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‘Human pressures affecting endangered species in Sundarbans’


New Delhi: Sundarbans, one of the largest sanctuaries for the Royal Bengal tiger in the world, is undergoing changes in its ecosystem due to “human pressures” which threaten the population of endangered species including the big cat, a new study says.

The study conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also says that the Indian side of Sundarbans is being subjected to various anthropogenic and natural processes affecting the distribution, quality and diversity of its mangroves.

“Human pressures and ecosystem changes are combining to threaten the population of endangered Royal Bengal tigers, one of the iconic species of the Sundarbans,” says the report titled ‘Sharing Lessons on Mangrove Restoration’.

The Sundarbans, covering 10,000 sq kms of land and water (more than half of it in India, the rest in Bangladesh) in the Ganges delta, contains the world’s largest area of mangrove forests. A number of endangered species live in the forests, including tigers, aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles.

Currently, over 4.2 million people live on the fringes of the Indian Sundarbans, resulting in high anthropogenic pressures on the mangroves and their resources.

“In recent years, climate change, regulation of freshwater flow, illicit mangrove felling, poaching and unplanned embankments for settlements have emerged as the main threats to the ecosystem,” the report says.

It says that the central part of the Indian Sundarbans receives almost no fresh water because of heavy siltation and clogging of the Bidyadhari channel.

“Seawater intrusion has further affected the growth of dominant mangrove species such as the freshwater-loving Heritiera fomes. The influence of salinity and effects of climate change, though not well-understood, appear to be promoting the invasion of alien species in some parts of the Sundarbans,” the report adds.



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Nearly-extinct water buffaloes now under protective radar


The endangered Asiatic wild water buffaloes largely found in Central India are now on the radar of conservationists from across the world. The international and national experts in their four-day meet from Monday in Maharashtra is to draw up an action plan for their protection.

According to experts, the global population is estimated to be around 3,400 of which 3,100 or 91% are in India, mostly in Assam and few  in Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. Wild buffaloes are presently

facing the threat of extinction in central India.

The workshop will  be  organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group,  (IUCN sub-Committee for Species Conservation Planning), Satpuda Foundation and Wildlife Trust of India under the aegis of Forest Department of Maharashtra.

Dr James Burton, who is chair of Species Survival Commission (SSC) of Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group in IUCN and also worings for Earthwatch Institute in UK, is expected to attend the workshop. Other international experts including Dr Helen Senn a research Scientist, WildGenes Laboratory of Royal Zoological Society of Scotland,Edinburgh, UK, would also attend the meet to discuss the means of protection of these species

The species is Endangered (IUCN Red List) and is threatened by poaching, loss of habitat and genetic pollution by hybridizing with domestic stock. The latter also makes population estimates of wild buffalo difficult.

The event aims at bringing together the wildlife managers as well as the wildlife experts to discuss, design and implement an action plan for conservation of wild water buffaloes in central India. said Mr. S. W. H. Naqvi, Chief Wildlife Warden of Maharashtra state.

The participants would deliberate and exchange strategies that can  protect the species in various states particularly in Chattisgarh, Maharashtra amongst others said Kishor Rithe, President of Satpuda Foundation and member of National Board for Wildlife who is instrumental to co-ordinate different agencies for organising this workshop.

The experts from Wildlife Trust of India, Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF ,Ministry of Environment and Forest, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would also attend

the meet.

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Great Indian Bustard on verge of extinction


JAIPUR: It may soon be the end of the Great India Bustard (GIB), the state bird of Rajasthan. Repeated apathy of the government and a lack of will has pushed this bird to the brink of extinction in the desert state. Even the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List 2011of threatened birds has classified GIB as ‘Critically Endangered,’ the highest level of threat. Currently, there are just 250 GIBs in the country.

The winter count of the bird in the state was registered at 89, a mere shadow of the pride that the state held once for having more than half of the its entire population in the country. The bird, found only in India, has its presence also in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Karnataka.

According to Rajpal Singh, the state coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature, which conducts the survey along with the state forest department, the bird is now mainly confined to the desert with just one or two found in Ajmer, an area that once had the bird in abundance. Even the grasslands of Bhilwara and Kota have only a few of these birds.

Singh blames the lack of will by the government in protecting the bird and in saving its habitat as the reason for the gradual disappearance of the bird. “The Sonkaliya area in Ajmer used to be known for the GIB habitat but over the years, the grasslands have disappeared due to illegal mining and rampant agriculture thus affecting the habitat of the bird.”

The Sonkaliya comprises a cluster of 43 villages and due to the large presence of the GIB here, it was declared as a closed area with hunting strictly banned in the zone under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. At that time, hunting was not banned. A ban on hunting came only in 1992.

Later the Act was amended in 2002 and provisions were made in it so that areas such as Sonkaliya that had large presence of a species could either be declared as a conservation reserve, if it happened to be on a government revenue land, or a community reserve if were on a community land.

“But the state did not initiate any move to declare the area as a reserve. Illegal mining began and as a result the entire habitat of the bird disappeared. In the deserts in western Rajasthan, including areas such as Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and the Rajasthan canal along with rampant animal husbandry adversely affected the bird,” Singh added.

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Male buffalo on verge of extinction


SAPTARI: The rare wild male buffalo found only in the Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve here is facing threat of extinction.

This situation has arisen due to the negligence of the Reserve administration and the army unit deployed for guarding the reserve.

As per a census conducted in 2004 by the Reserve administration, the number of male wild buffaloes in the reserve was 54. However, the latest count up of buffalo is only 34.

Warden Ashok Ram said although the overall wild buffalo population has increased, the number of the male of the species has decreased.

Dwindling number of male wild buffaloes is a matter of concern for the wildlife conservationists as the male of the species has vital role in improving the genetic strain and the population of the species.

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Vultures’ census to be conducted on May 26, 27


RAJKOT: The Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, an autonomous body of Forests and Environment department, will carry out a vultures’ census in association with local NGOs in the state on May 26 and 27.

The last vultures’ population estimation was carried out in 2010. Recently, the state government said in the state assembly that there are only 1,065 vultures remaining in the state.

According to nature conservationists, three species of vultures endemic to South Asia, the Oriental white-rumped vulture, long-billed vulture and slender-billed vulture are at high risk of extinction.

Use of the veterinary drug diclofenac is responsible for these three species reaching the brink of extinction. The central government had banned veterinary use of the drug in May 2006.

Vulture conservationists say that despite the ban, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is still available in the open market in 30ml bulk.

According to officials, in Gujarat, there were 2,135 vultures in 2005 which declined to 1,065 in 2010 showing a 50% decline. The vulture species are protected under scheduled one category of Wildlife Protection Act.

However, conservationists are hopeful that the rate of decline of endangered vultures might be slower than earlier years as many efforts are being put in place by forest department, different birds’ conservation groups and local NGOs to save the vanishing vultures.

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Poachers kill endangered black buck in Berasia forest


BHOPAL: Nine days after the killing of a spotted deer, a black buck was reportedly shot by poachers in Berasia forest range near here, officials said on Saturday.

Though the forest department flying squad members reached the spot on getting the sniff of the poachers, they couldn’t save the black buck that had gone down to Deghapur village under Beraisa range to quench its thirst at a water body. The endangered animal was shot at by around 10 unidentified poachers at that time.

After being hit by bullets, the black buck ran to some distance before collapsing. Though the poachers too followed it, on seeing some local persons around, they fled the spot leaving behind a big knife and other articles. Before the flying squad reached, poachers melted in the jungle.

After post-mortem, the endangered animal’s body has been disposed of. It died due to the gun shot injury, Bhopal sub divisional officer (Forest) S C Jain said. “We are investigating the matter to find out the poachers,” he said.

About spotted deer killing of April four in Berasia, the SDO said 11 people have been rounded up.

It appears that due to the rise in temperature, deforestation and drying up of water bodies inside the forests around the city, animals were straying into human habitat and falling prey to poachers.

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Deforestation threatens endangered bird in Nagaland


Kohima: Deforestation and conversion of land for agriculture has caused habitat loss leading to threat to Blyth’s tragopan, an endangered bird, in Nagaland.

According to the latest annual report of the forest and wildlife department, large-scale hunting and snaring of this enchanting bird by people for food was also a big threat.

It said, excessive human intervention into the pheasant’s habitats was rapidly fragmenting the remaining habitats of this avian species.

The Blyth’s tragopan is listed in Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act and classified as vulnerable on International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red data list.

The bird is found in the foothills of Saramati mountain bordering Myanmar, Fakim wildlife sanctuary, Dzuku valley, Khonoma, Pfutsero, Meluri, Noklak and Mount Paona and Benreu in Peren district.

The report said the captive breeding project under World Pheasant Association (WPA) was successful in the state.

But though the number of birds increased, it said, its quality and character degenerated due to inbreeding.

Under the agreement, the WPA was obligated to promote the off-site captive breeding of the bird in the United Kingdom and to build up a viable stock in case of future requirement for re-introduction back in Nagaland, it said.

The WPA also assured to train personnel in the technique of tragopan breeding.

Although captive breeding was initially carried out successfully at Kohima Zoological Park, it could not be sustained due to lack of proper infrastructure and technical proficiency.


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