Kerala plans to protect near-extinct plant, animals

New step aims at preserving the rich biodiversity in WG

Even as conservation of biodiversity in the Western Ghats becomes a contentious issue in the backdrop of controversial study reports, Kerala is taking a step toward protection of some of its near-extinct plant and animal species.

The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) is partnering the state Forest Department in a project devised to protect 26 plant and 13 animal species notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as on “the verge of extinction”.

Sources in KSBB said preliminary talks were on with experts and researchers to develop a framework for the project. “We are planning to initiate the project in collaboration with academicis and experts. A timeline is being worked on and we hope to get started before the end of the year,” K P Laladhas, KSBB member-secretary, told Deccan Herald on Monday.

KSBB Chairman Oommen V Oommen said a meeting outlining the project’s broad objectives was held.

The MoEF notification of 2009, based on the Biological Diversity Act of 2002, conditionally prohibits and regulates collection of the species identified as near-extinct.

Many entries in the list of endangered plant species in the state are endemic to the southern Western Ghats including Garcinia Imberti (a flowering plant from the Clusiaceae family) Janakiya Arayalpatra, Adenosma Malabaricum, Cinnamomum Travancoricum (a tree species with distribution in the Kannur and Thiruvananthapuram regions), Salacia Malabarica (a climber shrub) and Dialium Travancoricum (an evergreen tree species).

The KSBB project comes in as addition to ongoing conservation work anchored at the Forest Department.

P S Easa, director in-charge of Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), said extensive work was being carried out in biodiversity conservation. The KFRI is in the final stages of reviving seven endangered plant species.

“There are already projects – some with direct involvement of the Government of India – to protect plant and animal species that are facing extinction. But we can always do with more efforts as long as they are focused,” Easa told Deccan Herald.

Latidens Salimalli (Salim Ali’s fruit bat, a megabat species), Gyps Indicus (Indian vulture) and Fejervarya Murthii (species of frog endemic to the Western Ghats) are animal species listed in the MoEF notification.

Laladhas said conservation of these species would involve extensive detailing and the Board was planning to take it up at a later stage. While agreeing that there could be overlapping of conservation projects, Laladhas said KSBB required a formal template to kick off a project of this nature and the MoEF notification was only a starting point.

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