhutan, Northern India, North-East Bangladesh and through Southern China.
      • It is adaptable to a wide range of habitats including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone and bamboo forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields.
      • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I
    • Threats:
      • Trafficking of live pangolin and its scales is a highly lucrative business for the organized mafia who exploit poor and vulnerable forest-dwelling communities for their criminal interests.
      • Hunting and poaching for local consumptive use (e.g. as a protein source and traditional medicine) and international trade, for its meat and scales.
      • Heavy Deforestation of their Habitat.
  • CSIR develops Banana grit for that good gut feeling

    News: Scientists at the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology(NIIST) in Kerala have come up with a new product called banana grit or granules.

    Facts:

    • Banana Grit or Granules: It has been developed from raw Nendran bananas. The product resembles ‘rava’ and broken wheat.
    • Purpose: The product has been labelled as an ideal ingredient for a healthy diet as it utilises the presence of resistant starch in bananas which is reported to improve gut health. Hence, the dishes prepared with banana grit and its byproduct improves gut health.
    • Significance: Developing new uses for Nendran Banana comes as a boon to farmers who have often been struggling against falling prices.

    Additional Facts:

    • Nendran Banana or famously known as Chengalikodan is a banana variety originated and cultivated in Chengazhikodu village of Thrissur District in Kerala
    • Where is it cultivated? It is now cultivated on the banks of the Bharathapuzha river.It has got the Geographical indication registration from the Geographical Indications Registry, Chennai.
    • Uses: Generally consumed ripe, it also finds use in typical Kerala dishes such as avial and thoran.

    Article source

  • Conservation plan on table to save bat species in Kolar caves

    Source: The Indian Express

    News: Bat Conservation Society which has been entrusted with drawing up a conservation plan for Kolar Leaf-Nosed Bat has also been awarded a grant to conduct further research on this species of bats.

    Facts:

    • Kolar Leaf Nosed Bat: It is a species of bat in the family Hipposideridae .Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and caves.
    • It is endemic to India and is currently only known from one cave in Hanumanahalli village in Kolar district, Karnataka.
    • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered.
    • Conservation Measures: Karnataka Government has notified the 30 acres around the caves as protected area. Hence, any development work including construction of new infrastructure will need the permission of the National Board for Wildlife.

    Additional Facts:

    • Bats: They are one of the least studied mammals in the country, though there are 130 species in India.
    • They are very adaptable creatures and therefore can often be found near human habitation or even in urban settlements which makes them vulnerable. They also have a bad image in the public eye as carriers of diseases.
    • However, the bats are absolutely vital for the ecology as they are pollinators, their main diet being nectar. The plants that bloom at night are entirely dependent on bats and moths for pollination. Bats also help in insect control and therefore, help in the protection of crops.
  • ‘Firefly bird diverters’ to save the Great Indian Bustard

    Great indian Bustard 

    Source: The Hindu

    News: Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC) along with Wildlife Conservation Society(WCS) has come up with a unique initiative — a “firefly bird diverter” for overhead power lines in areas where Great Indian Bustard (GIB) populations are found in the wild.

    Facts:

    • What is Firefly bird diverters?These are flaps installed on power lines, a reason for many death among GIB. They work as reflectors for bird species like the GIB. Birds can spot them from a distance of about 50 meters and change their path of flight to avoid collision with power lines.

    Great Indian Bustard:

    • It is one of the heaviest flying birds (weighing up to 15kgs).They inhabits dry grasslands and scrublands on the Indian subcontinent
    • Habitat: It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It is found in Rajasthan (Desert National park), Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in India and parts of Pakistan.
    • IUCN Red List: It is a critically Endangered species with less than 150 birds left in the wild.
    • Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act,1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix I
    • Threats:
      • Death by collision with infrastructure, particularly power lines and wind turbines,
      • Depletion of grasslands,
      • hunting,
      • development of mines and human habitation in and around their habitats among others.
    • Conservation Initiatives:
      • Project Great Indian Bustard: It was launched by Rajasthan Government with the objective of conservation of the remaining population of critically endangered Great Indian Bustard(Ardeotis nigriceps) locally called Godawan.

    Additional Facts:

    • IUCN Species Survival Commission(SSC): It is a science-based network of more than 9,000 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world, all working together towards achieving the vision of, “A just world that values and conserves nature through positive action to reduce the loss of diversity of life on earth”.
  • First tiger translocation occurred in Uttarakhand

    Source: The Indian Express

    News: Rajaji Tiger Reserve is set to welcome the first tiger from Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve in the first such relocation in Uttarakhand aimed at tiger population management.

    Facts:

    Why translocations of tigers needed?

    • The western portion of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, which occupies more than 60% of the total reserve area has only two tigresses presumed to be unfit for reproduction as they are above 18 years.
    • Despite Rajaji having 37 tigers, the eastern part cannot boost numbers in the western portion as the two are divided by a traffic corridor which makes it difficult for the big cats to migrate.
    • Hence, with this relocation, a rise in tiger numbers can be expected in the western part next year.

    Additional Facts:

    • Jim Corbett National Park: It was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park- the first national park in India.It is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. The Corbett national park has highest tiger count from single reserve in the recent Tiger census(carried once in 4 years)
      • The park was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973- the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
      • The tiger reserve is situated in the Shivalik hills of Himalayas while administratively it spreads over Pauri Garhwal, Nainital and Almora districts of Uttarakhand State in India.
    • Rajaji National Park: It is a national park and tiger reserve that encompasses the Shivaliks, near the foothills of the Himalayas.
      • It was declared as a tiger reserve in 2015 and is the second tiger reserve in the Uttarakhand and 48th Tiger Reserve of India.
      • The park extends over the Shivalik Range in the north-west to the Rawasan River in the southeast with the Ganges dividing it into two parts.
      • Some of the basic features of the Shivalik formations are to be seen in the park and is rightly known as a veritable storehouse of Shivalik biodiversity and ecosystems.
      • The western part of the Park consists of the Ramgarh, Kansrao, Motichur, Hardwar, Dholkhand and Chillawali Ranges.
    • Project Tiger: It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Government of India launched in 1973 for in-situ conservation of wild tigers in designated tiger reserves.
    • Madhya Pradesh (526) has maximum tigers in our country followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
    • Global Tiger Forum(GTF): It is the only inter-governmental international body established in 1993 with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger. It is located in New Delhi, India.
    • Global Tiger Initiative(GTI): It was launched in 2008 as a global alliance of governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector with the aim of working together to save wild tigers from extinction. In 2013, the scope was broadened to include Snow Leopards.
  • Status of leopards in India, 2018 Report

    Source: The Indian Express

    News: Union Environment Minister has released the Status of Leopards in India 2018 Report.

    Facts:

    Status of leopards in India

    Key Takeaways from the report:

    • Method Used: The leopard population has been estimated using camera trapping method apart from satellite imaging and field work by teams of forest officers.
    • Leopards in India: There are 12,852 leopards in India as of 2018 as compared to the previous estimate of 7910 conducted 2014, an increase of 60% in 4 years.
    • Highest Number of Leopards: The highest concentration of the leopard in India is estimated to be in Madhya Pradesh(3,421) followed by Karnataka(1,783) and Maharashtra (1,690).
    • Region Wise Distribution: As for region-wise distribution, the highest number of 8,071 leopards were found in central India and eastern ghats. In the northeast hills, there are just 141 leopards.
    • Indian Leopard or Common Leopard:
      • The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a leopard subspecies widely distributed on the Indian subcontinent.These are the smallest of the big cats known for its ability to adapt in a variety of habitats.
      • Melanism is a common occurrence in leopards, wherein the entire skin of the animal is black in colour, including its spots.Leopards are nocturnal animals which means they hunts by night.It feeds on smaller species of herbivores found in its range, such as the chital, hog deer and wild boar.
      • Vegetation: In India, the leopard is found in all forest types, from tropical rainforests to temperate deciduous and alpine coniferous forests. It is also found in dry scrubs and grasslands, the only exception being desert and the mangroves of Sundarbans.
      • Distribution: Its range stretches from the Indus river in the west, the Himalayas in the north, and all the way to the lower course of the Brahmaputra in the east.
      • Conservation Status:
        • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
        • Wildlife (Protection)Act,1972: Schedule I
        • CITES: Appendix I
      • Concerns:
        • Fragmentation of forests as well as the quality of forests
        • Human-Leopard conflict: Leopards are not like tigers who don’t like humans and therefore don’t venture out. Leopards are far more adaptable and when loss of habitat takes place, they move closer to human settlements and that’s when the conflict takes place.
        • Poaching of Leopards
        • Depletion of natural prey among others.
  • Himalayan trillium, an endangered common Himalayan herb

    Source: The Hindu

    News: Himalayan trillium (Trillium govanianum), a common herb of the Himalayas was declared ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN).

    Facts:

    • Himalayan Trillium: It is a common herb of the Himalayas. It is often locally called as Nagchatri.
    • Vegetation: It is found in temperate and sub-alpine zones of the Himalayas at an altitude from 2,400-4,000 metres above sea level.
    • Uses: The herb has been used in traditional medicine to cure diseases like dysentery, wounds, skin boils, inflammation, sepsis, as well as menstrual and sexual disorders.
    • Found in: India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan have been home to this species.
    • India: In India, it is found in four states only- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
    • Concerns: In recent years, the plant has become one of the most traded commercial plants of the Himalayan region, due to its high medicinal quality.
    • Recently, its value has increased manifold as experiments have shown it is a source of steroidal saponins and can be used as an anti-cancer and anti-aging agent.
  • Himalayan Serow spotted for the first time in Spiti cold desert

    Source: Click here

    News: Himalayan serow has been sighted for the first time in the Himalayan cold desert region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.

    Facts:

    • Himalayan serow: It is a subspecies of the mainland serow (Capricornis sumatraensis).It resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
    • Habitat: There are several species of serows and all of them are found in Asia.They are found at altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres(6,500 to 13,000 feet).They are known to be found in eastern, central, and western Himalayas but not in the Trans Himalayan region.
    • Diet: Himalayan serows are herbivores animals.
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
    • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I
  • Rare Myristica swamp tree frog found in Thrissur

    Source: Click here

    News: Myristica swamp tree frog has been recorded for the first time north of the Shencottah gap in the Vazhachal Reserve Forest in Kerala’s Thrissur district.

    Facts:

    • Myristica Swamp Tree Frog: It is a rare arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats.
    • These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.

    Additional Facts:

    • Arboreal species: These are animals who spend the majority of their lives in trees. ex. squirrels, monkeys etc.
  • New species of ecologically vital plant found in Western Ghats

    Source: Click here

    News: A new species of Indian Muraingrasses (Genus Ischaemum) have been spotted by scientists in Goa in the Western Ghats.

    Facts:

    • Ischaemum Janarthanamii: It is a species of Muraingrass which is known for their ecological and economic importance such as fodder.
    • Named after: It was named in the honour of Prof. M. K. Janarthanam, Professor of Botany, Goa University.
    • Vegetation: The species grows on low altitude lateritic plateaus in the outskirts of Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, Goa.
    • Significance: The species has adapted to survive harsh conditions and blossom every monsoon.
  • Declare exotic pets, avoid prosecution: how one-time scheme works

    Source: Click here

    News: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC) has come out with an advisory on a one-time voluntary disclosure scheme that allows owners of exotic live species that have been acquired illegally or without documents to declare their stock to the government.

    Facts:

    • Aim of the scheme: To address the challenge of zoonotic diseases, develop an inventory of exotic live species for better compliance under the CITES and regulate their import.In its current form, the amnesty scheme is just an advisory and not a law.
    • Exotic wildlife covered under scheme: The advisory has defined exotic live species as animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the CITES.It does not include species from the Schedules of the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.The advisory excludes exotic birds from the amnesty scheme.
    • Process for disclosure: The disclosure has to be done online through MoEFCC’s Parivesh portal The owner of the animal(s) will have to declare the stock to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the concerned state or Union Territory.This will be followed by a physical verification of the animals.

    Additional Facts:

    • Exotics Animals: These are those species that are mentioned under the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) but not under the schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • Pro Active Responsive facilitation by Interactive and Virtuous Environmental Single window Hub(PARIVESH) Portal: It is a Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change initiative for single window clearances of Environment, Forests and Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) Clearances.
    • CITES: It is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in wild animals, birds and plants does not endanger them. India is a member. Appendices I, II and III of CITES list 5,950 species as protected against over-exploitation through international trade.
  • Malayan Giant squirrel could vanish from NE after 2050: ZSI

    Source : Click here

    News: Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel could decline by 90% in India by 2050 and it could be extinct by then if urgent steps are not taken.

    Facts:

    Black Giant Squirrel

    • Malayan giant squirrel or Black Giant Squirrel: It is one of the world’s largest squirrel species that has a dark upper body, pale under parts, and a long, bushy tail.
    • Habitat: It is distributed across Bangladesh, Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
    • Significance: The giant squirrel is considered as a forest health indicator species.An indicator species provides information on the overall condition of the ecosystem and of other species in that ecosystem.
    • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
    • CITES: Appendix II.
    • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • Threats: Deforestation, fragmentation of forests, crop cultivation and over-harvesting of food, illegal trade in wildlife, hunting for consumption. and Slash-and-burn jhum cultivation.
  • Project Lion: Proposal identifies 6 relocation sites apart from Kuno-Palpur

    News: Wildlife Institute of India along with the Gujarat Forest Department has identified six new relocation sites apart from the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary under Project Lion.

    Facts

    • Project Lion: The program has been launched by the Government of India for the conservation of the Asiatic Lion. It aims to focus on habitat development, engaging technologies in lion management, addressing the issues of disease in lions, and will also be addressing the Human-Wildlife conflict.
    • Why the relocation of Lion? The motive behind finding a relocation site for the Asiatic Lion species is because the population in Gir has low genetic diversity making it vulnerable to threats from epidemics.
    • What are the six new sites identified for relocation?
      • Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
      • Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan.
      • Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan.
      • Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh.
      • Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan.
      • Jessore-Balaram Ambaji WLS and adjoining landscape, Gujarat.

    Additional Facts:

    • Asiatic Lion: They are confined to Gir National Park and its surrounding environments in Gujarat’s Saurashtra district.
      • IUCN Status: Endangered
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule-I
      • CITES Appendix I
  • High biodiversity in 49% of Ganga main river

    News: The Wildlife Institute of India has released a survey on the Ganges river. The survey was conducted on behalf of the National Mission for Clean Ganga undertaken by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

    Facts:

    Key Highlights from the Survey:

    • Increase in Biodiversity: 49% of the Ganges river is high on biodiversity with Gangetic Dolphins and Otters in the river have increased. This indicates that the pollution level in the river has decreased and the river is in a healthy state.
    • Biodiversity Areas: 10% of the high biodiversity areas fall alongside national parks and sanctuaries such as Rajaji national park in Uttarakhand, Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary in UP, and Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bihar.

    Additional Facts:

    • Ganga River: The Ganga and its tributaries flow through 11 states and cover 26.3% of the country’s total geographical area. But its main stem flows through five states — Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.
    • Why is the threat to Ganga’s biodiversity real?
      • Freshwater ecosystems account for 0.01% of the earth’s surface water but 10% of species.
      • According to the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), decline in diversity of freshwater species is the highest and surpasses losses in marine and terrestrial species.
      • The highest loss of freshwater biodiversity has been reported from the Indian subcontinent, specifically the Gangetic plains.
    • Wildlife Institute of India(WII): It was established in 1982 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change. It carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management among others. Headquarters: Dehradun, India.
  • Survey sights good signs: High biodiversity in 49% of Ganga main river

    News: The Wildlife Institute of India has released a survey on the Ganges river. The survey was conducted on behalf of the National Mission for Clean Ganga undertaken by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

    Facts:

    Key Highlights from the Survey:

    • Increase in Biodiversity: 49% of the Ganges river is high on biodiversity with Gangetic Dolphins and Otters in the river have increased. This indicates that the pollution level in the river has decreased and the river is in a healthy state.
    • Biodiversity Areas: 10% of the high biodiversity areas fall alongside national parks and sanctuaries such as Rajaji national park in Uttarakhand, Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary in UP, and Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bihar.

    Additional Facts:

    • Ganga River: The Ganga and its tributaries flow through 11 states and cover 26.3% of the country’s total geographical area.But its main stem flows through five states — Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
    • Why is the threat to Ganga’s biodiversity real?
      • Freshwater ecosystems account for 0.01% of the earth’s surface water but 10% of species.
      • According to the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), decline in the diversity of freshwater species is the highest and surpasses losses in marine and terrestrial species.
      • The highest loss of freshwater biodiversity has been reported from the Indian subcontinent, specifically the Gangetic plains.
    • Wildlife Institute of India(WII): It was established in 1982 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change.It carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management among others. Headquarters: Dehradun, India.
  • Four More Biodiversity Heritage Sites For Karnataka

    News: Karnataka Biodiversity Board has decided to declare four more areas in the State as biodiversity heritage sites.

    Facts:

    • What are the four areas? The four areas declared as biodiversity heritage sites are:
      • Antaragange Betta in Kolar
      • Aadi Narayana Swamy Betta in Chickballapur
      • Mahima Ranga Betta in Nelamangala,Bengaluru and
      • Urumbi area on the Kumaradhara river basin in Dakshina Kannada.

    Additional Facts:

    • Biodiversity heritage sites(BHS): These are considered as unique and fragile ecosystems that can be marine ecosystems, coastal and inland waters, or terrestrial areas.
    • Criteria:
      • Richness of wild as well as domesticated species or intra-specific categories.
      • High endemism.
      • Presence of rare and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance.
      • Wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or their varieties.
      • Past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having significant cultural, ethical or aesthetic values are important for the maintenance of cultural diversity with or without a long history of human association with them.
    • Who notifies BHS? Under Section-37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites(BHS).
  • Sonneratia alba to be state mangrove tree in Maharashtra

    News: Maharashtra is set to become the first state in the country to declare Sonneratia alba as a state mangrove tree species.

    Facts:

    • Sonneratia alba or mangrove apple: It is an evergreen mangrove tree in the family Lythraceae.
    • Distribution: It grows naturally in many tropical and subtropical areas from East Africa to the Indian subcontinent, southern China, the Ryukyu Islands, Indochina, Malesia, Papuasia, Australia and the Western Pacific region.Its habitat is sheltered around sandy seashores and tidal creeks.
    • Uses: Sonneratia alba grow up to five feet and bear white flowers with a pink base as well as green fruits that resemble apples and are used to make pickles.
    • Significance: They often grow on newly-formed mudflats and play an important role in combating land erosion. The flowers, which bloom at night, are pollinated by nocturnal creatures like bats.

    Note: Maharashtra already has the state tree (mango), state animal (giant squirrel), state bird (green pigeon), state butterfly (Blue Mormon) and state flower (jarul).

  • Global Initiative to reduce Land Degradation and Coral Reef program

    News: Global Initiative to reduce Land Degradation and Coral Reef program has been launched at G20 Environment Ministers Meet.

    Facts:

    • Global Initiative to reduce Land Degradation: It aims to strengthen the implementation of existing frameworks to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation within G20 member states and globally taking into account possible implications on the achievement of other SDGs.
    • Global Coral Reef R&D Accelerator Platform: It is an innovative action-oriented initiative aimed at creating a global research and development(R&D) program to advance research, innovation and capacity building in all facets of coral reef conservation.

    Additional Facts:

    • Land Degradation: It is any reduction or loss in the biological or economic productive capacity of the land resource base.
    • Corals: They are small (0.25-12 inches), soft-bodied marine organisms. They live in colonies called reefs that they build using a limestone skeleton(calicle) lying at their base.
    • G20: It is an international group initially founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries and the European Union.
  • My Ganga My Dolphin campaign

    News: National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG), the Wildlife Institute of India, and the Forest Department has launched the My Ganga My Dolphin campaign on the occasion of Ganga River Dolphin Day.

    Facts:

    • Aim: To promote and boost Dolphin based ecotourism in the country and to conduct Dolphin census.
    • The program also includes dolphin safari in six sites across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

    Additional Facts:

    • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG): It has been established as an Authority under the National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection, and Management) Act, 2016. It is the implementing agency of the Namami Gange Programme at the national level.
    • Gangetic river dolphin: It is India’s national aquatic animal found in parts of the Ganges, Meghna, and Brahmaputra river systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. IUCN Red List: Endangered.
    • Wildlife Institute of India(WII): It was established in 1982 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change. It carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management among others.
    • Headquarters: Dehradun, India.
  • Fishing cat is now ambassador of Chilika Lake

    News: The Chilika Development Authority(CDA) has designated the fishing cat as ambassador which is being called as an important step towards conservation of the vulnerable species.

    Facts:

    fishing cat
    • Fishing Cat: It is a medium-sized wildcat found in South and Southeast Asia.They are nocturnal and are an adept swimmer which enters water frequently to prey on fish and other animals.
    • Habitat: In India, fishing cats are mainly found in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, on the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats.
    • Significance: In 2012, the West Bengal government officially declared the Fishing Cat as the State Animal.
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
    • CITES: Appendix II
    • Indian Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I
    • Threat: Habitat Destruction, Hunting, Ritual Practices, Poaching among others.

    Additional Facts:

    • Chilka Lake:It is Asia’s largest brackish water lake spread over districts of Odisha at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
      • In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • What is Aquaponic cultivation of plants?

    News: The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Mohali, has developed the technology for aquaponic cultivation of plants.

    Facts:

    • Aquaponics: It is an emerging technique in which both fish as well as plants complement each other to sustain and grow.The fish waste provides organic food for plants and plants naturally filter the water, which is used to replenish the fish tank.
    • Benefits:
      • Extremely water efficient.
      • Does not require soil.
      • Does not use fertilizers or chemical pesticides.
      • Reduces pressure on land and cuts down operational costs among others.
      • It does not require farmland with fertile soil
      • It provides Food Security and a better source of income for farmers.

    Additional Facts:

    • C-DAC: It is the premier Research & Development organization of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(Meity) for carrying out R&D in IT, Electronics and associated areas.
  • Vulture Conservation in India

    News: National Board for Wildlife(NBWL) has approved an Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025.

    Facts:

    Key Highlights of the Plan:

    • Vulture Conservation centre: Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre each.
    • Vulture Safe zone: Establishment of at least one vulture-safe zone in each state for the conservation of the remnant populations in that state.
    • Rescue Centres: Establishment of four rescue centres, in Pinjore (Haryana), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Guwahati (Assam) and Hyderabad (Telangana). There are currently no dedicated rescue centres for treating vultures.
    • Toxic Drugs: A system to automatically remove a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be toxic to vultures with the help of the Drugs Controller General of India.
    • Vultures Census: Coordinated nation-wide vulture counting involving forest departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, research institutes, nonprofits and members of the public.This would be for getting a more accurate estimate of the size of vulture populations in the country.
    • Database on Threats to Vulture: A database on emerging threats to vulture conservation including collision and electrocution, unintentional poisoning.

    Additional Facts:

    • Vultures in India: Out of 23 species of vultures in the world, nine are found in India. These include:
      • White rumped vulture (Critically Endangered)
      • Slender billed vulture (Critically Endangered)
      • Long billed vulture (Critically Endangered)
      • Red headed vulture (Critically Endangered)
      • Egyptian vulture (Endangered)
      • Himalayan Griffon (Near Threatened)
      • Cinereous vulture (Near Threatened)
      • Bearded vulture (Near Threatened)
      • Griffon Vulture (Least Concern).
  • Himalayan Brown Bear

    News: The Zoological Survey of India has released a study titled ‘Adaptive spatial planning of protected area network for conserving the Himalayan brown bear’.

    Facts:

    Key Takeaways:

    • About the study: The study was carried out in the western Himalayas.It has predicted a 73% decline of habitat of Himalayan Brown Bear by the year 2050.
      • This decline will also impact 13 protected areas.Out of these 13 protected areas, eight will become completely uninhabitable by 2050.
    • Recommendations: The study has suggested adopting an adaptive spatial planning of protected area networks in the western Himalayas for conserving the Himalayan Brown Bear species.
      • Adaptive Spatial Planning: It refers to the process of conserving the existing landscape and augmenting the fragmented areas of the habitat of the species.

    Additional Facts:

    • Himalayan brown bear: It is one of the largest carnivores in the highlands of Himalayas.
    • Habitat: It occupies the higher reaches of the Himalayas in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan and India, in small and isolated populations and is extremely rare in many of its ranges.
    • IUCN: The brown bear as a species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.
      • However, the Himalayan Brown Bear as a subspecies is highly endangered and populations are dwindling.It is Endangered in the Himalayas and Critically Endangered in Hindu Kush region.
  • Project Dolphin

    News: Prime Minister announced Project Dolphin on Independence Day

    Project Dolphin:

    • The project is aimed at the conservation of the Gangetic Dolphins — both riverine as well as the oceanic dolphins in India.
    • Significance: Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems. As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure conservation of aquatic lives of the river.

    Gangetic river dolphin:

    • The Gangetic river dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
    • Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.
    • Population: 1,272 dolphins in Uttar Pradesh and 962 in Assam in 2019
    • Threats: construction of dams and barrages, and increasing pollution
    • IUCN Red List: Endangered
    • CITES: Appendix I.

    Conservation Measures for Gangetic Dolphin:

    • Wildlife Protection Act: Gangetic Dolphin is protected under Schedule I of the Act. Further, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
    • Conservation Plan: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which “identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations”.
    • National Aquatic Animal: In 2009, National Ganga River Basin Authority, declared the Gangetic river dolphin as the national aquatic animal. The National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.