CCMB plans a gene and semen bank for vultures (August Week 2 (2005))
Endangered vultures will soon grow in numbers in Indian forests. Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology ( CCMB) has developed a standard method to determine fertility status of the nature’s formidable scavengers. The finding will ensure
regular preservation of vulture genes and semen in frozen condition in the CCMB’s Laboratory for Culture of Endangered Species ( LACONES) for breeding purposes. The CCMB has also carried out certain sexing methods of vultures which will stop the bird from
going extinct in near future. The standard has been accepted for publication in the reputed reproductive biology journal ‘Biology of Reproduction’. The study so far is the first of its kind in the world and the project is being jointly funded by the CZA and
department of biotechnology. The CCMB will complete the Vulture project by the end of 2007. Its genome bank, LACONES-set up to preserve frozen genes, semen and other genetic material of endangered species-has already stored genetic material of about 40 species.
LACONES has been promoted by the CZA in collaboration with departments of science and technology and biotechnology, Andhra Pradesh department of forests and wildlife and wildlife and central scientific and industrial research council has a national programme
for biotechnological intervention in issues relating to fauna and birds.
High fluoride levels in groundwater of Guwahati (August Week 2 (2005))
A study carried out by a research group has revealed high levels of fluoride in the groundwater of certain localities of Guwahati. There is a strong possibility that unless appropriate action is taken, a large number of people would be exposed to serious
heath risks. It is a well-established fact that fluoride in drinking water can have toxic effects. While excess fluoride could lead to dental or skeletal fluorosis, lack of fluoride may also cause health problems. “High fluoride concentration has been found
in the southeastern plains of the city. The eastern part of the southeastern plains was found to have highest fluoride concentration,” it was noted in the paper ‘Hydrogeochemical study of ground water fluoride contamination: A case study from Guwahati city,
India,’ published in the Asian Journal of Water, Environment and Pollution. The final results of the study underlined the fact that fluoride concentration peaked in the foothills and followed a decreasing trend away from the hills. At places the concentration
of fluoride was as high as 10 mg/liter. A survey conducted by the researchers sought to ascertain the presence of any industrial activity releasing significant amount of fluoride as industrial waste. However, such sources were found to be absent. Referring
to the methodology adopted in the study, a member of the research group told The Assam Tribune that more than forty samples were obtained from the localities, which include Bamunimaidan, Basisthapur, Birkuchi, Bonda, Chandmari, Matgharia and Noonmati. The
samples were analyzed for fluoride content in an environmental lab by SPADANS method. For further verification, the samples were retested in an ion selective electrode system. The test results matched each other. Their findings have led the researchers to
suggest that the potability of ground water having high fluoride content should be tested. They favor the Brahmaputra as a better source of urban water supply than fluoride-contaminated ground water. As a practical measure, they have recommended identifying
water sources having fluoride content beyond the permissible limit and posting warning signs on such sites.
CZA asked to place six endangered species on high-priority list (August Week 2 (2005))
The ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has asked the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to fund the infrastructure for preserving, researching and monitoring six prioritized endangered species. Worried over fast-declining population of snow leopard, red
panda, lion-tailed macaque, western tragopan, pygmy hog and Asiatic Lion, the ministry’s committee on wildlife conservation also wants to implement the ongoing planned Conservation Breeding Programmers (PCBPS) in phased manner. The Chairman of the 10-year-olld
technical committee is R P Katwal, Director of wildlife preservation. Its five members are J R Singh, MoEF’s internal finance director, P R Sinha, former CZA member- secretary and currently chief of the wildlife institute of India (WII), L N Acharya, a retired
veteran in veterinary sciences, S K Patnaik, a retired additional chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden, and S C Sharma, a former CZA member-secretary. The committee has asked Dehra Dun-based WII to maintain the studbooks for the programme.
The CZA is also looking forward to a natural population growth of these or similar endangered animals. That of course is the ultimate aim of the captive program as well.
Extinct snake species rediscovered! (August Week 2 (2005))
Sometimes, the dead come back to life. In one of those rare feel good stories in conservation, a species of snake believed to be extinct since nearly a hundred years has been rediscovered in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. The Indian egg-eater, Elachistodon
westermanni was last recorded in 1913 in India before it entered the annals of history. Then in 2003, Parag Dandge found a dead snake, partially eaten by ants, a few yards from his backyard in Vardha. It would easily have been looked over, but for the fact
that Dandge is a volunteer snake-rescuer and found this specimen to be unusual, something he had never seen before. It took him over two years - and a lot of research - to arrive at the conclusion that this was the once-extinct Indian egg Eater. Dandge sent
pictures of the snake to the Center for Herpetology, Chennai, Bombay Natural History Society and the Indian Herpetological Society, Pune. Further collaboration with a team of taxonomists from India and Germany resulted in it being identified as the Indian
egg-eater. Fewer than ten specimens of this species have ever been found, leading several authorities to believe that the snake was extinct. Besides India (Bihar, West Bengal and Uttaranchal), there are old records of the Indian egg-eater from Nepal and Bangladesh,
which is considered to be snake's original range. Strangely, the snake has now been rediscovered, about 900 kms south-west of its known range.
Recycled surgical gloves being circulated in Punjab (August Week 2 (2005))
Discarded by hospitals, dispensaries and even nursing homes, used surgical gloves are reportedly finding their way back to healthcare institutes in Punjab and other places. If patients turn into victims in the process, nobody is apparently bothered about
it. A survey of the junk markets in Chandigarh and neighboring villages reveals “operation recycle” to be an organized activity. The gloves are picked up by scavengers from outside the healthcare institutes before being sold to junk dealers in and around the
city. From there, these are purchased for a paltry sum of Rs 5 per kg by “unscrupulous agents” for onward transmission to the “manufacturers” involved in the process of recycling the gloves. In fact, the used gloves — some of these stained with dry blood —
are packed in sacks before being loaded in mini-trucks for the national Capital and other cities. Almost all junk dealers involved in the activity are ignorant of the fact that they, along with the patients, are also exposing themselves to health hazards by
handling the disposed of gloves with bare hands. And the dealers insist there is nothing to worry about. “We have been doing this for years” — their argument is simple, yet forceful. Though they claim that the gloves are melted and moulded into toys and other
plastic goods, including dustbins and dustpans, their recycling after washing and drying is an open secret. Only recently, PCMS Association members discovered that “sterile disposable surgical gloves” supplied to various hospitals in the state were certainly
not of standard quality. Giving details, the association president, Dr Hardeep Singh, says (The Tribune, 5th August) “a pair of gloves taken from a sealed pouch were neither of the same colour, nor of the same texture”, raising suspicion. Moreover, the size
mentioned on the pouch was different from the one specified on the glove. Elaborating on the perilous implications of using recycled gloves, Dr Hardeep Singh says: “It can result in serious infection to a patient already suffering from one problem or the other.
In cases, infection can also be fatal. Besides, the rag pickers handling plastic syringes, needles and even gloves can find themselves infected with hepatitis-B, and even HIV”. Seeking action against the suppliers of such gloves, Dr Hardeep Singh says: “The
state Health Minister, Mr. R.C. Dogra, should also look into the recycling of gloves, along with syringes and vials, before submitting a detailed report to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh”.
Tiger task force calls for more scientific methods of tiger count (August Week 2 (2005))
The tiger task force report submitted to PM this week has called for a scientific census to get realistic estimate of the tiger population in India. In fact a new methodology that also uses GIS as one of the tools has been ratified to avoid old census
mistakes like attributing the same tiger’s pugmarks to two or three big cats. Once this is done in November the country’s tigers count could fall sharply from the current and allegedly inflated figure of 3600. For instance a recent census in Ranthambore done
under watchful eyes of experts revealed that there were about 26 tigers there. The last figure for this world- famous reserve put the count closer to 50. Similarly the official census from 1997 to 2004 showed that Sariska’s tiger populace varied from 27 to
17, while the number of big cats sighted by the filed staff remained between 17 and Zero. The report has called for moving beyond the pugmark count method. Apart from taking India’s tiger count to a healthy 3600 the method has been faulted for not encountering
pugmarks to more than one big cat or similar pugmarks of different ones being counted as one. The task force has recommended the use of DNA analysis for the purpose.