Press on Environment and Wildlife
Wood collection poses threat to national park (January Week 3 (2006)) The Sultanpur National Park in Gurgaon district is bearing the brunt of callousness of the Haryana Wildlife Department reports The Tribune.
A recent visit to the park revealed that some labourers were busy in collecting wood from the park to keep the fire of their hearths burning. When they were told that the collection of wood from national parks and sanctuaries was banned, they feigned ignorance.
Peter Jackson, a world famous ornithologist, had identified the potential of the park. Keeping in view its potential, an area of 352 acres was declared a bird sanctuary in 1971. It was upgraded to the status of a national park in 1991.
Nearly 250 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded here. A long time ago even the Siberian crane used to visit the park.
Says Suresh C. Sharma, a New Delhi-based bird lover: “This is a direct interference with nature. The sanctuary is home to thousands of birds and various mammals like the blue bull, civet cat, jackal and hare. Most of the insects and reptiles use broken branches to hide.
Their unscientific removal will affect the invertebrate fauna, resulting in food shortage for birds. Some bird species like the spotted owlet use dead trees for roosting and nesting.”
Mr Sharma had spotted a pair of the white-browed bushchat, a rare bird species, in the park in 2001.
Section 29 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, bans the removal of anything from the park, including dead flora and fauna. It says the habitat can be improved but with the permission of the state wildlife board.
Certain invasive flora species are also threatening the habitat of the birds.
“The invasive plant prosopis is growing uncontrolled in the park destroying both the lake and the grassland habitat. This requires urgent attention,” says Mr K.S. Gopi Sundar, Research Associate (India), International Crane Foundation, USA.
“If the rampant growth of prosopis is not checked, the system will change from a wetland to a scrub habitat,” he warns.
The Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden, Mr Malkit Singh, says unscientific removal of anything from the national park is banned.
“If somebody is collecting wood from the Sultanpur park, it is illegal. I will enquire into the matter,” he adds.
Orissa coast turns turtle grave (January Week 3 (2006)) THE BLOOD OF Olive Ridley sea turtles has again reddened Orissa's coastline. Over 2,000 carcasses of the endangered turtles have been found off the coast, reports The Hindustan Times.
According to the NGO, Operation Kachhapa, the turtles were killed by mechanised fishing trawlers and the bodies dumped by farmers away from the site of death. The deaths put a question mark over conservation of the turtles, which are found in India only on the Orissa coast. Over 1.29 lakh turtles have died in the country in the last 13 years.
In Delhi, the ministry of environment and forest refused to comment, arguing the matter was a state subject. "At most, we can seek a report," a official said.
Aghast at the deaths, environmentalists are blaming the government for ignoring the warning signals.
"Incidents of turtles being killed due to the use of deep water trawlers have been on the rise in the last 10 years. We have asked both the environment ministry and Orissa government to stop deep-water trawlers within 10 kilometres of the coast. But it has not happened. The trawlers not only kill the fish and turtles near the coast, they also destroy the bio-mass that supports them," said Blinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India.
The activists have also slammed the ministry of environment's decision to allow off-shore oil exploration in the area, arguing that it could have an adverse impact on the future of the species.
Biswajit Mohanty, coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, was scathing of government inaction, alleging that endangered Olive Ridleys continue to be killed despite directions passed by the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee in April 2004.
The turtles of Orissa are falling prey to mechanised trawlers. And NGOs say the state's doing nothing to stop the slaughter.. SC's Central Empowered Committee gave directions to ensure turtles' protection in 2004 but nothing came of it. State authorities are regularly informed by NGOs but no action taken yet.
Spotlight on conservation of the wild red jungle fowl (January Week 3 (2006)) While the domesticated poultry battles the avian flu amid much global attention, the "original chicken'' - the wild red jungle fowl -- is practically counting its days before being pushed off the cliff to extinction, reports The Hindu.
With prominent scientists of the opinion that the true red jungle fowl is endangered and may be extinct in many areas with many being replaced by genetically mixed jungle fowls, voices of concern and apprehension about the fate of this wild fowl are being raised by researchers the world over.
With some literature indicating that the pure red jungle fowl had been extinct in Malaysia since the early 1900s, the main cause for the disappearance of this spectacular fowl is known to be inter-breeding and the destruction of the natural habitat.
And in the first comprehensive project in India to understand the extent of genetic contamination, morphology and its distribution in the wild, the Wildlife Trust Of India (WTI) in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, and MLN College, Yamunanagar, has initiated a three-year project to study the wild red jungle fowl.
The project will encompass mapping of the prospective areas where the bird is believed to be in higher density and morphology and DNA samples will be studied to understand their purity and patterns so that a viable model approach for their conservation could be established.
According to Rahul Kaul, Director of the Wild Species Programme of WTI , repeated hybridisation with the domesticated version found near villages in the fringe forests might have passed the hybrid genes into the wild populations. In the wild, the red jungle fowl are found associated with Sal forests and cultivated lands up to an elevation of 2,000 metres. They usually avoid dense forest canopies and prefer to be in the sun-drenched territories where there is an abundance of grains, seeds and insects to feed. The species are found in parts of Northern, Central and North-eastern India. Another variety, the grey jungle fowl, is predominantly found in South India.
One distinctive trait of a jungle fowl is the presence of an eclipse moult in males and lack of comb in females which is considered most reliable for identification, though other physical characteristics such as structure and colour of legs, carriage of tail, spur length in males may be less reliable.
Spurt in small-time poaching of wild birds (January Week 3 (2006)) With the migratory season peaking, the poaching graph is also likely to shoot up in the city's suburbs, says P.Oppili
Casual and small-time poaching of wild birds in water bodies has assumed alarming proportions in Chennai. It must be treated as a serious issue on a par with the systematic poaching of flagship species in the jungles, activists say.
With the migratory season peaking in peninsular India, the poaching graph is also likely to shoot up in parts of the city's suburbs. However, this time the authorities have to look into the issue seriously and initiate anti-poaching measures.
Chembarampakkam, Pallikaranai, near Velacheri, Porur, Tambaram, Karappakkam and Neelankarai are some of the suburbs identified by wildlife authorities as areas where poaching is common during the season, which begins in November and goes on till March.
On Thursday, wildlife authorities arrested a poacher near Red Hills when he attempted to skin about a dozen pond herons. He used a catapult to kill the birds, said the authorities.
Though the pond herons are only local migrants, there are chances that the birds will mix with the migratory birds, particularly the duck species, which are said to carry the avian influenza. So, consuming the bird meat poached from a pond, tank or a water body can prove dangerous.
Ashish Kumar Srivastava, Wildlife Warden, Chennai, said the department had taken steps to reduce poaching. "Patrolling has started in Pallikaranai and the surroundings areas following the bird flu threat." Although no cases of avian influenza attack on the birds have been reported in this region, the department is looking at the issue seriously.
A fortnight ago, a training programme on identifying avian influenza-affected birds, handling them and other precautionary measures to be taken was conducted for bird handlers in Vedanthangal, Pulicat, Vandalur Zoo and Children's Park, Guindy. A team of veterinarians from the Madras Veterinary College conducted a live demonstration at the Guindy National Park, Mr. Ashish said. Wearing rubber gloves, protective clothing, protective eyewear or a shield for the face while handling birdswere some of the suggestions from the vets.
Avoiding drinking, eating or smoking while handling a virus-infected bird, taking influenza anti-viral drug daily for the entire time till the handler is in direct contact with an infected bird or a contaminated environment are some of the other precautionary measures that bird handlers need to take, Mr. Ashish said.
The wildlife authorities also appealed to members of the public to contact them whenever they come across cases of bird poaching at the telephone 22200335.
Tehri dam has killed two rivers, says Bahuguna (January Week 3 (2006)) The Tehri hydel power project, jointly promoted by the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh Government, had spelt doom to two rivers--the Ganga and the Bhagirathi — apart from wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of river-dependant villages, environmental activist Sunderlal Bahuguna said in Chennai on Sunday.
Comparing the plight of the rivers to the "stripping of Draupadi by Duryodhana", Mr. Bahuguna — one of India's foremost green warriors and the inspiration behind the legendary Chipko movement — said the whole country was a silent witness to the massacre. Mr. Bahuguna, who is also a Gandhian and a peace activist, lives in the Tehri dam area.
"Over 22 villages have been submerged, along with 42 sq km of land holdings. More than one lakh people have been rendered destitute. Despite our protest for 15 years and the killing of 16 of our people, the dam was allowed to come up. Now, there is a plan not to let the dam waters go beyond Hardwar, but take them to Delhi. As Delhi had already killed the Yamuna, it makes for three dead rivers," he told members of the Order of Service of the Theosophical Society during a talk on "Trees for survival".
The Save Himalayas movement led by him was now advocating tree planting on the hill slopes to check soil erosion, as the siltation caused by the dam was very high. This would not only enable village communities to benefit from tree produce, but also to conserve water. The western Uttar Pradesh would feel the most adverse impact from the dam, he added.
"Social catastrophe"
The project for interlinking of rivers would create another environmental and sociological catastrophe by displacing lakhs of more people and creating water disputes among States. Developed nations had to follow the path of sustained development and practise austerity.
Urging people to "heal the Earth's wounds by growing more trees", he said the future of the country lay in tree-farming as trees provided food, fodder, fibre, fertilisers and fuel.
National parks functioning without vets (Issue of the week, January Week 2 (2006)) National parks and sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh are facing an acute shortage of trained veterinary staff.
Three out of the eight national parks in the State do not have a single veterinarian posted in them.
None of the 25 Sanctuaries in the state have veterinarians posted in them either.
The Forest Department is not entirely to blame as the veterinary doctors are drawn from the Veterinary Department on deputation.
The Veterinary Department has over the years expressed its difficulty in sparing its staff for deputation in the Forest Department.
Out of the nine national parks in the state, Kanha, Panna, Shivpuri, Van Vihar and Pench have veterinary staff posted in them while Bandhavgarh, Satpura and Sanjay National Parks are devoid of veterinary staff.
Veterinarians posted at five national parks also have to attend to exigencies in districts adjoining where they are posted.
Interestingly, the Project Tiger management on a suggestion of the Forest Department had agreed to pay for the expenses that would be incurred in maintaining veterinary staff in every national park.
Moreover, the project tiger management has also agreed to finance the training of a veterinarian at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dehradun.
The veterinarian posted at the Pench National Park has already undergone training at the WII as part of the program.
The shortage of funds not being a reason, what is keeping the Forest Department from ensuring presence of veterinary staff at all National Parks?
The Veterinary Department from where all the veterinary staff posted in National Parks at the moment has expressed its inability to spare more staff.
However, the Forest Department has now received permission to appoint veterinary staff on a contractual basis.
PCCF (Wildlife) Dr PB Gangopadhyay told The Pioneer there were certain parks which did not have veterinarians posted there but the problem is looked into. "The process of recruitment would be initiated soon," he added.
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