Category Archives: india

Bad news: Wild buffaloes on brink of extinction


Experts recommend immediate measures to protect the species, as only seven are alive. The number was 35 in 2002

MUMBAI: The wild buffalo, the third biggest land mammal, is facing extinction. If measures to protect them are not taken, there will be no more of the species, said Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation and Bivash Pandav, programme leader, tiger and other big cats, WWF-International, Nepal. The two visited the Sitanadi-Udanti Tiger Reserve (SUTR) in Chhattisgarh and Sunabeda-Khariar Tiger Reserve in Orissa recently.

Rithe said, “The SUTR is one of the homes for the remaining wild buffaloes in central India. We were shocked to see the situation of the animal here.”

Pandav, who is in charge of 11 countries to co-ordinate WWF International’s tiger and
other big cats programme, said: “Wild buffaloes are found only in north-east region and in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra in central India. The species, listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, needs to be protected at any cost, as these are ancestors of all domestic buffaloes and are must to maintain the century-old gene pool.”

The population of wild buffaloes has drastically dropped to seven from 35 in 2002. Surprisingly, there is not a single male among the seven surviving animals in wild.

During the visit to the SUTR, the team saw a hyena and a pair of jackals, chital, sambar and blue bull in the sanctuary. However, there was virtually no evidence of the presence of wild buffalo.

The visit to SUTR was also shocking. “We visited the enclosure where a wild buffalo and a nine-month-old calf have been kept. Though the field protection is good, there is no increase in the wild buffalo population,” Rithe said.

Terming the situation of wild buffalo in Udanti as critical, Pandav said, “The time seems to be running out for the animal in Udanti. This is not the time to do any kind of experiment. Only clear and concerted action would save this mega herbivore species.”

There are doubts about origin of the only female wild buffalo in an enclosure. There is an urgent need to conduct the DNA analysis to ascertain the same. Rithe said that captive breeding programme should be implemented under the guidance of experts in wild buffaloes to increase the population of the animal.

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Another creature edging towards extinction!


OUT OF the nine species of storks found throughout North-east Asia, the adjutant stork is the largest. The population of this species is dwindling fast. At the beginning of the 19th century, Assam was the habitat for lakhs of greater adjutant storks. After India’s Uttaranchal, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Brahmaputra valley has been the main habitat for this fast-dwindling species of stork. But now, ironically, they can be easily counted in this once highly-populated habitat.

Deepor Beel and Silsaku Beel were some of the famous wetlands of Guwahati known as the resting grounds of these species of storks.

Apart from these, a flock of greater adjutant storks was also sighted near Guwahati Commerce College, Hajimusaphirkhana and Maligaon’s Aruna Cinema Hall. But now only a few of them can be seen in parts of Deepor Beel, Charusala Beel and Hajimusaphirkhana. But quite noticeably, a few years back, a number of birds belonging to this species died because of some unknown reason in Deepor Beel.

It is to be noted here that this particular species of stork plays an important role in maintaining the ecological balance. Lack of proper habitat and food are the major causes behind the declining number of this species. And since food is a major requirement for reproduction, a planned conservation measure is the only means to ensure their continuation.

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Mangalore: ‘Catfish is extinct in coastal Karnataka’


MANGALORE May 23: Excessive fishing in the coastal region has resulted in the extinction of fish species such as catfish, according to director of the Kochi-based Centre for Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) N.G.K. Pillai.

Mr. Pillai, who was here to participate in a seminar, told The Hindu that a few species, including catfish, had already disappeared from the seas, and many species of fish were on the threshold of “sustainable-level”. He said that about 15 years ago, Karnatakas coastal belt was known for catfish. “Although it is now found in the coasts of other States, including Kerala, it is not available in this region. There were two species of catfish in this region and both of them have disappeared,” he said.

Stating that excessive fishing had affected marine biodiversity, Mr. Pillai called for urgent measures to prevent further damage to the fish species.
Export declines

Mr. Pillai said export of marine products, in terms of quantity, was declining. Indian exporters were, on the one hand, not able to meet the norms laid down by importers in countries such as the U.S. in some cases and, on the other, they had to cope with competitors in Vietnam, China and Thailand, among others. These countries had taken up aquaculture in a big way, he added.

Besides, the Indian fishing industry should re-invent itself by diversifying and adding value to the products. It could produce and market the ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat kind of products. “Everyone is looking for such products, nowadays,” he said. Indian aqua culturists, whose exports stood at about 1.3 lakh tonnes a year, were facing the problem of disease and they were not able control it. Production cost of aquaculture products was higher in India than in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, he said.
New species

These countries cultivated a new species, “Vanemi”, which was easier to grow and resistant to diseases. There has been a demand to import this variety to try it out in India. That was yet to happen. Import of the species may lead to higher yield. Indian aquaculture industry was grew another species, “Tiger prawn” and “Vanemi” was an exotic species, Mr. Pillai said.

He said that he had instructed the scientists at Mangalore Research Centre of CMFRI to organise monthly interactions with fishermen and their leaders in villages so that they could identify new areas of research. On the complaints that research data of the centre were not easily accessible for public, Mr. Pillai said steps were being taken to address this issue.

Mr. Pillai inaugurated the seminar on “Biodiversity”, organised by the Mangalore Research Centre.

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Lakshadweep corals on verge of extinction

Tigers are not the only critically endangered species, India’s stunning coral formations stand squarely at cross roads, threatened by a rise in sea water temperatures caused by global warming.

In Lakshadweep’s Bangaram island, the terrain has white rubble, a graveyard of dead coral.

The death of live corals in the Arabian Sea could have an impact on the survival of the Lakshadweep islands because coral reefs act as natural breakwaters which minimise the impact of waves from powerful storms such as cyclones and typhoons.

Besides, live coral reefs support an estimated twenty-five per cent of all marine life, with over 4,000 species of fish alone.

So why is the coral in the Lakshadweep chain dying out?

The answer is global warming, which affects ocean biology and ocean biology in turn influences our climate and if either don’t work then we all suffer.

In fact, there is already clear-cut evidence of how a rise in sea water temperatures can be catastrophic for India’s coral reef. In 1998, a temporary change in the climate of the Pacific Ocean linked to the El Nino effect devastated corals in the Arabian Sea.

For Mitali Kakar who has been diving in these waters for sixteen years, the death of the stunning coral treasures in the Lakshadweep chain is a wake-up call. The islanders can do very little to control global warming but its critical to protect what remains of the coral reef.

”There are very few coral atolls left in the world and they are here in India but they may not be around for much longer and we have to protect them. They act as thermometers of the ocean and are very fragile,” said Mitali Kakar, Reefwatch Marine Conservation.

So is it all over then for India’s corals? Is this a basket case?

Fortunately, no. While some of the coral reefs around the islands have been reduced to rubble, there are remarkable signs of recovery elsewhere.

A lot of young coral can be seen which has shown the resilience to survive the rise in sea water temperatures so far. Apart from this, the local fishermen hunt for Tuna in deeper waters and do not depend on fishing off the reef for their survival.

The lesser the human presence, the greater the possibility of coral recovery in these islands.

The year 2008 is the international year of the reef, an opportunity to highlight the importance of corals, which are living organisms and have evolved over 200 to 300 million years.

The Maldives-Chago-Lakshadweep chain of islands in the Arabian Sea is the largest coral atoll system in the world, a system that stands squarely at a crossroads.

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A new bait to save endangered Gangetic dolphins

 The Hindu

New Delhi (PTI): A bait developed from the viscera of ordinary fish by the conservationists of Patna University is expected save the lives of endangered Gangetic dolphins. “Since an alternative to dolphin oil, widely used by the fishermen to prepare baits to catch fish in eastern India, was needed so we have extracted oil from the viscera of rohu, katla and mrigel and added other ingredients to make the bait,” Ravindra Kumar Sinha, scientist and conservationist at Patna University said.

Sinha specialises in the field of conservation of dolphins in the Ganges river system and is also a member of International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) which proposed steps to curb dolphin killing.

“More than 80 per cent of the dolphins are killed in Bihar, Bengal and Assam for dolphin oil so an alternative to it can only stop their death,” he said. River pollution, degradation of habitat for damming and siltation of river beds have also severely reduced their population in the rivers of the sub-continent.

“They need both shallow and deep water for living but these conditions are not found in the smaller rivers so they are found only in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their large tributaries,” Sinha said.

According to a recent census, only 2,000 dolphins are found in India. Boto variety is found in Brazil whereas the Baiji variety, available in China is extinct. Sinha and other researchers have been training fishermen of Bihar and Assam to use the new bait to catch fish.


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With eye on economy, India may be blind to endangered tigers

Environmentalists fear that the new Act could reverse decades of progress in preserving the tigers, forests.

Kailashpuri, India: A tale about the forest dweller and the tiger sounds like some ancient Indian fable, a parable of man versus beast handed down through the ages and adapted by Rudyard Kipling for Western consumption.

But this is a real-life story unfolding today, as India’s government seeks to protect the country’s dwindling population of Bengal tigers while balancing the privileges of man. India has nearly half the world’s estimated 3,500 tigers. But in a country where the human population has ballooned to more than 1.1 billion—most of whom live on less than $2 (Rs79) a day—the government is also focused on expanding the economy and reducing poverty.

Parliament recently passed a law that enshrines the right of forest dwellers to remain in the forests and could allow the return of hundreds of thousands of people who abandoned their claim to the forest decades ago.

Environmentalists fear that the new law—known as the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, and due to come into force in the coming weeks—throws open the gates of India’s national parks and reverses decades of progress in preserving the country’s shrinking forests and the tigers that live in them.

“The economy is the priority now and everything else can go to hell,” said Valmik Thapar, a conservationist and author who for more than a decade has publicized the plight of India’s critically endangered tigers.

As more and more of India’s forests are logged or turned into farms to feed its ever-expanding human population, the number of tigers has plummeted from an estimated 40,000 in 1925 to fewer than 1,500 today, a figure that some experts say is the tipping point for extinction. Protecting the animal has long been a national goal.

In Rajasthan, the Ranthambore National Park attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year eager to glimpse the elusive orange-and-black striped cats, the core of a growing tourism trade here that brings in more than $22 million a year, including at least $300,000 in park entry fees. But the potential strains created by the Forest Dwellers Act are plain to see here, too.

About 200,000 villagers live just outside the national park, many of them former forest dwellers. They were coaxed out of the forest over the past 30 years with promises of schools, health clinics and electricity—all part of a government-backed programme to protect the tiger habitat.

“By now, most of us have forgotten how to live in the forest. We are farmers now, not hunters,” said Chittat Gurjar, 67, a slim man in a white turban. Another villager, Kastoori Gurjar, 78, said she has no intention of returning to live in the forest. But she does want to visit.

“We just want to be allowed back in to worship our gods, who stayed in the forest,” she said, with tearful eyes as she recalled her childhood in the thick woods of the park.

The rights of India’s forest dwellers need to be protected, the Act’s supporters say. Media reports that thousands of forest dwellers have been evicted and many forest communities violently harassed in recent weeks, which some analysts say is an effort to limit the number of people eligible to initiate land claims underthe Act.

Environmentalists and wildlife experts are lobbying Parliament and the courts to strike down the law, widely seen as a populist vote-getter in the lead-up to next year’s general elections.

“This is legislation that no one in Parliament can say no to. It’s part of India’s romanticized notion of forest dwellers as people who live in harmony with the land,” said Goverdhan Singh Rathore, whose non-governmental organization, the Prakratik Society, provides schooling and medical care for many of the villagers who were once forest dwellers.

“That might have been true in the past, but the reality now is that if the growing numbers of forest dwellers are allowed to remain in the national parks and others with historic claims to the land are allowed back in, India’s forests will be gone very soon, and with them, the tigers,” Rathore said.

Luxury hotels and “eco-lodges” have sprouted on the edges of the Ranthambore National Park. Tourists pile into open-roofed jeeps and 20-seater buses that rumble along dirt roads through nearly 800 sq. km of forest, passing langurs, elk-sized deer called sambhars and monitor lizards that dart back into the brush as the cars pass.

But here, as throughout India, the chances of seeing a tiger are getting slimmer.

At least four of India’s 27 tiger reserves no longer have tigers. Some observers believe that at least nine other reserves in India also are in danger of losing their remaining tigers to poachers or to villagers who set out poisoned carcasses to kill animals that venture beyond the boundaries of the reserves to attack their livestock.

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A hop away from extinction

The Hindu


BANGALORE: They are not exactly cutie-pies. Being slimy and warty, frogs may not feature in your list of favourite animals. But you’ve got to admit you would miss their rrribbids if they fell silent on a rainy night. And, tellingly, they are an indicator of the health of the local environment.

According to research by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), nearly half of the Earth’s 6,000 amphibians, including frogs, are in danger of extinction. Destruction of habitat, trade and over-collection are just some of the factors that are threatening the frogs along with a another unstoppable killer, amphibian chytrid, a fungal disease that has the capacity to catalyse what could be the largest mass extinction since dinosaurs disappeared, according to IUCN.

To save the frog from this fate, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, IUCN’s Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group have formed Amphibian Ark, a programme designed to educate, raise funds and captive breed the species. They have also declared 2008 as the Year of the Frog.

Frogs form an essential part of the ecosystem – as predator and prey – snapping up bugs and insects that destroy crops, and ending up in turn as sumptuous meals for birds, fish and turtles (or on dinner plates for those consider frog legs a delicacy).

In India, the campaign will be promoted by the Amphibian Network of South Asia and its hosts and Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO).

Sanjay Molur, Deputy Director of ZOO, Coimbatore, says: “In India, the focus is always on new research, on discovering new species. But a lot of work needs to be done to determine the status of frogs.” For instance, he says, “there is no information on whether chytrid sickness has spread rapidly in India. It may be killing frogs silently somewhere in India without our knowledge.”

A training workshop has been initiated by ZOO in Periyar to train individuals and prepare them to handle this crisis, Mr. Molur adds. “We have also come out with over 5,000 Amphibian Ark publications to educate the general public, students, teachers and government officials.”

The educational programmes and activity will become vigorous in the run up to 2008 when the whole campaign will begin on a large scale, he says. The funds raised from this global campaign will be used to raise funds for the conservation work of these amphibians.

For more information about this campaign or be a part of it, write to or to AArk at ZOO WILD, PO Box 1683, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641004.


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