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Species in News : Environment 2021 | Prelims Capsules

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On this page, you can read all the important species in news for Prelims 2021. You can provide feedback for the upcoming material in this series. We will keep this page updated.

Species in News for UPSC Prelims 2021


  • Basic Concepts and definition of Biodiversity Click Here 
  • To practice Environment MCQsClick Here 
  • To Practice, Prelims PYQs of EnvironmentClick Here 
  • Read basics of IUCN list, WPA classification, and CITESCLick Here

Critically endangered Species in news

The Caracal

News: The National Board for Wildlife includes the caracal in the list of critically endangered species. The species 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.
The CaracalConservation Status:

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

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).

Characteristics:

  • 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.
  • Food Habits: 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’.

Threats:

  • Loss of habitat and increasing urbanization.
  • Example: Chambal ravines which are caracal’s natural habitat have 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:

  • The earliest evidence of the caracal in the subcontinent comes from a fossil dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization c. 3000-2000 BC.
  • 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.

The Great Indian Bustard

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”. It is for overhead power lines in areas where Great Indian Bustard (GIB) populations are found in the wild.

About Great Indian Bustard: It is one of the heaviest flying birds (weighing up to 15kgs). They inhabit dry grasslands and scrublands on the Indian subcontinent.
The Great Indian BustardConservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: It is a Critically Endangered species with less than 150 birds left in the wild.
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972: Schedule I

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.

Characteristics:

  • Great Indian bustards are tall birds with long legs and a long neck; the tallest individuals may stand up to 1.2 metres (4 feet) high.
  • Both the male and female are roughly the same size, with the largest individuals weighing 15 kg (33 pounds).
  • Males and females are distinguished by the colour of their feathers.
  • Food Habits: Great Indian bustards are omnivores. They prey on various arthropods, worms, small mammals, and small reptiles.

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.
  • What are 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.

The 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’.

The Himalayan brown bearAbout the Species: It is one of the largest carnivores in the highlands of Himalayas.
Conservation Status:

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

Habitat: It occupies the higher reaches of the Himalayas in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan and India. Small Population is also found in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and Bhutan.

Characteristics:

  • They are the largest animals in the Himalayas and are usually sandy or reddish-brown in colour.
  • Food Habits: Himalayan brown bears are omnivores and eat grasses, roots and other plants as well as insects and small mammals. They also like fruits and berries and prey on large mammals, including sheep and goats.

Threats:

  • Habitat loss
  • Killing by livestock herders
  • Poaching for fur and for the illegal body parts trade

Vultures in India

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

About the Species: Vultures are sociable creatures and are often seen as a collective unit. Out of 23 species of vultures in the world, nine are found in India.
Vultures in IndiaConservation Status:

  • IUCN
  • 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).
  • CITES: Appendix II
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

Habitat: The preferred habitats of the Vulture are deserts, savannas and grassland near a water source. It also inhabits open mountain ranges up to 3,000 metres above sea level.

Distribution: Vultures are widely distributed, but they are absent from Australia and most oceanic islands

Characteristics:

  • Vultures are medium- to large-sized birds of prey. They are known for eating carrion (the bodies of dead animals).
  • Heavy body, a hunched-over stance, and their feathers often appear shaggy and looser than other birds.
  • A dull brown or black body.
  • Bald head and sometimes bald throat (help in regulating their body temperature)
  • Broad wings are very broad compared to other birds. This helps them when they are soaring the skies searching for food.
  • Behavior: They soar in circles high above the Earth’s surface. They use the rising air currents to maintain their elevation.
  • Food habits: Most of the vultures have very broad food habits. They will consume carrion, garbage, and even excrement. But rarely they prey upon live animals. A few occasionally take helpless prey such as lambs and tortoises or newborn calves.

Threats:

  • Poison: Vultures feed on the deceased carcasses of many different animals. But larger herbivores such as cattle, deer, and similar animals are their most common food source. If those animals are contaminated with pesticide, herbicide, medication, or other toxins, vultures can be severely affected.
  • Lead Poisonings
  • Persecution
  • Vehicle Collisions
  • Electrocution
  • Starvation

Significance:

Their habit of eating carrion is extremely beneficial to humans. As it has a considerable effect on reducing the spread of diseases. Some of which can be fatal.

Conservation Initiatives:

National Board for Wildlife(NBWL) has approved an Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025. Key highlights of the plan include,

  • Vulture Conservation Centre: Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre.
  • 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.

Kolar Leaf Nosed Bat

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

Kolar Leaf Nosed BatAbout the Species: It is a species of bat in the family Hipposideridae . 

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN: Critically Endangered

 Habitat: It is endemic to India and is currently only known from one cave in Hanumanahalli village in Kolar district, Karnataka. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and caves.

Characteristics:

The Kolar leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros hypophyllus), or leafletted leaf-nosed bat is a species of bat in the family Hipposideridae. It is found in only one cave in India, and its population is less than 200 individuals.

Threats: They are threatened by illegal granite mining occurring in the close vicinity of its only known roost.(In a subterranean cave which is on a monolithic granite hill). It has been reported to have abandoned two other roosts due to fires lit for the easier extraction of granite.

Significance:

  • Though there are 130 species in India, Bats are one of the least studied mammals in the country.
  • They are very adaptable creatures and therefore can often be found near human habitation or even in urban settlements, which makes them vulnerable.
  • Bats also have a bad image in the public eye, as carriers of diseases. But the truth is, bats are absolutely vital for the ecology as they are pollinators, their main diet being nectar.
  • While insectivorous bats act as the best insect cleansers by devouring and keeping them under control. On the other hand, fruit-eating bats are the best natural seed dispersal agents and cross pollinators. Hence bats play a vital role in regeneration.
  • Many species of fruiting trees depend on these bats for dispersal and regeneration.

Conservation Measures: Karnataka Government has notified the 30 acres around the caves as a protected area. Hence, any development work including construction of new infrastructure will need the permission of the National Board for Wildlife.


Crocodile

News: World Crocodile Day is being celebrated on the 17th June.

About Crocodile species found in India:

Mugger or Marsh Crocodile:

About the Species: The Mugger crocodile is a medium to large crocodilian species. It has a distinctive aspect and is the most alligator-like of all crocodile species.
Mugger or Marsh CrocodileConservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I

Habitat: It is a freshwater crocodile native to southern Iran to the Indian subcontinent. It is extinct in Bhutan and Myanmar.

Threats:

  • Habitat destruction
  • Entanglement and drowning in fishing equipment
  • Increasing incidents of conflict with humans

Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile:

About the Species: It is considered the Earth’s largest living crocodile species native to saltwater habitats and brackish wetlands.
Estuarine or Saltwater CrocodileConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Least Concern

Habitat: It is found throughout the east coast of India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia.

Threats:

  • Illegal hunting
  • habitat loss and
  • antipathy toward the species because of its reputation as a man-eater.

Gharial:

About the Species: The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), also known as the gavial or the fish-eating crocodile.
GharialConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wild Life (Protection) Act,1972: Schedule I

Distribution: It was once found across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. However, currently, it survives in several severely fragmented populations in India and Nepal.

Protected areas: National Chambal Sanctuary and Katarnia ghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

Characteristics: The gharial is one of only two species in the Gavialidae family. It has a characteristic elongated, narrow snout, similar only to the tomistoma (previously called the false gharial). Many sharp, interlocking teeth line the gharial’s elongated jaws.

Threats: Construction of Dam, barrages, and water abstraction, entanglement in fishing nets, River bed cultivation and sand mining.


African Forest Elephants and Asian Elephants

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

 

African ElephantsConservation Status

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: The 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:

Asian ElephantsThe 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.

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

Significance: Asian elephants are extremely sociable, forming groups of six to seven related females that are led by the oldest female, the matriarch.

  • 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.
  • Habitat: In India, the Asian elephant is found in four fragmented populations, in the south, north, central and north-east India.
  • Their habitat ranges from wet tropical evergreen forests to semi-arid thorn and scrub forests. However, the highest densities of the elephant population are found in tropical deciduous forests.

Endangered Species in news

Tiger

News: Union Environment Minister has released a detailed report of All India Tiger Census 2018 ahead of Global Tiger Day, 29 July.

TigerAbout the Species: The total count of tigers has risen to 2,967 in 2018 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals or 33% in four years.
Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I

Habitat: Tigers are found in amazingly diverse habitats: rain forests, grasslands, savannas, and even mangrove swamps. Unfortunately, 93% of historical tiger lands have disappeared primarily because of expanding human activity.

Distribution: There are 13 tiger range countries in the world. This includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Distribution in India: India’s tiger habitat in India is classified into five landscapes–Shivalik hills and Gangetic plains, central and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, north-east hills and Brahmaputra, and the Sundarbans.

Characteristics:

  • The tiger is a powerful and colorful species of big cat.
  • They are native to isolated areas of Asia and east Russia.
  • A tiger is solitary in nature, marking out its territory and defending it from other tigers.
  • In order for it to survive and thrive in its own habitat, the tiger has powerful physical features.
  • From razor-sharp teeth to muscular legs, he can catch prey and put up a fight from potential poachers.

Conservation Initiative:

  • Project Tiger: It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Government of India launched in 1973. It aims for the in-situ conservation of wild tigers in designated tiger reserves.
  • Global Tiger Forum(GTF): It is the 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.

The Asiatic Lion

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.

About the Species: There are only several hundred Asiatic lions in the wild, and they only live in the Gir Forest, India, in an area that is smaller than Greater London.
The Asiatic LionConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Habitat: They are confined to the Gir National Park and wildlife sanctuary and its surrounding environments in Gujarat’s Saurashtra district.

Characteristics:

  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions.
  • In contrast to African Lion, Asiatic Lion has a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly.
  • The fur ranges in colour from ruddytawny, heavily speckled with black, to sandy or buff-grey, sometimes with a silvery sheen in certain lights.
  • Males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head so that their ears are always visible.

Food Habits: Asiatic Lions are mainly dependent on Chital, Nilgai, Sambhar, Buffaloes and Goats for food. Sometimes they hunt smaller animals and if the need arises they kill the livestock or camel found in the neighbouring areas of Gir National Park.

Threats:

  • Poaching
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Lions dying by falling into the unguarded wells around the Gir Protected Area.
  • Threat of genetic inbreeding arising from a single population in one place.

Conservation Initiatives

  • WWF supported barricading of 180 wells with local partners and Gujarat Forest Department.
  • This initiative led to doubling the subsidy by the Gujarat government and many farmers barricaded the wells with government support.
  • To strengthen the efforts of Gir Protected Area towards managing conflict and poaching, WWF provided need-based support.
  • WWF-India conducted a study to assess habitat change over a period of 20 years.

The Pangolin

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

About the Species: They are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota.
The PangolinConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Endangered (India- Endangered, Chinese Pangolin- Critically Endangered)
  • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Under Schedule I of WPA, 1972

Habitat: 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 found 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.

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.

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 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.
  • Food Habits: They are nocturnal animals and their diet consists of mainly ants and termites which they capture using their long tongues.

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.

The Gangetic River Dolphin

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.

About the Species: It is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The Gangetic River DolphinConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972: Schedule 1

Habitat: 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.

Distribution

The distribution range of the Ganges river dolphins in India covers seven states namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The ideal rivers for Gangetic river Dolphin are:

  • The upper Ganga River (in Uttar Pradesh),
  • Chambal River (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh),
  • Ghaghra and Gandak Rivers (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh),
  • Ganga River, from Varanasi to Patna (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar),
  • Son and Kosi rivers (Bihar),
  • Brahmaputra from Sadia (foothills of Arunachal Pradesh) upto Dhubri (on the Bangladesh border) and
  • Kulsi River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River

 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 that reaches the prey.
  • They are popularly known as ‘Susu’ which refers to the noise the dolphin is said to make when it breathes.
  • 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 the Indus river of Pakistan, and the Boto in the Amazon river in Latin America.

Food Habits: They have a preference for deep waters, where prey availability is high. They mainly feed on fish and invertebrates, using echolocation to detect their prey.

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.

Conservation Initiatives:

  • Wildlife Act Protection: After the launch of the 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 the impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
  • Project Dolphin: It was announced by the 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.

Himalayan Trillium

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

About the Plant: It is a common herb of the Himalayas. It is often locally called as Nagchatri.
Himalayan TrilliumConservation Status:

  • IUCN: endangered’

Vegetation: It is found in temperate and sub-alpine zones of the Himalayas at an altitude from 2,400-4,000 meters above sea level.

Distribution: India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan have been home to this species.

In India, it is found in four states only- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.

Significance:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Concern: In recent years, the plant has become one of the most traded commercial plants of the Himalayan region, due to its high medicinal quality.


Near Threatened Species in news

The Black Necked Crane

News: Black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) is 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).

The Black Necked Crane
About 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.
Conservation Status:

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

Distribution:

  • 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.

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.

Food Habits: These black-necked crane species are omnivorous. The primary diet of these crane species is plant matter like rhizomes, seeds, sprouts, roots, tubers, stems, shoots, and leaves.

Threats: The major threats are:

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

 Significance:

  • The black-necked crane is central to Buddhist mythology and culture. According to 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 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.


The Malayan Giant Squirrel

News: Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel could decline by 90% in India by 2050.

About the Species: Malayan giant squirrel or Black Giant Squirrel is one of the world’s largest squirrel species.
The Malayan Giant SquirrelConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Near Threatened
  • CITES: Appendix II.
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

Habitat: It is distributed across Bangladesh, Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Characteristics:

  • It has a dark upper body, pale underparts, and a long, bushy tail.
  • Food Habits: The species is omnivorous and feeds on fruits, flowers, nuts, bark, bird eggs, and insects.

 Significance:

The giant squirrel is considered a forest health indicator species. An indicator species provides information on the overall condition of the ecosystem and of other species in that ecosystem.

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.


Vulnerable Species in news

The Himalayan Serow

News: Himalayan Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis thar) has been spotted in the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam.

The Himalayan SerowAbout the Species:

    • Himalayan serow is a subspecies of the mainland serow (Capricornis sumatraensis). It resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.

Conservation Status of Himalayan Serow:

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.

Distribution: 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.

Characteristics:

  • It’s a medium-sized mammal with a large head, thick neck, short limbs, long, mule-like ears, and a coat of dark hair. It is a very elusive animal.
  • Food Habits: Himalayan serows are herbivores animals.

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.
  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Himalayan serows have experienced significant declines in population size, range size, and habitat in the last decade. This decline is expected to continue due to intensive human impact.

The Fishing Cat

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

The fishing catAbout the Fishing Cat: It is a highly elusive wild cat feline species. It is found primarily in wetland and mangrove habitats.
Conservation Status:

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

Habitat
Global habitats

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’.

Indian Habitats

  • 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.

Characteristics: 

  • The fishing cat is an elusive nocturnal mammal. It is almost twice the size of the house cat.
  • 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, they 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.

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.

The Giant Leatherback Turtle

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”.

The Giant Leatherback TurtleAbout 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.
Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

Distribution: They are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.

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 female turtle nesting here are significant. After that, they swim towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

The Indian star tortoises

News: Indian star tortoises (Geochelone Elegans) have been seized by the Forest officials while being smuggled from Andhra Pradesh to Odisha.

About Indian star tortoise: 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.
The Indian star tortoisesConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wild Life Protection Act 1972: Schedule IV

Habitat: Star tortoises come from a wide distribution in India, where they live in semi-desert grasslands and moist deciduous forest. They are also found on sand dunes, in scrub forests, humid jungles and in human-altered habitats.

Characteristics:

  • Indian star tortoise has medium-sized head, hooked beak, and short, thick legs covered with tubercles of various sizes and shapes. Males have a long tail, while females have short and stubby tails. Indian star tortoise is a diurnal animal that is mostly active in the morning and late in the afternoon.
  • Behaviour and Temperament: Indian star tortoises do not like being handled. They can get stressed out and get ill if handled frequently.
  • Food Habits: Star tortoises are herbivores. They need plenty of fresh and dark leafy greens and grasses.

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.


The 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.

About Houbara Bustard: It is a large terrestrial bird found in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The Houbara BustardDifferent 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).
Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I

Distribution: The population of the Asian houbara bustards extends from northeast Asia, across central Asia, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula to reach the Sinai desert.

Characteristics:

  • The species lives in Arid Climate. 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.
  • Breeding: 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.
  • Food Habits: It is omnivorous taking seeds, insects, and other small creatures.

Threats:

  • Decline in population: 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.

The Indian Leopard

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

About the Species: 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 their ability to adapt to a variety of habitats.
The Indian LeopardConservation Status:

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

Habitat: 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 deserts and the mangroves of Sundarbans.

Distribution:  As for region-wise distribution, the highest number of 8,071 leopards are found in central India and the Eastern Ghats. In the northeast hills, there are just 141 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).

Characteristics:

  • Melanism is a common occurrence in leopards. The entire skin of the animal can be black in color, including its spots. A melanistic leopard is often called Black Panther or jaguar.
  • Leopards are nocturnal animals which means they hunt by night.
  • Food Habits: It feeds on smaller species of herbivores found in its range, such as the chital, hog deer, and wild boar.

Threats:

  • 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 Viagra

News: The world’s costliest fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis also known as Himalayan Viagra. It has now entered the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Himalayan ViagraAbout Ophiocordyceps sinensis: It is a caterpillar fungus endemic to the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable

 Habitat: In India, it is primarily found in Uttarakhand in the higher reaches of districts Pithoragarh and Chamoli. Apart from India, It is also found in China, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Other Names: It is locally known as Kira Jari (in India), Yartsagunbu (in Tibet) and Yarsagumba (in Nepal).

Characteristics: The Himalayan Viagra has many medicinal benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties that promote vitality and increase physical stamina. It is also found effective in treating tuberculosis. The herb is used to treat lung disorders and respiratory infections, due to its antibiotic properties.

Significance: It is used as a tonic and therapeutic medicine in Tibet and China. In recent times, it has also been widely traded as an aphrodisiac.


Least concern Species in news

The Hedgehog

News: The Madras hedgehog is now the focus of a grassroots awareness campaign aimed at reviving its numbers.

The Hedgehog 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.
Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule 4

Distribution: There are seventeen species of hedgehog found throughout 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.
  • They mainly follow their excellent sense of hearing and sense of smell for the hunt, as their eyesight is quite poor.
  • They are also very fast runners.
  • 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 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.

Characteristics:

  • 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.
  • Food Habits: 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.

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 hibernate in winter, but the ones in South India go into Estivation in summer instead. In South India, it is able to slow down its metabolism when food is scarce.

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

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

Significance of Hedgehogs: It is used as an ingredient in traditional medicine and also as a non-traditional medicine.


The Mandarin Ducks

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

About 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.
The Mandarin DucksConservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Habitat: Its habitats include temperate forests near wetlands including rivers, streams, bogs, marshes, swamps, and freshwater lakes.

Distribution:

  • Globally: 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.

 Characteristics:

  • 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 eye stripe.
  • Food Habits: These birds feed on seeds, acorns, small fruit, insects, snails, and small fish.

House Sparrow

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.

House SparrowAbout House Sparrow: House Sparrow(Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in most parts of the world.

Conservation Status

  • IUCN Status: Least Concern
  • The Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule IV

 Characteristics of House Sparrow:

  • The male and female House Sparrow are easily distinguishable not in size but in coloration. 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:

  1. Firstly, the house sparrow is widespread across the world. It inhabits every continent except Antarctica, and countries like China and Japan. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa.
  2. 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.

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Barn Owls in India

News: The Lakshadweep Administration had embarked on the Pilot project on Biological Control of Rodents (Rats) by Using Barn Owls (Tyto alba) in Kavaratti Island.

Barn Owls in IndiaConservation Status:

  • IUCN: Listed as ‘least concern’ under IUCN red list
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule 3

Distribution:
The barn owl prefers open habitats such as agricultural fields, pastures, and marshland. They generally avoid mountainous areas and woodlands.

Characteristics of Barn owls

  • Barn owls are one of the most commonly found owls in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • These owls are medium-sized with long legs and wings. They have a shorter tail, compared to other similar-sized owls.
  • Barn Owl exhibits dark eyes and a distinct heart-shaped facial disc. Whereas owls generally have one of the most amazing colorful eyes compared to other birds.
  • It is a general belief that the bigger the bird, the more sound it makes while flapping its wings. However, barn owls have unique wings and feather features, that help them fly soundlessly.

Significance

  • The Barn Owls mostly hunt small mammals especially rodents (hence it’s called a farmer’s friend).
  • In Indian mythology, they are the vahanas (vehicles) of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
  • Some consider an owl sighting during the festival of Diwali extremely lucky.

Data Deficient Species

The Black Browed Babbler

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 Black Browed BabblerConservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Data Deficient. IUCN says that the global population size of the bird has not been quantified. Generally, the species is described as possibly extinct.

 

Habitat: The natural habitat of M. perspicillata is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, at altitudes of 200–1,170 m (660–3,840 ft). Its rediscovery in 2020 made it clear that the bird is from southeast Borneo.

Characteristics:

  • They vary in size and coloration.
  • These birds have strong legs, and many are quite terrestrial.
  • This group is not strongly migratory, and most species have short rounded wings and are weak flyers.
  • The upper parts of the bird are rich brown while the underparts up to the breast are greyish with fine white streaking.
  • The bird has a broad black eye stripe and the iris is found to be deep red. The legs are dark slate-grey.
  • They are social birds that are usually found in family groups and small flocks of up to about 20 birds.

Food Habits: They are omnivores and mainly feed on meat, plant material, and/or berries.

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’.


Miscellaneous Species

The Myristica swamp tree frog

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.

The Myristica swamp tree frog

About the Species: The scientific name of Myristica swamp tree frog is Mercurana myristicapalustris

Habitat: It is a rare arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats.

Characteristics:

  • These are arboreal species that spend the majority of their lives in trees. ex. squirrels, monkeys, etc.

Breeding Behavior:

  • These frogs are rare and elusive for the reason that they are arboreal and active only for a few weeks during their breeding season.
  • The males vocalise in groups from the low perches in the swamps. They exhibit unique breeding behavior.
  • The breeding season, unlike for other frogs, starts in the pre-monsoons season (May) and ends before the monsoon becomes fully active in June.

Dragonfly

News: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-India State unit has joined hands with the Society for Odonate Studies (SOS) and Thumbi Puranam. They jointly going to conduct the first-ever State Dragonfly Festival in Kerala called Thumbi Mahotsavam 2020.

DragonflyAbout Dragonfly: It is an aerial predator insect most commonly found near freshwater habitats throughout most of the world.

Habitat: Most species of dragonflies live in the tropics and particularly in the rainforests.

Characteristics: The value of dragonflies lies in their beauty and distinctive colours. This makes them valuable subjects for research on insect behaviour, both for ecology and art.

Threats: The rapid destruction of their habitat poses a direct threat to their survival making their conservation urgent.

Significance: Dragonflies act as important bio-indicators of the ecological health of an area. As they feed on mosquitoes and other insects that are vectors to life-threatening diseases like Malaria and Dengue.


IndianMuraingrasses

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

IndianMuraingrassesAbout the Plant (Ischaemum Janarthanamii): It is a species of Muraingrass which is known for its ecological and economic importance such as fodder.

Named after: It was named in honor 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 blossoms every monsoon.


Sonneratia alba or mangrove apple

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

Sonneratia alba or mangrove appleAbout the herb: Sonneratia alba or mangrove appleis an evergreen mangrove tree in the family Lythraceae.
Distribution: It grows naturally in many tropical and subtropical areas. It grows 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. It develops 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.


Seabuckthorn plantations

News:

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

Seabuckthorn plantationsAbout 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.

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