The 2.5% Indian landmass holds about 8% of the world’s biodiversity. Of these, about 5% of areas have only been declared as Protected Areas and the large numbers of wildlife is occurring outside PAs. Therefore, challenges of limited land (habitats), human pressures and development must all be kept in mind before preparing plans for the conservation of these wildlife and their habitats. Conservation of species must be seen as maintaining or enhancing populations, genetic exchanges between metapopulations, improving significantly, prospects of their long term persistence. Therefore, the plans must address species loss in the short term and the reasons for such depletions in the long run.
Causes of loss of biodiversity:
Amongst the main causes of species loss, apart from habitat degradation which is the reason for limiting space for animals, is the issue of poaching. Poaching, depletion of genetic diversity and inbreeding (several species of birds, small mammals and other restricted range species), competition from non native species (e.g. fishes), persistent chemical pollutants (e.g. Pesticides and several species of invertebrates) and unsustainable commercial harvest (marine fishes) could either be for trade (as in tiger, leopard, bear, rhino, elephant and others) or for local consumption (mainly ungulates and birds). Both cause serious losses to species, either directly or by removal of prey base for carnivores. Loss of genetic purity, for species that have been domesticated but whose wild ancestors exist (red jungle fowl, wild buffalo), could be a major problem and efforts must be made to identify and conserve the wild genome. Increased pesticide use also harms wildlife, especially graminivorous birds (like sparrows and peafowl) and ways need to be found of how to protect these species from the ill effects of pesticides.
Species that are highly depleted in numbers may need to be aided by ex-situ conservation efforts so that species can be secured and propagated under controlled conditions for release when a large enough stock is raised. This is a relatively new concept and capacity needs to be built to achieve impacts.
- There is need to identify the present status of all wildlife species in the country.
- Special emphasis on species that are endemic or endangered and in need of conservation through special recovery projects.
- There is need to identify and implement landscape level conservation projects using flagship species concepts.
- There is need to identify critical areas outside protected areas for wildlife conservation and initiate projects.
- To undertake a programme of ex situ captive breeding and rehabilitation in the wild for critically endangered species in accordance with IUCN guidelines, after developing requisite techniques and capabilities in this regard.
- To publish flora and fauna species status papers periodically, which should be translated into local languages.
- There is need to initiate work on contemporary threats such as climate change and also focus on ecosystems such as marine, wetland, island, montane and arid zones.
- Corridors for large mammals need to be secured. Elephant and tiger corridors across the country have been identified in several reports of the MOEFCC. On ground demarcation of those corridors, and restricted land use change need to be in place for those areas.
- A strategy to be developed for managing free ranging domestic animals such as dogs, cats etc in and around wildlife habitats. There have been reports of dogs killing threatened species like black necked crane (nest attacks), red panda and blue sheep in the Himalayas. Dogs have also been reported to act as carrier of Canine Distemper Virus in plains, wherein wild carnivores like tigers and leopards have the chance of getting exposed to this disease outbreak. Further, dogs are known to predate sea turtles eggs and similarly cats that are known to predate eggs of ground nesting birds. Appropriate multi-agency strategy needs to be adopted to check the population of these free ranging animals and regular vaccination needs to be carried out for domestic dogs to prevent them from being a carrier of Canine Distemper Virus.
- The country has successfully translocated tiger, gaur, swamp deer, sambar, chital, gharial. Therefore, species specific protocols may be developed so that all the states can follow it. Monitoring protocols for the translocated species may also be developed.
- Illegal wildlife trade threatens many flagship species in India. The list of lesser known species found in illegal trade is also growing each day. Curbing of illegal trade of the flora and fauna may be included with projects on recording the status of the species in illegal trade and reviewing policies and institutional framework to ensure that illegal trade is minimised.
- Arrest further escalation of already present negative interactions by ensuring that all development projects, in key wildlife habitats, do not turn out to be drivers of conflict, in future.