Take frogs off dissecting table in labs: NBC

Take frogs off dissecting table in labs: NBC

As part of conservation of endangered animal species especially amphibians, the National Biodiversity Congress has sought a ban on using animals covered under the Wildlife Protection Act for study and experimental purposes.

Many species of amphibians, listed as protected in the Wildlife Act, are facing extinction on the global scale due to man-made causes, NBC's consolidated recommendations' report said.

"Use of frogs as tools to understand basic concepts in Biology and Pharmacology has been going unabated, in spite of the warnings from Ministry of Environment and Forest and UGC," said the report drawn up recently based on the first National Biodiversity Congress held here in November last.

"There is an urgent need to sensitise the teachers against this practice and help conservation of the frog species, by approaching the issue from curricular,pedagogical, ecological, legal and ethical perspectives, and encourage use of digital and simulation alternatives for understanding of the respective academics," the report said.

Frogs belonging to the genus Rana are included in Schedule IV, which means that these frogs should not be removed from the natural habitats without permission from competent authorities.

University Grants Commission, in recent guidelines to phase out animal dissections from Zoology and Life Science curriculum, has put a blanket ban on using animals covered under Wildlife Protection Act for dissections and experiments by the intervention of Bharatidasan University at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu.
The university has developed an alternative technology for the purpose to avoid frogs being dissected in college labs.

Frogs under the genus Rana, already threatened and included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, cannot at all be used in dissection and experiments.

Noted environmentalist and conservationist with Department of Environmental Biology, University of Delhi, S D Biju, hailed the decision to ban the use of wild animals, especially amphibians, for routine classroom teaching.

"There are a lot of modern ways to teach internal anatomy of animals using models that are now very common in many countries," Biju told PTI.

Amphibians are the most threatened animals not only in India but all over the world. Almost 60 percentage of amphibians are facing extinction because of various reasons, mostly habitat destruction and alteration, he said.

In India, thousands of frogs are being collected from the wild every day for classroom dissection."Frog dissections are unethical and unnecessary.They contribute to the depletion of wild frog populations and the spread of harmful invasive species and infectious diseases," he said.

"Frogs are an important part of the ecosystem. Maintaining the food chain, environmental health and pest control are among their many direct and indirect benefits to the world," he added.

The NBC report also expressed serious concern over the threat of extinction faced by marine turtles mainly due to degradation of nesting sites along Kerala coast.
The report identified beach erosion caused by sand mining and coastal afforestation as major causes for the destruction of nesting sites of turtles.

Building awareness on marine turtle conservation, enforcing regulations against illegal sale and consumption of turtle meat and eggs, and better vigilance for beach sand mining and illegal trawling are needed to conserve marine biodiversity, it said.

Kerala State Bio-diversity Board, which organised the first NBC in November last here along with National Biodiversity Authority, is also planning to declare the turtle nesting ground at Padannakadu as a community reserve and fund the conservation programme.

Further, KSBB intends to produce a People's Biodiversity Register (PBR) for the Kerala Coast, the first such initiative in marine biodiversity inventory in the country.
The recommendations have been submitted to the Union Ministry for Environment and Forest for action, KSBB Chairman Oommen V Oommen told PTI.

"We are only an advisory body and it is for the government to take action on the recommendations," he said.

NBC also called for conservation of native breeds of cattle of Kerala as part of protection of Traditional Knowledge (TK).

One of the indigenous cattle breeds of Kerala, "Vechur cows" has gained wide public attention after it came to the verge of extinction as per the list of FAO.
Massive cross breeding programme introduced by government agencies has threatened the survival of the native breeds especially "Vechur" cow irrespective of its good qualities for domestication. The extreme small size, less fodder intake, easy domestication, maximum milk production compared with body mass and high disease resistance are beneficial features of the Vechur cows.

"The conservation of the Vechur breed as an indigenous wealth of Kerala and the utilisation of a potential gene of vechur cow milk for exploiting its therapeutic properties in biotech industry is recommended," the report said.

"There is a need to generate awareness of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism at all levels so as to develop and execute effective ABS regimes in the state, the report said.

NBC also emphasised the need to generate awareness of IPR Act at all levels so as to effectively implement ABS regimes. This will strengthen implementation of Biological diversity act and evolve practices for sustainable management of bio resources.

Implementation of these two complementary acts would provide farmers a right to get adequate compensation from those who develop new varieties using the traditional ones,the report said.

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