Category Archives: india

Bad news: Wild buffaloes on brink of extinction

DNA INDIA – ASHWIN AGHOR

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!

MERINEWS

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’

MANGALOREAN.COM

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.

LiveMint.com

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 zooreach@zooreach.org or to AArk at ZOO WILD, PO Box 1683, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641004.

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Number of tigers in India plummets from 5,000 to 1,300 in seven years

 Independent.ie

Tigers driven to edge of extinction by poachers and loss of habitat

The disastrous impact of poaching and the destruction of the natural habitat of one of the planet’s most threatened animals will be made clear tomorrow when the Indian government is told that its remaining tiger population could be as low as 1,300.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, will be told that drastic action has to be taken against the two forces threatening the big cat’s chance of survival.

“That size of a population is scientifically not viable,” said Valmik Thapar, a tiger expert and member of the National Board of Wildlife, which is due to convene in Delhi for a meeting chaired by Mr Singh. “But in the real world you have to try as hard as you can.”

Along with the polar bear, the tiger symbolises perhaps more than any other large creature the majesty and power of the natural world. At the same time the tawdry story of the tiger’s decline – not just in India but in other countries where it clings on desperately – is a stark indictment of mankind’s apparent inability to preserve the natural habitats on which it depends.

No one knows precisely how many tigers are left in India, home to perhaps 80 per cent of the world’s remaining animals and which, at the turn of the 20th century, was estimated to have up to 100,000 animals. It is believed there were about 5,000 at the start of the decade.

The most recent census, conducted in 2001 and 2002, put the figure at 3,642. But many experts questioned the way in which that count was handled and a new census was carried out by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India using a more scientifically robust method. While the findings will not be formally announced until the end of the year, preliminary results of the new count have put the population at between 1,300 and 1,500.

“The new figures and facts came as no surprise to conservationists, although the government is still recovering from the shock,” said Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, which has several tiger programmes. “In Madhya Pradesh – which is known as the Tiger State – the study has shown a loss of 61 per cent on the figures of the previous tiger census. The state of Maharashtra has shown a loss of 57 per cent.”

She added: “In the past census … many tigers were found outside the tiger reserves. The new study shows virtually no tigers outside the tiger reserves.”

Experts say the reasons for the decline of the tiger are simple. Not enough is being done to halt the continued poaching of the animals, which are highly prized in China and other parts of east Asia for their pelts and body parts. A tiger skin can fetch up to £5,300 while tiger penises – traditionally believed to have near-magical properties – can fetch £14,000 per kilo.

The tiger has suffered from a loss of its habitat as a result of large-scale mining and hydro-power dam projects. The loss of habitat and prey encourages tigers, pure carnivores, to seize domestic livestock which in turn aggravates local farmers. The tiger is the national symbol but, in the past five years, poachers have been killing them at the rate of one a day, campaigners believe.

Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigations Agency, a London-based campaign group, said development projects often resulted in the displacement of communities who are left with a choice of moving to the slums of large cities or into the forests. “Living in the forests brings them into conflict with wildlife and the under-resourced, under-trained, ill-equipped forest department staff,” she said.

Mr Thapar, 55, who has written 15 books about tigers during three decades working with the animals, has said it would now “take a miracle” to save them. He warned of the impact of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, a piece of legislation passed last year and expected to become law in the coming months, which grants some of India’s most impoverished communities the right to own and live in the forests.

The problem, he said, was that all evidence showed humans and tigers could not co-exist. “If you are not going to set aside habitats where there are no humans then you cannot have tigers,” he said.

The decline of the tiger is not isolated to India. In the past century, tiger populations across the world have slumped by 95 per cent and, across a broad chunk of Asia, tigers are now confronting extinction. Indeed, of the nine known sub-species of tiger, three (the Caspian, Javanese and Balinese) are already extinct while another, the South China tiger, is nearing extinction in the wild with perhaps fewer than 30 surviving.

An estimated 4,000 of the South China sub-species – the only one native to central and southern China -roamed the country 50 years ago but its habitat has been dramatically reduced by the country’s rapid economic growth and the sub-species was declared officially extinct in 2003. Just this week, the Chinese authorities banned hunting in a mountainous area of Shaanxi province of north-west China where a young South China tiger was apparently sighted by a farmer. The sighting has generated much excitement among conservationists and a team of experts has been set up to conduct a search.

Ms Wright said that, in India, there may now only be two genetically viable populations of Bengal tiger, as the country’s sub-species is known. Those live in the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttaranchal and the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, which is said to haveinspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book.

There have been the occasional pieces of good news. Last month about 20 tigers were discovered in a mountainous forest range in the western state of Maharashtra from where they were thought to have long disappeared. But among such rare flashes of hope, experts say the evidence of the tiger’s ongoing decline have been all too clear. In February 2005, it was revealed all the tigers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan had been killed by poachers. Meanwhile, the size of the continuing trade in illegal tiger parts has been revealed by activists working undercover in places such as Tibet where there is flourishing business.

A senior official in India’s Environment Ministry said tomorrow’s meeting would evaluate progress at implementing recommendations made at the last meeting 18 months ago.

“Everyone is waiting for the [official] tiger report – even the Prime Minister,” the official told the Asian Age newspaper.

“It is only after the report is tabled that we will get the real picture, which we know is not going to be rosy. We know that we have lost large numbers of our big cats.”

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Five Rare Critically Endangered Species Of Asiatic Lions Found Dead In India

 All Headline News

New Delhi, India (AHN) – Five rare Asiatic lions were found electrocuted Friday at India’s Gir National Park in western Gujarat state, the Wildlife Protection Society of India reports.

The recent death of lions was caused by an electrified fence that was put up illegally by a farmer to protect crops near the sanctuary. A total of 32 rare lions have died at a national park this year.

Belinda Wright, the society’s executive director told the AFP, “The Asiatic lion is one of the most critically endangered species on this planet and this added twist of so many lions being killed by electrocution… is a catastrophe.”

“Preliminary information suggests that the three lionesses and two cubs were electrocuted by a crop protection fence put up by a farmer near Dhari, Amreli district, in an area adjoining Gir National Park,” she said in a statement.

Eight lions killed by poaching, six electrocuted, five fallen into wells, one hit by a vehicle and 12 others found dead, the society said.

Police had arrested the farmer responsible for recent death. If convicted in building an unauthorized fence that killed animals, the farmer faces seven years in prison.

Asiatic lions were once common in many parts of Asia, but only about 350 are known to remain, all in Gujarat state of India.

Their bones and claws are highly prized in India for use in traditional Chinese medicine and amulets respectively.

The 560-square-mile sanctuary is the world’s only natural habitat for the lions. The Society is currently working closely with the enforcement authorities to curb the killing of lions by professional poachers.

 

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Gujjars Lose 12 Pet Species, 6 on Verge of Extinction: Study

Kashmir Observer

Srinagar, Oct 20 (KONS): Within the period of last 40 years the nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals have lost one dozen of the rarest of rare traditional and indigenous species of sheep, goat, horses and dogs and almost half a dozen of rare native species considered most threatened in the world are at the verge of extinction in Himalayan belt of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, a recent study made public today said.

The study, conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, a national organization working on tribal affairs of India – reveals that the species which were distinctive with nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals from the times immemorial have gradually been lost since 1968 when Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi ( ICAR) under Ministry of Agriculture , Government of India, introduced certain foreign origin breeds in the state, adding this was done in order to get maximum yield in terms of wool, mutton and other viable benefits and is continues till date.

Releasing the study, Dr Javaid Rahi, the national secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation said that it is unfortunate that the planners while introducing the cross breeds among the livestock of nomads have not plan to preserved the native and indigenous species of the livestock of the Gujjars and Bakerwals in any pocket of the Himalayan belt.

The study reveals that among the traditional species of sheep, Ghidord Phamphri, Punchi Bakerwali, Bani and Karnahi have already vanished while in the goat species Gurziya , Belori, Lamdi, and Goodri, species have already been extinct.

In the horse breeds Yarkandi (Bakerwali), Nukra and Bharssi horse species have do not exist any more.

Study further reveals that in goat species, Kaghani , Lubdi and Kilan species are at the verge of extinction while as the Jaskardi, Kaliani and other rare species of horses are also at the verge of extinction.

The Gujjars and Bakerwals of Himalayan belt have lost almost all the native species of Sheep and presently they have only foreign Australian an Merino species of sheep are available in the livestock. The study further reveals that the Bhrokpa, Changpa and Dard tribes of Ladakh are lucky enough as their traditional species of their livestock are still preserved in remote pockets of Shivalik area of Himalayan belt.

“Most of Gujjars and Bakerwals who are unhappy with the present state of affairs in respect of cross breeding of their livestock wish to switch over to their traditional breeds but such species do not exist anywhere in the Himalayan belt of India.” Rahi said.

It is astonishing that no genetic study has been ever conducted to preserved the distinct characteristics of the primitive traditional species of the livestock of Gujjars and Bakerwals and without the knowledge of consequences, such species have lost their existence, the study said .

“It is a world wide phenomena that the government institutions preserve the genres of rarest of rare species and the same has been done in respect of Australia , Canada, USA, UK, USSR and brazil where besides introducing cross breeds the traditional species have also been preserved and where cross breed does not work or is not viable in terms of climate or commercial benefits, they switch back to original species and thus safeguard the interests of the people connected with livestock . The same has not been in case of Himalayan States of India , by ICAR .

In same difficult areas of the Himalayan Region some of the foreign origin breeds have almost failed to deliver the required results and in the meanwhile the rarest rare of species which were for mountainous and cold regions of the area have been finished to take the place, said the study.

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