Current News - Ecology & Environment - Conservation

Madhya Pradesh Gets New Tiger Reserve

Recently, Madhya Pradesh, the tiger state of India, got a new protected area for the big cats.

Key Points

  • New Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh: Veerangana Durgavati Tiger Reserve is the seventh tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Location: It is spread across Sagar, Damoh, and Narsinghpur districts.
  • The core area of the tiger reserve is 1,414 square kilometers, and the buffer zone is 925.12 square kilometers.
  • Tiger Conservation Efforts in Madhya Pradesh: Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers in India.
  • The state has been making significant efforts to conserve tigers and their habitats.
  • The new tiger reserve will further boost tiger conservation efforts in the state.
  • The new tiger reserve has been notified in compliance with the condition imposed by the Centre while giving approval to the Ken-Betwa River Link Project.
  • The previously notified eco-sensitive zone of Nauradehi and Veerangana Durgavati sanctuaries and the surrounding forest areas have been included in the notified buffer area.

RNA Successfully Extracted from Preserved Tasmanian Tiger Specimen

In a groundbreaking experiment, researchers have achieved the extraction of Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) from a preserved specimen of an extinct Tasmanian tiger, marking the first-ever recovery of RNA from an extinct species.

Key Points

  • RNA Extraction Milestone: The specimen, preserved since 1891 in a Stockholm Museum, has significant implications for efforts to recreate extinct species and understand the causes of past pandemics.
  • The Tasmanian Tiger: Also known as the thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger was a carnivorous marsupial resembling a dog in size.
  • It once inhabited the Australian continent and nearby islands as an apex predator, preying on kangaroos and other species. However, due to human activities, the species became extinct.
  • Insights into Thylacine Biology: RNA sequencing from the preserved specimen provides insights into the biological and metabolic processes that occurred within the Tasmanian tigers before their extinction, shedding light on their physiology and genetics.
  • Thylacine's Extinction: The arrival of European colonizers in the 18th century led to significant population declines among the Tasmanian tigers, which were concentrated on the island of Tasmania.
  • The last-known Tasmanian tiger perished in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936.

Worst-Case Scenario Predicts Threat to Over 75% of European Bumblebee Species

A recently published paper presents alarming worst-case-scenario projections, suggesting that more than 75% of European bumblebee species may face threats in the next 40-60 years.

Key Points

  • Dire Projections for Bumblebee Species: The primary drivers of these projected population declines are habitat degradation and climate alterations resulting from human activities.
  • Urgent Call for Climate Mitigation: The findings emphasize the critical role of climate change mitigation policies in safeguarding bumblebee populations from the adverse effects of human-induced changes to the environment.
  • Bumblebees, specifically the Bombus genus, play a vital role in pollinating both wild and crop plants, benefiting approximately 90% of all wild plants.
  • Impact on Ecosystems: Human-induced transformations of natural habitats and rising temperatures are implicated as key factors contributing to wildlife decline.
  • Understanding the trajectory of insect populations, including bumblebees, is crucial for devising effective conservation efforts.
  • Potential Refuges and Ongoing Challenges: Parts of Scandinavia may serve as potential refuges for displaced or threatened bumblebee species, although it remains uncertain whether these regions will remain unaffected by human activity-driven changes.

New Report Reveals 150 Elephant Corridors in India

A recent report from the Union Environment Ministry unveils the existence of at least 150 elephant corridors in India, with West Bengal topping the list with 26 such passages.

This is a significant increase from the 88 corridors identified in the 2010 Elephant Task Force report.

Key Points:

  • Intensification and Status of Elephant Corridors: The report notes an intensification of elephant use in 59 corridors, stability in 29, and a decrease in 29 others.
  • Conservation Importance: The report emphasizes the significance of safeguarding elephant corridors to prevent demographic isolation and maintain genetic diversity, reducing the risk of extinction for elephant populations.
  • India's Elephant Population: As of the last estimate in 2017, India is home to approximately 30,000 elephants, constituting 60 percent of the global elephant population.
  • Regional Distribution of Corridors: Among the four elephant-bearing regions in India, the east-central region boasts the highest number of corridors at 52, followed by the northeast region with 48 and the southern region with 32.
  • The northern region has the fewest corridors, numbering 18.
  • Corridor Locations and Trans-National Corridors: Out of the 150 corridors, 126 are within individual state boundaries, while 19 span two states.
  • Additionally, six trans-national corridors exist between India and Nepal, mainly in Uttar Pradesh.

Conservation Efforts by Government to Protect Elephants

Project Elephant (1992 - Present)

  • Launched in 1992, it's a dedicated, ongoing initiative to conserve India's elephant population.
  • Key objectives include protecting elephants, preserving their migration routes, and safeguarding their natural habitats.

Global Tribute on World Elephant Day

  • World Elephant Day, observed annually on August 12, highlights the global significance of these majestic animals.
  • Raises awareness about their crucial role in the ecosystem.

Creation of Elephant Corridors

  • Government-established elephant corridors ensure safe movement for elephants.
  • These designated patches of land provide access to food and water within forests, reducing human-elephant conflicts.
  • Utilizes LiDAR technology for precise corridor planning.

Financial Support and Crop Insurance

  • States and Union Territories receive financial aid through the 'Project Elephant' Centrally Sponsored Schemes.
  • Crop insurance under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana covers farmers whose crops are damaged by wildlife, including elephants.

Capacity Building and Training

  • Ongoing efforts to enhance the capacity and training of forest personnel.
  • Focus on effective elephant population management and conflict mitigation.

National Heritage Animal Designation

  • Elephant designated as the National Heritage Animal in India.
  • Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) receives the highest protection under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Ban on Ivory Trade and Protection Measures

  • Strict prohibition of elephant ivory trade in India.
  • All ivory markets and carvings closed since 1990.
  • Robust protection contributes to a stable Asian elephant population in the country.

DNA Profiling and Collaboration

  • Conduct DNA profiling of captive elephants.
  • Mobile application for data capture, reliable marking and tracing.

Government Policies and Legal Framework for Elephant Protection

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

  • Elephants listed in Schedule 1, receiving the highest level of protection.
  • Ownership of an elephant requires permission from the local Chief Wildlife Warden.

CITES Ratification (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

  • Ratified in 1976, placing the Asiatic elephant in Appendix 1.
  • Prohibits international trade in species threatened with extinction.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

  • Formulated Animal Welfare Board.
  • Utilized for the care of captive elephants.

Gajah Task Force, 2010

  • Reviewed existing elephant protection measures.
  • Recommended various conservation strategies.
  • Identified 26 wildlife corridors for immediate enhancement.

Gaj Yatra and Gaj Mahotsav

  • Initiated in 2017 and 2018 by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and Wildlife Trust of India.
  • Interactive events promoting elephant awareness.
  • Focus on securing wildlife corridors as highlighted in the "Rights of Passage" report.

HEC Mitigation (Human-Elephant Conflict)

  • Launch of the Surakshya portal in 2020.
  • Facilitates real-time monitoring of human-elephant conflicts to aid policymakers.

Gaj Gaurav Award, 2022

  • Recognizes grassroots efforts in elephant conservation.
  • Encourages and incentivizes elephant care initiatives.

Railway Track Rerouting to Reconnect Gibbon Sanctuary

Primatologists have recently recommended the redirection of a 1.65-km long railway track that bisects the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary in eastern Assam, dedicated to the western hoolock gibbon, aiming to restore the sanctuary's unity.

Key Points

  • Artificial Canopy Bridge Proposal: Earlier, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) proposed the concept of an artificial canopy bridge to enable the movement of hoolock gibbons across the broad-gauge line within the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.
  • Challenges of Habitat Isolation: The sanctuary, which is home to approximately 125 hoolock gibbons, finds itself in the Jorhat district, encompassing an area of 21 sq. km.
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation have rendered these gibbons, India's sole ape species, endangered.
  • Genetic Variability at Risk: The existing railway track isolation has led to effective isolation of gibbon families on either side of the track.
  • This separation compromises the genetic diversity of the gibbon population, further exacerbating their already precarious survival within the sanctuary.
  • Preservation Efforts: The primatologists' recommendation to reroute the railway track seeks to restore connectivity within the sanctuary, preserving the genetic variability and survival prospects of the western hoolock gibbon, a critically endangered species.

Rajasthan's Dholpur-Karauli Becomes India's 54th Tiger Reserve

On 22nd August, India added its 54th tiger reserve in the districts of Karauli and Dholpur in Rajasthan, with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) giving its approval to the proposal.

Key Points:

  • Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan: This new addition marks Rajasthan's fifth tiger reserve after Ranthambore, Sariska, Mukundra Hills, and Ramgarh Vishdhari.
  • In-Principle Approval for Kumbhalgarh: Kumbhalgarh in Rajasthan has been granted in-principle approval to become a Tiger Reserve.
  • Benefits for the Region: The establishment of these reserves is expected to create employment opportunities through ecotourism, benefiting the local communities.
  • Tiger Population Growth: Government data indicates a rise in India's tiger population from 2,967 in 2018 to 3,682 in 2022, showcasing an annual growth rate of 6%. Madhya Pradesh leads with the highest number of tigers (785), followed by Karnataka (563), Uttarakhand (560), and Maharashtra (444). This increase reflects a 50% growth in the last four years in Madhya Pradesh.

Significant Rise in Elephant Population in Karnataka

According to a report released by Government of Karnataka on 9th August, 2023, the elephant population in Karnataka has witnessed a notable increase of 346 elephants, surging from an estimated 6,049 in 2017 to the current count of 6,395, marking the highest elephant population in India.

Key Points:

  • Collaborative Census Effort: A synchronized elephant census was undertaken by the Karnataka Forest Department in partnership with neighbouring states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Goa, from May 17 to 19, 2023.
  • Rise in Elephant Density: The census was carried out across 23 forest divisions, highlighting an average elephant density of 0.34 per square kilometer in the state.
  • Bandipur Tiger Reserve holds the highest density at 0.96 elephants per square kilometer, housing a total of 1,116 elephants.
  • Nagarahole Tiger Reserve follows with 831 elephants, yielding a density of 0.93 per square kilometer.
  • Other Reserves: BRT Tiger Reserve showcases a density of 0.69 with 619 elephants, while MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary records a density of 0.60 despite accommodating 706 elephants.

Extinction Alert Issued for Endangered Vaquita Porpoise

Recently, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued an urgent warning about the perilous status of the endangered vaquita porpoise, an alert marking the first-ever extinction declaration by the institution.

Key Points:

  • Drastic Population Decline: The vaquita porpoise, classified as critically endangered, has suffered an alarming 83% population decline between 2015 and 2018.
  • The population stands at an alarming estimate of only nine to ten individuals, highlighting the pressing need for conservation efforts.
  • Looming Extinction Warning: The IWC's issuance of an extinction alert represents a historic response to the vaquita's dire situation.
  • The institution underscores the urgency for a novel mechanism to address extinction concerns for various cetacean species and populations.
  • Critical Call for Action: The IWC underscores the urgency of substituting all gill nets with alternative fishing methods immediately. Such a shift is vital to safeguard the vaquita population and secure the livelihoods of fishers.

Oldest Dinosaur Fossil in India Reveals Significant Evolutionary Centre

Recently, in a ground-breaking discovery, scientists from IIT-Roorkee and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) have unearthed the remains of the oldest dicraeosaurid dinosaur, Tharosaurus indicus, in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer.

Key Points:

  • Unearthing Ancient History: Researchers from IIT-Roorkee and GSI have uncovered the remains of a long-necked, plant-eating dicraeosaurid dinosaur, named Tharosaurus indicus, in the Thar desert.
  • An Ancient Resident: The newly identified species, Tharosaurus indicus, dates back approximately 167 million years.
  • Name: Its name pays homage to the Thar desert, where its fossils were found.
  • Features: The dinosaur is characterized by distinct features, including specialized vertebrae with deep depressions and split neural spines resembling spikes.
  • Evolutionary Significance: Tharosaurus indicus marks the first documented report of a dicraeosaurid sauropod from India.
  • This discovery prompts a reevaluation of dinosaur migration patterns, suggesting India as a potential origin for diplodocoid dinosaurs.
  • A Prehistoric Hub: The discovery of Tharosaurus indicus is not isolated; it aligns with the identification of ancestral sauropods, such as Barapasaurus and Kotasaurus, from earlier periods in central India.
  • This suggests that the Indian subcontinent could have served as a center for the origin of diplodocoid dinosaurs.
  • Geological Context: The ancient geographic arrangement of continents plays a crucial role in understanding the migration of these dinosaurs.
  • The connections between India, Madagascar, Africa, and South America during the Middle Jurassic era potentially facilitated the movement of diplodocoid sauropods across continents.

India's Project Tiger Marks 50 Years of Conservation

On 29th July, 2023, on the occasion of the Global Tiger Day, the Government released a detailed report, revealing India's tiger population estimate of 3,925, with an annual growth rate of 6.1%.

Government of India's Project Tiger, launched in 1973, has achieved remarkable success in tiger conservation. The project has resulted in a significant increase in the country's tiger population over the past five decades.

Key Points:

  • Project Tiger's Remarkable Progress: Over the last 50 years, Project Tiger has expanded to cover 53 reserves across 75,796 km2, effectively safeguarding 2.3% of India's total land area and hosting nearly 75% of the world's wild tiger population.
  • Two Phases of Conservation Efforts: The project's success can be attributed to the two phases of conservation efforts – the first phase focused on enacting the Wildlife Protection Act and establishing protected areas, while the second phase, initiated in 2005, adopted a landscape-level approach, community involvement, strict law enforcement, and advanced technology for scientific monitoring.
  • Increase in Tiger Population: Thanks to the landscape-level approach and conservation efforts, the tiger population has witnessed a commendable annual growth rate of 6.1%.
  • Estimates: The latest estimates put the tiger population of the country between 3167 to 3925, with an average of 3682 tigers.
  • Regional Variations in Population Growth: While certain regions, like Central India and the Shivalik Hills, have experienced notable increases in tiger populations, the Western Ghats witnessed localized declines, requiring targeted conservation measures.
  • Challenges and Focus Areas: Some states, such as Mizoram, Nagaland, Jharkhand, Goa, Chhattisgarh, and Arunachal Pradesh, reported small tiger populations, demanding special attention.
  • Preserving Ecological Integrity: To secure the future of India's tigers and their ecosystems, there is a need for eco-friendly development, minimizing mining impacts, fortifying protected area management, intensifying anti-poaching measures, and addressing human-wildlife conflict.
  • Continued Threat of Poaching: While Project Tiger has made tremendous progress, poaching remains a persistent threat to tiger conservation, necessitating ongoing efforts to protect tiger habitats and corridors.
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