The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given its nod to include four diverse species — Northern River Terrapin (riverine turtle), Red Panda, Clouded Leopard and Arabian Sea Humpback Whale — in the recovery programme for critically endangered species. This decision will lead to targeted conservation of these species whose population is on the decline. They fall in the critically endangered to vulnerable categories as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The species recovery programme of the Union Environment Ministry is implemented under Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats — a centrally sponsored umbrella scheme for management and conservation of parks, wildlife habitats and conservation. Minutes of the NBWL meeting held on June 13, show that the Environment Ministry’s wildlife division proposed for inclusion of these four species in the recovery programme.
In April, the wildlife division had held a meeting of the Chief Wildlife Wardens (CWW)of East and Northeast region. It was during this meeting that the CWWs of West Bengal, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Mizoram suggested that the Northern River Terrapin, Red Panda and Clouded Leopard should be included under the list of species for taking up focussed recovery programme.
“State governments have sent their proposals for species recovery. Now the next step is to formulate a separate project strategies after discussing the proposals with scientific institutions, such as Wildlife Institute of India,” said a senior Environment Ministry official.
The wildlife division and state officials stated that Terrapins have been exploited for illegal trade across borders, especially for its meat and carapace. Clouded leopard and Red Panda are facing habitat loss and poaching threat for their meat, medicine and pelts. While the Northern River Terrapin is largely found in West Bengal, the clouded leopard is found in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Assam while the Red Panda is largely found in Sikkim, western Arunachal Pradesh, North Bengal and parts of Meghalaya.
Citing studies, the wildlife division told NBWL that the Arabian Sea Humpback Whale is facing threats from accidental entanglement in fishing gears, ship strikes and seismic explorations. Humpback whales migrate towards India’s west coast from Oman and there have been several instances of these gargantuan species getting beached on Maharashtra’s long coastline.
The wildlife division added that in last October, India had supported a resolution to take up concerted action for conservation of this whale species at the 12th convention on migratory species which took place in Manila. It is also a party to the International Whaling commission that is committed to the protection of whales and its habitats in Indian waters.
Species already included in the recovery programme: Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser