Wildlife issues: India
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2020: wildlife board clears land diversion for 48 projects’
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), an apex body which takes a call on use of land from different conservation areas for development activities, had approved diversion of around 1,792 hectares — an area equal to the size of 3,349 football fields — of wildlife habitat for 48 projects in 2020, the year of the pandemic which severely restricted ground visits for taking crucial decisions.
A study, analysing all the clearances granted by the Standing Committee (SC) of the NBWL last year, has found that the SC-NBWL considered 82 proposals, out of which 25 were for diversion within wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
Most of the projects cleared were for linear diversion within sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves, said the study, carried out by a New Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). Linear projects are land-disturbing activities that are linear in nature such as roads, railways, transmission lines, pipelines or any utility lines. It said, “Linear projects are known to be especially destructive because they fragment the entire landscape and interrupt movement range of animals.”
Around 1,040 hectares was approved for diversion from eco-sensitive zones while nearly 594 hectares were approved from within tiger habitats for linear projects, defence and infrastructure development. Remaining around 158 hectares were diverted in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and conservation reserves, it said.
The SC-NBWL is headed by Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar. It consists of a member secretary and different members, including a non-official, nominated by the minister.
The SC-NBWL had also approved deletion (de-notification) of 1,08,983 hectares (around 1,089 sq km) of protected areas (PA) from Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary (HWS) in UP and Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in MP. Analysis by LIFE shows PA of over 38,303 hectares was denotified in 2018 which involved de-notification of the entire Turtle Sanctuary in Varanasi, while 5,445 hectares of PA was de-notified in 2019.
Though the ministry did not respond to TOI’s questions on findings of the study, an official who requested anonymity said the decision to de-notify area of the HWS was taken to simply rationalise the boundary of the sanctuary as the portion was basically non-forest land and it’s being used for agriculture and habitation for years. He said, “The forest area will continue to be part of the sanctuary.”
Survey of wildlife
2018–19, “most comprehensive”
After recording robust growth in the numbers of tigers in the 2018 census, India recorded yet another feat by entering the Guiness Book of World Record for conducting what has been referred to as the “largest camera trap wildlife survey”, yet. The fourth edition of the tiger census, in 2018–19, was the “most comprehensive” to date, “in terms of both resource and data amassed”, the Guiness World Record team said.
“Camera traps (outdoor photographic devices fitted with motion sensors that start recording when an animal passes by) were placed at 26,838 locations across 141 different sites and surveyed an effective area of 121,337 square kilometres (46,848 square miles). In total, the camera traps captured 34,858,623 photographs of wildlife (76,651of which were tigers and 51,777 were leopards; the remainder were other native fauna). From these photographs, 2,461 individual tigers (excluding cubs) were identified using stripepattern-recognition software,” the Guiness team that announced India’s feat added. Welcoming India’s entry into the Guiness World Records, Union environment and foreign minister Prakash Javadekar said, “We are happy that the proactive measures taken in the area of conservation and environment under the leadership of PM Modi have been endorsed formally and India has been lauded for conducting the most comprehensive survey yet.”
In addition to camera trap usage, India’s 2018 “Status of Tigers in India” assessment also conducted extensive foot surveys that covered 522,996 km of trails and sampled 317,958 habitat plots for vegetation and prey dung. It is estimated that the total area of forest studied was 381,200 sq km and cumulatively the collection and review of data equated to some 620,795 labour-days.
The assessment was carried out over three phases, with the various datasets then combined to be extrapolated via statistical computation. A positive outcome of the survey was that it concluded that India’s tiger population had increased by roughly onethird: from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,927 in 2018, though the Guiness team says “some have cautioned that this rise may in part reflect more comprehensive surveying as opposed to purely a population surge”.
Roadkills: App(lication) to report
Be it tigers or toads, roads that cut through their habitats can be deathtraps for wild animals. Now, a mobile-based application, ‘Roadkills’, launched on January 21 by the Wildlife Conservation Trust, will help citizens to report such wildlife deaths by uploading geo-tagged photographs to a public forum. This can be used to identify crucial road or rail stretches that urgently require mitigation measures.
‘Roadkills’, an easy-to-use android app, accesses location information from phones and permits users to upload photographs of a dead wild animal on a road or railway line. With the resulting geo-tagged photographs, users can also include what taxon the animal belongs to (bird, mammal, reptile or amphibian), the species’ name (if known) and the area where the roadkill was seen.
The information from all records reported from across India with this citizen science initiative will be compiled as a database, which can soon be viewed on a map on the campaign’s website (www.roadkills.in). The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a wildlife NGO which developed the app, will also share detailed data free of cost and under a Creative Commons licence to students, wildlife researchers or infrastructure agencies who may need it to study patterns of wildlife deaths on roads and railway lines.
How this can help
The information generated from the application can help identify crucial sections of roads or railway lines where animal deaths are high to pinpoint regions that require urgent mitigation measures. The data can also help determine what species are more at risk on specific road or rail stretches and plan the ideal mitigation measures suited for the location – from underpasses or overpasses for large mammals to canopy bridges for arboreal ones such as monkeys.
“Unplanned development of roads and railway lines is the major cause of wildlife roadkills,” wildlife biologist Milind Pariwakam of WCT said.
“We hope that the information from the campaign will help plan our infrastructure needs better and devise win-win solutions for wildlife to make our infrastructure development smart and green,” he added.
The app has had 500 installations so far and will soon be launched as an IOS application. It will also cater to regional language users in future.
Wildlife traffcking cases-states with over 10 cases, 2013-15, year-wise