Endangered Wildlife in India
- Meaning of endangered species.
- Relation between the different species and the biodiversity of the world.
- Classification of the species according to the IUCN.
- List of the endangered species in India.
- The causes of extinction.
- Initiatives taken by the Government of India to protect endangered species.
- The different programmes taken by the UNESCO.
- Some important projects and laws launched by the Government of India to protect wildlife.
- Main causes regarding the threats to wildlife.
- Necessity of conservation.
Species are considered as the building blocks of biodiversity. However, due to unprecedented proportions of threat because of urbanisation, pollution and other authropogenic interventions, the biodiversity is shrinking.
Today, due to extinction of species, the biodiversity of world is threatened. Around the world there are 35 hotspots which support 43% birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians as endemic. India is home to three such hotspots—Eastern Himalayas, Indo-Burma and Western ghats. These areas also supports myriad wildlife population. However, many of these wildlives are threatened due to trespassing by man.
IUNC has compiled a list called 'Red Data Book'. 'Red' is symbolic of the danger that these species presently experience. IUCN has defined various categories or level at which different species are ranked in the list. The classification is extinct, extinct in wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened and least concern.
IUNC classifies the species under various categories by assessing them under following definitions
- Extinct species are the species whose last member has died, therefore leaving no surviving individual to reproduce.
- Critically endangered is the highest risk category assigned for wild species. It means that the species number have decreased or will decrease by 80% within three generations.
- Endangered species is the population of organisms which are at a risk of becoming extinct because either they are very few in number or are threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters.
- Vulnerable species are the species which are likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
- Extinct in the wild are the species known only by living member kept in captivity or as a naturalised population outside its historic range due to massive habitat loss.
- Near threatened species are species that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.
- Least concern species are the ones which are evaluated by not qualify for any other category to bring attention to them.
- Data deficient species are the species which indicate that there is inadequate information to make a direct or indirect, assessment of taxons' risk of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status.
According to IUCN Red Data List, there are 76 extinct, 2 extinct in the wild, 188 critically endangered, 448 endangered, 505 vulnerable, 323 near threatened, 3109 least concern and 836 data deficient species. In India statistics of few important species are Royal Bengal Tiger (Project tiger): Population 2226; Gangetic River Dolphin : Population 1200-1800 Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary Asian Elephant : Population 40000-50000 Project Elephant; Snow Leopard : Population 4080-6590 Project Snow Leopard.
In India, some critically endangered species are Sumatran Rhino, Kashmir Stag, Pygmy hog etc. Under the endangered category are Lion tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Great Indian one horn Rhinoceros etc. Some vulnerable animals are Black Buck, Gaur, Red Panda etc.
The causes of extinction of species can be analysed by two methods. Firstly, cause and effect, where due to extraneous reasons it happens e.g. ice age, anthropogenic causes, forest fires etc. Secondly, the extinction may be caused due to some random events viz food shortage, increase in number of predators, extreme weather events etc.
To conserve wildlife and protect endangered species, India adopted the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This act basically prohibited trade in rare ▪ and endangered species. Government at a central level assisted the State Government to strengthen their managerial and protectional infrastructure, protection of wildlife, control on poaching and illegal trade, captive 41006 • breeding programmes, wildlife education and interpretation, development of zoos, conservation of Rhinos in Assam and protection of Tiger, Elephant etc. The Act was amended in 2002 for making even more effective provisions for the endangered plants and animals. The Indian Board of Wildlife was also reconstituted to oversee and guide the implementation of various schemes.
The Government of India runs various projects like Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Project Hangul, Indian Crocodile Conservation Project, Protected Area Network, Action Plan for Vulture Conservation in India and many more.
In India, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, significant changes have taken place to protect the wildlife through a network of protected areas. Both, State Government and Central Government has the authority to announce wildlife sanctuaries in India.
Wildlife sanctuaries are made to ensure protection of the areas of ecological significance. Under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, sanctuaries as well as national parks can be declared. National parks enjoys greater degree of protection as certain activities are regulated in these areas.
At the global level conservation effort was launched in 1970 under Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB). MAB employs natural science, social science, technological interventions, awareness programmes to improve livelihood of man and safeguard the ecosystem.
Thus, promoting sustainability of the system. In 1976 under the aegis of UNESCO's MAB programme Biosphere Reserve Network Programme was launched. Biosphere reserves as defined by UNESCO is area of terrestrial and coastal ecosystem promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as 'Living Laboratories' for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity.
Biosphere reserve has core zone, buffer zone and transition zone. The core zone is left absolutely undisturbed. Some biosphere reserves of India are Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (first in India), Great Rann of Kutch (biggest). Ten out of eighteen biosphere reserves of India are in the world network of biosphere reserves of UNESCO under MAB Programme.
In India, animal specific conservation efforts have been carried out for : Tiger, Elephant, Vulture, one Horned Rhino, Snow Leopard, Sea Turtles, Crocodiles, Dolphins (river) etc. Project tiger is the most discussed and most valued one in India, as 'tiger' is our national animal. Therefore, in 1973 Project Tiger was launched to save the tiger population. Presently there are 48 tiger reserves in the country.
In its latest census in 2015 the tiger population grew to 2226 from 1706 in 2011. The tiger population in India is determined through : Pugmark technique, Camera trappings and DNA fingerprinting. Dolphin is also of significance as they have been declared as the national aquatic animal. Dolphins are mostly found in this region in Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. They are threatened because of fishing and recreational tourism.
In order to protect wildlife in India various legislations like Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Coastal Regulation Zone, Wetland Conservation and Management Rules 2010 were launched. Organisations involved in this field are Animal Welfare Board of India, Central Zoo Authority, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, National Ganga River Basin Authority.
Threats to wildlife due to man are caused due to hunting, poaching, man-animal conflict due to rising population, deforestation, land use transformation, tourism, forest fires, illegal trade of tusks, hide, horn etc, Various International conventions are active in conservation efforts.
Ramsar convention on wetlands adopted in 1975 is critically responsible for conservation of migratory birds. CITES convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, came into force in 1975. Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) also known as Bonn Convention. Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Global Tiger Forum also contribute is conservation of wildlife.
Valuing and conserving nature enhances the relation of man and nature. Wildlife plays an important role in the ecology and food chain. Disturbing their numbers or in extreme case extinction can have wide ranging effect over ecology and man. Therefore, need of the hour is to co-ordinate with international organisations for their conservation.Difficult Words with Meanings :
- Unprecedented without previous instance; never before known or experienced
- Anthropogenic caused or produced by humans
- Endemic belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place;
- Myriad an indefinitely great number or innumerable
- Trespassing an encroachment or intrusion
- Predation a mode of life in which food is primarily obtained by killing and consuming of animals
- Extraneous not relating to the subject or situation that you are dealing with
- Aegis the protection or support of a particular person or organisation
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
By John Pickrell
Life on Earth is in the throes of a new wave of mass extinction, unlike anything since the demise of the dinosaurs. In the last 500 years, 844 species – like the passenger pigeon, auk, thylacine, and quagga – are known to have died out, and up to 16,000 others are now known to be threatened. Two thirds of turtles could be gone by the 2025, great apes have recently declined by over 50% in parts of Africa, half of marsupials and one in three amphibians are in jeopardy, and a staggering 40% of Asia’s plants and animals could soon be lost.
But this may only be a fraction of the true number facing extinction. Though only 1.5 million species have been described, there could be between 5 to 30 million in total. Of these, some experts predict that one could be falling extinct every 20 minutes – or 27,000 a year.
Conservationists argue that humans have an ethical obligation to protect other species, that diversity and natural beauty are highly prized by mankind, and that biodiversity is a vital resource: we rely on ecosystems to provide food, oxygen and natural resources, recycle wastes and fertilise soils for agriculture. The total value of services provided to man by nature has been estimated at $33 trillion annually.
Plants and animals are also an essential source of new foods and medicines – up to 20,000 plants are used in medicines worldwide. Preserving species could help protect us from disease.
Natural disasters and processes were behind the five major mass extinctions in geological history, but the current “sixth extinction” is caused by success of one species – humans. The six billion (and counting) people crowding the Earth, are driving out biodiversity in a variety of ways.
Species form and die out naturally as a part of evolution. However, many experts argue the current extinction rate is as much as 100 or 1000 times higher than the “background” rate. Bird extinctions were the first to hint at this, but in 2004, studies of declining butterflies and plants confirmed it.
Humans began to destroy ecosystems in a major way about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. But within the last 100,000 years, the hunting and burning practices of Palaeolithic people, along with climate change, drove many large mammals and birds to extinction. North- and South America and Australia lost up to 86% of large mammals soon after humans arrived – species such as giant wombats, killer ducks, ground sloths, mammoths, sabre-tooth cats and moas.
The most common reason for extinction is habitat loss. Ecosystems from wetlands to prairies and cloud forests to coral reefs are being cleared or degraded for crops, cattle, roads and development. Even fragmenting habitats with roads or dams can make species more vulnerable. Fragmentation reduces population size and increases inbreeding, increases disease and opens access for poachers.
The Amazonian rainforest is today being cleared at rate of 24,000 km2 per year – equivalent to New York City’s Central Park being destroyed every hour. Worldwide, 90,000 km2 of forest is cleared annually.
In East Africa deforestation is destroying game parks, Singapore has lost 95% of its tropical forests, South East Asia may lose 74% by 2100. More than quarter of Earth’s land is under cultivation and in 54 countries 90% of forests have been felled.
Some endangered species also have to contend with exotic invaders – the second biggest threat to rare species. Introduced species prey on them, eat their food, infect them or otherwise disrupt them. Human seafarers have spread cats, dogs, rats, foxes, rabbits and weasels to new places, contributing to the McDonaldisation of Earth’s biota.
In Australia, rabbits and foxes are driving native marsupials to extinction; In New Zealand, weasels have been pushing the flightless Kakapo parrot to its doom; In North America, tiny European zebra mussels arrived in the 1980s with shipping, and clog waterways; In the US, once-ubiquitous chestnuts were decimated by an introduced blight. In Kenya’s Lake Victoria, the Nile perch has miraculously managed to eat its way through 200 cichlid fish species since 1959.And in Maryland, US, the voracious south-east Asian snakehead fish has been chomping its way through native fish and waterfowl since 2002.
Often exotic species, such as the cane toad, have even been introduced intentionally, to control other species with disastrous consequences. One unusual way to eradicate invaders could be for people to eat them.
Exploitation – hunting, collecting, fishing or trading – is another factor driving extinctions. American bison were hunted down from a population of 30 million before Europeans arrived, to just 750 animals in 1890. Whales were exploited so fiercely that the International Whaling Commission voted in 1986 to place a moratorium on most whaling. Blue whales, for example, were hunted down from a population of perhaps 300,000 to just a few thousand by the 1960s.
Today we continue to rape the oceans through overfishing. The UN claims that 15 of the top 17 fisheries are in decline. Exploited species include: the tuna, swordfish, red snapper, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic cod, sharks and lobsters. Now, overfishing of the smaller species that fleets have switched to may inhibit the recovery of the more-prized species that prey on them.
Canada’s Atlantic cod fishery was closed in 1992 following its collapse. Better management and stock modelling may help reverse the trend, but others argue that many fisheries are already doomed.
Other species are unintentionally killed as bycatch, by drift nets, longlines and deep-sea trawlers. Surveys reveal that 300,000 dolphins and small whales and as many as half of all remaining turtles are snared as bycatch each year. Overfishing could even put a strain on terrestrial wildlife.
Another significant challenge to conservation is the international trade in rare species. Second only to the illegal drug trade, it is thought to be worth more than illegal arms, and may net $10 billion a year. Tropical fish, birds (particularly parrots), and other animals are captured and sold as pets. Some – like turtles, whales and sharks – are prized as delicacies.
Others – such as tigers, rhinos and saiga – are killed to supply bones, gall bladders, horns and other body parts for traditional medicine. Horns, feathers, eggs and other trophies are smuggled to unscrupulous collectors. Trade in elephant ivory was banned in 1990, but despite the ban 4000 are still killed illegally each year.
The UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was set up in 1975 to stem the flow. Another body, TRAFFIC, monitors trade in rare species. One US forensics lab is dedicated to uncovering the illegal trade. Detection kits for bear tissue and different kinds of fur may help uncover illegal imports. However, some experts argue that we must allow limited trade of species in order to save them.
Pollution is another serious issue. If it does not kill animals outright, pollution can affect reproduction, mess with sexual development and trigger bizarre behaviour.
Mercury, dioxins, flame retardants, synthetic hormone, pesticides and other hydrocarbons such as DDT and PCBs are ubiquitous and carried far and wide. Carcinogenic pollutants are behind cancers in Canadian beluga whales. Sewage is ravaging Caribbean corals, while acid rain is killing fish and trees in Europe. Radioactive waste is found throughout oceans and ecosystems.
Oil spills continue to kill seabirds, marine and coastal life in regions such as Spain, Pakistan and the Galapagos islands. Between 1993 and 2002, 580,000 tonnes of oil spilt into the sea in 470 separate accidents.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) publishes the Red List – an annual index of threatened species. The IUCN, governments and conservationists try to protect these species by fencing them off and educating local people.
In 1872 Yellowstone National Park, in the US, became the world’s first modern reserve. During the last century 44,000 protected areas were designated, covering 10% of Earth’s land. Marine reserves only cover 1% of oceans, and more are needed.
The identification of biodiversity hotspots may help focus resources. Ecotourism may also be part of the solution, but could be part of the problem too. Returning the stewardship of forest reserves and other habitats to their indigenous inhabitants could help.
In Africa, 2 million km2 is designated as protected: reserves such as Aberdare, Tsavo and the Masai Mara in Kenya; Quiçama in Angola; Kruger in South Africa; Garamba and Virunga in Congo; Queen Elizabeth in Uganda and the Serengeti in Tanzania. In 2002 Brazil created the vast Tumucumaque National Park, the largest tropical forest reserve in the world, the same year that Australia created the world’s largest marine reserve.
Reintroducing species such as golden tamarin moneys, wolves and condors, has been a success. Some researchers even advocate reintroducing large animals such as lions and elephants to the US and wolves to the UK.
Failing these methods, if we collect genetic material now, we may be able to reincarnate extinct species by cloning them in the future.
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