Conservation Projects in India
States and Landscapes with Tiger Population
In India, the tiger is found practically throughout the country, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, except in Punjab, Kutch and the deserts of Rajasthan. In the northeast, its range extends into Burma. Tigers occupy a variety of habitats including tropical evergreen forests, deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, thorn forests and grass jungles
Alternation of Boundaries of Tiger Reserves
No alteration of the boundaries shall be made except on a resolution passed by the Legislature of the State. The State Government has power to de-notify a tiger reserve in public interest but only with the prior approval of the Tiger Conservation Authority and the National Board for Wild Life.
Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF)
A Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) will be formed based on a recommendation by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to protect tigers in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris, according to a senior wildlife officer. A board would be set up with a member each representing the Central police forces and the NTCA to select the personnel for the armed battalion, the officer said.
The battalion will be headed by an officer in the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forests, and will have three Range Officers, 18 Foresters and 90 Forest Guards.
India’s Tiger Reserves
Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India in the year 1973 to save the endangered species of tiger in the country. Starting from nine (9) reserves in 1973-74 the number is grown up to fifty (50). A total area of 71027.10 km2 is covered by these project tiger areas.
National Tiger Conservation Authority
The implementation of Project Tiger over the years has highlighted the need for a statutory authority with legal backing to ensure tiger conservation. On the basis of the recommendations of National Board for Wild Life chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, a Task Force was set up to look into the problems of tiger conservation in the country.
The recommendations of the said Task Force, interalia include strengthening of Project Tiger by giving it statutory and administrative powers, apart from creating the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. It has also recommended that an annual report should be submitted to the Central Government for laying in Parliament, so that commitment to Project Tiger is reviewed from time to time, in addition to addressing the concerns of local people. Broadly the urgent recommendations of the said Task Force are as below:
- Broadly the urgent recommendations of the said Task Force are as below:
- Reinvigorating the constitution of governance.
- Strengthening efforts towards protection of tiger, checking poaching, convicting wildlife criminals and breaking the international trade network in wildlife body parts and derivatives.
- Expanding the undisturbed areas for tiger by reducing human pressure.
- Repair the relationship with local people who share the tigers habitat by fielding strategies for coexistence.
- Regenerate the forest habitats in the fringes of the tigers protective enclaves by investing in forest, water and grassland economies of the people.
Considering the urgency of the situation, Project Tiger has been converted into a statutory authority (NTCA) by providing enabling provisions in the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 through an amendment, viz. Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006. This forms one of the urgent recommendations of the Tiger Task Force appointed by the Prime Minister. The NTCA addresses the ecological as well as administrative concerns for conserving tigers, by providing a statutory basis for protection of tiger reserves, apart from providing strengthened institutional mechanisms for the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and endangered species.
The Authority also ensures enforcing of guidelines for tiger conservation and monitoring compliance of the same, apart from placement of motivated and trained officers having good track record as Field Directors of tiger reserves. It also facilitates capacity building of officers and staff posted in tiger reserves, apart from a time bound staff development plan.
Project Snow Leopard
The government on Tuesday launched ‘Project Snow Leopard’ to safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
The Project Snow Leopard is an initiative for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes, covering Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. It aims at promoting a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
Launching the project, Minister of State for Forest and Wildlife S. Regupathy said predators such as the snow leopard — at the apex of ecological pyramid — suffered the most partly on account of their relatively smaller population and also because of man-animal conflict. This situation got aggravated by the hostile landscape forming its habitat. Considering these facts, snow leopard has been included in the list of species under Recovery Programme to be funded through the umbrella scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.
Distribution of Snow Leopards
Snow Leopards are confirmed to live in 12 countries of Central Asia. Their range covers 1.2-1.6 million sq. km. A snow leopard’s home range can be as little as 12 sq.km. (4.6 sq.mi.) in productive habitat, to 500 or more sq.km. in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
Save Our Snow Leopards (SOS)
Save Our Snow Leopards’ (SOS) is a project launched by WWF India, in partnership with Tata Housing Development Company in January 2014.
Ladakh becoming role model in protecting Snow leopard
In order to conserve the snow leopard, it is critical to conserve its entire eco-system, that includes its natural prey. This would make it unnecessary for the snow leopard to venture beyond its natural habitat into human territory to hunt for food.
This understanding has shaped SLC (IT)’s approach. It is involved in research as well as promotion of sustainable practices aimed at conserving the entire “food chain” in which the snow leopard is the “apex” predator.
The attacks on livestock being the flash-point for retributive action by the community, and indeed for their deep resentment of the snow leopard, it was important to protect the different cattle breeds in the region. The practice was to keep sheep and goat in open-air pens at night that a snow leopard could easily enter. With community help, SLC (IT) constructed enclosures with a roof that would block this easy entry, making it “predator proof”. Horses too would fall prey, as they tend to graze beyond the watchful eyes of their herders. The SLC team took steps to tighten this vigil by inculcating better herding practices.
Elephants are the largest terrestrial mammal of India . Elephant being wide ranging animal requires large areas.
The requirement of food and water for elephants are very high and therefore their population can be supported only by forests that are under optimal conditions. The status of elephant can be the best indicator of the status of the forests. Asian elephants were believed to be widely distributed – from Tigris – Euphrates in West Asia eastward through Persia into the Indian sub-continent, South and Southeast Asia including Sri Lanka, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and up to North China.
However currently they are confined to Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and some Asian Islands – Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. About 60% of the Asian elephant population is in India. Old literatures indicate that even during the Moghul period, elephants were found all over India including many part of Central India like Marwar, Chanderi, Satwas, Bijagarh and Panna. However current distribution of wild elephant in India is confined to South India ; North East including North West Bengal; Central Indian states of Orissa , South WB and Jharkhand; and North West India in Uttarakahnd and UP.
Project Elephant (PE) was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives:
- To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
- To address issues of man-animal conflict
- Welfare of captive elephants
Financial and Technical support are being provided to major elephant bearing States in the country. The Project is being mainly implemented in 16 States / UTs , viz. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal. Main activities under the Project are as follows:
- Ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants;
- Development of scientific and planned management for conservation of elephant habitats and viable population of Wild Asiatic elephants in India;
- Promotion of measures for mitigation of man elephant conflict in crucial habitats and moderating pressures of human and domestic stock activities in crucial elephant habitats;
- Strengthening of measures for protection of Wild elephants form poachers and unnatural causes of death;
- Research on Elephant management related issues;
- Public education and awareness programmes;
- Veterinary care;
- Elephant Rehabilitation/Rescue Centers.
The Indian elephant Elephas maximus occurs in the central and southern Western Ghats, North-east India, eastern India and northern India and in some parts of southern peninsular India. It is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).
It occurs in 16 of the 28 states in the country and is showing an increasing trend across its distributional range. Its population in 2007 was estimated to be in the range from 27,657 to 27,682, whereas in 2012 the population was estimated to be between 27,785 and 31,368
India has an estimated wild population of about 25,000-28,000 elephants, roughly 50 per cent of the world’s Asian elephant population. These range across 26 Elephant Reserves spread over about 110,000 sq. km. forests in northeast, central, northwest and south India. Of the 88 elephant corridors identified, 12 are in northwestern India, 20 in central India, 14 in northern West Bengal, 22 in northeastern India and 20 in southern India.
Of the total, 77.3 per cent of the corridors are being regularly used by elephants. Fragmentation of elephant habitat was most severe in northern West Bengal followed by northwestern India, northeastern India and central India respectively. The least fragmentation was noted in southern India. Only 28.5 per cent of the corridors in the country are one kilometre or below in length. However, on a regional basis, about 65 per cent of the corridors in southern India are one kilometre or below in length. In southern India, 65 per cent of the corridors are under the Protected Area network and/or under Reserve Forests and 65 per cent of the corridors are fully under forest cover.
In comparison, for example, 90 per cent of the corridors in central India are jointly under forest, agriculture and settlements and only 10 per cent are completely under forest. On a country-wide basis, only 24 per cent of the corridors are under complete forest cover. Settlements and the resulting biotic pressure in corridors are serious issues and throughout India, only 22.8 per cent corridors are without any major settlements.
On a zonal basis, the highest number of corridors was seen in northern West Bengal, which has one corridor for every 157 sq. km. of available elephant habitat. The lowest number was in southern India, where one corridor exists for every 1,995 sq. km. of the available habitat. Similarly for northeastern India, one corridor exists for every 1,764 sq. km., central India has one corridor in every 1,775 sq. km. and northern India has one in every 460 sq. km. Of the identified corridors, about one third (30 per cent) are of high ecological priority and 67 per cent are of medium priority. Based on conservation feasibility, 19.3 per cent are of high priority, 55.7 per cent of medium and 25 per cent of low priority.
Elephant as National Heritage Animal of India
In 2010, Environment Minister disclosed the news that the Center will be providing heritage animal status to elephants in order to increase protective measures for the country’s nearly 29,000 elephants. Tuskers constitute the crucial segment of our rich and diverse wildlife.
Asian elephant outclasses its African cousin because of its majestic looks. Asian elephant bull grows upto 10 feet and weighs about 5 tons. Purely vegetarian, an adult elephant can devour 200 to 300 kg of fodder and drink upto 100 litres of water in a day.
These deer once numbered from about 5,000 animals in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, they were threatened, due to habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching. This dwindled to as low as 150 animals by 1970. However, the state of Jammu & Kashmir, along with the IUCN and the WWF prepared a project for the protection of these animals. It became known as Project Hangul. This brought great results and the population increased to over 340 by 1980.
The animal is battling for its survival in its last bastion: they are now scattered within 141 km² of the Dachigam National Park located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar. Known for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, hangul was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir. During the 1940s, their number was believed to be about 3,000-5,000. As per the latest census in 2008, only around 160 exist. There are plans to breed them in captivity to increase their chances of survival
Failure of Project Hangul
Conservation efforts for the Hangul were dealt a massive blow when the state government allowed sheep breeding farms to be set up within the park, eating into about 100 hectares of park area.
Over the years, sheep didn’t only prove to be a disturbance but there are ample scientific studies indicating considerable parasitic prevalence in hangul which are mainly attributed to habitat fragmentation and biotic interference, especially host density, owing to presence of sheep in habitat range of Hangul. Deadly, infectious zoonotic diseases may have been transmitted from the sheep to the hangul.
The hangul population decreased from 3,000 in the 1940s to a little over 200 by 1969. On the other hand, the sheep were introduced in the park in 1961 and their population increased from 20 to some 3,000 during the same period. The introduction of sheep created a potential competitor and a persistent source of disturbance for the hangul since both animals have similar grazing preferences. Despite the threat, it took the government more than 12 years to implement a 2005 cabinet decision that had called for the sheep to be relocated from Dachigam.