Category: Bio Diversity

New Crab Species found in T.N.

Why in News?

  • Researchers have discovered a new species of crab in the mangroves of Parangipettai near the Vellar river estuary in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu.



  • The new species of estuarine crab discovered in Tamil Nadu has been named Pseudohelice annamalai as a mark of recognition of the “Annamalai University” which has completed 100 years of service in education and research.
  • This is said to be the first-ever record of the genus, Pseudohelice in the intertidal areas and to date, only two species namely Pseudohelice subquadrata and Pseudohelice latreillii have been confirmed within this genus.
  • The discovered species is found around the Indian subcontinent and the eastern Indian Ocean.
  • Pseudohelice annamalai is marked by dark purple to dark grey colouring, with irregular light brown, yellowish brown, or white patches on the posterior carapace with light brown chelipeds.
  • Pseudohelice annamalai inhabits muddy banks of mangroves and links the distribution gap between the western Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean.
  • The newly discovered species also provides additional evidence of the geographic isolation of the eastern Indian Ocean for some marine organisms.

Tiger Density in India

Why in News?

  • Preliminary findings of a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) suggest that the density of tigers in the Sunderbans may have reached the carrying capacity of the mangrove forests, leading to frequent dispersals and a surge in human-wildlife conflict.

Tiger Density of India:

  • In the Terai and Shivalik hills habitat — think Corbett tiger reserve, for example — 10-16 tigers can survive in 100 sq km.
  • This slides to 7-11 tigers per 100 sq km in the reserves of north-central Western Ghats such as Bandipur, and to 6-10 tigers per 100 sq km in the dry deciduous forests, such as Kanha, of central India.
  • The correlation between prey availability and tiger density is fairly established.
  • There is even a simple linear regression explaining the relationship in the 2018 All-India Tiger report that put the carrying capacity in the Sunderbans “at around 4 tigers” per 100 sq km.
  • A joint Indo-Bangla study in 2015 pegged the tiger density at 2.85 per 100 sq km after surveying eight blocks spanning 2,913 sq km across the international borders in the Sunderbans.

Conflict: Cause or Effect:

  • The consequence, as classical theories go, is frequent dispersal of tigers leading to higher levels of human-wildlife conflict in the reserve peripheries.
  • Physical (space) and biological (forest productivity) factors have an obvious influence on a reserve’s carrying capacity of tigers.
  • What also plays a crucial role is how the dispersal of wildlife is tolerated by people — from the locals who live around them to policymakers who decide management strategies.
  • More so when different land uses overlap and a good number of people depend on forest resources for livelihood.

Why Tiger Corridors are not a solution?

  • But though vital for genes to travel and avoid a population bottleneck, wildlife corridors may not be the one-stop solution for conflict.
  • First, not all Dispersing tigers will chance upon corridors simply because many will find territories of other tigers between them and such openings.
  • Even the lucky few that may take those routes are likely to wander to the forest edges along the way.
  • Worse, the Corridors may not lead to viable forests in reserves such as Sunderbans, bounded by the sea and villages.

Way Ahead:

  • Artificially boosting the prey base in a reserve is often an intuitive solution but it can be counter-productive.
  • To harness the umbrella effect of tigers for biodiversity conservation, it is more beneficial to increase areas occupied by tigers.
  • For many, the prescription is to create safe connectivity among forests and allow tigers to disperse safely to new areas.



  • Recently, the South India Vulture Conservation Group has come up with a blueprint for the conservation of vulture population in Five South Indian States.


  • Out of nine vulture species in India, four namely — white-backed vulture, long-billed vulture, slender-billed vulture and red-headed vulture — are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and all are in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, the highest category of endangerment
  • Except slender-billed vulture, the three other critically endangered species are found in the Moyar valley in the Nilgiris, whose population has seen a slight increase,
  • The government has to restrict availability of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) for veterinary use and to create a vulture safe zone in each south Indian State.
  • It has appealed to the Forest Department that National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines should be implemented for carcass disposal by not burying or burning it.

Reasons for Death of Vultures:

  • The reason behind the vulture population getting nearly wiped out was the drug Diclofenac.
  • It was found in the carcass of cattle on which the vultures feed. The drug was commonly administered to cattle to treat inflammation.
  • Its veterinary use was banned in 2008 by the Government of India.
  • It is dangerously fatal for Vultures. Even 1% of it in carcass would kill the Vulture in a short time after it feeds such carcass.
  • The poisoned carcasses were dumped to kill some local stray animals. But when vultures fed on them, it became one of the vital reasons leading to their death.

 Way Forward:

  • The forest department needs to give emphasis on creating awareness and on creating safe zones for vultures in places where there is an existing vulture population. So far nine states have undertaken programmes to create safe habitats for vultures.
  • Vultures are slow-breeding birds, there is a need for immediate intervention to save them from extinction





Why in News?

  • A new variety of paddy named ‘Sahyadri Megha’ has been developed by the University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences (UAHS), Shivamogga (Karnataka).

Need of a New Variety of Rice:

  • The area under paddy cultivation was declining at a faster rate in the state of Karnataka.
  • This is due to the fact that paddy has been widely becoming vulnerable to blast disease and other infestations. E.g: Jyothi Rice Variety.
  • Also, Paddy growers are switching over to commercial crops like arecanut, ginger and rubber for better returns.
  • Demand for Red Rice:Demand by customers in urban areas for red rice which is rich in fibre and protein.
  • The red variety gets its rich colour from an antioxidant called anthocyanins, which are also found in deep purple or reddish fruits and vegetables.
  • The compound is believed to have properties that can reduce inflammation, allergy, prevent risks of cancer and help in weight management.

About Sahyadri Megha:

  • It was developed under the hybridization breeding method by cross-breeding the best among the ‘Jyothi’ variety with that of ‘Akkalu’, a disease-resistant and protein-rich paddy variety.
  • Sahyadri Megha is a red variety of paddy that is resistant to blast disease and rich in nutrients.
  • The new variety will be notified under the Indian Seed Act 1966 shortly after which it will become part of the seed chain.
  • The protein content in it is 12.48%, higher than the other red rice varieties grown.

What is Blast Disease?

  • First recorded in India during 1918.
  • It is caused by fungus Pyricularia grisea (P. oryzae). Also known as rotten neck or rice fever.
  • Expected Grain Loss : 70 to 80%.


Why in News?

  • The State of India’s Birds 2020 (SoIB), a new scientific report was jointly released by 10 organisations Recently.

Stats of the Report:

  • It was produced using a base of 867 species, and analysed with the help of data uploaded by birdwatchers to the online platform, eBird.
  • The SoIB was produced in a partnership that included ATREE, BNHS, Foundation for Ecological Security, NCF, National Biodiversity Authority of India, National Centre for Biological Sciences, SACON (Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History), Wetlands International, WII and WWF.
  • Over a fifth of India’s bird diversity, ranging from the Short-toed Snake Eagle to the Sirkeer Malkoha, has suffered strong long-term declines over a 25-year period.
  • More recent annual trends point to a drastic 80% loss among several common birds.
  • For every bird species that was found to be increasing in numbers over the long term, 11 have suffered losses, some catastrophically.
  • Of 101 species categorised as being of High Conservation Concern endemics such as the Rufous-fronted Prinia, Nilgiri Thrush, Nilgiri Pipit and Indian vulture were confirmed as suffering current decline.
  • Among widely known species, the common sparrow, long seen as declining in urban spaces, has a stable population overall, although they have become rare in cities and urban areas.
  • Raptors overall are in decline, with ‘open country’ species such as the Pallid and Montagu Harriers, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Red-necked Falcon suffering the most.
  • Migratory shorebirds, along with gulls and terns, seem to have declined the most among Water Birds.

Reasons for Decline:

  • The possible reasons for this is a decrease in insect populations as well as nesting places, but there is no conclusive evidence in the scientific literature on radiation from mobile phone towers playing a part.
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation are known causes of species declines in general, but targeted research is needed to pinpoint causes of decline.
  • Climate Change could be one of the reasons for the decline in bird species as they are so sensitive to climate change.

Way Forward:

  • Addressing the key reasons for the decline is very essential as birds are also a part of our ecosystem. Failure in addressing their decline may disrupt the balance of the ecosystem.
  • Regular survey of various bird species and finding out their reasons for decline for particular interval of time could create a Positive Impact.


Why in News?

  • From the iconic Kaiser-i-Hind to the recently rediscovered Small Woodbrown butterfly, the state of Sikkim is home to nearly 700 species of butterfly.


  • There were issues raised in the past that organic farming could affect butterfly diversity in the state
  • A new study has found that the indigenous farming systems in this area are not affecting butterfly diversity. In fact, the team from Sikkim University found that organic farming has increased the species diversity.
  • This study has helped break the stereotype that agriculture declines the Wild Biodiversity.

Steps needs to be Taken:

  • The agroecosystems need special protection in order to protect the wild biodiversity as there is no scope of extension of protected areas in lower elevation.
  • Two, a synergy between agriculture, horticulture, forest and rural management department along with all stakeholders including farmers is required.
  • Three, farmers should be encouraged and incentivised to maintain the diversity of the farmlands.
  • Finally, more than monoculture systems, the focus should be on growing a variety of crops in a traditionally way and mixed crop farms to better Conserve Biodiversity.

Way Forward:

  • As the Himalayan biodiversity has recently been facing threats from habitat loss, change in land use, forest fragmentation and urbanisation, it is high time the neighbouring states take notes from Sikkim and shift to traditional organic methods to preserve the biodiversity of the region.


Why in News?

  • The Annual Ganges River Dolphin Census has begun.


  • The census is undertaken by World Wide Fund for Nature-India in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.
  • The census will be carried out along about 250-km-long riverine stretch of Upper Ganga between Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary and Narora Ramsar site in Bijnore.
  • During the previous censuses, direct counting method was used.
  • This year the tandem boat survey method is being used.
  • The method, developed by the renowned river and marine ecologist Gill Braulik, provides a more accurate count of the dolphins.
  • The officials use two inflated boats that move in tandem to count the dolphins.
  • After collating the data, statistical tools are employed to arrive at the final count.


  • Once present in tens of thousands of numbers, the Ganges river dolphin has dwindled abysmally to less than 2000 during the last century owing to:
  • Direct killing
  • Habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages
  • Indiscriminate fishing.
  • It is for these reasons that despite high level of protection, its numbers continue to decline.
  • The absence of a coordinated conservation plan, lack of awareness and continuing anthropogenic pressure, are posing incessant threats to the existing dolphin population.
  • Conservation Initiatives activated by the Government of India:
  • Declared the Ganges River Dolphin as National Aquatic Animal on 10th May 2010 as recommended in the first meeting of NGRBA.
  • A working group was formed to prepare conservation action plan for the Gangetic River Dolphin.
  • Dolphin Awareness Program (Phase – I) has been completed.
  • Further strengthening of networking is being taken up in Phase- II with NGOs, schools and teachers in Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins.
  • In the upper Ganga. 164 kms stretch of dolphin habitat is under monitoring to minimize potentials threats.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its efforts of biodiversity conservation in the Ganga River basin has been working further on the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Action Plans.

Gangetic Dolphins:

  • The animal is known to make strange sounds when it breathes, earning it the nickname ‘Susu’.
  • Being a mammal, it has to come to the surface to breathe.
  • It is also called a blind dolphin because it doesn’t have a crystalline eye lens and uses echolocation to navigate and hunt.
  • It is crucial to find prey in the murky waters of the Ganga.
  • Like bats, they produce high-frequency sounds which help them ‘see’ objects when the sound waves bounce off them.
  • IUCN Red List classifies Gangetic Dolphin as Endangered.


Why in News?

  • A recent study has found that roadkills on the proposed alternative to NH 766 route are one of the highest in the country.


  • The eight-month study recorded 2,426 roadkills during the period.
  • Studies on roadkills are comparatively low in the country, but available studies show that the roadkill on the proposed alternative highway is high.
  • It is suspected that the major reason for the roadkills on the alternative route is the unrestricted vehicle movements, especially during night hours, after the night traffic ban was introduced on NH 766 since 2009.


  • Mananthavady-Gonikoppal Mysuru highway passes through the Tholpetty forest range of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The forest range, with an extent of 77 sq. km, is also a major tiger habitat.
  • For large animals such as tigers and elephants, roads and railroads hardly pose any physical barrier.
  • Most mammals, however, are sensitive to disturbances by humans.
    Smell, noise, and vehicle movement, as well as experiences from human encounters, may repel the animals from approaching the road corridor.

Way Forward:

  • Human-wildlife conflict is one of the major threat to Indian wildlife, human activities such as deforestation, Habitat loss, Lack of prey and illegal roads cut through forest are threaten the safety and survival of wildlife in India.
  • Many wild animals have been killed due to road accidents and speeding vehicles passing through the wildlife protected area.
  • The Centre and the National Highways Authority of India have been repeatedly advised by the National Board for Wildlife, as well as independent researchers, to realign or modify sensitive roads.
  • Speed-breakers have to be set up on the route to curb the menace.
  • Speed limit reductions during these times may decrease mortality rates.
  • A more robust approach would be to realign the roads.


Why in News?

  • The study, by researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Sheffield, published in the Journal Science has found that nearly one in every five species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are bought and sold on the wildlife market globally.

Key Findings:

  • The study has found that nearly one in every five species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles are bought and sold on the wildlife market globally.
  • Out of 31,745 vertebrate species on Earth, 5,579 (18%) are traded — a finding that is 40-60 per cent higher than previous estimates.
  • Trade in wildlife breaks up as 27 per cent (1,441) of mammal species, 23 per cent (2,345) of bird species, almost 10 per cent (609) of amphibian species and 12 per cent (1,184) of reptiles.
  • The authors predict that future trade will impact over 3,000 additional species, taking the total to about 8,700 species.
  • They said the wildlife trade industry generates between $8 billion and 21 billion, pushing some of these species closer to extinction.

Key Factors behind the Trade:

  • Trade of wildlife for luxury foods, medicinal parts and as pets are the key factors contributing to the extinction risk faced by of vertebrates globally.
  • Over 45 per cent of bird species and 51 per cent of amphibian species were found to have been traded as pets.
  • On the other hand, 90 per cent of mammals and over 63 per cent of bird species are traded in the form of products.
  • For example, the pangolin is hunted both for meat and its scales, while the rhino is poached for its horn.
  • The study found that overall for vertebrates, 44 per cent are traded as pets and over 60 per cent as products.

Hotspots for Trade:

  • The hotspots for mammal trade are in Africa and Southeast Asia, while Australia and Madagascar are the main trade hotspots for reptiles.
  • While wildlife pet trade flourishes in the tropics, product trade is concentrated in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, including the Himalayas.



  • With recent studies this year having reported the presence of tigers in high altitude regions in India, experts from India, Nepal and Bhutan under the aegis of their governments are about to take up a detailed assessment on how entrenched tigers are, in these regions.

Key Stats of The Early Study:

  • The report by the experts has established that out of 52,671 of tiger habitat in high altitudes, about 75 percent lies in India.
  • As part of the “high altitude tiger master plan” gathering background information on land attributes, ascertaining status of protection and engaging local communities in tiger conservation is also to be ascertained.
  • Tigers in high altitude has been reported from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
  • The tiger survey earlier this year also has estimated that about 2967 tigers exists in India.
  • The report does not contain numbers of other predators like leopards. But better tiger numbers are generally seen as indicating good prey bases and habitat.

Tiger Bearing Habitats (Tiger Landscapes) in India:

  • The tiger bearing habitats were divided into five landscape regions—
  • 1.Shivalik-Gangetic plains,
  • 2.Central India and the Eastern Ghats,
  • 3.Western Ghats,
  • 4.North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains and
  • 5.The Sundarbans.

About Global Tiger Forum:

  • The GTF was formed in 1993 on recommendations from an international symposium on Tiger Conservation at New Delhi, India.
  • The Global Tiger Forum (GTF) is the only inter- governmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.
  • The first meeting of the Tiger Range countries to setup the forum was held in 1994, in which India was elected to the Chair and was asked to form an interim secretariat.
  • In 1997, the GTF became an independent organization.
  • GTF was set up to highlight the rationale for tiger preservation and provide leadership and common approach throughout the world in order to safeguard the survival of the tiger, its prey, and its habitat.

Tiger Range Countries:

  • There are 13 Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) viz., Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.



  • A survey of dragonflies and damselflies held in the Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) has discovered eight new species, but reported an alarming decrease in the odonate population, raising concerns over the ecological impact of the successive floods in the State.

New Species:

  • The new species found in the survey includes the Hemicordulia asiatica (Asian Emerald), which was reported from the Periyar Tiger Reserve in 2017.
  • This rare dragonfly had gone unreported for over 80 years, and this was its second sighting from any protected forest in the State.
  • Macrogomphus wynadiccus (Wayanad Bowtail ), Onychogomphus nilgiriensis (Nilgiri Clawtail), Epithemis mariae (Rubytailed Hawklet), Palpopleura sexmaculata (Blue-Tailed Yellow Skimmer) and Neurothemis intermedia (Paddy Field Parasol) were the other interesting finds among dragonflies.
  • Agrocnemis splendidissima (Splendid Dartlet), Lestes dorothea (Scalloped Spreadwing), Onychargia atrocyana (Black Marsh Dart), Phylloneura westermani (Myristica Bambootail), Euphea disper (Nilgiri Torrent Dart) and Protostica gravely (Pied Reedtail) were some of the decorated findings among damselflies.

Findings of Survey:

  • Climate change has hit the Silent Valley National Park leading to a sharp fall in the population of dragonflies such as ‘global wanderer.’
  • Experts opined that this could be due to the aberrant rain pattern and successive floods that affected the state as the predaceous insects spend most of their lifetime as eggs and larvae under water.
  • Though there was an increase in different species found in the region, a decrease in the number is evident in each of them.
  • One disturbing finding is the fall in the abundance of dragonflies – a meagre average two sightings compared to 60 last year.
  • The insects spend most of their lifespan in water bodies.
  • The larvae could have been destroyed in floods which affected the region in the last two years.
  • Eight new species were discovered from the park. These include hemicordulia asiatica, which was previously reported from Periyar Tiger Reserve in 2017.

About Survey:

  • The second edition of the Odonate (dragonflies, damselflies) survey was held jointly by the volunteers of the Society for Odonate Studies and the Silent Valley Park.

Biological Indicator:

  • Odonates were great biological indicators and studies on them would provide crucial information on the health of aquatic habitats and variations occurring in the climate.
  • Odonates are good pest controllers.

Freshwater Indicator:

  • When a water system becomes degraded through human impact like pollution or damming, there is a change in the species profile away from sensitive specialists towards insensitive generalists.
  • A prominent group of species associated with water and that can tell us something about the state of our water resources is dragonflies – the collective term for true dragonflies and damselflies.
  • When they are young they live in the water as larvae, then later emerge as flying adults that grace fresh waters throughout the world, except the ice caps. Both life stages are predatory.
  • So these beautiful insects are near the top of the food chain and have few natural enemies other than birds. These are occasionally frogs, spiders and robber flies.
  • Dragonflies like the white malachite are excellent candidates for water assessment.
  • Using dragonflies it is possible to determine whether there should be concern about a system that is going downhill or whether a system is improving, and how well it’s doing.
  • Using dragonflies to this end is incredibly simple.

About Dragonflies:

  • Dragonflies are pushed away from their normal habitats when invasive alien trees like eucalyptus, wattles and pines shade the water and bank.
  • This means that the removal of alien trees from the banks of rivers, in particular, is an important nature conservation exercise.
  • Farm dams can encourage many species that would otherwise be very scarce in the area.

About Silent Valley National Park:

  • The national park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats mountain rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in India.
  • It is located in the Nilgiri hills, Kerala.
  • This national park has some rare species of flora and fauna.
  • The Silent Valley region is locally known as “Sairandhrivanam”, which in Malayalam means Sairandhri’s Forest.


Why in News?

  • The recent blooming of Noctiluca scintillans, a greenish marine microalgae, in the Gulf of Mannar, has caused the death of more than 180 colonies, mostly on the shoreward side of Shingle Island in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National park.

About the Algal Bloom:

  • The recent monitoring of the status of corals around the islands in Gulf of Mannar has found a multitude of Noctiluca scintillans cells settled on corals and other benthic organisms in the reef areas of Shingle Island.
  • Majority of the colonies had shown obvious sign of mucous sheathing. Inspite of this defence over the colonies, most of them were found dead due to algal bloom.
  • The absence of secondary algae also confirms the recent death of these coral colonies due to smothering effect of the microalgae while settling.

About Mucous Sheathing:

  • Corals generally secrete mucus in order to coat their body with mucus, so that they can maintain moisture to withstand severe environmental conditions.
  • This can be generally useful when corals are exposed to air during extremely low tides, experiencing high temperature and dryness under strong sunlight for a couple of hours.
  • Corals also release mucus under stressed conditions such as defence against biofouling, pathogens, UV radiation, sedimentation, pollutants, and desiccation. Even water currents and temperature or salinity changes can be a cause of mucus release.


Why in News?

  • A new global study titled “Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Food and Land Use” has quantified the damage that the modern food industry does to human health, development and the environment costs.
  • The “hidden cost” to the world is $12 trillion a year — equivalent to China’s GDP — says the study by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), a global alliance of economists and scientists.

Highlights of the Report:

  • The current methods of food production, consumption and land use systems incur ‘hidden’ environmental, health and poverty costs estimated at almost $12 trillion a year.
  • These hidden costs can cause irreversible damage to key ecosystems, fundamentally undermine food security in certain regions, and increase public health costs.
  • The report warned that if action is not taken timely the costs will rise to more than $16 trillion a year by 2050.
  • It will also put the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement climate targets out of reach.
  • This can further unleash food scarcity, disrupt markets and cause political instability, particularly in poor countries, and greatly affect women and children.
  • Food and land use systems are defined as the way “land is used, food is produced, stored, packed, processed, traded, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed of,”
  • These are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions (up to 30 per cent) driving climate change.
  • They are responsible for the degradation of the world’s tropical forests, grasslands, wetlands and other remaining natural habitats. They are also the leading cause behind the ongoing ‘sixth extinction’ of biodiversity.
  • Global farm subsidies — more than $1m per minute — are triggering climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, while just 1 per cent of the $700 billion a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found.
  • Much of the total is, instead, used to promote high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from overuse of fertilisers.
  • The current food systems are also driving widespread malnutrition, besides directly impacting public health.
  • Malnutrition leading to largest hidden cost: Today one-third of the world’s population is malnourished; by 2030 it is expected to rise up to 50 per cent. Since 2014, undernourishment has been rising and more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger.
  • The most affected are in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Climate-related extreme weather, conflict and economic slowdown are responsible for undernourishment.
  • The economic structure of the food system also perpetuates poverty and inequality. Of the 740 million people living in extreme poverty (with less than $1.90 a day purchasing power parity 2011) two-thirds are agricultural workers and their dependents. This indicates that the world is not on track to eradicate poverty by 2030 (SDG 1).

The report proposes a reform agenda — centred around 10 critical transitions — of real actionable solutions:

  • Healthy diets
  • Productive and regenerative agriculture
  • A healthy and productive ocean
  • Protecting and restoring nature
  • Diversifying protein supply
  • Reducing food loss and waste
  • Local loops and linkages
  • Harnessing the digital revolution
  • Stronger rural livelihoods
  • Gender and demography
  • According to the report these could enable food and land use systems to provide food security and healthy diets for a global population of over nine billion by 2050, while also tackling core climate, biodiversity, health and poverty challenges.

What the Report Says About India?

  • The report points out that India has 4 per cent of global freshwater resources to support 19 per cent of the world’s population. Some 80 per cent of water in India goes to agriculture, primarily from groundwater sources. This is unsustainable, it says.
  • FOLU observes that existing government policies already address critical transitions that the new report recommends.
  • Among various Indian initiatives, the report mentions the EatRight Movement of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in 2017, the National Food Security Act of 2013, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, and the Zero Budget Natural Farming programme in Andhra Pradesh.


Why in News?

  • The commendable role played by the Vulture Care Centres (VCC) in saving the endangered vulture species has brought the VCC in limelight.

Growth of VCC:

  • In the late 1990s, when the population of the vultures in the country had begun to decline sharply, few White-backed vulture was rescued from Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, where vultures were dying at an alarming rate.
  • To study the cause of deaths of vultures, a Vulture Care Centre (VCC) was set up at Pinjore, Haryana. Starting with just a few vultures, the VCC, until then the sole facility for conservation of vultures in the country, has come a long way in the past two decades.
  • At present there are nine Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC) in India, of which three are directly administered by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
  • The objective of the VCBCs was not only to look after the vultures and breed them in captivity, but also to release them into the wild.
  • The first objective of the VCBC was to produce a few hundred pairs of each of the three species of the endangered vultures.

Endangered Status:

  • The three species of vultures majorly found in India and their status in IUCN list are
1The White-backed VultureCritically Endangered
2The Long-billed VultureCritically Endangered
3The Slender-billed vultureCritically Endangered

Reason Behind the Extinction:

  • The major reason behind the vulture population getting nearly wiped out was the drug Diclofenac, found in the carcass of cattle the vultures fed on.
  • The drug, whose veterinary use was banned in 2008, was commonly administered to cattle to treat inflammation.

Way Ahead:

  • Apart from the establishment of VCBCs and getting Diclofenac banned, it was imperative to manage our carcass dumps and make sure that poisoned carcasses are not dumped for the vultures to feed on.
  • The officials in the forest department were also advised that they should not burn and bury animal carcasses because vultures have a strong preference for wild animals. These days the forest department does it to keep poachers away. But the practice is denying food to vultures.
  • There should be also emphasis on creating awareness and on creating safe zones for vultures in places where there is an existing vulture population. So far nine states have been undertaken programmes to create safe habitats for vultures.

About BNHS:

  • The Bombay Natural History Society, founded in 1883, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.
  • It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.
  • BNHS is the partner of Bird Life International in India. It has been designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’ by the Department of Science and Technology.


Why in News?

  • Union Environment Ministry released a report on Status of Tiger Habitats in high altitude Ecosystems.


  • The study is led by the Global Tiger Forum (GTF), with range country governments of Bhutan, India and Nepal, along with WWF.
  • It has been supported by the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHPC) of the IUCN.
  • This provides the action strategy for a high-altitude tiger master plan, with gainful portfolio for local communities.
  • It ensures centrality of tiger conservation in development, through an effective coordination mechanism, involving stakeholders and line departments operating within the landscape.

Why Such Report?

  • Various studies reveal that even ecology at high altitude is compatible for the tiger growth.
  • The habitat of tiger of varied, encompassing several biomes and ecological conditions.
  • However, most of the high-altitude habitats, within the range have not been surveyed for an appraisal of tiger presence, prey and habitat status.
  • Tiger habitats in high altitude require protection through sustainable land use, as they are a high value ecosystem with several hydrological and ecological processes providing ecosystem services.
  • Several high-altitude habitats in South Asia have the spatial presence of tiger, active in-situ efforts are called for ensuring their conservation.

Global Tiger Forum:

  • The GTF was formed in 1993 on recommendations from an international symposium on Tiger Conservation at New Delhi, India.
  • The GTF is the only intergovernmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.
  • Utilizing co-operative policies, common approaches, technical expertise, scientific modules and other appropriate programmes and controls the GTF is focused on saving the remaining 5 sub-species of Tigers distributed over 13 Tiger Range countries of the world.


Why in News?

  • Australian government downgrades outlook for the Great Barrier Reef to ‘very poor’. Coral along large swathes of the 2,300-kilometre reef have been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.

Implications of “Very Poor” Status:

  • The report published by The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority-An Australian Agency will be a major input into UNESCO’s Committee.
  • There are high chances that Great barrier reef to be considered for “ List of World Heritage in Danger”

World Heritage in Danger:

  • The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
  • Dangers can be ‘ascertained’, referring to specific and proven imminent threats, or ‘potential’, when a property is faced with threats which could have negative effects on its World Heritage values.
  • It encourages corrective action.

Great Barrier Reef:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea (North-East Coast), off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
  • The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.
  • The reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.


Why in News?

  • A resolution calling for Japan and the European Union (EU) to close their legal domestic ivory markets was not adopted at the ongoing 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva on August 21, 2019.


  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an International agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
  • It restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs.
  • It was signed on March 3, 1973 (Hence world wildlife day is celebrated on march 3).
  • It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • Secretariat— Geneva (Switzerland).
  • CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
  • It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. They are.
  • Appendix I: It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
  • Appendix II species: They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
  • Appendix III species: They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.



Why in News?

  • Discovery India and World Wide Fund (WWF) India have partnered with the Government of West Bengal and local communities in the Sundarban to help save the world’s only mangrove tiger habitat.

The Project:

  • The project will use technology to solve several of the issues faced in the region. This includes building datasets on impacts of climate change on estuarine ecosystem.
  • The initiative focuses on enhancing farmland productivity through low-cost measures and adjusting crop calendars to deal with climate change.
  • The initiative will also include work towards securing habitats for tigers and prey species.
  • The project at Sundarbans is part of a global movement, Project CAT (Conserving Acres for Tigers), aimed at building healthy habitats for Tigers by conserving six million acres of protected land across four countries.

Project CAT (Conserving Acres for Tigers):

  • Discovery Communications is working with World Wildlife Fund and others to support a worldwide effort to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022.
  • It is a mission to ensure a future for tigers and other endangered wildlife by conserving nearly a million acres of protected land on the border of India and Bhutan.
  • Tigers face multiple threats from poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with humans and overhunting of their prey species.

Umbrella Species:

  • Umbrella Species are species that are selected for conservation-related decisions because the conservation and protection of these species indirectly affect the conservation and protection of other species within their ecosystem.
  • Umbrella species help in the selection of potential reserve locations, as well as the determination of the composition of the reserve.
  • These species usually have a large area requirement for which the conservation of the species extends the protection to other species sharing the same habitat.
  • Umbrella species are representative of other species in their habitat since they are known species, and they also determine the area of conservation.

Keystone Species:

  • A keystone species is an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.
  • Keystone species have low functional redundancy.
  • Any organism, from plants to fungi, may be a keystone species; they are not always the largest or most abundant species in an ecosystem.


  • The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world, lies across India and Bangladesh on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans World Heritage site inscribed in 1987.
  • The site is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, and presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes.
  • The area is known for its wide range of fauna, including 260 bird species, the Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.


Why in news?

  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has released the first-ever global assessment of forest biodiversity.

Key Findings:

  • There has been a 53% decline in the number of forest wildlife populations since 1970.
  • Of the 455 monitored populations of forest specialists, more than half declined at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent, on average between 1970 and 2014.
  • While the decline was consistent in these years among mammals, reptiles and amphibians (particularly from the tropical forests), it was less among birds (especially from temperate forests).


  • Loss of habitat due to logging, agricultural expansion, mining, hunting, conflicts and spread of diseases accounted for almost 60 per cent of threats.
  • Nearly 20 per cent of threats were due to over exploitation. Of the 112 forest-dwelling primate populations, 40 were threatened by overexploitation (hunting).
  • Climate change, on the other hand, threatened to 43 per cent of amphibian populations, 37 per cent of reptile populations, 21 per cent of bird populations but only 3 per cent of mammal populations.
  • Climate change, on the other hand, threatened to 43 per cent of amphibian populations, 37 per cent of reptile populations, 21 per cent of bird populations but only 3 per cent of mammal populations.



  • Tension has gripped several villages in the western belt of Chittoor district, from Palamaner to Somala, with wild elephants raiding crops and damaging huts.

Recent Issue:

  • In the latest incident last week, a group of three elephants attacked a hut in Madhavaram village of Tavanampalle mandal.
  • In June, three elephants again left the sanctuary to forage in the hillocks surrounding Punganur and Madanapalle forest ranges, raiding crops at nearby field at night and retreating into the valleys and thickets by day.
  • More recently, in the third week of July, a tenmember herd left the Koundinya and marched as far as Somala mandal located very close to the Seshachalam hills on the eastern side of Chittoor district.
  • The herd raided crops in several villages, even as forest officer

Reason for Conflict:

Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation:

  • When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
  • Elephants cause damage amounting from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. Every year, 100 humans (in some years it may be 300 people) and 40-50 elephants are killed during crop raiding in India.

Lethal Retaliation AGAINST Elephants:

  • Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed.
  • This was illustrated in the case of >60 elephants found dead in retaliation incidents in NE India and Sumatra in 2001, poisoned by plantation workers.
  • Human-elephant conflict can take their toll both on human lives and property as well as elephant populations.
  • Ways of reducing or resolving such conflicts are vital for the viable conservation of Asian elephants.

Elephants across Asia live in a variety of habitats and landscapes:

  • These include large contiguous areas surrounded by crop fields, or in highly degraded areas with other agricultural encroachments and they are also found in fragmented landscapes with a mosaic of crop fields, plantations and patches of forest.


  • The pattern of crop raiding and the immediate reasons that induce elephants to raid crops vary. Elephants may prefer feeding on crops when compared to wild forage because of their higher nutritive content and palatability.
  • However, latest studies on Asian elephants living in contiguous compact habitats show that not all elephants in a population raid crops. However, in highly fragmented landscapes, the entire population may be involved in elephant-human conflict.


  • Context: Five female wild buffaloes will be translocated from Assam to the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary in Raipur district, to help revive the waning population of Chhattisgarh’s State animal and expand its territory across States.

Reason for Translocation:

  • The survival hazard of inbreeding, continuing lineage and increasing male population have necessitated the translocation.

About Wild Buffalo:

  • The Asiatic Wild Buffalo, scientifically known as the Bubalus arnee has been known to be found only in the Central Indian Forests.
  • The good news is that, these mighty creatures have now found a new and a secure home in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.
    • The Maharashtra Government declared the Kolamarka forest area as a conservation reserve for the Asiatic Wild Buffalo.
    • Spread over 180 square kilometers, the Kolamarka reserve is just adjacent to the Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhatisgarh.
    • This is also the place where about 8-15 genetically pure wild buffaloes have been reported.
  • The range of this wild buffalo was once spread from Mesopotamia to IndoChina.
  • Wild Water Buffalo is believed to be extinct in Bangladesh, Peninsular Malaysia, and on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.
  • Asiatic buffalo has the widest horn span among all bovids found globally sometimes spanning more than two metres!
  • A distinctive white ‘V’ marks the lower neck of the animal.
  • There are presently just about 4000 individuals present in the world.
  • India has the highest population of Asiatic water buffaloes, but it is declining very fast.

Conservation Status:

  • It is listed under Schedule 1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972,
  • IUCN status- Threatened Species.
  • The Water Buffalo has been listed as an endangered species by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)


  • Wild Asian Buffalo are considered to be economically important animals as they are the original source of domestic buffalo.


  • Threatened by poaching
  • loss of habitat,
  • breeding with domestic buffaloes.
  • As per the IUCN, the constant competition for food and water between the wild and the domestic buffalo make the situation worse for the survivial of these huge animals.
  • This mammal is restricted to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in India.
  • The only way to preserve the surviving herd in Kolamarka is by declaring the area a sanctuary and not just a conservation reserve.
  • Since most of the populations exist within the protected areas, the small group in Kolamarka reserve can be a hope for the future survival of this highly endangered ungulate.

Conservation Strategy for Asiatic Buffalo in Chhattisgarh:

  • The present strategy proposed is conservation breeding, combined with interventions in habitat and close monitoring of the surviving populations in parts of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
  • The option of translocation of some individuals from Assam is being debated but concerns of desirability of genetic mixing of the populations are a matter of debate.
  • The birth of one female calf in northern India is a positive development.


Why in News?

  • India has submitted proposals regarding changes to the listing of various wildlife species in the CITES secretariat meeting, scheduled later this month in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.
  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  • Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.

How New Species are added into the CITES list:

  • The Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its Parties, has agreed on a set of biological and trade criteria to help determine whether a species should be included in Appendices I or II. At each regular meeting of the CoP, Parties submit proposals based on those criteria to amend these two Appendices. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote. The Convention also allows for amendments by a postal procedure between meetings of the CoP, but this procedure is rarely used.
  • Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.


  • The proposals submitted are regarding changes in the listing of the smooth-coated otter, small-clawed otter, Indian star tortoise, Tokay gecko, wedge fish and Indian rosewood.
  • The country seeks to boost the protection of all the five animal species as they are facing a high risk of international trade.
  • For the Indian rosewood, the proposal is to remove the species from CITES Appendix II. The species covered by CITES are listed in three appendices on the degree of protection they require.
  • India is among the parties proposing the re-listing of the star tortoise from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. The species faces two threats: loss of habitat to agriculture and illegal harvesting for the pet trade.
  • With regard to the two otter species, India, Nepal and the Philippines have proposed that the listing be moved from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I for the more endangered species. A similar proposal has been made to include the Tokay gecko in Appendix I.



  • Chenchus the Members of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) in Nallamala forest understands tigers and help them let live and multiply.

Who are Chenchus

  • The Chenchus are a Telugu speaking food-gathering tribe living in the Nallamalai forests of Andhra Pradesh in India spread over the districts of Mahaboobnagar, Kurnool, Prakasam and Guntur.
  • They are a conservative tribal group and have not made many changes in their lifestyle or tried to adapt to modernity.
  • They live in the enclosed space and geography, leading a life of an unbroken continuity.

Nallamala Forest:

  • Nallamala Forest is one of the largest undisturbed stretches of forest in South India.
  • It is located in the Nallamala Hill which is a part of the Eastern Ghats
  • The forest has a good tiger population, and a part of the forest belongs to the Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve.

How Chenchus Help Tigers?

  • A group of five Chenchus man each of the base camps and move into the interior forests at dawn each day conscientiously to digitally capture pug marks and other remnants left by the big cats in the sprawling Nallamala forests.
  • They work un­mindful of treacherous terrain to provide a safe environment for the big cats and other wild animals and generate vast data from the ground for analysis by the NTCA authorities who come out with the tiger census every four years.

Co-Existence with Tigers

  • Tribes are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world.
  • The reason for this is that India’s tribes people have a deep and close relationship with the forest, which they depend on for their livelihoods and survival.
  • The forest is not just home. It is sacred, it is life, it is medicine, it is food. The tribes treat it with love and respect.
  • A Chenchu man explained: “We love the forest as a child loves his mother.
  • Principle:
    • Their customs dictate that they should never take more than they need or waste anything.
    • Many works on the principle of giving back to nature what they take from it.
  • When Chenchus harvest honey from high in the trees, they take some for themselves and leave some near the ground for the tigers, because “tigers cannot climb the trees and harvest honey.
  • Chenchu, worship the tiger, considering it both a god and a member of their large spiritual family, which includes other animals such as panthers and bears.

Other tribes which co-exist with Tigers:

  • Soliga tribe, Baiga tribe
  • A recent census has shown that the number of tigers in one tiger reserve has increased way above the national average since the Soliga became the first tribe to have their rights to stay in a tiger reserve recognized.


  • Evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else, and therefore the best placed to protect the tiger and its forests.
  • In spite of this, current conservation practices threaten to destroy India’s tribal guardians and their natural heritage by illegally evicting communities from their ancestral homelands and criminalizing their subsistence activities.



  • The Union Environment Ministry and the Department of Livestock and Animal Husbandry are exploring a scheme to devise an insurance policy that will compensate people who lose their livestock to tigers.


  • The growing tiger base has brought with it challenges of man-animal conflict, with reports of tigers preying on cattle and sometimes mauling humans who live in the vicinity of their habitat.
  • Currently, there is no policy on compensating people for such cattle lost because tiger reserves are no-go areas, and people and cattle are not supposed to be present.
  • Another plan discussed was to improve water conservation in forests, along with the Jal Shakti Ministry on sustaining tiger’s prey-base.
  • Greater presence of tigers can be attributed to more dependable water sources, and the presence of more chital and deer.
  • Increase in the tiger population means increasing pressure on its habitat and on the occurrence of man-animal conflict.



  • Prime Minister released tiger estimation figures and said that India has achieved the target of doubling the tiger count four years ahead of the deadline.
  • The country now has 2,967 tigers, which has been the result of a growth of 33 per cent in the fourth cycle of the Tiger Census.


  • India along with 12 other tiger range countries had committed to doubling the population of tigers in their respective countries by 2022, as part of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) programme Tx2.

Status of Tigers in India, 2018:

  • The four-year tiger census report shows that the numbers of the big cat have increased across all landscapes.
  • The total count has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.
  • This is by far the biggest increase in terms of both numbers and percentage since the four-yearly census using camera traps and the capture-mark-recapture method began in 2006.
  • Tiger numbers are always projected in a range — 2,967, is the mean of an estimated range of 2,603 to 3,346.
  • The 2018 figure has a great degree of credibility because, according to the report, as many as 2,461 individual tigers (83% of the total) have actually been photographed by trap cameras.
  • The report does not contain numbers of other predators like leopards. But better tiger numbers are generally seen as indicating good prey bases and habitat.

Method Used to Collect Data:

  • The population estimates were prepared by collecting field data on tiger sign intensity, prey abundance, human disturbance and habitat characteristics in various forest beats. This was followed by estimates based on camera trap images.

State Wise Data:

  • The growth of tiger has not been uniform across all 18 states where tigers are found.
  • MP had the highest rise of 218 tigers, reaching an estimated 526, followed by Karnataka with 524. The two states have the highest population of the predator.
  • The numbers have also increased in Uttarakhand (442), Maharashtra (312) and Tamil Nadu (264).
  • The count has decreased drastically from 46 to 19 in Chhattisgarh. In Odisha, it has been on a continual decline over the years and now stands at 28.
  • No tigers were found in Buxa (West Bengal), Dampa (Mizoram) and Palamau (Jharkhand), reserves.
  • Since state boundaries do not apply to the movement of tigers, conservationists prefer to talk about tiger numbers in terms of landscapes rather than of states.

Tiger Bearing Habitats (Tiger Landscapes) in India:

  • The tiger bearing habitats were divided into five landscape regions

      1. Shivalik-Gangetic plains,

      2. Central India and the Eastern Ghats,

      3. Western Ghats,

      4. North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains and

      5. The Sundarbans.

Why There is A Need For Tiger Census?

  • The tiger sits at the peak of the food chain, and its conservation is important to ensure the well-being of the forest ecosystem. The tiger estimation exercise includes habitat assessment and prey estimation.
  • The numbers reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts. This is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation.
  • The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2022.
  • More than 80% of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and it’s crucial to keep track of their numbers.

About Global Tiger Forum:

  • The Global Tiger Forum (GTF) is the only inter- governmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.
  • The GTF was formed in 1993 on recommendations from an international symposium on Tiger Conservation at New Delhi, India.
  • The first meeting of the Tiger Range countries to setup the forum was held in 1994, in which India was elected to the Chair and was asked to form an interim secretariat.
  • In 1997, the GTF became an independent organization.
  • GTF was set up to highlight the rationale for tiger preservation and provide leadership and common approach throughout the world in order to safeguard the survival of the tiger, its prey, and its habitat.

Tiger Range Countries:

  • There are 13 Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) viz., Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.



  • The Karnataka Government have banned night traffic through the road passing through Bandipur National Park as conservationists argued that it is disturbing the wildlife, recently there has been a rising demand to lift this ban.


  • The State’s long-drawn battle to keep roads through Bandipur National Park closed at night got a shot in the arm after the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) informed the Supreme Court that they have accepted the recommendation of maintaining status quo on National Highway 766.
  • In February, committee, which included senior officials from Karnataka, Kerala, MoRTH, MoEF, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), had noted that wildlife in the eco-sensitive tiger reserve had adapted to the ban between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., while the road was opened for emergency vehicles during this time.


  • There are hardships to a large number of people living in north Malabar” due to the night ban on NH­212 through the national park
  • Protest in Kerala
  • Kerala contends that the restriction besides increasing travel time, has destroyed the economy of the northern districts of the state which are dependent on Mysuru and surrounding areas for their supply of vegetables, meat, pulses and cereals.
  • Some vested interest
  • state’s insistence on opening this particular route passing through the forest, while two alternative roads exist, has raised suspicion that some politicians could be acting at the behest of Kerala’s notorious timber lobby to whose nocturnal activitives.

Benefits of Ban:

  • There has been reduction in number of wildlife deaths significantly after the restrictions were enforced, The panel has also noted that there is a proposal to connect Bengaluru to different parts of Kerala without winding through protected areas under the Centre’s ‘Bharatmala’ project.
  • With three substitute routes being available, it may be prudent to completely shut down the present highway in due course, not just at night, as movement of vehicles during the day, too, causes enormous stress to wildlife.
  • Forests primarily belong to animals and tribals who reside in them and not to men who carve roads through them.”
  • There must be some mediation done to find alternative that local vulnerable population is not affected anymore.

About Bandipur National Park:

  • It creates the India’s biggest biosphere reserve popularly known as the ‘Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve’.
  • It is the natural inhabitants of gaur (a type of bull), sambhar, chital, mouse deer, four-horned antelope, wild dogs, wild boar, jackal, sloth bear, panther, malabar squirrel, porcupines and the black-knapped hare. Birds like jungle fowl and green pigeon are also found here.
  • The park is surrounded by the Kabini River in the north and the Moyar River in the south while the Nugu River runs through the park.


  • Context– Union Environment Ministry (MoEFCC) has declared Monkeys (Rhesus Macaque) as ‘vermin’ in Himachal Pradesh.

What is Vermin?

  • Any animal which poses a threat to human and their livelihood especially farming, can be declared Vermin under Schedule V of Wildlife Protection act 1972.
  • States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter. Wildlife Protection Act 1972, empower every State’s Chief Wildlife Warden for culling. Wild boars, nilgai and rhesus monkeys are protected under Schedule II and III, but can be hunted under specific conditions.

Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:

  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted for protection of plants and animal species.
  • The Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants; and for matters connected there with or ancillary or incidental thereto.
  • Though Rhesus Macaque monkeys are protected species under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the law allows for it to be hunted by declaring it ‘vermin’ for a specific period if it poses a danger to human life or property.

Permissions for hunting wildlife:

  • The Wildlife Act empowers every State’s Chief Wildlife Warden to authorise hunters to cull animals in a region where they are a proven nuisance.
  • Wildlife laws also consider hunted wildlife as ‘government property’ and impose restrictions on how these carcasses must be disposed.


  • Himachal Pradesh forest department’s website clearly shows a marked decline in the number of monkeys in the state, yet the Centre declares it as vermin due to overpopulation.
  • Previously monkeys were sterilised by the government has cost the tax payer Rs 50 crore.
  • Many wildlife conservationists believe that a species coming into conflict with humans is a clear symptom of forest mismanagement and forest department must be held accountable for human-wildlife conflict situation anywhere in the country.

Key Provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act:

  • The Act extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own wildlife act.
  • It defines five types of protected areas viz.
    • National Parks
    • Wildlife Sanctuaries
    • Community Reserves
    • Conservation Reserves
    • Tiger Reserves.
  • Act has Six Schedules with varying degrees of protection to different kinds of animals and plants.

Schedules of the Wild Life Protection Act

  • Six Schedules in Wildlife Protection Act with varying degrees of protection.
  • Schedule I and Part II of Schedule II provide absolute protection.
  • Penalties for Schedule III and Schedule IV are less and these animals are protected.
  • Schedule V includes the animals which may be hunted.
  • Example: Common crow, Fruit bats, Mice & Rats only
  • Schedule VI contains the plants, which are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
    • Beddomes’ cycad (Cycas beddomei)
    • Blue Vanda (Vanda soerulec)
    • Kuth (Saussurea lappa)
    • Ladies slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum spp.)
    • Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana)
    • Red Vanda (Rananthera inschootiana



What is Plan Bee?

  • Plan Bee, is an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from Railway Tracks.


  • For Plan Bee, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) earned the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018­19 fiscal year.

Why Plan Bee?

  • There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal.
  • Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs
  • But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non ­corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths.

About Elephant:

  • Elephant as National Heritage Animal of India in 2010
  • The status was recommended by a task force on elephant project

Types of Elephant:

  • Indian Elephant: elephas maximus indicus
  • Sri Lankan Elephant: elephas maximus maxicus
  • Mainland Asian Elephants: elephas maximus sumatranus
  • Conservation of Elephants in India – Project Elephant:
  • There are 30 thousand elephants spread across 16 Elephant states in India.
  • Maximum number of elephants is in Kerala, followed by Karnataka and Assam.

Three key areas:

  • 1. Protection of wild elephants, their habitat and corridors
  • 2. Address the issue of man-animal conflict and
  • 3. Welfare of domesticated elephants
  • This Project Elephant is being implemented in 13 states.

Elephant Reserves:

  • There are a total of 28 elephant reserves.
  • ERs, maximum number is in Assam and Odisha with five each.

Elephant Corridors:

  • 183 identified elephant corridors in India
  • State corridors: maximum number of them are located in Meghalaya
  • Among, inter-state corridors, maximum are shared by Jharkhand and Odisha
  • Maximum International corridors India shares with Bangladesh


Why in News?

  • Telangana Government has introduced the Japanese “Miyawaki” method of afforestation to grow urban forests and expand the green cover as well as to meet the stipulated plantation target under the Telanganaku Haritha Haaram (TKHH).

    “Miyawaki” Method:

  • Miyawaki is a technique pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki that helps build dense, native forests in a short time.
  • This method includes planting trees (only native species) as close as possible in the same area which not only saves space, but the planted saplings also support each other in growth and block sunlight reaching the ground, thereby preventing the growth of weed.
  • The saplings become maintenance-free (self-sustainable) after the first three years.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • Miyawaki method helps to create a forest in just 20 to 30 years, while through conventional methods it takes anywhere between 200 to 300 years.

Miyawaki Process:

  • The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
  • The quality of soil is analysed and biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
  • A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density — three to five sapling per square meter.
  • The ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.


Why in News?

  • Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) estimates the density of vegetation and amount of food abundance available for herbivorous animals, for example, elephants.
  • This index has a negative correlation with graminoids (grassy food – grasses, sedges, and rushes – preferentially consumed by elephants) in tropical forests.


  • NDVI calculates the difference between the red and near infrared components of light reflected by objects (like satellite).
  • Since healthy vegetation strongly absorbs red and reflects near-infrared light, this difference can indicate the presence of healthy vegetation and can be mapped into a colour code (green and red).
  • High NDVI value (bright green) indicates healthier vegetation whereas low value (red) indicates less or no vegetation.
  • Data obtained from satellites (like Sentinel-2, Landsat and SPOT) that produce red and near-infrared images are used for estimating NDVI.

Applications of the Index:

  • Foresters use NDVI to quantify forest supply and leaf area index.
  • Farmers use NDVI for precision farming and to measure biomass.
  • NDVI is used to inform the ecology of various species, from elephants and red deer to mosquitoes and birds.
  • NASA states that NDVI is a good indicator of drought when water limits vegetation growth, it has a lower relative NDVI and density of vegetation.


  • The ongoing U.S.-China trade war escalation could knock off 0.4 percentage points from world GDP growth by 2020, and possibly lead to the lowest growth since 2009, according to Fitch Ratings.
  • The imposition by the U.S. of 25% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of imports from China would reduce world economic output by 0.4 percentage points in 2020.
  • Global GDP growth would slow to 2.7% this year and 2.4% next year, compared with our latest ‘Global Economic Outlook’ baseline forecasts of 2.8% and 2.7% respectively.
  • Global Economic Outlook: A Survey by the IMF staff usually published twice a year. It presents IMF staff economists’ analyses of global economic developments during the near and medium term.
  • For China and the U.S., the tariffs would initially feed through to lower export volumes and higher import prices, with the latter raising firms’ costs and reducing real wages.
  • These effects are expected to spill over to other trading partners not directly targeted by the tariffs.
  • While falling short of a global recession, this would be the weakest global growth rate since 2009 and slightly worse than 2012, when the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis was at its peak.

Godavari Mangroves at Coringa Wildlife


  • The government has begun the process to get UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status for Godavari Mangroves at Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, near Kakinada.
  • Once the Coringa sanctuary gets the heritage site tag, UNESCO will help develop tourism and protect the wildlife in the mangroves.
  • Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is 18 km from the port city of Kakinada. This sanctuary is a part of the Godavari estuary

UNESCO’s World Heritage:


  • Encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage. Encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites; Provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger


  • The World Heritage Fund provides about US$4 million annually to support activities requested by States Parties in need of international assistance.
  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.
  • It is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme

Status of Sites:

  • The designated sites mainly get protection as legal status is granted under the programme
    • Mainly Protection in War Times
    • Geneva Convention, its Articles, Protocols and Customs
    • Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international


  • Context-23 new species from the eastern Himalayas of a group of plants commonly known as Balsams or jewelweeds
  • UPSC mainly asks question regarding new species of plant, animal found in Western Ghats, Himalayas, North east, Andaman and Nicobar.
  • UPSC prelims questions- Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia)-2019
  • There are about 230 species of Balsams found in India and majority of them are found in the eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats. These species need proper conservation initiatives as they are highly vulnerable, especially to climate change.
  • They are mostly found in stream Margins, Moist Roadsides, Near Waterfalls and Wet Forests.


Why in News:

  • Scientists have found that the golden cat in six types of colours cinnamon, golden, gray, melanistic, ocelot and tightly rosetted Golden is no longer the only colour the elusive Asiatic golden cat can be associated with.
  • Its coat comes in five other shades in Arunachal Pradesh.


  • The Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.
  • It is found across eastern Nepal through north-eastern India to Indonesia.
  • Bhutan and China were known to have two morphs of the golden cat — one the colour of cinnamon and the other with markings similar to the ocelot, a small wild cat found in the Americas. Indian scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international conservation charity, and University College London (UCL) have discovered six colour morphs of the golden cat in Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The findings have contributed to an evolutionary puzzle because no other place on earth has so many colours of wild cats of the same species.
  • It is believed that the wide variation displayed in the cat’s coats provides them with several ecological benefits such as occupying different habitats at different elevations from wet tropical lowland forests to alpine scrubs and providing camouflage while preying on pheasants and rabbits. Colour morphs are thought to arise from random genetic mutations and take hold in the population through natural selection


Why in News:

  • A team of scientists from Delhi University and the Wildlife Institute of India, in collaboration with researchers from Indonesia and the US, have discovered a new species of ‘paddy frog’ from Northeast India, primarily Assam.

More in News:

  • The frog belongs to the microhylid genus Micryletta, a “group of narrow-mouthed frogs that is primarily and widely distributed in Southeast Asia, more commonly known as paddy frogs”.
  • The new species has been named ‘aishani’, derived from the Sanskrit word ‘aishani’ or aisani meaning Northeast.
  • The new species is likely to be more widely distributed in Northeast India, particularly the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot region that lies south of River Brahmaputra.
  • Micryletta aishani is currently endemic to Northeast India but it could very well be present in neighbouring regions of Bangladesh and Myanmar Scientists said the new species strikingly differs from other narrow-mouthed paddy frogs by characteristics such as Reddish-brown colouration on back,
  • Prominent dark streaks and ash-grey mottling on the lateral sides,
  • Shape of the snout, and
  • Absence of web on its feet.
  • The newly discovered Micryletta frog from Northeast India was confirmed as a new species by detailed comparison of both DNA and morphology with all previously known members across South East and East Asia
  • DNA analyses suggested that other “undescribed species in this genus” could be in existence in regions such as Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The first known species of this genus was originally described from Sumatra in Indonesia. As of now, there are only four recognised species in this group, and Micryletta aishani becomes the fifth.


Why in News:

  • According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), Water storage in reservoirs of most States of the west and south India has dipped to less than the average of last 10 years indicating a worsening water crisis.


  • Private weather forecaster Skymet said last month that rainfall in Vidarbha, Marathwada, west Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat will be “poorer than normal”, while southern India is expected to receive below normal rainfall.
  • Indication of the worsening water crisis
  • The storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country is 20% of total storage capacity for the week ending on May 30, 2019
  • In the western region, which includes Gujarat and Maharashtra, there are 27 major reservoirs with a total live storage capacity of 31.26 billion cubic metres (BCM). The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 3.53 BCM which is 11% of the total live storage capacity. In the southern region, which includes Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, 31 reservoirs are under CWC monitoring with a total live storage capacity of 51.59 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 5.91 BCM which is 11% of its total live storage capacity.

Central Water Commission (CWC)

  • Central Water Commission (CWC) is the apex technical organisation.
  • The organisation currently functions as an office attached to the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • The Central Water Commission is responsible for initiation, coordination of the schemes for the conservation, control and usage of water resources in the respective States for managing floods, irrigation activities, the supply of drinking water and generation of power from water in furthering the consultation with the government of the states concerned. In the cases where it becomes necessary, the commission could take up the execution or construction of any such projects.

Central Water Commission Functions:

  • The commission is also vested with the responsibilities of: Flood control and management.
  • Technical appraisal of Irrigation projects.
  • Checking the economic viability of Irrigation projects.
  • Appraisal of multipurpose projects recommended by the governments of various states. Collection, compilation, publishing of hydrological data in the country and its analysis.
  • Data gathering with respect to rainfall, temperature, runoff, etc. CWC assumes responsibility as the central bureau of information in such matters.
  • Construction, investigation and execution of the schemes required.
  • Surveys, investigations, designs, schemes and construction work for the development of river valleys. Assist and advise the State Governments.
  • Training of Indian Engineers in India and abroad in all aspects of river valley development.

CWC Wings:

  • CWC is divided into three specialised wings. They are:
  • River Management Wing (RM)
  • Designs and Research Wing (D&R)
  • Water Planning and Projects Wing (WP&P).


Why in News:

  • A new species of wasp from the genus Kudakrumia has been recently identified by scientists in Goa.


  • The wasp, Kudakrumia rangnekari, was named after Goa-based researcher Parag Rangnekar. In India, the wasp is found in Goa and Kerala and outside the country it is also found in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
  • paratype is from Ranipuram hill of Kerala of southern Western Ghats.
  • The types of the new species and specimens of known species are deposited in the ‘National Zoological Collections’ of the Western Ghat Regional Centre of Zoological Survey of India located at Kozhikode.

Parag Rangnekar:

  • Parag Ragnekar is the author of a book “Butterflies of Goa”, which is first field guide with photographs of the species found in this region.
  • He is the founder-president of the Goa Bird Conservation Network, has now taken up the documentation of the dragonflies in the State.


Why in News:

  • At a time when coastal Odisha is staring at an ecology crisis in the aftermath of cyclone Fani, a team of researchers has discovered a new snake species in the State bringing cheer to wildlife lovers and herpetologists.


  • The species, Laudankia vine snake, has been found in Similipal, Balasore and Boudh.
  • Of nine species of vine snake reported from across the country so far,
  • Odisha is home to three – common Indian vine snake, variable coloured vine snake and Laudankia, which is also found in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
  • the vine snake was discovered after a gap of 113 years.
  • The species is very rare in comparison to other sympatric vine snake family such as Ahaetulla nasuta and Ahaetulla anomala.


Why in News:

  • The study carried out in Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh noted that hornbills, one among the large-sized frugivores, are the top seed dispersers.


  • They are classified as most threatened. This is because they are hunted for meat, and the tribal communities use their feathers for head dresses.
    The trees were classified into small, medium, and large-seeded.
  • The large-seeded trees mainly depended on hornbills and imperial pigeons for their dispersal.
  • The medium-size seeded trees were visited by bulbuls, barbets along with hornbills and imperial pigeons. Though the frequency of visits was similar for all four bird species, the number of fruits removed from trees was high for hornbills.
  • Among the different bird species, hornbills were found to be the most effective seed dispersers. They were found to swallow and disperse most of the fruits they handled.
  • They swallow the fruit as a whole causing no damage to the seed. They are known to disperse seeds far away from the parent plant and study have shown that they can disperse up to 13 km.
  • Seeds that fall under the parent tree face heavy competition, predation by rodents and insects and fungal infections. So their chances of survival are very low. Plants depend on frugivore birds to disperse the seeds at favourable sites, which have low competition and predation pressures, to expand their geographic range.
  • The decline of frugivores could severely affect the ecosystem.

Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis)

  • Near threatened category in IUCN Red List State
  • bird of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh
  • Local names are homrai(Nepal), banrao, Vezhaambal They are Long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity It is Found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
  • Predominantly frugivorous, but is an opportunist and will prey on small mammals, reptiles and birds.

Hornbill festival

  • Hornbill festival is the largest indigenous festival and an annual event of the Nagaland government to promote tourism.
  • The festival is celebrated annually in the first week of December in order to encourage inter-tribal interaction and to promote the culture of Nagaland, preserve, protect and revive the uniqueness and richness of the Naga heritage.
  • The practice of celebrating hornbill festival by the state government was started in the year 1963.
  • The festival is considered the “Festival of festivals” in Nagaland.
  • The festival is a colorful mixture of religious ceremonies, food fairs, sports, games, parades, crafts, performances, dance etc.
    Hornbill festival exposes the culture and tradition of the tribal people and reinforces the
    identity of the Nagaland state as a unique one in India’s federal union.
  • It has become a unique platform to witness the cultural diversity, not only for the Nagas and the people of the other seven sisters in the North Eastern region but also the tourists from various parts of the country and the world to witness the cultural diversity.


Why in News:

  • Negotiations are expected for the first tranche of the World Bank’s development policy loan
    (DPL) of $150 million for the Rebuild Kerala initiative.


  • Since this is not a project specific loan, the money will be issued directly to the State exchequer once it gets approved. The State can use the money for achieving targets set under the Rebuild Kerala initiative. Repayment conditions will be discussed during the negotiations. the State government had identified eight sectors, including water resources, agriculture, roads, and urban affairs, and formulated ‘prior actions’.

Rebuild Kerala:

  • Rebuild Kerala is a Kerala State Government initiative for crowd funding of projects envisaged for rebuilding Kerala following the floods of August 2018.

Development Policy Loans (DPLs):

  • Development Policy Loans (DPLs) are programmatic loans that largely fund policy reform, often through rapidly- disbursed budgetary support, rather than project-based physical investments.

World Bank:

  • World Bank is one of five institutions created at Breton Woods Conference in 1944.
  • The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programs.
  • It comprises of two institutions:
  • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) International Development Association (IDA).

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries.
  • The IBRD is the first of five member institutions that compose the World Bank Group, and is headquartered in Washington.


Why in News:

  • The Union Environment Ministry has embarked on a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.


  • The Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced
  • The project’s proponents, including the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) and the Centre-funded Wildlife Institute of India (WII), said the exercise would be useful in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  • There are about 2,600 rhinos in India, with more than 90% of the population concentrated
    in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
  • Around 60 samples of tissue have been collected so far from some rhinos living outside Kaziranga.
  • DNA samples from dung are also extracted.
  • Once the entire project is completed database will be hosted in the WII headquarters in Dehradun.” Once the database is complete, identifying rhinos that were killed or poached would be easier. The project is a subset of the Centre’s larger, ongoing rhino conservation programme. The government has been trying to move a significant number of rhinos out of Kaziranga in the interest of the species’ conservation, threats from poaching and challenges to their habitat.
  • Outside Kaziranga, there are about 200 rhinos in West Bengal, 40 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Bihar. There are three species of rhinos, of which only one — the Indian rhino — is found in the country. The rhinos were once abundant and well-distributed in the country. However poaching reduced its numbers to about “200 wild animals by the end of the 20th century.
  • Two species of rhino in Asia—Javan and Sumatran—are critically endangered.

Rhino Conservation

  • The greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Rhinoceros unicornis has been listed in CITES Appendix I since 1975
  • Close to 85% of the total population occurs in India, with about 75% in the state of Assam Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 is a partnership between:
  • the Assam Forest Department,
  • the Bodoland Territorial Council,
  • the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
  • the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), and
  • the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • The goal is to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.


Why in News:

  • A discovery in Assam has given India one of its smallest orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom to be recorded botanically.


  • Lecanorchis taiwaniana, which the Japanese Journal of Botany has published as a “new record for the flora in India” in its latest issue, is a mycoheterotroph, one of two types of parasitic plants that have abandoned photosynthesis.
  • It  appeared  close  to  the nigricans species   while   bearing   90%   similarity   with the taiwaniana species named after Taiwan.
  • Lecanorchis taiwaniana adds to the orchid wealth of northeast India, which has 800 of some 1,300 species in the country.
  • About 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in the northwestern Himalayas The orchid, discovered earlier in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos, was found to have a maximum height of 40 cm and a blossoming period of five-six days.
  • The herbal value of this orchid that flowers and fruits from July to September is yet to be ascertained. But as it derives its energy and nutrients from fungus, it may be of herbal importance
  • Medicinal Plants and Mushrooms of India with special reference to Assam contains information on 1,400 medicinal plants and mushrooms, including Costus pictus or the insulin plant used in treating diabetes mellitus, and Ophiorrhiza mungos used in treating cancer because of the alkaloid Camptothecin present in it.
  • Also known as Indian snake root, O. mungos has been the subject of medicinal research.


  • The word parasite is derived from the Greek word meaning -one that eats at another table and is estimated to be from around 5900BC.Parasites are an incredibly varied group of organisms that live within host cells. They are smaller than their host organism and reproduces faster by causing more damage to the host. They receive all sort of benefits like food and shelter from the host. Their size ranges from tiny, single-celled organisms to worms over 20- 30 m in length.


Why in News:

  • Russian journal published the discovery of a reddish-brown pit viper in Arunachal Pradesh, the New Zealand-based journal Zootaxa has come with the discovery of a non-venomous snake in Mizoram.


  • The discovery of another non-venomous snake species — the Crying Keelback, in
    Arunachal Pradesh’s Lepa-Rada district
  • The new genus and species of the natricine which is predominantly aquatic that took a seven-member team of herpetologists 12 years to document, has been named Smithophis atemporalis.
  • The discovery is locally called Ruahlawmrul or rain-loving snake.
  • The maximum recorded size of the new species is 655 mm and is commonly seen in human dominated landscapes after rains.
  • molecular analyses had been conducted to find that Ruahlawmrul and other species called bicoloured forest snake (Rhabdops bicolor), found primarily in Meghalaya, differed from the Olive forest snake (Rhabdops olivaceous) endemic to Western Ghats.
  • The species from the Western Ghats continues to remain in the genus Rhabdops


Why in News:

  • The entire genome of Asiatic lion, an endangered species, has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR- Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.


  • The information would help to better understand the
    evolution of Asiatic lions and also make possible comparative analysis with other big cats. With the complete genome of royal Bengal tiger, African Cheetah and Jaguar available, comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible.
  • Comparative genomics between African and Asiatic lions could be undertaken once the complete genome of the African lion is sequenced.
    The population of the endangered Asiatic lion is very low — only 523 animals are present in the Gir forests.
  • The genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.

Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica)

  • Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions.
  • Males have only moderate mane growth at the top of the head so that their ears are always visible. The most striking morphological character, which is always seen in Asiatic lions, and rarely in African lions, is a longitudinal fold of skin running along its belly
  • UCN Red List: Endangered
  • Asiatic lions were once distributed to the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India.
  • At present Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only abode of the Asiatic lion. A dedicated “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” has been launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Canine distemper virus (CDV)

  • CDV is highly contagious disease that attacks gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous systems, immune system and other vital organs in animals. In most of the cases, the infection is fatal.
  • The disease can be contracted by lions if they eat any animal infected by it.
  • CDV is considered dangerous virus and is blamed for wiping out 30% population of African lions in East African forests.

Barn owls to fight Rodents in Lakshadweep

Why in news:

  •       The Union Territory of Lakshadweep have ‘recruited’ three pairs of barn owls from Kerala to fight against the rodents.


  •       The owls were chosen from among healthy birds rescued by the Kerala Forest Department.
  •       The biocontrol measure is spearheaded by the Lakshadweep Administration, with the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) at Kavaratti providing the technical knowhow.
  •       Coconut is an important money-spinner for the islands, but the pesky rodents account for 30 to 40% of the yield loss. Total production stood at 8.76 crore nuts in 2017-18.

Rodent control

  •       Rodent pests are especially problematic in terms of agriculture and public health since they can inflict considerable economic damage associated with their abundance, diversity, generalist feeding habits and high reproductive rates.
  •       To quantify rodent pest impacts and identify trends in rodent pest research impacting on small-holder agriculture in the Afro-Malagasy region we did a systematic review of research outputs from 1910 to 2015, by developing an a priordefined set of criteria to allow for replication of the review process.

ThreemethodsTo combat the menace of the rodents:

  •  Acute-Toxic
  •  Low Toxic
  •  Non-Toxic


  •       This method is used to control rats in open spaces outside the buildings. This is used against Norway Rats, which generally stay in Nalas and dustbins. The rats die within minutes due to the Phosphine gas released by our chemical. This is very effective against Bandicoots. The disadvantage is we cannot overcome the bait shy character of rats; and bait rotation has to be done very frequently.

Low Toxic:

  •       This method uses the second-generation anti-coagulants, which are effective after the very first dose. They eliminate the bait-shy among rodents, as the target does not die immediately unlike in the acute toxic method. The rats affected by the Anti-Coagulants come out into the open and die eliminating the risk of stinking.


  •       In this method glue pads, mechanical traps, runway traps etc are used which making it completely safe for people as well as pets.
  1. a) Second-generation anti-coagulants with bromadiolone 0.25%CB
  2. b) Low toxic and harmless to other Pests.
  3. c) Does not include bait shyness
  4. d) Tends to make rats come out in the open and die.
  5. e) Non-toxic methods used are : Deploying Glue boards, Snap traps, mechanical traps, runway traps


Why in news:

  • Indian bullfrogs introduced in the Andaman Islands are invasive, and eat native wildlife including fish and lizards. Experiments reveal that bullfrog tadpoles ate up all tadpoles of two endemic frogs


  • The Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus (native to the Indian subcontinent) has rapidly invaded the Andaman Islands after it was introduced there in the early 2000s. In human- dominated areas, it now shares space with other native frog species. The bullfrogs are prolific breeders: they have short breeding seasons, and each egg clutch can contain up to 5,750 eggs. Its tadpoles are carnivorous and eat other tadpoles (including their own species). They are along with native endemic frogs Microhyla chakrapanii and Kaloula ghoshi. Individuals of the endemic frog tadpoles in most pools were eaten by bullfrog tadpoles within the first week itself. Bullfrogs are found all over mainland India, but it is in the unique ecosystem of the islands that it becomes a major threat. Asia bullfrog, is a large species of frog found in mainland Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal. It has been introduced in Madagascar and India’s Andaman Islands where it is now a widespread invasive species.
  • They prefer freshwater wetlands and aquatic habitats. Generally they avoid coastal and forest areas.

Andaman Islands:

  • Resources on the islands are scarce for big animals, while natural calamities are more frequent. The wildlife here has evolved in  a  miniature  setting:  there  are  no  large herbivores (the largest is the Andaman wild pig) or large carnivores. Islands have fewer species, but their nature make them irreplaceable. They are found nowhere else in the world.This makes the entire food web in the islands very different from that of the mainland.


Why in News:

  • Jet Airways announced temporary suspension of all its international and domestic flights, with the last flight operating between Amritsar and Mumbai.


  • Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going. Consequently, with immediate effect, Jet Airways is compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights.

Jet airways evolution:

  • In 1974 Mr. Naresh Goyal started the Jet Air, a travel agency.
  • The country’s economy and its skies too were opened up in the early 1990s.
  • With this, Goyal was able to work towards launching Jet Airways, one of the first private airlines in India.
  • Eventually, Jet Airways started full-fledged operations, and stood for the private sector efficiency in India. In 2004, the government introduced the 5/20 rule for allowing Indian scheduled carriers to operate on international routes.
  • Indian scheduled carriers with a minimum of 5 years continuous operations and having minimum of 20 aircraft in their fleet were eligible.
  • Jet benefited immensely from this as it kept its relatively younger competitors (Kingfisher Airlines and Air Deccan) out of international operations.
  • With relaxed FDI rules, Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways picked up stakes in Jet. With all this, Jet stood out from other private players such as ModiLuft, Air Sahara and East- West Airlines.
  • While ModiLuft and East-West ceased operations in 1996, Jet acquired the Air Sahara in 2007.
  • Until 2015-16, Jet paid among the highest salaries, spending Rs 67.04 lakh annually on each of its pilots.

How has Jet’s performance declined?

  • From 44% domestic passenger market share for Jet Airways in 2003-04, it fell to around 27% in 2006-07.
  • In February 2019, with a market share of 10%, Jet Airways had dropped to the 4th place, behind IndiGo, SpiceJet and Air India.
  • Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) notes that Jet Airways, along with JetLite, the
  • company’s wholly owned subsidiary, received the highest passenger complaints.
  • These complaints are over a number of issues such as fares, refunds, flight delays and cancellations, baggage handling, etc.

What is the ongoing crisis in Jet Airways?

  • The Jet Airways is facing a crisis of confidence among its various stakeholders.
  • Its shareholders are looking to offload Jet’s stock.
  • With frequent disruption and complaints, its passengers are looking at other airlines.
  • There is delay in salary payments for the staff. The pilots of Jet Airways are interviewing for jobs with Jet’s rivals.
  • Jet’s lessors are beginning to apply for de-registration of grounded planes, which have been pulled out of service due to non-payment of lease rentals.
  • Only 41 of the 119 aircraft in Jet’s fleet have been operational.
  • Significantly, the future of Jet’s 17,000 employees is tied to the airline’s survival.
  • So efforts are being made at the highest levels of the government to ensure there are no job losses.

What are the reasons for the current crisis?

  • With an average yearly growth of 20% in the last 4 years, India’s aviation market is among
  • the fastest growing in the world.
  • Among the many factors for Jet’s troubles, a major one is its acquisition of the debt-ridden Air Sahara in 2007.
  • Sahara had a good product but was in a financial mess.
  • Jet Airways bought the Sahara airline for Rs 1,450 crore and converted it to a low-cost carrier under the JetLite brand.
  • It hoped to enjoy a lower cost base than competitors by leveraging group facilities and services.
  • But in the following years, competition was high, especially from the IndiGo. But what probably made it worse for Jet was its inability to raise fresh funds.
  • Not being in sound financial shape itself, Etihad is also considering offloading its stake in Jet Airways.
  • Other factors for the current crisis include –
  • steady losses in the wake of higher fuel costs and a weaker rupee
  • the carrier’s inability to raise funds in troubled times
  • a growing market for low-cost carriers (SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir) that affected the profitability of a full-service carrier like Jet

What is the way forward?

  • The urgent need for Jet’s survival is an immediate infusion of funds to pay salaries, service debt and pay dues to lessors.
  • Lessors are panicking because if Jet goes into insolvency, their aircraft will be stuck in India. Recently, Jet Airways’s board of directors approved a bank-led provisional resolution plan. It currently estimates a funding gap of Rs 8,500 crore to be met by an appropriate mix of equity infusion and debt restructuring, among other things.
  • The government has indicated its resolve to save the airline and has, in fact, kicked off a process to bring in new investors.
  • The survival of Jet Airways now rests on whether it finds a new investor.


Why in News?

  • One or two drinks a day might protect against stroke are not true, according to the results of a major genetic study.


  • Previous researches claim that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks may prevent stroke development. The new study refutes this statement in a large collaborative investigation.
  • Scientists discovered that alcohol itself, regardless of amount, can directly spike up blood pressure, and subsequently cause stroke.
  • East Asians have common genetic variants that are known to lower alcohol tolerability due to the unpleasant flushing reaction that occurs after drinking. Such can be used for the study of alcohol effects because this is not connected to other lifestyle choices such as smoking. The researchers concluded that alcohol amps up the risk of stroke by about 35 percent for every four additional drinks per day, without any protective mechanism noted.
  • Western people do not have the same genetic variant found in the East Asians involved in the study, but the researchers think their work is applicable worldwide. This large collaborative study has shown that stroke rates are increased by alcohol.


Why is it in News?

  • Wildlife experts say the recent large-scale wildfires on the grassland could have wiped out all the seeds of the endemic flowers.


  • Kurinji or Neelakurinji is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India. Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish-blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.

Endemic flowers:

  • Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type.

Sensitive seeds:

  • Neelaakurinji seeds are sensitive without a hard cover and are unlikely to survive mass fire.
  • The seeds, so small usually are distributed in the soil by January after the flowering season and by February they would get a soil cover through the summer rain.


Why in news:

  • The SC in a recent judgement observed, that the health of the environment is key to preserving the right to life and suspended the environmental clearance granted for an international airport at Mopa in Goa.
  • It said a glaring deficiency which emerges from the Environmental Impact Assessment report is its failure to notice the existence of ecologically sensitive zones of Western Ghats within a buffer distance of 10 km of the project site.
  • It granted liberty to the Goa government, project proponent and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to file the report of
  • the EAC before it so as to facilitate the passing of appropriate orders in the proceedings and held that no other court or tribunal should entertain any challenge to the report.

Environment Impact Assessment:

  • EIA reports are a critical component of India’s environmental decision-making process in that they are supposed to be a detailed study of the potential impacts of proposed projects. Based  on                 these reports, the             Environment                  Ministry      or      other     relevant regulatory bodies may or may not grant approval to a project.
  • The EIA reports are also important to define measures that the project could take in order to contain or offset project impacts. To ensure that they are an accurate account of scientific facts and observations, the law mandates the engagement of an accredited independent EIA consultant to undertake the study.

What are recent concerns with EIA:

  • The EIA reports of the redevelopment projects are an exercise in the worst possible research practices and ethics. Recently the consultant for a project has used material from copyrighted papers, webpages and other EIA reports. It even mentions that the water quality study was undertaken in 2015, one year before the project was commissioned to NBCC.
  • Such research practices in EIAs continue
  • unabated because of the Environment Ministry’s failure to come down heavily on this.
  • There are many instances of missing or misleading information which understate the potential impact of these projects.
  • The report is also oblivious to the many archaeological and cultural heritage sites that will be affected by the construction


  • 37 vultures belonging to three endangered species died in eastern Assam after feeding on pesticide-laced cattle carcass.
  • Most of the 37 vultures that died are Himalayan griffon. A few are oriental white-backed and slender-billed vultures.
  • A study by the Bombay Natural History Society and other organisations in the 1990s found that the population of the Gyps group — Himalayan griffon, white-backed and slender- billed are among its members — in India and Nepal declined from about 40 million by 99.9% in just two decades.

Indian Vulture Crisis:

  • India is most favourable region for Vultures: Hindus do not eat cows, which they consider sacred, and when a cow dies, it is left to be fed on by vultures. India has a high species diversity and hence vultures get lot of food. Nine species of vulture can be found living in India. But today, most are in danger of extinction due to a veterinary drug called diclofenac (vultures do not have a particular enzyme to break down diclofenac).


  • Diclofenac is a common anti-inflammatory drug administered to livestock and is used to treat the symptoms of inflammation, fevers and/or pain associated with disease or wounds. Diclofenac leads to renal failure in vultures damaging their excretory system [direct inhibition of uric acid secretion in vultures].
  • Gyps species were the most affected by diclofenac.
  • The population of the White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) fell 99.7% between 1993 and 2002.
  • The populations of the Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) and the slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) fell 97.4%.
  • The percentages differ slightly because the white-rumped vulture is more sensitive to diclofenac than the other two species, but all three were in danger of extinction.
  • Two other species of Gyps, the Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) and the Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus) were less affected because they come to India only in winters
  • They   are   exclusively   mountain-dwelling    and   hence   less    vulnerable    to   diclofenac contamination.
  • Vulture populations have continued to decline in India at a rate of between 20% and 40% each year since 2007.

Consequences of Depopulation of Vultures:

  • Vultures previously played an important role in public sanitation in India and their disappearance has resulted in an explosion of rats and wild dogs and the spread of diseases resulting in an estimated cost of up to ₹1700 billion (US$25 billion) (as of 2015).
  • The carcasses formerly eaten by vulture’s rot in village fields leading to contaminated drinking water.
  • These newly abundant scavengers are not as efficient as vultures. A vulture’s metabolism is a true “dead-end” for pathogens, but dogs and rats become carriers of the pathogens.
  • The mammals also carry diseases from rotting carcasses such as rabies, anthrax, plague etc. and are indirectly responsible for thousands of human deaths.

Conservation Status of India Vultures [As of December-2018]

Critically Endangered

  • White-Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
  • White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)
  • Ruppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii)
  • Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)
  • Slender-Billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)


  • Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres)

Near Threatened

  • Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayensis)

Least Concern

  • Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

Critically Endangered

  • White-Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)


  • Northeast India is home to nine wild cats, including the ‘standard four’:
    • The clouded leopard
    • Asiatic golden cat
    • Marbled cat and
    • Leopard
  • However, very little is known about these cats in this region at present, such as what times of the day they are most active or how they do not out-compete each other for resources despite living in the same ecosystem.

Standard four

  • Analyses of activity patterns showed that
  • Asiatic golden cats and marbled cats were strongly diurnal, The clouded leopard largely crepuscular and nocturnal, and The leopard cat mostly nocturnal.
  • The activity times of the marbled cat and leopard cat did not overlap much, in areas where they occurred together and otherwise.

Leopard Cat

  • The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to continental South, Southeast and East Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List as it is widely distributed although threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range.
  • Historically, the leopard cat of continental Asia was considered the same species as the Sunda leopard cat.
  • As of 2017, the latter is recognised as a distinct species, Leopard cat subspecies differ widely in fur colour, tail length, skull shape and size of carnassials.
  • Archaeological evidence indicates that the leopard cat was the first cat species domesticated in Neolithic China about 5,000 years ago in Shaanxi and Henan Provinces.


  • A fossilised snapshot of the day nearly 66 million years ago when an asteroid smacked the earth, fire rained from the sky and the ground shook far worse than any modern earthquake.
  • It was the day that nearly all life on the earth went extinct, including the dinosaurs.

Mass Extinction:

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity.

  •  Ordovician–Silurian extinction event

This was the first mass extinction of biodiversity which happened 450–440 Million Years Ago.

  •  Late Devonian extinction This occurred 375–360 MYA.
  •  Permian–Triassic extinction This event 251 MYA is called Earth’s largest extinction. This event ended the primacy of
    mammal-like reptiles on land. The recovery of vertebrates took 30 million years.
  •  Triassic–Jurassic extinction This event 200 MYA eliminated most of the non-dinosaurian archosaurs, most therapsids, and most of the largeamphibians. Thus dinosaurs were left with little terrestrial competition.
  • 5. Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction or K-T extinction, or K-Pg extinction This event occurred 65.5 MYA. Majority of non-avian dinosaurs became extinct during that time. Mammals and birds emerged as dominant land vertebrates in the age of new life. There were several minor events also, for example the Carboniferous (359.2 MYA),rainforest collapse led to a great loss of plant and animal life. The fossil fuel which we are using today was the result of this collapse of life. The evolutionary termination of a species is caused by the failure to reproduce and the death of all remaining members of the species; the natural failure to adapt to environmental change.
  •  Current Holocene ExtinctionHolocene is a geological epoch which began around 12,000 to 11,500 years ago and continues to the present. The scientists propose that a Sixth Extinction of biodiversity is going on currently in this Holocene epoch, which started around 10,000 BC. The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods.The Holocene extinction includes the disappearance of large mammals known as megafauna, starting between 9,000 and 13,000 years ago, the end of the last ice age. Such disappearances are considered to be results of both climate change and the proliferation of modern humans. These extinctions are sometimes referred to as the Quaternary extinction event. All of us are witnessing this Holocene extinction.

ecotourism centres closed in Wayanad

The entry of tourists to four major ecotourism tourism centres under the South Wayanad Forest Division in Wayanad district has been closed as per a directive of the Kerala High Court.

Ecotourism in Wayanad

The presence of Western Ghats, dense forests, rich wildlife and opportunities for outdoor activities make Wayanad an excellent place for eco-tourism. Wayanad is an enchanting holiday retreat in Kerala with rich natural resources, panoramic natural beauty, mind-blowing mountain ranges, green valleys, great topography and unique climate. In fact, this destination provides a lot of things that cater the demands of travelers. Nowadays, ecotourism is gaining popularity and Wayanad has everything to promote ecotourism.

Ecotourism in Muthanga and Tholpetty

The main two centers for ecotourism are Muthanga and Tholpetty and managed by the Eco-Development Committees. It is under the surveillance of Kerala forest department. Both of these ecotourism centers are the part of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and hot wildlife tourist spots. Visiting these ecotourism spots in Wayanad can be a wonderful travel experience for each tourist.  The frequent sightings of several rare wild animals such as tigers, leopards, guars, monkeys, herds of elephants and several rare species of birds and reptiles give lifetime wilderness experience to them.


Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism.

It means responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people.

Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.

Since the 1980s, ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavor by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention.


  • In some forests of central Africa, the Amazon and Borneo, the sounds of chainsaws and gunshots signs of illegal activities such as logging and poaching are picked up and communicated to forest managers by unlikely tools: acoustic devices.
  • While bioacoustics (the study of animal sound production, dispersion and reception) is being used worldwide to not only monitor threats to biodiversity but also study animal behaviour and diversity, the field is still in its nascent stages in India.

Biodiversity Conservation

  • Biodiversity is the occurrence of different types of ecosystems, different species of organisms with the whole range of their variants and genes adapted to different climates, environments along with their interactions and processes.
  • Biodiversity is being depleted by the loss of habitat, fragmentation of habitat, over exploitation of resources, human sponsored ecosystems, climatic changes, pollution invasive exotic spices, diseases, shifting cultivation, poaching of wild life etc.
  • The biodiversity conservation methodology is divided as In-situ and Ex-situ.

In-situ methods of conservation of biodiversity

  • The in-situ strategy emphasizes protection of total ecosystems. The in-situ approach includes protection of a group of typical ecosystems through a network of protected areas.

a)  Protected areas:

  • These are areas of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources. These are managed through legal or other effective means. Examples of protected areas are National Parks, and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • Some of the main benefits of protected areas are: (1) maintaining viable populations of all native species and subspecies; (2) maintaining the number and distribution of communities and habitats, and conserving the genetic diversity of all the present species; (3) preventing human-caused introductions of alien species; and (4) making it possible for species/habitats to shift in response to environmental changes.

b)  Biosphere reserves:

  • Biosphere reserves are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.
  • Biosphere reserves are organized into 3 interrelated zones:
  • Core Areas: These areas are securely protected sites for conserving biological diversity, monitoring minimally disturbed ecosystems, and undertaking non-destructive research and other low-impact uses (such as education).
  • Buffer Zones: These areas must be clearly identified, and usually surround or adjoin the Core Areas. Buffer Zones may be used for cooperative activities compatible with sound ecological practices, including environmental education, recreation, ecotourism and applied and basic research.
  • Transition, or Cooperation, Zones: These areas may contain towns, farms, fisheries, and other human activities and are the areas where local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, cultural groups, economic interests, and other stakeholders work together to manage and sustainably develop the area’s resources.
  • Each biosphere reserve is intended to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation; to foster economic and human development which is socio culturally and ecologically sustainable; to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development.

c)   National parks:

  • A national park is a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, which is restricted from most development and is set aside for human recreation and environmental protection. Visitors are allowed to enter, under special conditions, for inspirational, educative, cultural, and recreative purposes.

d)  Wildlife sanctuaries:

  • An area, usually in natural condition, which is reserved (set aside) by a governmental or private agency for the protection of particular species of animals during part or all of the year. An area designated for the protection of wild animals, within which hunting and fishing is either prohibited or strictly controlled. It is maintained by the state government.
  • A traditional strategy for the protection of biodiversity has been in practice in India and some other Asian countries in the form of sacred forests. These are forest patches of varying dimensions protected by tribal communities due to religious sanctity accorded to these forest patches.
  • In India sacred forests are located in several parts, e.g. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Meghalaya, etc., and are serving as refugia for a number of rare, endangered and endemic taxa. Similarly, several water bodies (e.g. Khecheopalri Lake in Sikkim) have been declared sacred by the people leading to protection of aquatic flora and fauna.

Ex-situ methods of conservation of biodiversity

  • Ex-situ conservation is the preservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats. This involves conservation of genetic resources, as well as wild and cultivated or species, and draws on a diverse body of techniques and facilities. Some of these include:

a)  Botanic Gardens

  • Botanic gardens can be defined as “public gardens which maintain collections of live plants
  • mainly for study, scientific research, conservation and education. Botanic gardens are able
    • to rehabilitate indigenous and threatened species and restore them to protected portions of their former habitats;
    • to exploit commercially those species which are plentiful; and
    • to promote wildlife education to a broad range of target groups such as politicians, school and college students, and communities living in and around wildlife

b)  Translocations

  • Sometimes conservation of faunal species involves or necessitates translocation of animals. This means the movement of individuals from its natural habitat, or from captivity, to another habitat. Translocations are carried out in connection with introductions or reintroductions, and should be handled with extreme caution.
  • These operations are carried out often with support from international captive breeding programs and receive the cooperation of zoos, aquaria, etc.

c)   Artificial Insemination:

  • Artificial insemination, or AI, is the process by which sperm is placed into the reproductive tract of a female for the purpose of impregnating the female by using means other than sexual intercourse or natural insemination.

d)  Somatic Cell Cloning

  • Somatic Cell Cloning holds some promise for propagating from one or a few survivors of an almost extinct species. The nucleus of a somatic cell is removed and kept, and the host’s egg cell is kept and nucleus removed and discarded. The lone nucleus is then fused with the ‘deprogrammed’ egg cell. After being inserted into the egg, the lone (somatic-cell) nucleus is reprogrammed by the host egg cell. The egg, now containing the somatic cell’s nucleus,is stimulated with a shock and will begin to divide.

e)  Seed bank

  • The preservation of plant germplasm in seedbanks, (or genebanks), is one of the techniques of ex-situ conservation of plant species. Storing germplasm in seedbanks is both inexpensive and space efficient. It allows preservation of large populations with little genetic erosion. Seedbanks also offer good sources of plant material for biological research, and avoid disturbance or damage of natural populations.

f)   Reintroduction

  • Reintroduction of an animal or plant into the habitat from where it has become extinct is another form of ex situ conservation. For example, the Gangetic gharial has been reintroduced in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it had become extinct.
  • Species based programmes for conservation of biodiversity The species-based conservation programmes in India are:

a)  Project Tiger

  • Tigers are terminal consumers in the ecological food pyramid, and their conservation results in the conservation of all trophic levels in an ecosystem.
  • Project Tiger is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Government of India which was launched on the 1st of April, 1973 for in-situ conservation of wild tigers in designated tiger reserves.
  • The   project   aims   at   ensuring   a   viable   population   of Bengal   tigers   in their natural habitats and also to protect them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger’s distribution in the country.}

b)  Project Elephant

  • Elephant was launched in February, 1992 to assist states having free ranging populations of wild elephants to ensure long-term survival of identified viable populations of elephants in their natural habitats. The project is being implemented in twelve states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu Uttaranchal and West Bengal.

c)   Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project

  • The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an effort to save   the Asiatic   lion from extinction in the wild. The last wild population in the Gir Forest region of the Indian state of Gujarat is threatened by epidemics, natural disasters and anthropogenic factors. The project aims to establish a second independent population of Asiatic Lions at the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

d)  Snow Leopard Project

  • Snow leopards live in the mountain regions of central Asia. In India their geographical cover encompasses a large part of the Western Himalaya including the states of Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Uttarakhand with a sizable population in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in Eastern Himalaya. They are found at high elevations of 3000-4500 meters (9800 ft to 14800 ft.), and even higher in the Himalayas.
  • The Snow Leopard is listed as endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species.
  • Keeping this in view, WWF-India initiated the project, “snow leopard conservation: An initiative”, in the states of Uttarakhand (UK) and some of the areas of Himachal Pradesh (HP) to conserve biodiversity with community participation.

Other Initiatives:


  • Bioacoustics is a cross-disciplinary science that combines biology and acoustics.
  • Usually it refers to the investigation of sound production, dispersion and reception in animals (including humans).
  • This involves neurophysiological and anatomical basis of sound production and detection, and relation of acoustic signals to the medium they disperse through.
  • The findings provide clues about the evolution of acoustic mechanisms, and from that, the evolution of animals that employ them.
  • In underwater acoustics and fisheries acoustics the term is also used to mean the effect of plants and animals on sound propagated underwater, usually in reference to the use of sonar technology for biomass estimation. The study of substrate-borne vibrations used by animals is considered by some a distinct field called biotremology.


  • The number of vulture nests built during the breeding season in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve has dropped drastically, from 47 active nests in 2018 to just over 30 this year.
  • The findings were made during a joint exercise by the Forest Departments of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) to estimate the vulture population in the Sigur plateau, and to ascertain whether the breeding season for the critically endangered species of birds has been successful.

Vulture Conservation

  • India has nine species of vultures in the wild. These are:
  • Oriental White-backed Vulture (Gypsbengalensis), Slender billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris),
  • Long billed Vulture (Gyps indicus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Red Headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), Indian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis),
  • Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) and
  • Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus). The population of three species i.e.
      • White-backed Vulture,
      • Slender billed Vulture and
      • Long billed Vulture in the wild has declined drastically over the past
      • Because of the evidence of widespread and rapid population decline, all three vulture
  • species were listed by IUCN in 2000 as ‘Critically Endangered’.
  • Experiments showed that captive vultures are highly susceptible to Diclofenac, and are killed by kidney failure leading to gout within a short time of feeding on the carcass of an animal treated with the normal veterinary dose.
  • There have been major initiatives for complete ban on the use of Diclofenac and finding a suitable substitute for the same.
  • The Supreme Court has also given instructions for phasing out of Diclofenac.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

  • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) is situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The reserve straddles the Ooty -Mysore interstate national highway.
  • It is contiguous with Wyanaad Wildlife Sanctuary on the west, Bandipur Tiger Reserve on the north.
  • The Moyar river flows downstream into the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and is the natural line of division between Mudumalai and Bandipur Sanctuary.
  • The MTR also forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  • The Reserve has tall grasses, commonly referred to as “Elephant Grass”, Bamboos of the
  • giant variety, valuable timber species like Teak, Rosewood.
  • Fauna found in the region are Tiger, Elephant, Indian Gaur, Panther, Barking Deer, Malabar Giant Squirrel and Hyena etc.,
  • Sathayamangalam,Kalakkad Mudunthurai and Anamalai are the other tiger reserves in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve (STR)

  • Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve is a protected area and Tiger Reserve along the Western Ghats in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
  • Largest among the four tiger reserves (Kalakad-Mundanthurai, Anamalai, Mudumalai and Sathyamangalam) in Tamil Nadu, STR is a significant wildlife corridor in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve between the Western Ghats and the rest of the Eastern Ghats, serving as a genetic link to contiguous protected areas including the Billigiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, Sigur Plateau, Mudumalai National Park and Bandipur National Park.

Sigur Plateau

Rushikulya waits for Olive Ridleys

Even after waiting for almost a month, Olive Ridley turtles have not yet arrived for mass nesting at Odisha’s Rushikulya rookery and Devi river mouth. The reasons are not fully understood yet.

Mass nesting has already occurred at the Gahirmatha coast of the State.

Olive Ridley Turtles

  • Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in the world.
  • It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded.
  • It is found in warm watersof the Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • It spends entire lives in the ocean and migrates thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
  • It is classified  as Vulnerable in IUCN Red List and is listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  • In India, it is protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years.
  • Conservation of Olive Ridley turtles is done in the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS),Andhra Pradesh.
  • Members of the Yanadi tribeare directly involved in the conservation bid.
  • They are best known for their behaviour of synchronized nesting in mass numbers.

Breeding Season:

  • It commences its journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year.
  • A single female can lay up to 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on the beaches.
  • Six weeks later these eggs hatches and the newly hatched turtles start the journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.
  • The destination for majority of the turtles for laying egg is Gahirmathain Odisha.
  • The sandy stretches of Hope Islandof the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also have turned into a breeding area.

Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary

  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is a marine wildlife sanctuary located in Odisha.
  • It extends from Dhamra River mouth in the north to Mahanadi river mouth in the south.
  • It is very famous for its nesting beach for olive ridley sea turtles.

Strawberries cherry-picked from Nilgiris

The Nilgiris, known for its teas, potatoes, carrots and a range of exotic vegetables, is witnessing farmers going in for strawberries too.

Strawberry plants were grown in the Nilgiris, especially in Thambatty area, as early as 100 years ago.In the last three to four years, the area under strawberry cultivation has increased to about 25 acres in the district.

Though strawberry cultivation is risky, demanding investment and maintenance, the market is growing and farmers are slowly getting into it. Farmers get the saplings from different States and some firms import them, too.

Short-duration crop

It is a high-value, short-duration crop and the strawberries picked from the Nilgiris gardens are sold across the country. Even the varieties grown in Europe and California can be raised in the Nilgiris.

No value addition

Farmers and companies that are into strawberry cultivation in the Nilgiris prefer selling the fruit rather than going in for value addition.

The Tamil Nadu government had come out with a scheme to support strawberry farmers. However, the farmers have sought higher financial support from the government.

Strawberry Cultivation in India:

Mahabaleshwar strawberry is a strawberry grown in the hilly slopes of Mahabaleshwar, which accounts for about 85 percent of the total strawberry produced in India.

Strawberry, along with raspberry, mulberry and gooseberry, is produced on a large scale in and around Mahabaleshwar.
Mahabaleshwar strawberry obtained the geographical indication (GI) tag in 2010.

Strawberries were brought to the region from Australia by the British during the British rule. Mahabaleshwar was the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency under British Raj.
Since then, local farmers have developed their own varieties of the fruit, some of which are imported from other places.

A climate vulnerability index for India on the anvil

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India. This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States — and discussed at last year’s U.N. climate change conference in Poland — that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change.

Common methodology

  • Last year the some premier institutes in India decided to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.
  • The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data. Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.

Vulnerability index

The Parameters are:

  • Percentage of area in districts under forests,
  • Yield variability of food grain,
  • Population density,
  • Female literacy rate,
  • Infant mortality rate,
  • Percentage of population below poverty line (BPL),
  • Average man-days under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and
  • The area under slope > 30%.

Main Outcomes of COP 24 in Katowice:

  • The participating nations agreed on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement that will come into effect in 2020. The rules are regarding how the mem ber nations will measure the carbon- emissions and report on their emissions-cutting efforts.

  • This ‘rulebook’ can be called as the detailed “operating manual” of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • The members of the conference did not agree to “welcome” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5°C. The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait refused to “welcome” the IPCC report.
  • The parties to the conference agreed to record the pledges in a public registry, as per the existing interim portal. The public registry will continue to include a search function, although many attempts have been made to get it deleted.
  • It was also agreed among the members that future pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031. The number of years for the timeframe will be decided later.
  • Many difficult matters could not reach an agreement and have been postponed to next year for resolution.
  • This includes questions such as ways to scale up existing commitments on emission reduction, different ways of providing financial aid to the poor nations, wording that prevents double counting and whether member nations are doing enough to cut their respective emissions.

Despite objections, Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone curtailed

  • Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ), which provides a regulated buffer zone around protected areas, will remain at 168.84 despite thousands of citizens formally objecting to the reduction of nearly 100 sq. km. as compared to the original proposal.
  • The new ESZ will range from 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to 1 kilometre (in Ramanagaram district) from the periphery of the protected area. The ESZ Committee estimates that between 150 and 200 elephants were observed at BNP.

Citizens’ opposition ignored

  • When the revised Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification for Bannerghatta National Park was issued in October 2018, citizens were given 60 days to submit their objections. Environmental and civic action groups swung into action and encouraged people to submit their objections to the Ministry of Environment and Forests against the 100 reduction of ESZ.
  • Over 65,000 people signed various online petitions against the move, apart from researchers and activists who sent specific objections. The fear of many was that this reduction would lead to more quarrying in the area.
  • While thousands of objections were sent to the MoEF, they were dismissed by the ESZ Committee as a ‘safe zone’ of 1km around protected areas is already in place across the country.

Bannerghatta National Park

  • The Bannerghatta National Park is located near Bangalore city in Karnataka. It was declared as a national park in 1974. A part of the national park was designated as Bannerghatta Biological Park in 2002. The biological park provides for ex-situ conservation of species. It also has a butterfly park-the first in India.

Eco-Sensitive Zone:

  • The Eco-Sensitive Zone has a minimum extent of 100 metres and maximum extent of up to 4 km from the Park boundary. The objective of notifying Eco-Sensitive Zones is to create a buffer as further protection around Protected Areas (PAs) such as National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries.

Buffer Zones

  • Buffer Zones are the areas peripheral to a national park or equivalent reserve, where restrictions are placed upon resource use or special development measures are undertaken to enhance the conservation values of the area.
  • Many authors agree that the term buffer zone became widely used with the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and the Biosphere Reserves (BRs) in the 1970s.

What are ESAs?

  • An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region. According to theEnvironment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
  • The definition offered by the MoEF: “An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.”
  • The Western Ghats were declared an ecological hotspot in 1988.
  • To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.

The Kasturirangan committee report

  • The MoEF notification is based on findings of a High-Level Working Group, also known as the Kasturirangan committee. The government-appointed committee had said that the natural landscape of the Ghats constitutes only 41 per cent, or which 90 percent or 60,000 square kilometres were identified as ecologically sensitive.
  • The committee suggested phasing out current mining projects within five years, or when mining leases were about to expire. It recommended that infrastructure and development projects be subject to environmental clearance, and that villages in ESA be involved in decision making regarding future projects.
  • The notification was deemed too environmentally friendly by stakeholder states.
  • The Western Ghats was included as a ‘World Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2012. According to the organisation, the Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. It has been recognised as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.

A climate vulnerability index for India on the anvil

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India. This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States — and discussed at last year’s U.N. climate change conference in Poland — that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change.

Common methodology

Last year the some premier institutes in India decided to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.

The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data. Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.

Vulnerability index

The Parameters are:

  • Percentage of area in districts under forests,
  • Yield variability of food grain,
  • Population density,
  • Female literacy rate,
  • Infant mortality rate,
  • Percentage of population below poverty line (BPL),
  • Average man-days under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and
  • The area under slope > 30%.

Main Outcomes of COP 24 in Katowice:

The participating nations agreed on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement that will come into effect in 2020. The rules are regarding how the mem ber nations will measure the carbon-emissions and report on their emissions-cutting efforts.

This ‘rulebook’ can be called as the detailed “operating manual” of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The members of the conference did not agree to “welcome” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5°C. The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait refused to “welcome” the IPCC report.

The parties to the conference agreed to record the pledges in a public registry, as per the existing interim portal. The public registry will continue to include a search function, although many attempts have been made to get it deleted.

It was also agreed among the members that future pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031. The number of years for the timeframe will be decided later.

Many difficult matters could not reach an agreement and have been postponed to next year for resolution.

This includes questions such as ways to scale up existing commitments on emission reduction, different ways of providing financial aid to the poor nations, wording that prevents double counting and whether member nations are doing enough to cut their respective emissions.

Despite objections, Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone curtailed

Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ), which provides a regulated buffer zone around protected areas, will remain at 168.84 despite thousands of citizens formally objecting to the reduction of nearly 100 sq. km. as compared to the original proposal.

The new ESZ will range from 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to 1 kilometre (in Ramanagaram district) from the periphery of the protected area. The ESZ Committee estimates that between 150 and 200 elephants were observed at BNP.

Citizens’ opposition ignored

When the revised Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification for Bannerghatta National Park was issued in October 2018, citizens were given 60 days to submit their objections. Environmental and civic action groups swung into action and encouraged people to submit their objections to the Ministry of Environment and Forests against the 100 reduction of ESZ.

Over 65,000 people signed various online petitions against the move, apart from researchers and activists who sent specific objections. The fear of many was that this reduction would lead to more quarrying in the area.

While thousands of objections were sent to the MoEF, they were dismissed by the ESZ Committee as a ‘safe zone’ of 1km around protected areas is already in place across the country.

Bannerghatta National Park

The Bannerghatta National Park is located near Bangalore city in Karnataka. It was declared as a national park in 1974. A part of the national park was designated as Bannerghatta Biological Park in 2002. The biological park provides for ex-situ conservation of species. It also has a butterfly park-the first in India.

Eco-Sensitive Zone:

  • The Eco-Sensitive Zone has a minimum extent of 100 metres and maximum extent of up to 4 km from the Park boundary. The objective of notifying Eco-Sensitive Zones is to create a buffer as further protection around Protected Areas (PAs) such as National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries.

Buffer Zones

  • Buffer Zones are the areas peripheral to a national park or equivalent reserve, where restrictions are placed upon resource use or special development measures are undertaken to enhance the conservation values of the area.
  • Many authors agree that the term buffer zone became widely used with the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and the Biosphere Reserves (BRs) in the 1970s.

What are ESAs?

  • An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region. According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
  • The definition offered by the MoEF: “An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.”
  • The Western Ghats were declared an ecological hotspot in 1988
  • To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.

Much to gain if Paris climate goals are met

India could save at least $3 trillion (Rs. 210 trillion approx.) in healthcare costs if it implemented policy initiatives consistent with ensuring that the globe didn’t heat up beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century, says the sixth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO), prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Significant of the report:

  • The poor environmental conditions cause approximately 25% of global disease and mortality, around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
  • 1.4 million People die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites (due to the intake of polluted waters).
  • Air pollution causes 6-7 million early deaths annually.
  • Food wasteaccounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

  • It is an UN agency, coordinates UN’s environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices.
  • It was founded as a result of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in 1972.
  • Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
  • UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.
  • UNEP has aided in the formulation of guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international trade in potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and contamination of international waterways.
  • UNEP is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
  • The International Cyanide Management Code, a program of best practice for the chemical’s use at gold mining operations, was developed under UNEP’s aegis.

India’s biodiversity-rich zones also ‘hotspots’ of human impacts

Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, Southeast Asian tropical forests — including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east — also fall in this category; India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average.

When distribution of eight human activities were mapped — including hunting and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture — in areas occupied by 5,457 threatened birds, mammals and amphibians worldwide.

Roads poses threat

Using sources, including the recently-updated Human Footprint data, they found that a staggering 1,237 species are impacted by threats in more than 90% of their habitat; 395 species are affected by threats across their entire range. While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.

Country-wise Data

Malaysia ranks first among the countries with the highest number of impacted species (125).

India ranks 16th (35 threatened species affected on average).

Southeast Asian tropical forests — including those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east — are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species. For instance, the average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53.

The maps show that roads and croplands are extensive in India and conversion of habitat for such activities could be a main threat.

Cool spots

However, these very areas are also ‘cool-spots’ (the world’s last refuges where high numbers of threatened species still persist).

Cool-spots could be the result of protection or because of intact habitat that has not been cleared yet, India still has crucial refuges that need protecting. Identifying such areas could aid conservation and development planning for countries. However, these refugia do not necessarily have to be off-limits to human development, just free of the actions that directly threaten species there.

With India having the world’s second largest road network, we really need to plan for development that keeps wildlife conservation as a primary goal in biodiversity-rich areas. Similarly, if wildlife-friendly cropping patterns lead to conservation of wildlife, that would be a victory too, he said. For instance, agricultural crops such as pulses have supported the conservation of the critically endangered great Indian bustard.

India’s newest frog evolved 60 million years ago

The discovery of the starry dwarf frog, a nocturnal amphibian that lives under leaf litter on a mountain top in Kerala’s Wayanad Sanctuary.

Morphological Characters:

It is just 2 cm long and sports pale blue spots and brilliant orange thighs. Its physical, skeletal and genetic characteristics were compared with specimens of similar species in museum collections across the world. While scans of its skeletons showed it to be completely different from any other similar-sized frog seen in Wayanad, some of its physical characteristics (such as its triangular finger- and toe tips) closely resembled frogs in South America and Africa.

Genetic studies, however, revealed a different story: its closest relatives are the Nycibatrachinae group of frogs that dwell in the streams of Western Ghats, and the Lankanectinae frogs of Sri Lanka.

The new species was named as the starry dwarf frog Astrobatrachus kurichiyana (genus Astrobatrachus after its starry spots and kurichiyana in honour of the Kurichiya tribal community who live in the area). It is not only a new species but different enough to be assigned to a new ‘subfamily’.

Genetic analysis reveal that the species is at least 60 million years old.

The presence of Astrobatrachus and other ancient lineages in the southern Western Ghats highlights the mountain range’s role as a historical refugium and as an important centre of diversification.

Though additional surveys would be necessary, the starry dwarf frog is currently known only from Wayanad’s Kurichiyarmala peak, outside legally protected areas.

Black panther photographed in the wild

A melanistic leopard, commonly known a black panther, was recently photographed in the wild in the Nilgiris.

Conservationists said that sightings of melanistic leopards were not uncommon in the Nilgiris, especially in Kotagiri and parts of the Sigur plateau.

A conservationist based in the Nilgiris, said that a single litter of an adult leopard could contain both melanistic and non-melanistic, normal, coloured cubs. The coloration is because of a gene mutation. So black panthers as they are commonly called, are not a separate species adding that melanistic leopards are not an uncommon sight in and around Kotagiri.


Usually, they hide out in caves and are easily spotted when they venture out, especially during the day time.


Forest Department officials are aware of the presence of melanistic leopards in pockets of the Nilgiris forest division, and that regular patrols are undertaken around these forest patches to ensure that the animals are protected.

Other hazards, like traps laid to ensnare small game also pose a threat to carnivores, and the Forest Department regularly destroys these traps whenever they are found.

About Black Panther

  • Black panther or melanistic leopard is a colour variant of the Indian leopard.
  • The leopards’ skins vary in colour and the jet black melanistic form is called black panther. It is as shy as a normal leopard and very difficult to detect. It is mostly found in densely forested areas of southern India.
  • The reserve forest where the footage of the black panther has been recorded is spread across the Hemgir and Gopalpur Range.
  • Black panthers have also been reported from Kerala (Periyar Tiger Reserve), Karnataka (Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary), Chhattisgarh (Achanakmar Tiger Reserve), Maharashtra (Satara), Goa (Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary), Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve), Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

New app to help in Olive Ridley conservation

Students of a private engineering college have come out with a mobile application that can come in handy for the Forest Department to pool in data for conservation of olive ridley turtles and their eggs.

Known as Turtify, the application has been created by Harish Anantharaman and Abdullah Mubarak,

We went for turtle walk and spoke to members of Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) and forest officials to get an idea of what they need.

Based on the inputs given by the Forest Department, the students designed the mobile application to help conservationists, who take part in turtle walks.

Upon spotting nest on the shore during turtle walks, the conservationist take the eggs, measure details such as the cavity width of the nest, distance between the surface and eggs, neck width of the nest among other details.

Subsequently, the details of every nest, eggs translocated, hatched, hatchlings released are recorded manually. However, this data is not stored in an online repository. Due to this, sharing data to other teams and to the Forest Department becomes a huge task apart from knowing exact location of where the nest was spotted. By using the Turtify app, all the teams can enter their relevant data onto the application. When a nest is being reported, the exact location of the user is arrived upon and after this they can proceed to fill in the details of the nest.

Similarly, the number of hatchlings released and their location can also be recorded. The user can also provide pictures of the nest, all of which is uploaded onto a cloud repository. Once data is fed, other users of the app who belong to the same organisation would receive a push notification on their phones.

Data safety

The Turtify app implements high standards of encryption to make data storage as secure as possible. Users can report injured or even dead turtles that they come across. The app also provides general information about the turtle species and a brief about the Turtle walks that take place in Chennai. The students gave a presentation about the application last year which is yet to be taken up by the Forest Department

Olive Ridley Turtles

  • Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in the world.
  • It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded.
  • It is found in warm waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • It spends entire lives in the ocean and migrates thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
  • It is classified  as Vulnerable  in IUCN Red List and is listed in Appendix I of CITES
  • Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years.
  • Conservation of Olive Ridley turtles is done in the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS), Andhra Pradesh.
  • Members of the Yanadi tribe are directly involved in the conservation bid.
  • They are best known for their behaviour of synchronized nesting in mass numbers.

The mysterious disappearance of F103

A Royal Bengal tigress, F03, that strayed out of north-central Assam’s Orang National Park 16 months ago, had set off one of the biggest operations in the State to trap the big cat. For more than a year, the tigress outsmarted some of the country’s best feline experts and made the Assam Forest Department spend a fortune in the effort.

But she has virtually fallen off the radar since killing a pig in Darrang district’s Borgora Tea Estate on December 4 last year.

Her last kill was about 3 km south-west of Borobazar’s Simlagui in the adjoining Udalguri district where she had preyed on a cow to trigger a “wild cat chase”. The 78.81 sq km Orang, about 110 km north-east of Guwahati, is a tiger reserve as well as a prime one-horned rhino habitat.

F03’s last few kills – all pigs – were in that direction, indicating she might have returned to Orang from where she had strayed out of. The park is another 3 km beyond the tea estate and across the river Dhansiri.

Too old for cattle?

F03’s first kill outside Orang was on November 11, 2017. Her strike did not cause a flutter in the area dominated by the Bodo community. Officials attributed this to an age-old belief that the big cats are occasional guests nature sends for satisfying hunger.

A year later, around the same time Avni the tigress was gunned down in Maharashtra and angry villagers crushed an alleged man-eater under a tractor in Uttar Pradesh, F03 failed to kill a cow in a village between Borobazar and the tea estate.

The tigress could not plant her teeth on the cow and only managed to scratch her. That could have made her feel she was too old for cattle as she began preying on pigs, invariably those that were tied up.

A wild tiger’s life span is an average of 20 years.

Forest officials do not rule out the possibility of the tigress having crossed the Brahmaputra on the southern edge of Orang and taken refuge in Kaziranga National Park on the other banks. During winter, when water levels in the Brahmaputra fall, tigers, rhinos, elephants, and deer too use the sandbars to move between the wildlife preserves.

Hammerhead shark refuge found in Galapagos

A new breeding ground for endangered hammerhead sharks has been found in the Galapagos Islands. This natural refuge off the island of Santa Cruz is home to about 20 sharks.

About Hammerhead Shark:

  • The hammerhead sharks are a group of sharks in the family Sphyrnidae, so named for the unusual and distinctive structure of their heads, which are flattened and laterally extended into a “hammer” shape called a cephalofoil.
  • Most hammerhead species are placed in the genus Sphyrna, while the winghead shark is placed in its own genus, Eusphyra.
  • Many, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, functions have been proposed for the cephalofoil, including sensory reception, manoeuvering, and prey manipulation.
  • Hammerheads are found worldwide in warmer waters along coastlines and continental shelves.
  • Unlike most sharks, hammerheads usually swim in schools during the day, becoming solitary hunters at night.
  • Some of these schools can be found near Malpelo Island in Colombia, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Cocos Island off Costa Rica, and near Molokai in Hawaii.

Worms that can regrow complete head found

The ability to regenerate an entire head evolved relatively recently in some species.

  • Scientists have found at least four species of marine ribbon worms that have independently evolved the ability to regrow a head, including brain, after amputation. Regeneration of amputated body parts is uncommon but does exist throughout the animal world.
  • Salamanders, spiders and sea stars can regrow appendages while a species of ribbon worm can regenerate an entire individual from just a small sliver of tissue.
  • However, regenerative abilities were broadly assumed to be an ancient trait that some species managed to hold on to while most others lost through evolution.
  • The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, turns that assumption on its head.
  • In a survey of 35 species of marine ribbon worms, the researchers found that the ability to regenerate an entire head, including a brain, evolved relatively recently in four different species.
  • This means that when we compare animal groups we cannot assume that similarities in their ability to regenerate are old and reflect shared ancestry. All animals have some degree of regenerative ability. Even humans re-grow damaged skin over a wound.
  • However, animal lineages that diverged very early in evolutionary history—such as sponges, hydroids and ctenophores—are often able to regrow entire individuals from even small amputated parts.
  • As animals evolved greater complexity, regenerative abilities have become less dramatic and common. The research presents the clearest documentation of animals gaining regenerative abilities and could shed light on the characteristics necessary for the trait to evolve.
  • The researchers collected ribbon worms along coasts of the US, Argentina, Spain and New Zealand from 2012 to 2014 and performed regeneration experiments on 22 species, bisecting them front to back and observing their ability to regenerate.
  • They also obtained information on 13 other marine ribbon worm species from previous studies.
  • All of the species were able to restore themselves to complete individuals by re-growing back ends. Only eight species were able to regrow their heads and restore an entire individual from just the back portion of the body.
  • Four of these were known from previous studies and four were new, according to the study. More surprising than the number of ribbon worms that could re-grow heads was that the majority of them could not.
  • The ancestor of this group of worms is inferred to have been unable to regenerate a head, but four separate groups subsequently evolved the ability to do so. One of these origins is inferred to have occurred just 10 to 15 million years ago.
  • In evolutionary terms, that is recent history given that regenerative abilities are thought to have first evolved before the Cambrian Period more than 500 million years ago.

Pushing the purple frog to the edge

The rare and endangered soil-dwelling purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) begins its life as a tadpole in certain fast-flowing streams of the Western Ghats. Scientists have now found that the speed with which water flows down these streams is one of the main factors that determine the presence and aggregation of these tadpoles.
The tadpoles are rheophilic, which means they thrive in running water. Apart from several other body adaptations, their specialised mouthparts, which are like suckers, help them to anchor onto rocky areas in flowing water for nearly 100 days.

Behavioural insights

  • To find out, researchers at the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Research Institute quantified four stream characteristics: water flow velocity; angle of the rocky base; water depth, and water temperature. The study, in Kerala, was restricted to 68 grids placed along 100 m in two streams at Kulamaav in Idukki district, an area the team already knew was home to the purple frog.
  • Their results, published in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity, show that the team spotted 550 tadpoles in these grids. Though found throughout the streams, the tadpoles tended to gather in large numbers only in areas with relatively higher water flow velocity. They also preferred steep, rocky slopes (65°-90° incline) and a water depth of 2-3 cm.
  • The team made observations on tadpole behaviour and distribution too. The tadpoles were always active, moving even when they were attached to the rocky portions of the streams to feed on algae growing on rocks. The moment they sensed danger, they ‘escaped by immediately relaxing their hold on the rock, a behaviour that let them drift some distance downstream before re-attaching themselves to the substrate. Tadpoles in earlier stages of development stayed mostly in relatively slow-flowing portions of the stream’, while older tadpoles were found in faster currents.

Specific threats

According to the authors, these findings and observations provide a strong rationale linking the impact of dam construction to loss of tadpole habitat. The construction of dams and check dams, and levelling and narrowing of streams to expand plantations can alter stream characteristics, in turn affecting the survival of the purple frog tadpole. The damming effect can also slow down the streams feeding water to the river.

When the hills fall silent

A year ago, Kurangani, a village in the district of Theni, was teeming with people from cities like Chennai and Bengaluru, seeking adventure. They would scale the Othamaram, Kolukkumalai and Top Station with the help of locals, to camp and trek on weekends.

The treks, largely unauthorised, created a small, yet thriving local economy by providing livelihood and supplementary income to many families in Kurangani and nearby hamlets. That is history now. Life for villagers changed after March 11, 2018, when 23 people were killed in a forest fire. After the fire, everything abruptly ended.

The 23 victims were from two groups of trekkers, of which only one had engaged a local guide. While some escaped, 17 women and six men, who were descending from Othamaram, got caught in the blaze. Nine were charred to death on the spot and others battled for their lives at burns units of various hospitals. Eventually, they too succumbed.Locals, who played a key role in rescuing the injured, say that the sight and smell of the tragedy remain etched in their memory. While the incident left families of the deceased traumatised, the villagers say they are staring at a different, desolate reality.

Access denied

  • Trekking, however, only provided an additional income. A far more pressing concern for the people of Kurangani and nearby hamlets today is the restriction on access to the forest after the incident.
  • People of Kurangani says that a majority of people in the village either owned agricultural land inside the reserved forest or worked as labourers on those lands, grew coffee, cardamom, pepper and mango and used jeeps to take labourers for work and bring the produce. Now, vehicles are not allowed inside.
  • Also says that the restriction has almost put an end to agricultural activities and, consequently, their livelihood. The labourers cannot trek that long daily and it has become extremely difficult to bring the produce downhill without vehicles.

Tribal travails

  • The ban on movement of vehicles has created a deeper dent in the lives of those living in tribal hamlets inside the hills. Education too has taken a hit, two teachers who used to occasionally visit and teach at the tribal school in Mudhuvarkudi have stopped coming altogether.
  • The head of the Ecotourism Management Committee (ETMC) formed in the area by the Forest Department, adds that it has become difficult for them to carry provisions to their village from the fair price shop in Kurangani without vehicles.
  • Conceding that there has been loss of income, Collector however, highlights that the trekking that was going on earlier was illegal and could not be allowed to continue. Now, the Forest Department has regulated trekking by involving the ETMC.
  • The district administration is also planning initiatives through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and other schemes to improve livelihood options. Whatever benefits and rights the tribal people are eligible for under the Forest Rights Act.
  • On banning the movement of jeeps inside the forest, a senior official of the Forest Department acknowledges that it is a delicate issue.
  • The tribals have some genuine concerns, but we go by the Forest Rights Act which clearly states that the right of way can only be one metre wide. Moreover, the ban is not a consequence of the fire tragedy. We are enforcing this everywhere.
  • When the tragedy occurred, government said our village will get special focus and it made several tall promises. Nothing was fulfilled. Only families of the deceased came to thank us for our role in the rescue.


In News:

The Centre should bring in a constitutional amendment to fix the proportion of devolution of Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection between the Central and the State Governments quoted by former chairman of the prime minister’s economic advisory council c. Rangarajan.


What is the issue?

Some States bemoan the loss of financial sovereignty.

How financial sovereignty is upheld in GST?

  • The GST Council comprising all State Finance Ministers and the Union Finance Minister take the decisions on rates and several associated features. The Centre is also bound by it.
  • Earlier the finance commission has decided the share of resources between centre and states and the recent one the 14th Finance Commission, had broken a new path in terms of allocation of resources. One of the major recommendations had been to increase the share of tax devolution to 42% of the divisible pool.
  • The balance in fiscal space thus remains broadly the same in quantitative terms, but tilts in favour of States in qualitative terms through compositional shift in favour of devolution and, hence, fiscal autonomy. Let there be one committee to decide what the rate will be for five years.
  • Petroleum and alcohol constitute the most important source of revenue for the States. Therefore, States have been reluctant to bring petrol and alcohol under GST regime in which there is maximum range beyond which petroleum and alcohol products cannot be taxed.
  • The GST Council, where neither the centre nor the states can get decisions passed without the support of the other.

GST (One Hundred and First) Amendment Act, 2016:

1. It is a destination-based tax on consumption of goods and services. It is proposed to be levied at all stages right from manufacture up to final consumption with credit of taxes paid at previous stages available as set off. In a nutshell, only value addition will be taxed and burden of tax is to be borne by the final consumer.

The GST would replace the following taxes:

Taxes currently levied and collected by the Centre:

  • 1. Central Excise duty
  • 2. Duties of Excise (Medicinal and Toilet Preparations)
  • 3. Additional Duties of Excise (Goods of Special Importance)
  • 4. Additional Duties of Excise (Textiles and Textile Products)
  • 5. Additional Duties of Customs (commonly known as CVD)
  • 6. Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD)
  • 7. Service Tax
  • 8. Central Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

State taxes that would be subsumed under the GST are:

  • 1. State VAT
  • 2. Central Sales Tax
  • 3. Luxury Tax
  • 4. Entry Tax (all forms)
  • 5. Entertainment and Amusement Tax (except when levied by the local bodies)
  • 6. Taxes on advertisements
  • 7. Purchase Tax
  • 8. Taxes on lotteries, betting and gambling
  • 9. State Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

    The GST Council shall make recommendations to the Union and States on the taxes, cesses and surcharges levied by the Centre, the States and the local bodies which may be subsumed in the GST.

Tax Rates:

There would be four tax rates namely 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. Besides, some goods and services would be under the list of exempt items. Rate for precious metals is yet to be fixed. A cess over the peak rate of 28% on certain specified luxury and sin goods would be imposed for a period of five years to compensate States for any revenue loss on account of implementation of GST

Federal structure of GST:

It would be a dual GST with the Centre and States simultaneously levying it on a common tax base. The GST to be levied by the Centre on intra-State supply of goods and / or services would be called the Central GST (CGST) and that to be levied by the States would be called the State GST (SGST). Similarly, Integrated GST (IGST) will be levied and administered by Centre on every inter-state supply of goods and services.


Mains: GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Air pollution due to crop residue burning in northern India causes an estimated economic loss of $30 billion annually, and is a leading risk factor of acute respiratory infections, especially among children, according to a study unveiled by IFPRI.


  • Researchers from the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and partner institutes found that living in districts with air pollution from intense crop residue burning (CRB) is a leading risk factor for acute respiratory infection (ARI), particularly in children less than five years of age.
  • To be published in the upcoming edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study analysed health data from more than 250,000 individuals of all ages residing in rural and urban areas in India. It used NASA satellite data on fire activity to estimate the health impact of living in areas with intense crop burning by comparing them with areas not affected by CRB.
  • The study that estimates for the first time the health and economic costs of CRB in northern India also found that CRB leads to an estimated economic loss of over $30 billion annually. “Poor air quality is a recognised global public health epidemic, with levels of airborne particulate matter in Delhi spiking to 20 times the World Health Organization’s safety threshold during certain days.
  • They also examined other factors that could contribute to poor respiratory health such as firecracker burning during Diwali (it usually coincides with time of CRB) and motor vehicle density.


  • Among other factors, smoke from the burning of agricultural crop residue by farmers in Haryana and Punjab especially contributes to Delhi’s poor air, increasing the risk of ARI three-fold for those living in districts with intense crop burning.
  • The study also estimated the economic cost of exposure to air pollution from crop residue burning at $30 billion or nearly Rs 2 lakh crore annually for the three north Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
  • The researchers observed that as crop burning increased in the northern Indian state of Haryana, respiratory health worsened. Health was measured by the frequency of reported hospital visits for ARI symptoms.
  • Economic losses owing to exposure to air pollution from firecracker burning are estimated to be around USD 7 billion or nearly Rs 50 thousand crore a year.
  • In five years, the economic loss due to burning of crop residue and firecrackers is estimated to be USD 190 billion, or nearly 1.7 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP),.
  • “Severe air pollution during winter months in northern India has led to a public health emergency. Crop burning will add to pollution and increase healthcare costs over time if immediate steps are not taken to reverse the situation.
  • The negative health effects of crop burning will also lower the productivity of residents and may lead to long-term adverse impacts on the economy and health.
  • The study shows that it is not only the residents of Delhi, but also the women, children and men of rural Haryana who are the first victims of crop residue burning.
  • Much of the public discussion on ill-effects of crop residue burning ignores this immediately affected vulnerable population.
  • Even though air pollution has been linked to numerous health outcomes, and respiratory infections are a leading cause of death and disease in developing countries, none of the existing studies have directly linked crop burning to ARI.

Way Forward:

  • This study suggests that targeted government initiatives to improve crop disposal practices are worthy investments.
  • Programmes and policies must simultaneously address indoor and outdoor pollution through a possible combination of bans and agricultural subsidies.
  • Other important interventions for improving respiratory health are increasing household access to clean cooking fuels, electricity, and improved drainage systems.
  • Researchers noted that crop burning is a widespread global practice and in India is concentrated in northwest India, though has spread to other regions of the country in the past decade as new crop harvesting technology is adopted.
  • Farmers try to maximise their yields by planting the next crop as soon as possible after the previous crop has been harvested (generally wheat after rice).
  • To quickly clear the field for the next crop, they burn the leftover stubble rather than using the traditional method of clearing it by hand.

Report on Ganga Basin

  • An assessment commissioned by the World Bank which submitted to the Central Water Commission found that Ganga river basin could see crop failures rise three-fold and drinking water shortage go up by as much as 39% in some States between now and 2040.


  • The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.


  • If there is no intervention, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are likely to see a deficit in irrigation water of 28%, 10%, 10% and 15% respectively in 2040 as compared to the current levels.
  • Madhya Pradesh would see a 39%, Delhi 22% and Uttar Pradesh a 25% deficit in drinking water during the same period, the assessment released earlier this week noted.
  • The basin provides over a third of India’s available surface water and contributes more than half the national water use, of which 90% is for irrigation.
  • The report warned that volume of extracted groundwater is expected to more than double, leading to an increase in the critical blocks. Low flow values in the rivers are predicted to decline compared to present levels. Water quality and environmental flow conditions already critical will deteriorate further.
  • The report is based on a modelling study that simulates river flow, water quality and groundwater levels in the different States and regions within the Ganga river basin.
  • To extrapolate, the model considered land use, infrastructure, population, industry and agriculture settings as well as the precipitation and temperature settings.
  • The aim of the report was to strengthen the capacity for strategic basin planning, develop a set of scenarios for the development of the Ganga basin and build a strong and accessible knowledge base.


  • The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.
  • There aren’t any easy solutions, the report cautioned, pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solve all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed.

Way Forward:

  • There aren’t any easy solutions to overcome the crisis, the report cautioned pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solves all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed, it said.
  • The intervention that will result in the most beneficial impact is improvement of municipal waste water treatment. Whether central or de-central, whether high or low tech, reduction in pollution loads provides a positive return on investment both in availability of clean water for downstream uses, including ecosystem services, as well as a drastic reduction in water-related illnesses and deaths.
  • Environmentalists say reducing pollution in the Ganga hinges on setting up sewage plants rather than ensuring that the natural flow of the river is not blocked, as that would hobble its propensity to clean itself.

Wood snake, last seen in 1878, rediscovered by scientists

A species of wood snake that wasn’t seen for 140 years has resurfaced in a survey conducted by scientists in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The species, endemic to the Meghamalai forests and the Periyar Tiger Reserve landscape, was recently rediscovered.
The findings of the surveys, conducted over two years (2014-2016), were published in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society last month. The snake is a ‘point endemic’ (found only in Meghamalai). It was found in the same region that Colonel Beddome alluded to, and the morphological characters match with his specimen. The snake he discovered was 235 mm long and uniformly dark brown.

Specimens deposited

The local population of wood snakes was last spotted and recorded by British military officer and naturalist Colonel Richard Henry Beddome in 1878, who went on to describe it as a new species, Xylophis indicus. The specimens he collected were deposited by the officer in the Natural History Museum, London, and labelled as being from the dense heavy evergreen forests on the mountains at the south of the Cumbum valley.
The rediscovery of the snake indicated that the quality of the habitat was good. The documentation of the existence of this species will aid in both the management and conservation of biodiversity in this region.
Reserve needed
This discovery is a sign that the biodiversity in this area should be protected. Meghamalai has a range of snakes, butterflies and ants, apart from the large mammals that we know of. Establishing a tiger reserve here will ensure that there is proper protection of this landscape.

Plants might be able to remove lead from soil: Study

The plant accumulates lead in the root and shoot:

  • A native roadside plant that can take up lead from the soil and thus help in removing the metal from the environment.
  • The plant was found to accumulate lead at about 12,000 microgram/g of dry weight in the root and 7,000 microgram/g of dry weight in its shoot.
  • These plants grow in soils that are continuously exposed to lead from vehicle exhausts. Though lead additives in petrol and diesel are banned now, some low-quality fuels still have a huge percentage of lead.

Highest lead Tolerance:

  • Among the hundreds of native plants screened, research done earlier by the group shortlisted three plants. The present study found that Eclipta prostratahad the highest lead tolerance.
  • prostrata or ‘False Daisy’ is found across the Indian subcontinent. Known ‘Bhringraj’ (Karisalankanni in Tamil), it is used as a ‘hair-growth stimulant’ and in many ayurvedic preparations. “The plant may be using the lead to protect itself from the pests, or other predators. Tribal people use it an antidote for snake bites and treatment of scorpion stings.
  • Spectrophotometric studies showed increased levels of many enzymes that are known to induce tolerance in plants.
  • Hi-tech microscopic analysis showed that the lead travelled to the leaves and was deposited as lead nanoparticles in its cell wall, cytoplasm, and chloroplast. Though we noticed a little distortion in the structure of these organelles no toxicity was seen.
  • The plants can be burned up after they have taken up the lead. In this way, the metal can be effectively contained and later disposed off safely.
  • This study has provided evidence that the plant is a lead hyperaccumulator that has the suitable biochemical machinery. But as the present experiment was carried out using a soluble salt of lead (lead nitrate), more studies are needed in contaminated environments where lead is usually found in insoluble forms.


  • To increase the solubility of lead so that it becomes bioavailable to the plant, some solubilising agents (metal chelators) need to be added to the soil; the plant must be tolerant to such chemicals as well. “Made into a solution, solubilising agents will be added to the contaminated soil.
  • As chelators have long residence time and can percolate well, they will react with the lead in the soil and make it in a form available to the plant.
  • Such experiments using naturally contaminated soils are significant further steps in using the plant for bioremediation of lead-contaminated soil.

Spontaneous fire on Bengaluru’s Varthur Lake


  • A huge plume of smoke was spotted emanating from the middle of Varthur lake, raising the spectre of severe pollution leading to seemingly spontaneous combustion.


  • While Bellandur lake upstream has had multiple fires caused by chemicals and trapped hydrocarbons in its severely- polluted water, this is perhaps the first time a fire has been reported in the 450- acre Varthur lake.
  • On Sunday, residents observed a large plume of smoke within the lake. The fire started around 2.30 p.m. in the centre of the lake where a thick layer of weed covers the surface.
  • “The fire broke out about 200 feet from its boundary in Thubarahalli. While there is garbage burning close by, in this case, the spot is not accessible. Around 6 p.m., the smoke died out slowly naturally,” says a resident of an apartment adjacent to the lake.
  • Jagadish Reddy from Varthur Rising believes the same phenomenon that caused fires in Bellandur lake in the past could have caused Sunday’s blaze in Varthur. “Even fire officials could not douse the blaze. They were just not prepared for it. Over 20 acres has been charred causing immense damage to the eco-system,” he says.

Difficulty reaching the spot:

  • Fire officials sent three fire tenders from Whitefield, Mahadevapura and Sarjapur. “The fire spot was not accessible. We had to wait for a boat to arrive from Mahadevapura. But, by then, the fire started to fizzle out naturally,” said an official.
  • While the official said it was too early to ascertain the cause of the fire, the inaccessibility of the location casts a doubt whether it could be intentional or accidental.
  • “If we can’t reach it, I’m not sure how anyone else could… Chemicals in the lake could have caught fire due to the heat,” said the official.
  • In February 2017, a fire was reported in Bellandur lake. Trapped gases and chemicals in the lake were believed to have caused the blaze, which led to the National Green Tribunal taking up a suo motu case.
  • Bellandur lake receives over 480 million litres of raw sewage from the city daily, and much of this flow into Varthur lake.

Why the lake catches fire?

  • According to an IISc study, “Discharge of untreated effluents (rich in hydrocarbons) with accidental fire (like throwing cigarettes, beedi) has led to the fire in the lake.”
  • It added that the “Incidence of foam catching fire are due to compounds with high flammability, i.e., mostly higher hydrocarbons and organic polymers from nearby industries…
  • High wind coupled with high intensity of rainfall leads to upwelling of sediments with the churning of water as it travels from higher elevation to lower elevation forming froth due to phosphorous,” as per the report.

Train Hits Killed 49 Elephants in 3 Years

What’s in the News?

  • In addition, 11 tigers and 13 lions died in railway and road accidents in the past three years
  • In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) released ‘Eco-friendly measures to mitigate impacts of linear infrastructure’, an advisory document for mitigating human-animal conflicts. Despite this advisory, and many others issued by conservationists and organisations, deaths of wild animals in road and railway accidents have continued unabated.
  • The MoEFCC told the Rajya Sabha, in response to a question by MP T. Subbarami Reddy, that 49 elephants were killed in Railway accidents between 2016-18 (nine in 2015-16, 21 casualties in 2016-17 and 19 in 2017-18). In the same 3-year period, three tigers were killed in road accidents while eight tigers were mowed down by trains.
  • Three lions died in a train accident in the Amerli district of Gujarat in December 2018. Prior to this, 10 lions died in railway and road accidents between 2016-2018.
  • West Bengal and Assam together accounted for 37 out of the 49 deaths of elephants on train tracks across the country. While the number of elephant casualties on railway tracks in West Bengal has fallen from five in 2015-16 to three in 2016-17 to two in 2017-18, the number of elephants dying in railway accidents in Assam have increased in the same period — the northeastern State recorded three elephant deaths by accidents in 2015-16, which increased ten in 2016-17 and 14 in 2017-18.
  • According to the Ministry, several notifications have been issued, including one on December 28, 2016, to Chief Wildlife Wardens, to implement precautionary measures for minimising elephant deaths caused by train accidents.
  • Another component of infrastructure — low hanging or sagging electric wires — become a major threat to wildlife, particularly elephants. Between 2009 and 2017, 461 elephants have been electrocuted in different parts of the country. On January 12, there were reports of two electrocuted elephants in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district.
  • Jose Louise, a conservationist with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which has developed a mobile app for monitoring road kills, said that when the infrastructure was developed, “it was never thought that it could lead to the death of so many wild animals.” While Mr. Louise notes that experts consider wildlife corridors while planning new infrastructure projects, he feels that data generated from the app can provide practical answers on regulating traffic and reducing road kills in existing projects in the coming years.

About Man animal conflict:

  • Conflict between people and animals is one of the main threats to the continued survival of many species in different parts of the world, and is also a significant threat to local human populatons. If solutions to conflicts are not adequate, local support for conservation also declines.
  • As human populations expand and natural habitats shrink, people and animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food. From baboons in Namibia attacking young cattle, to greater one-horned rhinos in Nepal destroying crops, to orangutans in oil palm plantations, to European bears and wolves killing livestock – the problem is universal, affects rich and poor, and is bad news for all concerned. The impacts are often huge. People lose their crops, livestock, property, and sometimes their lives. The animals, many of which are already threatened or endangered, are often killed in retaliation or to ‘prevent’ future conflicts.

About Wildlife Trust of India:

  • Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organisation committed to the service of nature. Its mission is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments. WTI’s team of 150 dedicated professionals work towards achieving its vision of a secure natural heritage of India, in six priority landscapes, knit holistically together by nine key strategies or Big Ideas.
  • The Vision of the trust is to a secure natural heritage of India and the mission is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments.

Animals begin to arrive at Wayanad Sanctuary


  • With the rise in mercury in the Nilgiri Biosphere, the seasonal migration of wild animals from wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) has begun.


  • Mammals such as elephants and gaurs migrate to the sanctuary from the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks in Karnataka and the Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu in search of food and water.
  • The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for migrating wild animals during summer owing to easy availability of fodder and water.

About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary in Wayanad, Kerala, India.
  • A variety of large wild animals such as Indian bison, elephant, deer and tiger are found there.
  • There are also quite a few unusual birds in the sanctuary. In particular, peafowl tend to be very common in the area.
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala. It is bestowed with lush green forests and rich wildlife. This wildlife area houses some of the rare and endangered species of both flora and fauna.
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the safest havens for different species of vultures like the White-rumped Vultures and the Red-headed Vultures.
  • Established in 1973, the sanctuary is now an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is bounded by protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and on the southeast by Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.
  • The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of the sanctuary, is under consideration by the World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site

About Bandipur National Park:

  • Bandipur National Park established in 1974 as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger, is a national park located in the south Indian state of Karnataka, which is the state with the highest tiger population in India. Bandipur is known for its wildlife and has many types of biomes, but dry deciduous forest is dominant. Together with the adjoining Nagarhole National Park, Mudumalai National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve making it the largest protected area in southern India and largest habitat of wild elephants in south Asia.

Nagarhole National Park:

  • Nagarhole National Park (also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park), is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka state in South India.

Mudumalai National Park

  • The Mudumalai National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary also a declared tiger reserve, lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains), in Nilgiri District, north-west of Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu.
  • It shares its boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The sanctuary is divided into five ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. The protected area is home to several endangered and vulnerable species including Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and Indian leopard.
  • There are at least 266 species of birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and long-billed vulture.

Scientists Unearth Aisa’s First Fossil Dioscorea Yam Leaf


  • A quaint fossilised leaf is one of the most recent finds throwing light on India’s past.
  • The leaf fossil is the first of Dioscorea yams from Asia and hints at a Gondwanan origin to these plants, claim scientists.
  • The team identified it as a species of Dioscorea, a kind of yam that grows as a herbaceous vine in the humid tropics of India and other countries

NGT Says Notification on Ground Water


  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has termed the suggestion by Union Water Resources Ministry to have ‘Water Conservation free’ as “unsustainable”


  • The NGT has asked to lay down stricter norms for extraction of groundwater for commercial purposes and place a robust mechanism for surveillance and monitoring.
  • It further said that levying of conservation fee would only liberalise extraction of groundwater and lead to groundwater crisis and will have unlikely impact on environment. It added that levying fee will virtually give license to harness groundwater to extreme extent. Hence the NGT has asked the Centre to “not give effect” to this suggestion.

About National Green tribunal:

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • The responsibilities also include enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

Water Traces Found on Asteroid Bennu


  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft discovered evidence of water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, Bennu, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.


  • OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu, some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules – part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life – embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.
  • Data obtained from the spacecraft’s two spectrometers, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) and the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) revealed the presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together, known as ‘hydroxyls.’
  • While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding indicates that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid.
  • Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.
  • Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.
  • Scientists are still trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable.
  • The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.
  • There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century. It is regarded as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, as its orbit brings it within 200,000 miles of the Earth, which means it has a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd Century.

About the Mission:

  • OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
  • It is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program, which previously sent the New Horizons spacecraft zooming by Pluto and the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter.
  • It will spend two years travelling towards Bennu, arriving at the asteroid in August 2018. The probe will orbit the asteroid for 3 years, conducting several scientific experiments, before returning to Earth, with the sample capsule expected to land in Utah, USA in September 2023.

Scientific goals of mission:

  • Scientific experiments to better understand the asteroid.
  • To collect a sample of regolith- the loose, soil-like material, this covers the surface of the asteroid.
  • The material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System

Reason for Bennu being chosen for study:

  • Proximity to earth and has a similar orbit to earth
  • Being able to ensure that the regolith stays on its surface
  • It is a primitive asteroid, not underwent much changes, which is of interest to study to understand better the beginning of the solar system

Around 5,000 Migratory Birds Flock in J&K’s Gharana Wetland

In News:

  • Around 5,000 migratory birds have arrived at Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve along the International border in the outskirts of Jammu.

Key Facts:

  • Located about 30 km from Jammu, Gharana is surrounded by wetlands of Makwal, Kukdian, Abdullian and Pargwal where more than 170 resident and migratory bird species flock during the winter, making it a treat for bird watchers. These bird species are bar-headed geese, gadwalls, common teals, purple swamp hens, Indian moorhens, black-winged stilts, cormorants, egrets and greenshanks. Wildlife warden of Jammu said their number is expected to increase manifold in the coming weeks. He said, all necessary measures were being taken to ensure the safety of the winged guests.

Don’t believe the ANTI-GMO campaign

What’s in the Editorial?

  • A review article, “Modern technologies for sustainable food and nutrition security”, which appeared in the November 25 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Current Science, is deeply worrying.
  • The article was authored by geneticist P.C. Kesavan and leading agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan and describes Bt cotton as a “failure”.
  • As the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, K. VijayRaghavan, rightly said, this paper is “deeply flawed”.
  • It has the potential to mislead the public and the political system.

What is the criticism?

Rely on scientific evidence

  • While the general public can be easily swayed by unauthenticated reports, the authors, as scientists, should have relied on hardcore scientific evidence before making such adverse comments.
  • The statement that “only in very rare circumstance (less than 1%) may there arise a need for the use of this technology [GM]” is not in consonance with their other statements such as the one in the concluding paragraph: “Genetic engineering technology has opened up new avenues of molecular breeding.
  • However, their potential undesirable impacts will have to be kept in view. What is important is not to condemn or praise any technology, but choose the one which can take us to the desired goal sustainably, safely and economically.” Professor Swaminathan also said in a response to the criticism of the article:
  • “Genetic modification is the technology of choice for solving abiotic problems like drought flood, salinity, etc. It may not be equally effective in the case of biotic stresses since new strains of pests and diseases arise all the time. This is why MSSRF [M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation] chose mangrove for providing genes for tolerance to salinity.”

Abiotic Stress:

  • Abiotic stress in crops is a major hazard and does not fall under the less than 1% category mentioned in the review article. Major science academies of the world such as the U.S.’s National Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy have supported GM technology.The U.S.
  • National Academy of Sciences, after a massive consultation process, published a 420-page report in 2016 with the observation that “Bt in maize and cotton from 1996 to 2015 contributed to a reduction in the gap between actual yield and potential yield under circumstances in which targeted pests caused substantial damage to non-GE varieties and synthetic chemicals could not provide practical control”.

Stance of Scientific community

  • In 2016, 107 Nobel laureates signed a letter challenging Greenpeace to drop its anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) technology stance. They stated that the anti-GMO campaign is scientifically baseless and potentially harmful to poor people in the developing world.

Empirical Evidence:

  • Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68% (“A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops”, published in PLOS One by Wilhelm Klümper and Matin Qaim in 2014).
  • Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.
  • Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards. Those in the Americas and elsewhere consuming Bt corn or soybean for over 15 years have not reported any health issues.

Is it a Carcinogen?

  • It is preposterous to think that governments would allow their people and animals to be fed “poisonous” food. Even reports based on faulty studies in experimental animals that stated that GMOs cause cancer were withdrawn. Major food safety authorities of the world have rejected these findings.

Not a failure in India:

  • Bt cotton is not a failure in India. The yields hovering around 300 kg/ha at the time of introduction of Bt cotton (2002) have increased to an average of over 500 kg/ha, converting India from a cotton-importing country to the largest exporter of raw cotton. There was a small dip for a couple of years and the yield has now increased to over 550 kg/ha. The question to be asked is, what would have the yield been if Bt cotton had not been introduced in 2002?

A Wrong Attribution:

  • It is unfortunate that farmer distress is being wrongly attributed to Bt cotton failure. Farmers continue to grow Bt cotton.
  • The development of resistance can be tackled through practices like Integrated Pest Management and by stacking Bt genes to fight secondary pests.
  • The priority is to accelerate development of Bt cotton varieties that can be packed densely in fields and increase the yields to over 800 kg/ha, as is the case with other countries.

About DMH-11:

  • GM mustard (DMH-11) is a technology to create mustard hybrids. Being a self-pollinator, mustard is difficult to hybridise through conventional methods. Genetic modification allows different parents to be combined easily, helping yields go up substantially.
  • The herbicide glyphosate is only used for selection of hybrids and is not meant for farmer fields. In any case, reports on the probable carcinogenic potential of the herbicide have not been accepted by major science academies. Yield data can only be assessed in farmers’ fields.
  • For this, trials are necessary. The question then is: why are the trials being scuttled? The moratorium on Bt brinjal is the most unfortunate step taken by the government in 2010 and has crippled the entire field of research and development with transgenic crops.
  • Bangladesh has used India’s data to successfully cultivate Bt brinjal, despite all the negative propaganda.
  • Reports indicate that as many as 6,000 Bangladeshi farmers cultivated Bt brinjal in 2017. How long will it take for Bt brinjal to enter India from Bangladesh?


  • India has one of the strongest regulatory protocols for field trials of GM crops. Many scientists have been part of the monitoring processes, and it is an insult to the integrity of our scientists to indict the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee as lacking in expertise and having vested interests. The paper by Dr. Kesavan and Dr. Swaminathan seems to have got most things wrong for whatever reason.
  • GM technology is not a magic bullet. It needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There is definitely scope for improvement in terms of technology and regulatory protocols. But it is time to deregulate the Bt gene and lift the embargo on Bt brinjal.
  • A negative review from opinion-makers can only mislead the country. In the end, it is India that will be the loser.

Ant as Pollinator

  • Researchers from Kerala’s Central University have found that common white-footed ants are the best pollinators of a rare evergreen tree in the southern Western Ghats.


  • To find out which animals birds, bats, wasps or bees are most important pollinators for Syzygium occidentale , researchers from institutes including Kerala’s Central University studied the flowering patterns and timings of around 50 trees that grow along the River Periyar.
  • Visiting the trees daily for three separate flowering seasons between 2010 and 2015, the team quantified the timing of flowering, the volume of nectar available in flowers, the animals that visit the flowers and the frequency of their visits.
  • They found that 10 species including sunbirds and cockroaches visited the large, pleasant-smelling white flowers that bloomed between December and April. Among these, seven species (including bees and two ant species) frequented the flowers the most.
  • The team then conducted experiments to determine which species was the most effective pollinator.


  • After such experiment, the researchers dissected the fruit to confirm the presence of healthy, embryo-carrying seeds- proof that a particular animal group had successfully pollinated the flower.
  • The ants especially white-footed ants, the most frequent visitors to the flowers day and night were the most efficient pollinators of the tree.
  • Ants are usually depicted as poor pollinators. Because unlike the white-footed ants, many flower-visiting ant species (such as the weaver ants in this study) attack other pollinators and thus prevent them from pollinating the plant.


  • Syzygium occidentale is a small, wild jamun tree that grows mostly along the banks of the River Periyar in Kerala.
  • It is categorised as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The survival of such a species is crucial, depending on the fruits it produces, which is only possible if pollinators fertilize its flowers first.

Mission Sequence Gene

In News:

  • India is planning a major mission to sequence the genes of a “large” group of Indians — akin to projects in the U.K., China, Japan and Australia — and use this to improve the health of population.


  • This was among the key decisions taken by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (STIAC) at its first meeting.
  • The Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Biotechnology Department will be closely associated with the project. the genome initiative would have to move at two different levels
    • Sequencing genomes
    • Linking to human health and disease as a research initiative.
  • The Council acts as a coordinator between several Ministries to work on projects and missions and is scheduled to meet once a month

Gene Sequencing:

  • During whole genome sequencing, researchers collect a DNA sample and then determine the identity of the 3 billion nucleotides that compose the human genome.
  • Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is the analysis of the entire genomic DNA sequence of a cell at a single time, providing the most comprehensive characterization of the genome.
  • The very first human genome was completed in 2003 as part of the Human Genome Project, which was formally started in 1990.
  • Today, sequencing technology is much more efficient, and a human genome can be sequenced in a matter of days

Previous projects:

  • The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA, and of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and a functional standpoint.
  • It remains the world’s largest collaborative biological project.
  • A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k Genome Asia project, led by the National Technological University (NTU), Singapore, to sequence the whole genomes of 100,000 Asians, including 50,000 Indians.

About Genome Asia 100K:

  • Genome Asia 100K is a non – profit consortium with a mission to generate genomic information for Asian populations and to promote genetic understanding of Asian populations to support research and discovery for healthy living and longevity.

Benefits of Gene Sequencing:

  • Genome mapping, along with imaging and diagnostic testing, could change the way medicine is practiced.
  • Medicine will become predictive health care as opposed to sick care
  • Sequencing each person’s genome would be beneficial to prevent a variety of heart ailments and even obesity. The combination of genome sequencing and diagnostic testing can expand life expectancy,

Other Agendas of STIAC:

  • Various key projects and their direction were discussed including –
  • Accelerating Growth for New India innovation (AGNIi),
  • Deep Ocean Mission,
  • Teaching S&T in Indian languages,
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Computing,
  • Bioscience Mission for Precision Health and Optimal Well-being,
  • Waste to Energy,
  • Research, Development and Innovation towards making India a leader in Electric Vehicles,
  • Indian Biodiversity: characterization, preservation and sustainable use.

Mission Anti-Microbial Resistance

In News:

  • Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & technology, & Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council Jointly launched “Mission AMR”
  • This call aims at finding innovative solutions to the growing threat of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) by supporting the development of new antibiotics and alternatives to antibiotics with well – established proof – of – concept.


Proposals are invited in the areas of:
Development of New antibiotics

  • New Drugs
  • Repurposing of existing drugs
  • New Combinations

Development of alternatives to antibiotics

  • Therapeutic antibodies
  • Phage Therapy
  • Anti – Biofilm Products

Anti microbial resistance:

  • “WHO” DEFNITION: Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarial, and anthelmintic).
  • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.

Why is AMR a global concern?

  • New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.
  • Without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarian sections or hip replacements) become very high risk. Antimicrobial resistance increases the cost of health care with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required.
  • Antimicrobial resistance is putting the gains of the Millennium Development Goals at risk and endangers the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Although accurate estimates of the overall burden of resistance are not available, it is estimated that 58,000 neonatal deaths are attributable to sepsis caused by drug-resistance to first-line antibiotics each year.
  • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.
  • The overall burden of resistance is hard to assess for the general population but is likely focused on neonates and the elderly, both of whom are more prone to infections and vulnerable to ineffective treatment


  • Antibiotics in human medicine and agriculture, such as their use to make animals grow faster rather than treat disease, are major contributors to growing levels of resistant bacteria
  • The problem in India is that antibiotics can be bought without a prescription
  • WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have called for a worldwide ban on the use of antibiotics to fatten farm animals a practice already banned in the EU and U.S. in an attempt to stem the rising threat of resistance. But it still not banned all over in India. The practice of using antibiotics to make animals grow faster was banned completely in the EU in 2006.
  • Animals reared for meat in the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are expected to consume double the amount of antibiotics in 2030 than they did in 2010 which shows us that we are heading towards a doomsday
  • Medical societies together and the Indian government in 2012 created a plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, known as the Chennai Declaration.
  • It is estimated 1, 00,000 babies a year in the country die from infections from resistant bugs. WHO has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest threats to public health.
  • Experts are concerned about the widespread use of a ‘last hope’ (colistin) antibiotic on Indian poultry farms. Colistin is often used to treat a seriously ill person with infections that have become resistant to almost all other drugs and is deemed one of the “highest priority, critically important” antibiotics by WHO as it is so crucial to human medicine.
  • Growth promoting antibiotics, including colistin, remain widely available to Indian farmers through a number of international and domestic pharmaceutical companies

Way Forward:

  • A practical approach will be to formulate a list of antibiotics with strict monitoring on the dispensing of these drugs.
  • Step- by- step introduction of other drugs to the restricted list could be tried once the success of the first stage is ensured. Another option would be banning OTC (over the counter) without prescription of all antibiotics in metros and big cities, where there will be no difficulty for patients to consult registered medical practitioners.
  • A more liberal approach in smaller cities and villages, where immediate access to doctors is usually limited, can be utilized. This may not be an ideal approach, but a practical one in the current Indian context.
  • It is predicted that colistin as a drug will be dead in 10 years’ time. And given what is in the pipeline, which is next to nothing, and given the plasticity of bacteria and their ability to evolve and adapt and survive and prosper, if this continues there can be no good end to this story at all.”

Mammals of India (MAOI)

Why in News?

  • National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore have come up with a new citizen-science repository on Indian mammals, called Mammals of India (MaOI),
  • Which is an online, peer- reviewed, freely-accessible portal that was launched late September 2018.

About the portal:

  • So far, there was no portal exclusively for mammals. These photographic records will help us in having distribution map of mammals in the country.
  • The photographs will not only help gather information on the distribution of the various species but also interactions between different species of mammals, like predation and mutualism.
  • The website,, aims to develop individual species pages for all Indian mammals with information on identification, variation, distribution, breeding and non-breeding ecology and species conservation.
  • As per current estimates, 426 species of mammals are found in India; of them 47 species are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Along with well-known species, the mammals of 100 species of rats and 126 species of bats and 24 species of whales of dolphins.
  • The website provides an opportunity to any person to upload geotagged photographic observations about mammals with information on habitat age of the observed individual. Over time, these observations will be reviewed by subject experts and uploaded on the website.
  • Under the project, a popular citizen-science website on butterflies of India had got to 55,000 reference images in eight years. Under the same project websites dedicated Moths of India, Cicacds of India, Odonatas of India (dragonflies and damselflies), Reptiles of India, Amphibians of India and Birds of India are operational.

Rare animals uploaded in the portal:

  • In one month, this citizen-science initiative has seen photographs of rare species — such as Red Serow from Manipur, Lynx a species of wild cat from Jammu and Kashmir, Asian Golden Cat from West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and Binturong, also known as bear cat, from East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh — being shared for the benefit of researches and public alike. Researchers said that this initiative will also make more information available about lesser known mammals of the country.

National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS):

  • National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is a premier centre for research and teaching in frontier areas of biology in India.
  • Research at NCBS covers a diverse set of subjects in frontier areas of modern biology ranging in scope from atomic to population level studies.

Horn bill watch Initiative

  • A citizen science initiative of documenting Indian hornbills is providing valuable inputs for the conservation of the unique bird.


  • Hornbill Watch (HW) is an online platform created specifically to record public sightings of hornbills from anywhere in India.
  • The idea is to encourage birders, nature enthusiasts, and photographers to share information on hornbill presence, behaviour, and conservation-related issues.
  • HW was launched in June 2014, and up to February 2017 had received 938 records from 430 contributors across India, from 26 States and three Union Territories. States from where most sightings were reported were Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Online citizen science initiatives offer an interesting approach that can potentially enable documentation and monitoring of species presence over much wider geographical and temporal scales than can be sustained by focused research projects.
  • The main objective is to generate baseline information using sight records and enable long-term monitoring of these species by encouraging citizen participation. The data obtained thus far has yielded some useful information and insights, and has the potential for enhancing our understanding of current hornbill distribution patterns, and for identifying important sites for conservation/protection.
  • Citizens can upload onto this website, sight records and/ or images of their hornbill observations from anywhere in the country. The platform has the functionality to select the exact GPS location of the sighting
  • These initiatives can also aid in large-scale data collection of basic biological or ecological parameters that do not require significant training or specialization.


  • Hornbills are among the largest birds found in the tropical forests of Asia and Africa.
  • Most Asian species are primarily frugivores and play a critical role as seed dispersers, enabling regeneration of their important food plants and helping maintain the diversity in tropical forests.
  • The family is omnivorous, feeding on fruit and small animals.
  • They are monogamous breeders nesting in natural cavities in trees and sometimes cliffs.
  • Hornbills are diurnal, generally travelling in pairs or small family groups.
  • The Indian subcontinent has 10 species of hornbills, of which 9 are found in India and adjoining countries, while the Sri Lanka grey hornbill is restricted to the island.
  • The most common widespread species in the Indian subcontinent is the Indian grey hornbill.
  • Among these nine hornbill’s species four are found in the Western Ghats: Indian Grey Hornbill (endemic to India), the Malabar Grey Hornbill (endemic to the Western Ghats), Malabar Pied Hornbill (endemic to India and Sri Lanka) and the widely distributed but endangered Great Hornbill.
  • India also has the Narcondam Hornbill species, that has one of the smallest ranges of any hornbill, found only on the island of Narcondam.
  • Hornbills are large and wide-ranging birds and most species are dependent on tropical forest habitats that contain large and tall trees
  • However, there is little information on the extant distribution of various hornbill species and the changes in their distribution over space and time.
  • Given the geographic extent of their distributions, it is difficult to monitor these changes through long-term focused research programs that are often restricted to single or few sites.


  • The decline can be attributed to clearing of forests, which eliminates the birds’ nesting sites and foraging grounds.
  • In addition, hornbills have been hunted for many years in India and Indonesia for both food and as an ingredient in local medicines and rituals.
  • Unfortunately, nesting coincides with the honey-gathering season, and the hornbill’s nesting cavities are discovered along with the bees’ honey in the large trees.
  • Most hornbill habitat, particularly in Asia, is under severe pressure from logging and rapidly expanding commercial farms of oil palm Elaeis guineensis, tea Camellia sinensis, rubber, and coffee Coffea arabica. • The hunting, has resulted in drastic declines in the geographic ranges of several hornbill species that need to travel over large distances in search of patchily distributed fruit resources.
  • Several hornbill species are known to roost communally in particular sites over many years, with many roost sites being located outside PAs where they may be more vulnerable to disturbance.


  • Given that hornbills are conspicuous, large, and easily recognisable, citizen science platforms targeted at hornbills can encourage a wider participation of citizens in documenting information on hornbills and spreading awareness of the vulnerability of these birds to the threats they face, and the importance of their conservation.
  • These citizen science platforms are especially relevant for hornbills as several species remain poorly studied and several are vulnerable to extinction, across their ranges, in short time spans.
  • It was established as a long-term initiative to help generate baseline information on the extant distribution of the nine-hornbill species, detect and document temporal changes in their geographic distributions, and to use such information to identify important areas for hornbill conservation in the country.
  • The HW platform can help identify important areas outside Protected Areas (e.g., Kaiga, and Dandeli town in Karnataka, and Ultapani Reserve Forest in Assam) in terms of the number of sympatric hornbill species, numbers and/or nesting/roosting sites.
  • This platform holds a lot of promise for long-term monitoring of hornbill distribution in India.
  • This data will be made available on request and potentially can be used by environmental lawyers for legal purposes, or by concerned citizens for taking positive action for conservation.


  • The great hornbill is evaluated as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  • The great hornbill is the state bird of Kerala and Arunachal in India and Chin State in Myanmar.
  • The Great Hornbill is used as the logo of Kerala Evergreen FC an Indian professional football club based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.
  • A great hornbill called William (pictured) was the model for the logo of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the name of their building

Trapped beetle may unlock pollination secrets

  • Scientist have discovered & Beetle trapped in amber that date back to 99 million years which may help understand the relationship between ancient flowering plants and pollinators.


  • A Group of unusual evergreen gymnosperms, known as cycads, may have been the first insects, pollinated plants.
  • The Ancient boganiid beetle preserved in Burmese amber for an estimated 99 million years along with grains of cycad pollen.
  • The Insect found in amber throw light on their relationship with cycads.
  • Boganiid beetles have been ancient pollinators for cycads since the age of cycads & Dinosaurs.
  • The Study indicates a probable ancient origin of beetle pollination of cycads at least in the early long before angiosperm dominance and the radiation of flowering plant pollinators such as bees.
  • The analysis indicates the fossilized beetle belonged to a sister group of the Australian paracucujus.

Coral reefs could survive global warming says study

  • Study found that coral-algal partnerships have endured numerous climate change events since the age of dinosaurs.
  • Past estimates placed the initiation of these symbiotic relationships at 50 to 65 million years ago, Coral-algal partnerships have endured numerous climate change and faced severe episodes of environmental change events in their long history.
  • During their long existence, they have faced severe episodes of environmental change, but have managed to bounce back after each one.
  • At least some are likely to survive modern-day global warming as well, suggests an international team of scientists.
  • The team used genetic evidence including DNA sequences, phylogenetic analyses and genome comparisons to calculate the micro-algae’s approximate age of origin.


  • Coral bleaching is a process wherein corals lose their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which provide a significant food source and colour to their coral host. The white coral skeleton is then visible through the transparent tissues giving the characteristic “bleached” appearance. Mortality will occur if the coral and symbiont relationship is not re-established shortly.
  • The origin of the algal symbionts corresponds to major increases in the abundance and diversity of reef-building corals implies that the partnership with Symbiodiniaceae was one of the major reasons for the success of modern corals.
  • Some micro-algal symbionts have characteristics that make them more resilient to changes in the environment than other symbionts.
  • The relationship between corals and the mutualistic micro-algae that enable them to build reefs is considerably older and more diverse than previously assumed.


  • This is especially true for studies attempting to understand how the partnership between reef corals and their micro-algae, which are needed for survival and growth, may adapt to climate change.
  • When many corals are exposed to high temperatures they lose their symbiotic algae and die. Others are far more tolerant of heat, and some of this resilience is based on the species of algae they have.
  • Working for close to a decade to modernize coral symbiont taxonomy in order to improve communication among scientists and advance future research on reef corals.
  • There may be hope for marine reefs to survive modern-day global warming. Evidence to suggest corals today are adapting at an unexpectedly rapid rate.

Khangchendzonga biosphere reserve Enters UNESCO list

  • The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve of Sikkim, the highest biosphere reserve in the country has been included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
  • Previously the core zone of Khangchendzonga National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category.

Biosphere Reserve:

  • Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
  • They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.

UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves:

  • The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) covers internationally designated protected areas, each known as biosphere reserves, that are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature.

Criteria for World Network of Biosphere Reserves:

  • It should encompass a mosaic of ecological systems representative of major biogeographic regions, including a gradation of human interventions.
  • It should be of significance for biological diversity
  • It should provide an opportunity to explore and demonstrate approaches to sustainable developmenton a regional scale.
  • It should have an appropriate size to serve the three functions of biosphere reserves.
  • It should include these functions, through appropriate zonation, recognizing:
    1. A legally constituted core area or areas devoted to long-term protection, according to the conservation objectives of the biosphere reserve, and of sufficient size to meet these objectives.
    2. A buffer zone or zones clearly identified and surrounding or contiguous to the core area or areas, where only activities compatible with the conservation objectives can take place;
    3. An outer transition area where sustainable resource management practices are promoted and developed.
  • Organizational arrangements should be provided for the involvement and participation of a suitable range of inter alia public authorities, local communities and private interests in the design and carrying out the functions of a biosphere reserve.
  • In addition, provisions should be made for:
    1. Mechanisms to manage human use and activities in the buffer zone or zones.
    2. A management policy or plan for the area as a biosphere reserve.
    3. A designated authority or mechanism to implement this policy or plan.
    4. Programmes for research, monitoring, education and training.

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:

  • Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern Indian State of Sikkim.
  • It includes a range of ecolines , varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.
  • The Khangchendzonga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga.
  • Forest types include Alpine meadow, Scarcely vegetated rocks, Alpine scrublands, Sub-alpine Rhododendron forest, Fir-Hemlock-Oak Forest, Oak forest, Moist Temperate forest, Broadleaved Evergreen forest and Temperate grassland.
  • The dominant flora includes Oak, Willow, Birch, Fir, Maple, Alpine grasses, Shrubs etc. Many species of medicinal plants and herbs are also found in the park.

List of UNESCO biosphere reserves:

Nilgiri Biosphere reserveTamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere ReserveTamilnadu
Sundarban biosphere reserveWest bengal
Nanda devi biosphere reserveUttarkhand
Nokrek biosphere reserveMeghalaya
Pachmarhi biosphere reserveMadhyapradesh
Simlipal biosphere reserveOdisha
Great nicobar biosphere reserveGreat Nicobar
Achanakmar-amarkantak biosphere reserveChattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Agasthyamalai biosphere Kerala, Tamilnadu
Khangchendzonga Biosphere ReserveSikkim

First baby penguin

  • The first Humboldt penguin to be born in India named ‘the freedom baby’, born on August 15 in Byculla zoo.

 About the penguin:

  • Eight penguins — Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive, Flipper (oldest female), Bubble, Mr. Molt (youngest male) and Dory — were brought from Seoul to the zoo, also called as Veermata Jijabai Udyan.
  • The baby penguin is the young one of the imported penguins and it remains healthy as it is about 75 gm ( healthy baby have weight about 60-80 gms)

The Humboldt penguin:

  • The Humboldt penguin is listed under ‘vulnerable’ in IUCN list.
  • The species is native to Chile and Peru. During winter, they move towards north as shown in the figure.

Threats :

  • The Humboldt Current System has alternating
  • blooms and depletions of productivity triggered
  • by El Niño-La Niña dynamics. During El Niño
  • prey availability is reduced to penguins inducing
  • nest abandonment and chick mortality. However,
  • La Niña conditions improve food availability
  • producing higher breeding success and chick survival.
  • Industrial fisheries in Peru and Chile exploit the main prey species of penguins.
  • Alien species Rats predate on unattended eggs at several colonies in north and central Chile and also on chicks in Peru. Feral dogs have been reported to kill adults in central Chile. Feral cats have been observed at some islands in Peru.
  • Andean foxes enter coastal reserves in Peru and prey on adult and juvenile penguins; gulls and vulture’s prey on unattended eggs and small chicks.
  • In northern Chile, eggs are collected for local consumption and birds.

Veermata Jijabai Udyan zoo:

  • Jijamata Udyaanformerly called Raani Baag (meaning Queen’s Gardens) after the original British name Victoria Gardens, and now also known as Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan & Zoo, is a zoo and garden covering 50 acres located at Byculla, in the heart of Mumbai, India. It is the oldest public garden in Mumbai.

Wild Dogs (Dholes)

A team of wildlife scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have collared a Dhole, the Indian wild dog, with a satellite transmitter. It is a measure taken to study and track the habits of the endangered species.


  • The dhole is native to Central, South and Southeast Asia.
  • Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red dog, and mountain wolf.
  • During the Pleistocene, the dhole ranged throughout Asia, Europe and North America but became restricted to its historical range 12,000–18,000 years ago.
  • The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
  • It is a diurnal pack hunter which preferentially targets medium and large sized mammals.
  • In tropical forests, the dhole competes with tigers and leopard, targeting somewhat different prey species, but still with substantial dietary overlap.
  • It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN as populations are decreasing and are estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults.
  • The dhole is already extinct in about 10 Asian countries.


  • Habitat loss,
  • Loss of prey,
  • Competition with other species
  • Persecution due to livestock predation,
  • Disease transfer from other domestic dogs.

Harrier Species

Why in News?

Harrier birds, a migratory raptor species that regularly visits India are declining.

About the Species:

  • Harrier is one of the several species of diurnal hawks sometimes placed in the Circinae sub-family.
  • Harriers characteristically hunt by flying low over open ground, feeding on small mammals, reptiles, or birds.
  • Every winter, several species of harrier birds travel thousands of kilometres to escape Central Asia for the grasslands of the subcontinent.
  • At least five species of harriers were recorded in India over the years and India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
  • Hen Harrier Day (6th August) aims to show those who continue to persecute hen harriers, and other raptor species, that it will not be tolerated.

IUCN Red list Category:

  • Montagu’s Harrier – Least concern
  • Pallid Harrier – Near Threatened
  • Western marsh Harrier – Least concern
  • Malagasy marsh Harrier – Endangered
  • Pied Harrier – Least concern.

Reason for the Decline:

  • The grave concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture.
  • Excessive use of pesticides in farms around the roosting sites kills the grasshoppers, the primary prey of the harriers. This leads to decline in the count of the birds themselves as they are on the top of the food chain.
  • Extensive agriculture due to Drip irrigation and solar farms are also the reason for declining of its habitat.
  • General declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh. Another roost site near Bengaluru was lost as the habitat around it changed. Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, western marsh harriers declined leaving the area nearly deserted.

Endangered Elephant Shot Dead

A Pygmy elephant was shot dead on Borneo island in Malaysia

About PYGMY Elephant

  • The African PYGMY elephant formerly described as ‘Luxudonta Pumilio’ is currently to be the tiny morph of the African Forest Elephant.
  • They mostly inhabit ‘ Tropical rainforest regions’ Especially Borneo island of Malaysia.

PYGMY Elephants of Borneo are smallest elephants in Asia.

PopulationApproximately 1500
Scientific NameElephas maximus Bornensis


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