Many species, one planet


Saving the bustard: With hardly 300 Great Indian Bustards left, immediate measures such as habitat protection and creating a conducive atmosphere to breed should be taken to protect the bird. Experts have mooted the idea of a ‘Project Bustard’ to save the bird. The bird is not only locally extinct from almost 90% of its former range, but has also disappeared from the three wildlife habitats declared sanctuaries 25 years ago for its protection. Experts say that apart from hunting and habitat destruction, which have pushed it to near-extinction, mismanagement of habitat, sentimental protection of certain problem animals, insecure and confusing tenurial systems, apathy and ignoring of scientific advice have added to the threats faced by these species.

Elephant task force

The Elephant Task Force has given important, implementable recommendations addressing the most burning issues of elephant conservation including man-animal conflict. India has the distinction of harbouring the largest Asian elephant population anywhere in the world. With an estimated population of 26,000 elephants, it amounts to 50 per cent of the world’s population. These mega herbivores survive over an area of about 110,000 sq km in the country. Of this, about 65,000 sq kms have been declared 32 elephant reserves (ER) spread across several protected areas (PAs), reserved forests and private lands. Securing this landscape in pursuit of saving this flagship species is a challenging and daunting task.

Great Indian hornbill: In danger

The drop in numbers of the Great Indian hornbill in the forests of Uttara Kannada has been a cause for concern among naturalists. Today very few hornbills have been spotted in Dandeli, Joida, Castlerock and Khanapur forests. Due to heavy biotic interference, the Western Ghats of Karwar and Belgaum district have been degraded. Owing to habitat lost and hunting in some areas, the Great hornbill is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Forest dwellers of Western Ghats threaten the Great Indian Hornbills. The beaks and head are used in charms and the flesh is believed to be medicinal. The squabs are considered a delicacy.

Will the dolphin bounce back?

An announcement by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to accord the Gangetic Dolphin the status of national aquatic animal raises hope of survival for this highly endangered mammal and also the highly polluted River Ganga. High levels of pollution in the river has left this graceful mammal struggling for existence. The Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) is restricted to the Ganga and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal and surveys show that only about 2000 of them remain in these rivers.

Do these numbers tell a story?

This year, wildlife census made headlines. The Forest Department staff and several volunteers put in their valuable time counting elephants in the forests of southern Indian states. One of the most interesting factors of wildlife conservation to the public, conservation managers and wildlife biologists is their numbers. Everyone is interested in numbers. How many tigers or elephants do we have? Are these numbers so important? Yes, they do matter. It is the direct audit of our conservation efforts. For the Forest Department, it depicts effectiveness of their patrolling, management policies and practices, and for the civil societies it’s an indirect result of their activism endeavours. These numbers also act as benchmarks for future direction of conservation activities. Huge investments both from the government and civil societies have gone into saving wildlife. Hence it becomes prudent to measure the ‘profit’ and ‘loss’ of conservation efforts that are illustrated by these numbers.

Whither the tiger?

The country’s tiger conservation programme is flush with government funds which is not adequately utilised for the programme but diverted towards “habitat improvement”, a study by a group of international experts has found.
A new study by a group of tiger biologists (including Dr Ullas Karanth from India), conservation scientists, policy experts, field practitioners from USA, Europe and South Asia and South East Asian Countries has revealed that despite India being on top in expenditure for conservation, not much effort is made in utilising the funds for staff improvement. law enforcement, law enforcement monitoring, informant network and trade monitoring. Across the world only 3,500 animals live in the wild now occupying just seven percent of their historical range. Of these only 1000 are likely to be breeding females. The Malnad-Mysore tiger landscape in the State as per the study holds key in conservation as the study says that the region extending from Dandeli to Niligiris maintains about 220 adult tigers. The Study says that the region has a source site like Nagarhole, which has shown the increase in number by 400 percent since past thirty years.

Saving the Sarus

The Sarus crane is unique in having most of its population occurring outside of Protected Areas in India. The primary breeding population of this species occurs in paddy fields in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. This means that a conservation ethos limited by protected areas would be wholly inadequate for the Sarus Crane and species like it. K S Gopi Sundar has more interest in cranes than most of us. Hailing from Bangalore, he spends most of his time trying to save cranes and their habitats all across south Asia working with governments, NGOs, scientists, naturalists and anyone else who cares.
His interest in birds led to his selection for a project on Sarus Cranes at the Wildlife Institute of India. Gopi discovered hitherto unknown facts about this elegant species, and was subsequently invited by the International Crane Foundation (ICF) to consider continuing and expanding his work on Sarus Cranes.
(Inputs from Subhash Chandra NS, Sanjay Gubbi, Manjunath Sullolli, Sunil Kumar M)

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