Press on Environment and Wildlife
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.
15,500 trees around Dal Lake felled (January Week 2 (2006)) Around 15,500 illegally planted trees around Dal Lake have been felled as per directions of the J&K High Court, a Forest Department spokesman said today. He said the department was trying its best to implement the orders of the court last week for the felling of trees.
J&K Forest Minister Tariq Hameed Karra also visited the lake for monitoring the implementation of the court orders.reorts The Tribune.
Wildlife census on Jan 16 (January Week 2 (2006)) The World Conservation Union International (WCUI) organisation will keep an eye on the counting of tigers in the state, reports The Central Chronicle. For one month their two dozen scientists will also be present during the counting of tigers under Wild life conservation institution Dehra Dun. Elimination of tigers from the national parks and after continuous hunting in Panna and Bandhavgarh, government is on high alert regarding the counting of tigers in the state. Recently the Supreme Court has ordered for the investigation into the Panna case. In this regard the Centre and state governments have to submit explanation within four weeks.
Meanwhile, along with tigers, counting of other animals would be started on January 16, of conserved areas and open forests. Presently along with national parks and conservation the count of tigers is 394, whereas in open areas it is 721. The number of other wild animals are about 42,000. The counting of all these will be done by the supervision of wild life conservation institution Dehra Dun. .
This is for the first time that 10,000 forest workers were trained for the counting of animals. Counting work will be done with the pug marks, video and DNA test. Although counting work of tigers has started at Sundar Van National Park from January 9 along with tags, they are named also. But this type of cards will not be provided in Madhya Pradesh.
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