Press on Environment and Wildlife
No tigers in 47% of State’s forest area (November Week 1 (2006)) In a shocking finding, the Tiger Reserve Institute in Dehra Dun has revealed that 47 per cent of West Bengal’s total forest cover does not have any tiger. But West Bengal’s wildlife officials have some consolation to offer — the State’s leopard population has registered a quantum jump. So much so, that the growing leopard family has become a menace. An increasing number of leopards are being captured and set to different rescue centres in the State, particularly in North Bengal.
Even the captive population of leopards has crossed the 100-mark, posing serious problems regarding their upkeep and rehabilitation, said S B Mondal, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal.
The leopard rescue centres in North Bengal are almost full, and there is little space for accommodating more. Tea plantation workers in the area often capture leopard cubs and hand them over to the forest department. The female leopards are often known to hide their new-borns under tea bushes for their safety, as the males have the habit of devouring the cubs. But during the tea plucking season, plantation workers stumble upon these hideouts.
“Once they are kept in captivity, the cubs become totally unfit for survival in the natural environment. They are unable to hunt and fend for themselves. The captive ones are really becoming a burden,” said Mondal. “In captivity, the males and females are kept in segregation so that there is no scope for mating,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the issue of the dwindling tiger population, a senior forest department official said the Union Forests and Environment Ministry has recently released some vital findings by the Tiger Reserve Institute in Dehra Dun. The institute had carried out a countrywide census of tigers in March-April this year.
A meeting has been convened to discuss the issue by senior forest officials. Buxa Tiger Reserve has alredy been in focus for its dwindling tiger population. Now, Sunderbans also comes under the scanner with the latest finding of the Dehra Dun Institute, said forest officials.
SOURCE : The Indian Express, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Scientists develop unique landslide monitoring system (November Week 1 (2006)) Scientists at the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO), Chandigarh, have developed equipment that will be able to monitor underground soil displacement activity and report an impending landslide. This landslide monitoring system will go a long way in taking pre-emptive steps to reduce the impact of disaster. The technology is ready for transfer from CSIO labs to certain seismically active areas.
Developed by four scientists- Navneet Singh Aulakh, J.K. Chhabra, N. Singh, and S. Jain- the Landslide Monitoring System uses a fiber optic cable as a sensor to record activity by the equipment that is buried deep inside the earth. Started as a self-funded project of the CSIO, the project has already won CSIO scientists much acclaim after they published their work in a technical paper in science journals with the title "Microbend resolution enhancing technique for fiber optic- based sensing and monitoring of landslides".
The CSIO Director, Dr Pawan Kapur, highlighted the importance of generation of seismic database in his annual report disclosing that the CSIO was already running three Seismological Observatories at Chandigarh and two in Himachal Pradesh at Sundernagar and Nauni near Solan. One of the scientists to develop the Landslide Monitoring System, Mr Aulakh said the equipment would shortly be transferred to an observatory near Hardwar.
Giving details of the project, he said the Landslide Monitoring System had capitalised on the ability of a fiber optic cable to be used as a sensor. Conventionally fiber optic cable is used for communication, but it has two inherent properties that make it a good sensor. There is a change in signal carried by a fiber optic cable if there is a change in temperature or when some pressure is applied. To explain in simple terms, the fiber optic-based equipment is buried inside the earth and the slightest of movement of the earth exerts pressure on the fiber optic sensor that gives out a signal suggesting a sub-soil movement.
According to Mr Aulakh since the equipment is set up at remote places, earlier equipment with copper wire transmission often saw it being stolen for the value of the copper, but fiber optic cable is useless for a small time thief. Also, when buried in the ground, fiber optic wire is resistant to decay from rust etc. CSIO scientists are very optimistic about the results of this Land slide Monitoring System.
"Optical fiber sensors have been configured to detect and measure different physical phenomena such as strain, pressure, temperature, acceleration, magnetic and electric fields. Fiber optic sensors are being used for quantitative, non-destructive monitoring of advanced materials and structures and their deployment for the measurement of internal material changes during fabrication, embedded lifetime measurement of strain, temperature, vibration, and the eventual detection of damage or degradation. And we have used these properties for developing our system," he said.
Explaining the need for developing the equipment Mr Aulakh said
"Mountainous regions in northern India consist of rocks highly folded, faulted and with thrust. These metamorphic rocks are slowly disintegrating, thereby giving rise to an accumulation of debris on the slope.
The loose, accumulated debris loses much of its strength when saturated by rainfall and produce slides involving large masses of soils and cause damage to many hillside structures, including roads, buildings, bridges, cultivated lands and forests etc., which cause degradation of hillside ecology and loss of human 1ife".
SOURCE : The Tribune, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Another home for the big cat in Karnataka (Issue of the week, October Week 1 (2006)) With the Centre's clearance coming through, Karnataka is all set to have its fourth tiger reserve — at Anshi in Dandeli, Uttara Kannada district.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Minister for Forest and
Environment Chennigappa said, "The tiger reserve project has been planned on over 600 sq km, on a budget of Rs three crore."
The Dandeli-Anshi tiger reserve comes after Nagarahole, Bandipur and Bhadra tiger reserves. Mr Chennigappa said preliminary work on the tiger reserve would be kicked off this year. The Minister said the government would allocate an annual fund of Rs 25,000 each for the formation and activities of Village Forest Committees (VFC) in Gram
Around 1,000 GPs will be brought under the plan this year, he said. The VFCs will work to build awareness on environment and afforestation. Addressing the issue of rampant illegal mining in Bellary, Kanakapura, Chamarajanagar and Chikmagalur, Mr Chennigappa said the State government would tighten curbs on miners by insisting
that the latter should also contribute to afforestation.
"We will ensure that before miners move their activities to another area, they grow plants in areas they had tapped for mining," he said.
World Delays Action to Save Tigers (Issue of the week, October Week 1 (2006)) GENEVA, Switzerland, October 11, 2006 (ENS) - The international
community last week failed to agree on how to halt the illegal trade
in tiger parts or how to curb widespread poaching of the world's
largest cat, delaying any new action until June 2007. The lack of
action comes despite new evidence that tigers are in stark decline
and face possible extinction if poaching is not severely curtailed.
Scientists estimate only 6,000 tigers remain in the wild, although
some warn the figure could be far lower. The species is has lost 40
percent of its habitat in the past decade. Wild tigers occupy only 7
percent of their historic range and their remaining habitat is
increasingly fragmented and degraded.
There are clear signs poaching has accelerated in recent years,
driven by increasing demand for tiger parts in China and Southeast
Development and roadbuilding across Indochina is further
fragmenting tiger habitat and the clear cutting of lowland
rainforests in Sumatra and Malaysia has put further pressure on
the world's largest cat.
A report to the secretariat of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) presented at last week's
meeting of the treaty's standing committee said efforts to save the
tiger thus far "have failed."
But the committee decided to put off discussion of the tiger crisis
again until next June, when the full CITES body convenes in
The committee did decide to send a technical enforcement mission
from the CITES Secretariat to China to look into enforcement of
this trade, but conservation groups contend that falls far short
given the gravity of the situation.
"We are disappointed by the lack of leadership … and the lack of
commitment to conservation," said Susan Lieberman, director of
WWF's global species Program. "The biggest problem facing tigers
today is illegal trade between India and China, yet neither country
showed the willingness to step up efforts to tackle this urgent
problem. How bad does it need to get for tigers before governments
take the necessary action?"
The failure of India and China to enforce laws against poaching and
trade in tiger parts was documented by a new report released last
month by two environmental groups.
The report, compiled by the Environmental Investigation Agency
and the Wildlife Protection Society of India, revealed a thriving
trade in China that has decimated tiger populations in India.
In the space of just ten days, investigators met 11 traders who
offered them whole tiger and leopard skins. The environmental
groups said the traders were clearly aware of the illegality of their
operations, but were unconcerned about the threat of arrest or
disruption by local authorities - one trader even said that
enforcement had decreased in the last two years.
The groups called for a new enforcement agency be set up in India
and China to coordinate efforts to crack down on the trade before it
is too late.
According to Steven Broad, executive director of TRAFFIC, the
wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and the World
Conservation Union, a suggestion was on the table at the standing
committee to convene "a high-level law enforcement meeting with
all of the tiger range states and to come up with a process to
measure how well recommendations made by CITES Parties in the
late 1990s were being implemented."
"Instead, the delegates decided to do nothing for nine more
months," Broad said. "The world's tigers can't wait another nine
Biodiversity Created and Preserved in Tropics (October Week 1 (2006)) CHICAGO, Illinois, October 6, 2006 (ENS) - The tropics have long
been identified as much richer in biodiversity than higher latitudes,
but scientists have been unsure why this is the case. A new study
answers the question, finding that the tropics are both a cradle of
biodiversity, where new species originate, and a biodiversity
museum, where old species persist.
The authors of the study, published in today's edition of the journal
"Science," say their findings highlight the importance of preserving
tropical species from extinction.
"If you came from outer space and you started randomly observing
life on Earth, at least before people were here, the first thing you'd
see was this incredible profusion of life in the tropics," said the
report's lead author, David Jablonski, a professor of geophysical
sciences at the University of Chicago. "This is the single most
dramatic biodiversity pattern on this planet."
The team acquired its data for the Science study by analyzing
bivalves, a class of marine life that includes clams, scallops and
"They live everywhere," Jablonski said. "They're found from the
Arctic Ocean to the hottest part of the tropics, and they have left a
great fossil record."
The record allowed the research team to track more than 150
bivalve lineages back through time and determine where they
started and how long they lasted as well as where they persist and
They found a consistent pattern in each slice of time, regardless of
the prevailing climatic conditions. Over the entire 11-million-year
period, they found that more than twice as many bivalve lineages
started in the tropics than at higher latitudes. Meanwhile, only 30
varieties of organisms that lived only in the tropics went extinct,
compared to 107 that lived outside the tropics, or at all latitudes.
"It's a really striking, surprising pattern," Jablonski said. "And it
appears that other animals and plants were playing the same game,
even on land."
"The world is connected," added study coauthor Kaustuv Roy, a
biologist at the University of California at San Diego. "It's a global
village, even for organisms."
The forces behind the flood of evolutionary activity that flows from
the tropics remain a mystery.
"But now that we have a handle on the dynamics that set up this
spectacular planet-sized gradient, we can begin to get at the
underlying processes in a whole new way," Jablonski said.
The research team will now work to address what drives
biodiversity in the tropics by pushing their analysis further back in
They argue their findings to date strengthen the need to focus
conservation efforts on protecting the tropics.
"Without them, we've lost a key source for diversity in higher
latitudes," said study coauthor James Valentine, a professor of
integrative biology at the University of California at Berkely.
"Human-caused extinctions in the tropics will eventually start to
affect the biological diversity in the temperate and high latitudes,"
Roy added. "This is not going to be apparent in the next 50 years,
but it will be a long-term consequence."
United Nations Delays Ivory Sale (October Week 1 (2006)) GENEVA, Switzerland, October 5, 2006 (ENS) - Three African
nations will not be allowed to sell some 60 metric tons of ivory, the
United Nations announced today. The one-time ivory sale has been
postponed because UN environment officials need more
information on the status of African elephant populations and on
poaching rates.
The international trade of ivory was banned in 1989 under the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES). The ban was put in place amid evidence poachers were
slaughtering some 75,000 - 100,000 Africa elephants a year during
the 1980s.
The World Conservation Union estimates some 400,000 to 600,000
African elephants remain in the wild, down from as many as five
million some 70 years ago. Poaching and habitat loss are the key
threats to the species - an estimated 10,000 African elephants are
killed illegally each year and there is ample evidence of a thriving
illegal ivory trade.
But in 1997 the parties to CITES determined that some southern
African elephant populations were healthy and well managed, and
permitted Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time
sale of ivory to Japan. The sales took place in 1999, totaling 50
tons and earning some $5 million.
At the 2002 CITES meeting, negotiators agreed to allow Botswana,
Namibia and South Africa to make one time sales of ivory collected
from elephants that died of natural causes or as a result of
government regulated control of problem elephants. The deal
allowed South Africa to sell 30 tons, Botswana to sell 20 tons and
Namibia to sell 10 tons.
The countries have said, in accordance with treaty requirements,
that they would to use profits from the sales to fund conservation
But the plan was conditional on the successful development of a
system - known as the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants
(MIKE) - to establish current and comprehensive baseline data on
elephant poaching and population levels.
At today's meeting of the CITES standing committee, the panel
determined that "this condition has not yet been satisfied and the
sales may not go forward."
The standing committee, which consists of representatives from 15
nations, will reconsider the plan at its next meeting, set for late
May 2007 in Holland.
In a related but separate decision, the committee also decided that
Japan has established a sufficiently strong domestic trade control
system to be a trading partner allowed to purchase the ivory when
sales eventually proceed.
Conservation groups, who fear the legal ivory sale would fuel the
illegal poaching of elephant, hailed the decision to postpone the
The decision is good news for "all those involved in elephant
conservation around the world, who fight a constant battle to
protect elephants from ivory poachers," said Peter Pueschel,
program manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
But Pueschel said the standing committee had sent the wrong
message by approving Japan as ivory importer.
"We are incredibly concerned that the rubber-stamping of Japan as
an importing country - despite all the evidence showing it has
problems controlling its current ivory market - questions the
credibility of CITES, which should take decisions based on
precaution and facts," he said.
Conservationists have raised questions over the suitability Japan
to purchase the stockpiled ivory, after IFAW reports on Japan's
domestic control system revealed loopholes that allow illegal ivory
to flow into the legal markets.
Much of the Japanese control system is based on voluntary
information, IFAW said, and larger private stockpiles exist which
are not registered and can be used to launder illegal ivory into the
legal system.
"The previous one-off sale of ivory to Japan has spun the ivory
markets in Asia out of control." said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia
regional director for IFAW. "With over 17 tons of ivory under
investigation, all of which was confiscated in Asian ports in the past
year, it is ludicrous to even contemplate allowing another sale to
any country."
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