Biodiversity and its conservation
The natural resources of the Earth, including air, water, land, flora and fauna of natural ecosystems must be safeguarded for the benefit of the present and future generations through careful planning and management, as appropriate – Principle of the Stockholm Declaration, 1972.
The large-scale loss of biodiversity and its global impact makes conservation the need of the hour.
Conservation of biodiversity is protection and scientific management of biodiversity so as to maintain it at its optimum level and derive sustainable benefits for the present as well as future generations. It aims to protect species from extinction and their habitats and ecosystems from degradation.
General strategies in conservation
· identify and protect all threatened species
· identify and conserve in protected areas the wild relatives of all the economically important organisms
· identify and protect critical habitats for feeding, breeding, nursing, resting of each species
· resting, feeding and breeding places of the organisms should be identified and protected
· Air, water and soil should be conserved on priority basis
· Wildlife Protection Act should be implemented
There are two aspects of conservation strategies (Fig. 12.3)
i) In-situ conservation
ii) Ex-situ conservation
This is the conservation of genetic resources through their protection within a natural or manmade ecosystem in which they occur. It is conservation and protection of the whole ecosystem and its biodiversity at all levels in order to protect the threatened species.
Maximum protection of biodiversity hotspots regions with very high levels of species richness. Although all the biodiversity hotspots together cover less than 2 percent of the earth land area, the number of species they harbour is extremely high and protection of these hotspots could reduce the ongoing mass.
These are biogeographical areas where biological diversity along with natural and cultural resources is protected, maintained and managed through legal measures. protected areas include national parks, wild life sanctuaries, community reserves and biosphere reserves. World Conservation monitoring centre has recognized 37,000 protected areas world-wide. India has about 771 protected areas covering 162099 km2 comprising of National Parks (104), Wild Life Sanctuaries (544), biosphere reserves (18) and several sacred groves.
It is a natural habitat that is notified by the state government to be constituted as a National Park due to its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, or zoological association of importance. No human activity is permitted inside the national park except the activities permitted by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state under the conditions given in CHAPTER IV, of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972 (Table 12.1).
Project Tiger: The Government of India launched the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973 to protect our national animal. From 9 tiger reserves since its inception, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 50 at present. Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, providing central assistance to the states for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves. Project Tiger was launched in the Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand in1973. The project ensures a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, created under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. India holds over half the world’s tiger population. According to the latest tiger census report released on 20th January 2015 by NTCA, the current tiger population is estimated at 2,212. There are 50 tiger reserves in the country.
There are 104 existing national parks in India covering an area of 40,501 km2, which is 1.23% of the geographical area of the country (National Wildlife Database, Aug. 2018). National Park is an area which is strictly reserved for the betterment of wildlife and biodiversity and where activities like development, forestry, poaching, hunting, grazing and cultivation are not permitted. They are large areas of scenic and national beauty maintained for scientific educational and recreational use. They are not used for commercial extraction of resources. Kaziranga National park is a protected area for the one Horned Rhinoceros in Assam.
Any area other than the area comprised with any reserve forest or the territorial waters can be notified by the State Government to constitute as a sanctuary if such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance. This is for the purpose of protecting, endangered factual species. Some restricted human activities are allowed inside the Sanctuary area details of which are given in CHAPTER IV, of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972. Ecoturism is permitted, as long as animal life is undistrubed.
There are 544 existing wildlife sanctuaries in India covering an area of 118,918 km2, which is 3.62 of the geographical area of the country (National Wildlife Database, 2017).
Sanctuaries are tracts of land where wild animals and fauna can take refuge without being hunted or poached. Other activities like collection of forest products, regulated harvesting of timber, private ownership of land are permitted. Periyar wild life sanctuary in Kerala is famous for the Indian Tiger and Asiatic Elephant (Table 12.2).
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology was the brain child of the legendary Romulus Whitaker and a handful of like-minded conservation visionaries, who began work on the facility in 1976. It aimed to save India’s dwindling crocodilian population. The mission is to promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and their habitats through education, scientific research and capture breeding. The crocodile bank remains a world leader in the field of frontline conservation and the preservation of natural landscapes. The Crocodile Bank currently consists of a large reptile park near Chennai and several field projects located throughout the subcontinent reaching as far as the Nicobar Islands. About half a million people visit the bank every year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions along the East Coast Road.
Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/ marine ecosystems or a combination thereof. BRs are designated to deal with the conservation of biodiversity, economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values. Biosphere Reserves are thus special environments for both people and nature and are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each other’s needs. The Biosphere Reserve Programme is guided by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme, as India is a signatory to the landscape approach supported by MAB programme. The scheme called Biosphere Reserve was implemented by the Government of India in 1986. There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in the country.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park is spread over an area of 602 hectares. of Reserve Forest at Vandalur, Chennai. It is one of the largest zoo in South East Asia in terms of area. The Zoological Park exhibits different classes of animals – it has around 2500 wild animals of nearly 180 species which includes Mammals, Birds and Reptiles. 34 years since its establishment, the Zoological Park has emerged as a successful ex-situ conservation centre and a captive breeding centre for many endangered species like Royal Bengal Tiger, Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Gray Wolf, etc.,
The Zoo has many attractive features like Butterfly Park, Childrens Park, Walk Through Aviary, Lion & Deer Safari, Forest Museum, Interpretation centre, etc., which attracts more than 21 lakh visitors every year. The Zoo has strengthened its protection by means of installing CCTV Cameras for both visitors and animal management under the name of Zoo e-Eye. 24 x 7 Animal Live Streaming was introduced for the benefit of the visitors for the first time in the world. Vandalur Zoo Mobile Application was introduced to provide services to the visitors like facility to book tickets, Zoo navigation, Animal information in text and audio format. Digital payments at ticket counters are also available.
The Zoo school has been involved in education and outreach programmes. One such successful programme is ‘Zoo Ambassador’ which is been conducted for school children. In the year 2018, more than 400 students were trained and titled as Zoo Ambassadors. The Zoo also has a Rescue Centre which accommodates rescued wild animals and treats them to come out of stress.
Source: Director, Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Chennai
Agasthyamalai (Karnataka - Tamil Nadu - Kerala), Nilgiri (Tamil Nadu - Kerala), Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu) are the BRs notified in Tamil Nadu
A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees that are of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves feature in various cultures throughout the world.
It is conservation of selected rare plants/ animals in places outside their natural homes. It includes offsite collections and gene banks.
They are live collections of wild and domesticated species in Botanical gardens, Zoological parks, Wildlife safari parks, Arborata (gardens with trees and shrubs). The organisms are well maintained for captive breeding programmes. As a result, many animals which have become extinct in the world continue to be maintained in Zoological Parks. As the number increases in captive breeding, the individuals are selectively released in the wild. In this way the Indian crocodile and gangetic dolphin have been saved from extinction.
Gene banks are a type of biorepository which preserve genetic materials. Seeds of different genetic strains of commercially important plants can be stored in long periods in seed banks, gametes of threatened species can be preserved in viable and fertile condition for long periods using cryopreservation techniques.
However, it is not economically feasible to conserve all biological wealth and all the ecosystems. The number of species required to be saved from extinction far exceeds the conservation efforts.
World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental charitable trust founded in 1961, with headquarters at Gland, Vaud, Switzerland. It aims at wildness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment. It was formerly named the World Wildlife Fund. The living planet report is being published every two years by WWF since 1998.
The vision of WWF is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth by conserving the world’s most ecologically important regions, protect and restore species and their habitats, strengthen local communities’ ability to conserve the natural resources they depend upon and to ensure that the value of nature is reflected in decision made by individuals, communities, governments and businesses.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild fauna and flora, also known as the Washington Convention, is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. It was drafted from a resolution adopted from a meeting of members of the IUCN in 1963 and opened for signature in 1973. It came into force during July 1975.
It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants should not be a threat to the survival of the species in the wild. It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,0000 species of animals and plants.
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was established in 1916 to promote survey, exploration and research leading to the advancement in our knowledge of various aspects of biodiversity of our country.
The objectives of ZSI are:
· Exploration, Survey, Inventorying and Monitoring of faunal diversity in various states, ecosystems and protected areas of India.
· Periodic review of the status of threatened and endemic species.
· Preparation of Red Data Book and Fauna of India.
· Biological studies on selected important species.
· Maintenance and Development of National Zoological Collections.