GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES ASIATIC LION CONSERVATION PROJECT
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India has launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” with an aim to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem.
At a review meeting Union Environment Minister said that “The Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” will strengthen the ongoing measures for conservation and recovery of Asiatic Lion with the help of state-of-the –art techniques/ instruments, regular scientific research studies, disease management, Modern surveillance/ patrolling techniques.
The Union minister further stated that the total budget of the project for 3 years that amounts to nearly Rs. 97.84 crore will be funded from the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State share.
Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss. A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890’s. With timely and stringent protection offered by the State Government and the Centre Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.
The last census in the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq. km. that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.
The conservation of Asiatic Lions has always been a priority of Government of India. The Ministry in the past has supported Asiatic Lion in Gujarat by including it in list of 21 critically endangered species for recovery programme and financial assistance under the species recovery component of CSS-DWH.
The project activities are envisaged in a manner to cause habitat improvement, scientific interventions, disease control and veterinary care supplemented with adequate eco development works for the fringe population in order to ensure a stable and viable Lion population in the Country.
WHAT IS SPECIES RECOVERY PROGRAMME ?
The country’s flagship and charismatic species face a variety of threats, ranging from habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade to reduction in forest cover outside protected areas. Significant populations of these species exist outside Protected Areas moving for dispersal from their natal habitats or for seasonal migrations.
The erstwhile Ministry of Environment and Forest scheme of ‘Assistance for the Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries’ was reformulated and renamed as ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)’ during the 11th Plan period (2007-2012).
The MoEF, in consultation with Wildlife Institute of India and other scientific institutions/ organizations, identified 16 terrestrial and 7 aquatic species with the objective of saving critically endangered species/ecosystems that to ensure their protection outside Protected Areas, across the wider landscape/seascape.
Species Recovery Plans were prepared for several of these species.
- The Lion (Panthera leo persica) and Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) populations are showing an increasing trend, and the Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) and Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) populations are stable; but the populations of the Great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) and the Nicobar megapode (Megapodius nicobariensis) have recorded declines.
- Vulture populations, in particular Gyps bengalensis, that had declined substantially in recent times have registered a small upward trend, indicating that conservation measures taken for the species are showing a positive outcome.
Efforts are underway for developing protocols for monitoring the status and trends of the remaining IDWH species.
SPECIES UNDER IDWH SCHEME:
- Asian Wild Buffalo
- Asiatic Lion
- Brow-Antlered Deer or Sangai
- Edible Nest Swiftlet
- Gangetic River Dolphin
- Great Indian Bustard
- Indian Rhino or Great One-horned Rhinoceros
- Jerdon’s Courser
- Malabar Civet
- Marine Turtles
- Nicobar Megapode
- Nilgiri Tahr
- Snow Leopard
- Swamp Deer
IN NEWS JULY 2018
The standing committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recently added four species- Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale and Red Panda into Centre’s Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species. They were added on the recommendation by Wildlife Division of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
NORTHER RIVER TERRAPIN: It is species of riverine turtle found in rivers that flow in Eastern India. It is hunted for its meat and carapace. It is native of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
CLOUDED LEOPARD: It is found in Himalayan foothills. It is threatened due to habitat loss, poaching for its skin and is also as a live pet trade. The IUCN in its Red List assessment of 2016 has categorized Clouded Leopard as ‘Vulnerable’ and indicating declining trend in its population.
ARABIAN SEA HUMPBACK WHALE: It is a species found in all of major oceans. This species migrates from the Oman coast through the Arabian sea, along the Indian coasts till the Sri Lankan coast. Ship strikes, unforgiving fishing gear and siesmic explorations pose grave threat to it.
RED PANDA: It is closely associated with montane forests with dense bamboo-thicket. It is found Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. It is poached for its meat, and for use in medicines, and as a pet. The IUCN has categorized Red Panda as ‘Endangered’. As per its Red List assessment of 2015, population of this species is decreasing.