Press on Environment and Wildlife
Mangrove eco tourism project soon (March Week # (2007)) Protecting the specialised forests part of the WB-aided programme
Inspired by the success of Maredumilli and Rampa Eco Tourism projects, the Forest Department proposes to launch another World Bank-aided project based on the mangrove eco system during the first week of April.
The idea is to attract tourists and, at the same time, involve local people, predominantly the fishermen, in protecting the specialised forest eco system that prevented devastation during the previous cyclones and also the recent tsunami.
Already, afforestation of mangroves in coastal areas of Kakinada division has commenced under the tsunami mitigation plan as part of the Andhra Pradesh Community Forest Management project. The mangroves of Gouthami and Godavari extend up to a stretch of 332.66 km in East Godavari, from the southern periphery of the Kakinada bay to Pondicherry lagoon.
Under the project, authorities have proposed to promote eco tourism activity by providing basic requirements for visitors such as well-furnished motorboats enabling them to visit the specialised mangrove forests and related marine fauna.
Tourists will have the opportunity of visiting the mangrove system and watching the marine wildlife, birds and flying fish and enjoy the food and other refreshments on the boat itself.
The project coast is estimated at Rs. 33.55 lakhs and expected to fetch revenue of Rs.1 lakh in the initial year.
The project will be supervised by the Forest Department and managed by the local fishermen who are members of the Vana Samrakshana Samitis (VSS).
"It is a one-time investment project and subsequent maintenance is by way of regenerating the resources in a self sustainable way involving the local community," says District Forest Officer Ananda Mohan.
Already, the VSS members of Masanithippa, Balusutippa and Chakalipet have been deputed for training in other eco tourism projects in the district.
They would receive part of the revenue of the tourism project towards gainful employment that paves the way for bettering their living standards.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Four-foot-long fishing cat sighted in Bhitarkanika (March Week # (2007)) The Bhitarkanika forest officials on Sunday spotted a four-foot-long rare fishing cat at Ekakula Island under Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary.
According to Rajnagar District Forest Officer AK Jena, some Kolkota-based tourists, who were moving at Ekakula, informed him that they had spotted a rare species. Later, he, along with forest officials, went to Ekakula and found that the spotted species is a big fishing cat.
Jena said that the current status of the fishing cat is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and in Appendix II of CITES. The species is designated as "vulnerable" in the Red Data Book. Their number in the State is declining owing to killing and habitat loss.
The Bhitaknaika National Park is the home to hundreds of fishing cats, as it provides a congenial atmosphere for the species. After a gap of a couple of years, the forest department has sighted such a big fishing cat, said Jena.
Of the 11 species of small cats in India, six are known to be in Orissa. Each sanctuary has one or more species of small cats. The Bhitarkanika National Park has three species of small cats each, namely leopard cat, fishing cat and jungle cat. The fishing cat is strongly associated with wetlands. It is typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas.
Wetland destruction is the primary threat faced by the fishing cat. Causes of this destruction include human settlement, draining for agriculture, construction of aquaculture facilities and woodcutting. High content of pesticides in rice fields and fishponds result in adverse impacts. Since the harmful chemical residues enter aquatic food chains and affect top predators such as the fishing cat.
Destructive fishing practices have also greatly reduced the fishing cat's main prey base. The fishing cat is hunted because it is considered edible and its skin is still valued by the fur trade.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Tuesday, March 20, 2007
PTTs glued to seven Olive Ridleys (March Week # (2007)) Platform Terminal Transmitters (PTT) were glued to seven Olive Ridley turtles in mid sea near Rushikulya rookery coast by wildlife experts.
According to Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) S.N. Mahapatra, this has been done because Olive Ridleys are not venturing to the coast for mass nesting this year. But they can still be seen in sea a few km from the coast. Usually, the PTTs that can be tracked by satellites are fixed to turtles when they come over to the coast to nest. Mr. Mahapatra says the PTTs may unravel the reasons for which Olive Ridleys are not coming to their preferred nesting zones on the Orissa coast. There has been only one mass-nesting spell at Gahiramatha. But the Devi rookery and the Rushikulya rookery coasts are yet to experience mass nesting.
Forest officials still have hopes that the turtles would come and nest till April as they are at sea near the coast. In the past, mass nesting had been seen in April also.
This year, over 70 PTTs are being glued to Olive Ridleys near the Orissa coast under a research project of New Zealand-based SIRTRACK, wildlife trafficking experts. Each PTT costs some $ 2,000.
Wild Life Institute of India and the State Forest Department are involved in this research project. The information received from these modern communication devices would unravel the unknown facets of their life, especially during their nesting period.
It would also hint at the protection and management efforts needed at shore and sea for the Olive Ridleys coming to Orissa coast to nest, said Mr. Mahapatra. These endangered turtles are highly vulnerable as some studies say that one out of 1,000 hatchlings of Olive Ridleys survive to reach adulthood.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Monday, March 19, 2007
Dolphins a big draw for tourists at Chilika (March Week # (2007)) Chilika, the largest inland brackish lake in Asia, is a natural aquarium for 170 varieties of fish, which provide food to the growing population of Irrawady dolphins. In fact, the Chilika lagoon is the natural abode of Irrawady dolphins, with the cetacean being the flagship species. It is a highly endangered species and the total population in the world is estimated to be less than 1,000, of which there are 135 in Chilika, said latest estimates.
Of late, Satpada, which lies 120 km from Bhubaneswar, is emerging as a major tourist destination for both national as well as international tourists.
State Tourism Minister Debi Prasad Mishra said, "We will be providing house boats at Satpada in line with the Dal Lake in Jammu and Kashmir." More and more fibre boats would be provided to the tourists and facilities would be improved soon, he added.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Read more about dolphins at the link
Year of The Dolphin-2007 Start_page/index.html

Ridge not affected by Metro: Minister (March Week # (2007)) The Delhi Metro has not affected the city's green lung, the Delhi ridge, and will only infringe a very small area in it due to unavoidable reasons, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr Namo Narain Meena has told Parliament.
In a written reply, he told Lok Sabha that the Metro rail had not affected the ridge area so far. However, the proposed Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar-Gurgaon corridors, already approved by the government, would infringe the ridge area at three locations, he added.
These infringements were unavoidable and involved only a small area of the ridge measuring 5.56 hectares on permanent basis and 2.17 hectares on temporary basis during the construction phase only.
During construction, it would be ensured that a minimum number of trees were affected in the ridge area. Besides, compensatory plantation for the trees being felled will be taken up. The construction methodology would be such that there was least disturbance to surrounding areas, the minister assured.

SOURCE : The Tribune, Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Move to save pygmy hogs through captive breeding (Issue of the week, November Week 1 (2006)) The critically endangered pygmy hog (Sus salvanius) could well have a new lease of life thanks to an innovative conservation plan. The variables remaining unchanged, some captive bred pygmy hogs may soon be released into a few Protected Areas of the State. While the captive breeding programme is going on at Basistha in Guwahati, eight of the captive bred animals are being reared near Nameri National Park. The next step is their release in a bigger enclosure where they would have to fend for themselves before being freed in the wild.
Talking to this correspondent, Goutam Narayan of Ecosystems India, one of the stakeholders of the pygmy hog conservation programme, said that the animals at Nameri are adapting well to the new environment. They have started foraging and have even developed a distance with the persons monitoring their activities.
“We want them to adapt with a situation where they have no ties with human beings. They have to rely on their own instinct in order to survive in the wilderness,” Narayan, a conservation zoologist, said.
A lot of research preceded the captive breeding programme and their subsequent rearing at Nameri. First, the earliest population had to be carefully selected from the Manas National Park, where a few of them still remain. Thereafter, they were shifted to a facility at Basistha, where breeding was done under constant monitoring.
“We went the extra mile to ensure that we picked up healthy and unrelated males and females. The animals were micro-chipped so that their identity remained clear. Breeding was carried out among animals of different lineage. All this was necessary to ensure that the gene pool was wide in range,” Narayan stated.
The captive breeding programme has been a success, even though it initially met some resistance. Today, the captive breeding centre at Basistha has around 60 pygmy hogs, while the breeding programme started with only six animals in 1996.
Conservationists have been interested in the pygmy hog conservation programme for several reasons. Not only is the species highly endangered, and endemic to the State, it is perceived as an indicator species. If the pygmy hog and its grassland habitat could be restored, then a range of other species would have suitable living space.
Realising this crucial link, several leading groups joined hands to conserve the species, including Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, State Forest Department, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN and Ecosystems India.
Significantly, during the Sixties of the last century the pygmy hog was believed to be extinct, and it was only a chance ‘discovery’ of an animal that led to renewed interest. Subsequently, wild populations were located at Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary and at Manas National Park.
Several attempts at rearing and breeding them in captivity were tried thereafter, but results were never encouraging till the latest project at Basistha. At the captive breeding centre, constant monitoring yielded a wealth of data regarding the species.
Apart from documenting their breeding habits, it was possible to know about their behaviour, and also about the kind of habitat they preferred. It was found out that babies in the captive breeding programme had a survival rate of about 64 per cent.
The challenge now is to ensure how the species and its habitat could be managed when the captive-bred population is released into selected sites.
SOURCE : Assam Tribune, Monday, November 6, 2006
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