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January 2009

Wildlife Conservation in India

A Brief Report
Pavan Kumar P N

India is the seventh largest country in the world and Asia's second largest nation with an area of 3,287,263 square km. The Indian mainland stretches from 8 4' to 37 6' N latitude and from 68 7' to 97 25' E longitude. It has a land frontier of some 15,200 kms and a coastline of 7,516 km (Government of India, 1985). India's northern frontiers are with Xizang (Tibet) in the Peoples Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan. In the north-west, India borders on Pakistan; in the northeast, China and Burma; and in the east, Burma. The southern peninsula extends into the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean with the Bay of Bengal lying to the south-east and the Arabian Sea to the south-west. For administrative purposes India is divided into 24 states and 7 union territories. The country is home to around 846 million people, about 16% of the World's population (1990 figures). Physically the massive country is divided into four relatively well defined regions - the Himalayan mountains, the Gangetic river plains, the southern (Deccan) plateau, and the islands of Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar. The Himalayas in the far north include some of the highest peaks in the world. The highest mountain in the Indian Himalayas is Khangchenjunga (8586 m) which is located in Sikkim on the border with Nepal. To the south of the main Himalayan massif lie the Lesser Himalaya, rising to 3,600- 4,600 m, and represented by the Pir Panjal in Kashmir and Dhaula dhar in Himachal Pradesh. Further south, flanking the Indo-Gangetic Plain, are the Siwaliks which rise to 900-1,500 m. The northern plains of India stretch from Assam in the east to the Punjab in the west (a distance of 2,400 km), extending south to terminate in the saline swamplands of the Rann of Kachchh (Kutch), in the state of Gujarat. Some of the largest rivers in India including the Ganga (Ganges), Ghaghara, Brahmaputra, and the Yamuna flow across this region. The delta area of these rivers is located at the head of the Bay of Bengal, partly in the Indian state of west Bengal but mostly in Bangladesh. The plains are remarkably homogenous topographically: for hundreds of kilometres the only perceptible relief is formed by floodplain bluffs, minor natural levees and hollows known as 'spill patterns', and the belts of ravines formed by gully erosion along some of the larger rivers. In this zone, variation in relief does not exceed 300 m (FAO/UNEP, 1981) but the uniform flatness conceals a great deal of pedological variety. The agriculturally productive alluvial silts and clays of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta in north-eastern India, for example, contrast strongly with the comparatively sterile sands of the Thar Desert which is located at the western extremity of the Indian part of the plains in the state of Rajasthan. The climate of India is dominated by the Asiatic monsoon, most importantly by rains from the south-west between June and October, and drier winds from the north between December and February. From March to May the climate is dry and hot.

Major Biomes
Wetlands India has a rich variety of wetland habitats. The total area of wetlands (excluding rivers) in India is 58,286,000ha, or 18.4% of the country, 70% of which comprises areas under paddy cultivation. A total of 1,193 wetlands, covering an area of about 3,904,543 ha, were recorded in a preliminary inventory coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology, of which 572 were natural (Scott, 1989). Two sites - Chilka Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur) - have been designated under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) as being especially significant waterfowl habitats. The country's wetlands are generally differentiated by region into eight categories (Scott, 1989): the

reservoirs of the Deccan Plateau in the south, together with the lagoons and the other wetlands of the southern west coast; the vast saline expanses of Rajasthan, Gujarat and the gulf of Kachchh; freshwater lakes and reservoirs from Gujarat eastwards through Rajasthan (Kaeoladeo Ghana National park) and Madhya Pradesh; the delta wetlands and lagoons of India's east coast (Chilka Lake); the freshwater marshes of the Gangetic Plain; the floodplain of the Brahmaputra; the marshes and swamps in the hills of north-east India and the Himalayan foothills; the lakes and rivers of the montane region of Kashmir and Ladakh; and the mangroves and other wetlands of the island arcs of the Andamans and Nicobars. Forests India possesses a distinct identity, not only because of its geography, history and culture but also because of the great diversity of its natural ecosystems. The panorama of Indian forests ranges from evergreen tropical rain forests in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Western Ghats, and the north-eastern states, to dry alpine scrub high in the Himalaya to the north. Between the two extremes, the country has semi-evergreen rain forests, deciduous monsoon forests, thorn forests, subtropical pine forests in the lower montane zone and temperate montane forests (Lal, 1989). One of the most important tropical forests classifications was developed for Greater India (Champion, 1936) and later republished for present-day India (Champion and Seth, 1968). This approach has proved to have wide application outside India. In it 16 major forests types are recognised, subdivided into 221 minor types. Structure, physiognomy and floristics are all used as characters to define the types. The main areas of tropical forest are found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; the Western Ghats, which fringe the Arabian Sea coastline of peninsular India; and the greater Assam region in the north-east. Small remnants of rain forest are found in Orissa state. Semi-evergreen rain forest is more extensive than the evergreen formation partly because evergreen forests tend to degrade to semi-evergreen with human interference. There are substantial differences in both the flora and fauna between the three major rain forest regions (IUCN, 1986; Rodges and Panwar, 1988). The Western Ghats Monsoon forests occur both on the western (coastal) margins of the ghats and on the eastern side where there is less rainfall. These forests contain several tree species of great commercial significance (e.g. Indian rosewood Dalbergia latifolia, Malabar Kino Pterocarpus marsupium, teak and Terminalia crenulata), but they have now been cleared from many areas. In the rain forests there is an enormous number of tree species. Clumps of bamboo occur along streams or in poorly drained hollows throughout the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of south-west India, probably in areas once cleared for shifting agriculture. The tropical vegetation of north-east India (which includes the states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya as well as the plain regions of Arunachal Pradesh) typically occurs at elevations up to 900 m. It embraces evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forests, moist deciduous monsoon forests, riparian forests, swamps and grasslands. Evergreen rain forests are found in the Assam Valley, the foothills of the eastern Himalayas and the lower parts of the Naga Hills, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Manipur where the rain fall exceeds 2300 mm per annum. In the Assam Valley the giant Dipterocarpus macrocarpus and Shorea assamica occur singly, occasionally attaining a girth of up to 7 m and a height of up to 50 m. The monsoon forests are mainly moist sal Shorea robusta forests, which occur widely in this region (IUCN, 1991). The Andaman and Nicobar islands have tropical evergreen rain forests and tropical semievergreen rainforests as well as tropical monsoon moist monsoon forests (IUCN, 1986).The

tropical evergreen rain forest is only slightly less grand in stature and rich in species than on the mainland. The dominant species is Dipterocarpus grandiflorus in hilly areas, while Dipterocarpus kerrii is dominant on some islands in the southern parts of the archipelago. The monsoon forests of the Andaman are dominated by Pterocarpus dalbergioides and Terminalia spp. Marine Environment The nearshore coastal waters of India are extremely rich fishing grounds. The total commercial marine catch for India has stabilised over the last ten years at between 1.4 and 1.6 million tonnes, with fishes from the clupeoid group (e.g. sardines Sardinella sp., Indian shad Hilsa sp. and whitebait Stolephorus sp.) accounting for approximately 30% of all landings. In 1981 it was estimated that there were approximately 180,000 non-mechanized boats (about 90% of India's fishing fleet) carrying out small-scale, subsistence fishing activities in these waters. At the same time there were about 20,000 mechanized boats and 75 deep-sea fishing vessels operating mainly out of ports in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Coral reefs occur along only a few sections of the mainland, principally the Gulf of Kutch, off the southern mainland coast, and around a number of islands opposite Sri Lanka. This general absence is due largely to the presence of major river systems and the sedimentary regime on the continental shelf. Elsewhere, corals are also found in Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Island groups although their diversity is reported to be lower than in south-east India (UNEP/IUCN, 1988). Indian coral reefs have a wide range of resources which are of commercial value. Exploitation of corals, coral debris and coral sands is widespread on the Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch reefs, while ornamental shells, chanks and pearl oysters are the basis of an important reef industry in the south of India. Sea fans and seaweeds are exported for decorative purposes, and there is a spiny lobster fishing industry along the south-east coast, notably at Tuticorin, Madras and Mandapam Commercial exploitation of aquarium fishes from Indian coral reefs has gained importance only recently and as yet no organised effort has been made to exploit these resources. Reef fisheries are generally at the subsistence level and yields are unrecorded. Other notable marine areas are seagrass beds, which although not directly exploited are valuable as habitats for commercially harvested species, particularly prawns, and mangrove stands. In the Gulf of Mannar the green tiger prawn Penaeus semisulcatus is extensively harvested for the export market. Seagrass beds are also important feeding areas for the dugong Dugong dugon, plus several species of marine turtle. Five species of marine turtle occur in Indian waters: Green turtle Chelonia mydas, Loggerhead Caretta caretta, Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata and Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea. Most of the marine turtle populations found in the Indian region are in decline. The principal reason for the decrease in numbers is deliberate human predation. Turtles are netted and speared along the entire Indian coast. In south-east India the annual catch is estimated at 4,000-5,000 animals, with C. mydas accounting for about 70% of the harvest. C. caretta and L. olivacea are the most widely consumed species (Salm, 1981). E. imbricata is occasionally eaten but it has caused deaths and so is usually caught for its shell alone. D. coriacea is boiled for its oil which is used for caulking boats and as protection from marine borers. Incidental netting is widespread. In the Gulf of Mannar turtles are still reasonably common near seagrass beds where shrimp trawlers operate, but off the coast of Bengal the growing number of mechanized fishing boats has had the effect of increasing incidental catch rates (Kar and Bhaskar, 1981).


Wildlife of India
India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, hosts significant biodiversity; it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of avian, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species.[1] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic. India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded the Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, to which India originally belonged. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians. Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with over 500 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 14 biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 25 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.

Importance of Wildlife
Human Benefits There are a multitude of anthropocentric benefits of wildlife in the areas of agriculture, science and medicine, industrial materials, ecological services, in leisure, and in cultural, aesthetic and intellectual value. There are many benefits that are obtained from natural ecosystem processes. Some ecosystem services that benefit society are air quality, climate (both global Co2 sequestration and regional and local), water purification, disease control, biological pest control, pollination and prevention of erosion. Along with those come non- material benefits that are obtained from ecosystems which are spiritual and aesthetic values, knowledge systems and the value of education that we obtain today. However, the public remains unaware of the crisis in sustaining Wildlife. Agriculture The economic value of the reservoir of genetic traits present in wild varieties and traditionally grown landraces is extremely important in improving crop performance. Important crops, such as the potato and coffee, are often derived from only a few genetic strains. Improvements in crop plants over the last 250 years have been largely due to harnessing the genetic diversity present in wild and domestic crop plants. Interbreeding crops strains with

different beneficial traits has resulted in more than doubling crop production in the last 50 years as a result of the Green Revolution. Science and medicine A significant proportion of drugs are derived, directly or indirectly, from biological sources; in most cases these medicines cannot presently be synthesized in a laboratory setting. About 40% of the pharmaceuticals used in India are manufactured using natural compounds found in plants, animals, and microorganisms. Moreover, only a small proportion of the total diversity of plants has been thoroughly investigated for potential sources of new drugs. Many drugs are also derived from microorganisms. Through the field of bionics, considerable technological advancement has occurred which would not have without a rich biodiversity. Leisure, cultural and aesthetic value The government of India has declared that the National Animal of India is a Tiger (Bengal Tiger) & National Bird is Peacock (Indian Peafowl) & the national tree is a Banyan Tree. This highlights the cultural and emotional benefits of wildlife. Many people derive value from wildlife through leisure activities such as hiking in the countryside, bird watching or natural history study. Eco tourism is a growing indication to show the aesthetic value of wildlife. Wildlife has inspired musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and other artists. Many cultural groups view themselves as an integral part of the natural world and show respect for other living organisms. Popular activities such as gardening, caring for aquariums and collecting butterflies are all strongly dependent on wildlife. The number of species involved in such pursuits is in the tens of thousands, though the great majorities do not enter mainstream commercialism. The relationships between the original natural areas of these often 'exotic' animals and plants and commercial collectors, suppliers, breeders, propagators and those who promote their understanding and enjoyment are complex and poorly understood. It seems clear, however, that the general public responds well to exposure to rare and unusual organismsthey recognize their inherent value at some level, even if they would not want the responsibility of caring for them. A family outing to the botanical garden or zoo is as much an aesthetic or cultural experience as it is an educational one. Philosophically it could be argued that biodiversity has intrinsic aesthetic and/or spiritual value to mankind in and of itself. This idea can be used as a counterweight to the rather notion that tropical forests and other ecological realms are only worthy of conservation because they may contain medicines or useful products. Industrial materials A wide range of industrial materials are derived directly from biological resources. These include building materials, fibres, dyes, resins, rubber and oil. There is enormous potential for further research into sustainably utilizing materials from a wider diversity of organisms.


The Flora & Fauna of India

The concept of forest and wildlife conservation is very ancient to India. Since time immemorial, wildlife here has enjoyed a privileged position of protection through religious philosophy. India's flora and fauna are as diverse as its cultural variances. Only around 10% of the country still has forest cover, and only 4% is protected within national parks and similar reserves. However, in the past few decades the government has taken serious steps towards environmental management and has established numerous parks, sanctuaries and reserves. The mlange of India's climate and topography is reflected in its rich flora & fauna. India is world renown for its tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses, but these are just three of the more than 500 species of mammals harboring in the country. India has for years captivated the attentions of wildlife experts and lovers. Home to many rare and unique species - the majestic tiger, the Asiatic lion, the one horned rhinoceros, the wild ass, the Asian elephant, many species of deer, bears, leopards, monkeys, antelopes and birds - India's wildlife sanctuaries are a nature lover's paradise. It is exciting and exceptional to be in India and it is far more exciting and entertaining to be in the Indian wildlife biosphere, mainly confined in the Indian wildlife sanctuary or national park. Wildlife heritage of India is as much or more diverse than the cultural heritage of this country. In all India has 80 national parks and 441 sanctuaries, of which 19 fall under the purview of Project Tiger. The total area of India's protected wilderness is approximately 140,000 sq km. This contains 4 % of the country's total land area. Not only are these vast patches of forests preserved as natural habitats for wildlife, but are even more unique owing to the fact that they vary from region to region and each has something unique, be it its flora, fauna, avi-fauna or aqua-fauna. Many of the species harboured in these areas are rare and endangered. India is blessed with over 2,000 species of birds, over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians and around 30,000 species of insects, including the colorful butterflies. Conservation projects have been established to preserve them. Floras in India The wide range of climatic conditions helps India boasts of its rich variety of vegetation that no other country in this world can boast of. The vegetation comprises some 15,000 species of plants. According to the distribution of the flora, India can be classified into, Western Himalayas, Eastern Himalayas, Assam, Indus Plain, Ganga Plain, Deccan, Malabar and the Andaman. Indian flora fluctuates from the Western Himalayan and Assamese, from the species of the Indus Plain to those of the gangetic plain, from the Deccan and Malabari to the vegetation of the Andaman. The floral treasure ranges from the Alpine to the temperate thorn, from the coniferous to the evergreen, from scrubs to deciduous forests, from thick tropical jungles to cool temperate woods. The Western Himalayan biosphere is bouncy with Chirpine and other conifers deodar, blue pine, spruce, silver fir, and junipers. The Eastern Himalayan region consists of oaks, laurels, maples, rhododendrons, alder, and birch and dwarf willows. The Assam region is full of evergreen forests with lots of bamboo and tall grasses. The Indus plain supports very scanty vegetation and the Ganges Plain is under cultivation. The Deccan region is full of scrubs and mixed deciduous forests. The Malabar region is under

commercial crops like coconut, betel, pepper, coffee and tea. Andaman region is plentiful in evergreen and mangrove forests. Faunas in India Popular mammals include the Elephant, the famous white lions and some common lions, the Royal Bengal Tiger, Rhinos, Wild Bisons some varieties from the cat family, deer, monkeys, wild goats, etc. Elephants are found in the sparsely populated hill areas of Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa A variety of deer and antelope species can be seen, but these are now mostly confined to the protected areas because of competition with domestic animals and the effects of their diseases. They include graceful Indian gazelles (chinkaras); Indian antelopes (blackbucks); diminutive, four-homed ante- lopes (chowsinghas); large and ungainly looking blue bulls (nilgais); rare swamp deer (barasinghas); sambars, India's largest deer; beautiful spotted deer (chitals); the larger barking deer (muntjacs); and the tiny mouse deer (chevrotains). Also seen are wild buffaloes, massive Indian bisons (gaurs), shaggy sloth bears, striped hyenas, wild pigs, jackals, Indian foxes, wolves, and Indian wild dogs (dhole), which resembles giant foxes but roam in packs in forests. Lions are found in the rocky hills and forests of the Gir area of Gujarat, Tigers in the Sunderbans and the Brahmaputra valley. The famous Project Tiger is a scheme financed by the government of India to safeguard the tiger in its habitat in nine selected reserves. Indian Fauna also include the wild ass of Rajasthan, Nilgiri Langur, Lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri mongoose and Malaber civer of the southern hills and the spotted deer. Leopards are found in many forests, Wolves roam the open country. Cheetahs are found in the Deccan plateau. Avi-faunas In India India is blessed with over 2000 species and sub-species of birds. The diverse birdlife of the forests includes large hornbills, serpent eagles and fishing owls, as well as the elegant national bird, the peacock. Waterbirds, such as herons, ibises, storks, cranes, pelicans and others, are seen not only in parks but at numerous special waterbird sanctuaries. These sanctuaries contain large breeding colonies, and are of great importance for the countless numbers of migrating birds which visit India annually. Bird-Life in India is rich and colorful. The birds include the beautiful Peacock to the Parrots, and thousands of immigrant birds. Other common Indian birds are pheasants, geese ducks, mynahs, parakeets, pigeons, cranes, and hornbills. India now maintains 80 national parks, 441 wildlife sanctuaries and 35 zoological gardens. Reptiles in India Among the other wildlife are over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians, including magnificent king cobras, pythons, crocodiles, large freshwater tortoises and monitor lizards. There are also 10,000 insect species. including large and colourful butlerflies. A huge number of snake varieties, lizards and crocodiles account for the reptile count. Snakes include the deadly King cobras to the equally poisonous Kraits. Scorpions and insects are aplenty in this country. Disease carrying mosquitoes and destructive locusts are to be found. Useful insects include the bees, silkworms and the Lac insect.


Threats to Wildlife
During the last century, erosion of biodiversity has been increasingly observed. Some studies show that about one eighth known plant species is threatened with extinction. Some estimates put the loss at up to 140,000 species per year (based on Species-area theory all over the world. This figure indicates unsustainable ecological practices, because only a small number of species come into being each year. Almost all scientists acknowledge that the rate of species loss is greater now than at any time in human history, with extinctions occurring at rates hundreds of times higher than background extinction rates. Destruction of habitat Most of the species extinctions from 1000 AD to 2000 AD are due to human activities, in particular destruction of plant and animal habitats. Raised rates of extinction are being driven by human consumption of organic resources, especially related to forest destruction. While most of the species that are becoming extinct are not food species, their biomass is converted into human food when their habitat is transformed into pasture, cropland, and orchards. It is estimated that more than a third of the Earth's biomass is tied up in only the few species that represent humans, livestock and crops. Because an ecosystem decreases in stability as its species are made extinct, these studies warn that the global ecosystem is destined for collapse if it is further reduced in complexity. Factors contributing to loss of biodiversity are: overpopulation, deforestation, pollution (air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination) and global warming or climate change, driven by human activity. These factors, while all stemming from overpopulation, produce a cumulative impact upon biodiversity. There are systematic relationships between the area of a habitat and the number of species it can support, with greater sensitivity to reduction in habitat area for species of larger body size and for those living at lower latitudes or in forests or oceans. Some characterize loss of biodiversity not as ecosystem degradation but by conversion to trivial standardized ecosystems (e.g., monoculture following deforestation). In some regions, lack of property rights or access regulation to biotic resources necessarily leads to biodiversity loss (degradation costs having to be supported by the community). Exotic species The rich diversity of unique species exists only because they are separated by barriers, particularly large rivers, seas, oceans, mountains and deserts from other species of other land masses, particularly the highly fecund, ultra-competitive, generalist "super-species". The widespread introduction of exotic species by humans is a potent threat to wildlife. When exotic species are introduced to ecosystems and establish self-sustaining populations, the endemic species in that ecosystem, that have not evolved to cope with the exotic species, may not survive. The exotic organisms may be either predators, parasites, or simply aggressive species that deprive indigenous species of nutrients, water and light. These exotic or invasive species often have features, due to their evolutionary background and new environment, that make them highly competitive; able to become well-established and spread quickly, reducing the effective habitat of endemic species.


Genetic pollution Purebred naturally evolved region specific wild species can be threatened with extinction through the process of genetic pollution i.e. uncontrolled hybridization, introgression and Genetic swamping which leads to homogenization or replacement of local genotypes as a result of either a numerical and/or fitness advantage of introduced plant or animal. Non-native species can bring about a form of extinction of native plants and animals by hybridization and introgression either through purposeful introduction by humans or through habitat modification, bringing previously isolated species into contact. These phenomena can be especially detrimental for rare species coming into contact with more abundant ones where the abundant ones can interbreed with them swamping the entire rarer gene pool creating hybrids thus driving the entire original purebred native stock to complete extinction. Attention has to be focused on the extent of this underappreciated problem that is not always apparent from morphological (outward appearance) observations alone. Some degree of gene flow may be a normal, evolutionarily constructive process, and all constellations of genes and genotypes cannot be preserved however, hybridization with or without introgression may, nevertheless, threaten a rare species' existence. Hybridization and genetics In agriculture and animal husbandry, green revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield many folds by creating "high-yielding varieties". Often the handful of breeds of plants and animals hybridized originated in developed countries and were further hybridized with local varieties, in the rest of the developing world, to create high yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases. The governments and industry since have been pushing hybridization with such zeal that several of the wild and indigenous breeds evolved locally over thousands of years having high resistance to local extremes in climate and immunity to diseases etc. have already become extinct or are in grave danger of becoming so in the near future. Due to complete disuse because of un-profitability and uncontrolled intentional and unintentional crosspollination and crossbreeding (genetic pollution) formerly huge gene pools of various wild and indigenous breeds have collapsed causing widespread genetic erosion and genetic pollution resulting in great loss in genetic diversity and biodiversity as a whole.[36] A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using the genetic engineering techniques generally known as recombinant DNA technology. Genetically Modified (GM) crops today have become a common source for genetic pollution, not only of wild varieties but also of other domesticated varieties derived from relatively natural hybridization. It is being said that genetic erosion coupled with genetic pollution is destroying that needed unique genetic base thereby creating an unforeseen hidden crisis which will result in a severe threat to our food security for the future when diverse genetic material will cease to exist to be able to further improve or hybridize weakening food crops and livestock against more resistant diseases and climatic changes. Climate Change The recent phenomenon of global warming is also considered to be a major threat to global biodiversity.

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Conservation of Wildlife
The conservation of biological diversity has become a global concern. Although not everybody agrees on extent and significance of current extinction, most consider biodiversity essential. There are basically two main types of conservation options, in-situ conservation and exsitu conservation. In-situ is usually seen as the ideal conservation strategy. However, its implementation is sometimes infeasible. For example, destruction of rare or endangered species' habitats sometimes requires ex-situ conservation efforts. Furthermore, ex-situ conservation can provide a backup solution to in-situ conservation projects. Some believe both types of conservation are required to ensure proper preservation. An example of an in-situ conservation effort is the setting-up of protection areas. Examples of ex-situ conservation efforts, by contrast, would be planting germplasts in seedbanks, or growing the Wollemi Pine in nurseries. Such efforts allow the preservation of large populations of plants with minimal genetic erosion.

Need for Conservation

The need for conservation of wildlife in India is often questioned because of the apparently incorrect priority in the face of dire poverty of the people. However Article 48 of the Constitution of India specifies that "the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country" and Article 51-A states that "it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures." Large and charismatic mammals are important for wildlife tourism in India and several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs. Project Tiger started in 1972 is a major effort to conserve the tiger and its habitats. At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 40,000, yet an Indian tiger census conducted in 1972 revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. Various pressures in the later part of the 20th century led to the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. At the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) General Assembly meeting in Delhi in 1969, serious concern was voiced about the threat to several species of wildlife and the shrinkage of wilderness in the India. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. The framework was then set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach. Launched on April 1, 1973 Project has become one of the most successful conservation ventures in modern history. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted 'tiger reserves' which are representative of various bio-geographical regions falling within India. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in their natural environment. Today, there are 27 Project Tiger wildlife reserves in India covering an area of 37,761 km. Project Elephant, though less known, started in 1992 and works for elephant protection in India. Most of India's rhinos today survive in the Kaziranga National Park. Endemic Species India has many endemic plant and vertebrate species. Among plants, species endemism is estimated at 33% with c. 140 endemic genera but no endemic families (Botanical Survey of India, 1983). Areas rich in endemism are north-east India, the Western Ghats and the north-western and eastern Himalayas. A small pocket of local endemism also occurs in the Eastern Ghats
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(MacKinnon & MacKinnon, 1986). The Gangetic plains are generally poor in endemics, while the Andaman and Nicobar Islands contribute at least 220 species to the endemic flora of India (Botanical Survey of India, 1983). WCMC's Threatened Plants Unit (TPU) is in the preliminary stages of cataloguing the world's centres of plant diversity; approximately 150 botanical sites worldwide are so far recognised as important for conservation action, but others are constantly being identified (IUCN, 1987). Five locations have so far been issued for India: the Agastyamalai Hills, Silent Valley and New Amarambalam Reserve and Periyar National Park (all in the Western Ghats), and the Eastern and Western Himalaya. Endemism among mammals and birds is relatively low. Only 44 species of Indian mammal have a range that is confined entirely to within Indian territorial limits. Four endemic species of conservation significance occur in the Western Ghats. They are the Lion-tailed macaque Macaca silenus, Nilgiri leaf monkey Trachypithecus johni (locally better known as Nilgiri langur Presbytis johnii), Brown palm civet Paradoxurus jerdoni and Nilgiri tahr Hemitragus hylocrius. Only 55 bird species are endemic to India, with distributions concentrated in areas of high rainfall. They are located mainly in eastern India along the mountain chains where the monsoon shadow occurs, south-west India (the Western Ghats), and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands (ICBP, 1992). In contrast, endemism in the Indian reptilian and amphibian fauna is high. There are around 187 endemic reptiles, and 110 endemic amphibian species. Eight amphibian genera are not found outside India. They include, among the caecilians, Indotyphlus, Gegeneophis and Uraeotyphlus; and among the anurans, the toad Bufoides, the microhylid Melanobatrachus, and the frogs Ranixalus, Nannobatrachus and Nyctibatrachus. Perhaps most notable among the endemic amphibian genera is the monotypic Melanobatrachus which has a single species known only from a few specimens collected in the Anaimalai Hills in the 1870s (Groombridge, 1983). It is possibly most closely related to two relict genera found in the mountains of eastern Tanzania. Threatened Species India contains 172 species of animal considered globally threatened by IUCN, or 2.9% of the world's total number of threatened species (Groombridge, 1993). These include 53 species of mammal, 69 birds, 23 reptiles and 3 amphibians. India contains globally important populations of some of Asia's rarest animals, such as the Bengal Fox, Asiatic Cheetah, Marbled Cat, Asiatic Lion, Indian Elephant, Asiatic Wild Ass, Indian Rhinoceros, Markhor, Gaur, Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo etc. The number of species in various taxa that are listed under the different categories of endangerment is shown below in Table 2. Table 2. Globally Threatened Animals Occurring in India by Status Category.
1994 IUCN Red List Threat Category Group Insufficiently TOTAL Known _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Mammals 13 20 2 5 13 53 Birds 6 20 25 13 5 69 Reptiles 6 6 4 5 2 23 Amphibians 0 0 0 3 0 3 Fishes 0 0 2 0 0 2 Invertebrates 1 3 12 2 4 22 _____________________________________________________________________________________________ TOTAL 26 49 45 28 24 172 - 12 Endangered Vulnerable Rare Indeterminate

Source: Groombridge, B. (ed). 1993. The 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. lvi + 286 pp. A workshop held in 1982 indicated that as many as 3,000-4,000 higher plants may be under a degree of threat in India. Since then, the Project on Study, Survey and Conservation of Endangered species of Flora (POSSCEP) has partially documented these plants, and published its findings in Red Data Books (Nayar and Sastry, 1987). Table 3 provides summary statistics for this information. Table 3. Summary of Plant Conservation Status Information at WCMC.
IUCN Threat category Number of species _____________________________________________ Extinct 19 Extinct/Endangered 43 Endangered 149 Endangered/Vulnerable 2 Vulnerable 108 Rare 256 Indeterminate 719 Insufficiently Known 9 No information 1441 Not threatened 374 _____________________________________________ TOTAL 3120

Recent extinctions The exploitation of land and forest resources by humans along with hunting and trapping for food and sport has led to the extinction of many species in India in recent times. These species include mammals such as the Indian / Asiatic Cheetah, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros. While some of these large mammal species are confirmed extinct, there have been many smaller animal and plant species whose status is harder to determine. Many species have not been seen since their description. Hubbardia heptaneuron, a species of grass that grew in the spray zone of the Jog Falls prior to the construction of the Linganamakki reservoir, was thought to be extinct but a few were rediscovered near Kolhapur. Some species of birds have gone extinct in recent times, including the Pink-headed Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) and the Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa). A species of warbler, Acrocephalus orinus, known earlier from a single specimen collected by Allan Octavian Hume from near Rampur in Himachal Pradesh was rediscovered after 139 years in Thailand. From these details we can truly understand Indian Wildlife crisis and the need for the conservation of the Indian Wildlife. In this context, several wildlife conservation programmes are undertaken in India by the Government and the Non Government Organizations of India.

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History and Development of Wildlife Conservation in India

The protection of wildlife has a long tradition in Indian history. Wise use of natural resources was a prerequisite for many hunter-gatherer societies which date back to at least 6000 BC. Extensive clearance of forests accompanied the advance of agricultural and pastoral societies in subsequent millennia, but an awareness of the need for ecological prudence emerged and many so-called pagan nature conservation practices were retained. As more and more land became settled or cultivated, so these hunting reserves increasingly became refuges for wildlife. Many of these reserves were subsequently declared as national parks or sanctuaries, mostly after Independence in 1947. Examples include Gir in Gujarat, Dachigam in Jammu & Kashmir, Bandipur in Karnataka, Eravikulum in Kerala, Madhav (now Shivpuri) in Madhya Pradesh, Simlipal in Orissa, and Keoladeo, Ranthambore and Sariska in Rajasthan. Wildlife, together with forestry, has traditionally been managed under a single administrative organisation within the forest departments of each state or union territory, with the role of central government being mainly advisory. There have been two recent developments. First, the Wildlife (Protection) Act has provided for the creation of posts of chief wildlife wardens and wildlife wardens in the states to exercise statutory powers under the Act. Under this Act, it is also mandatory for the states to set up state wildlife advisory boards. Secondly the inclusion of protection of wild animals and birds in the concurrent list of the constitution, has proved the union with some legislative control over the states in the conservation of wildlife (Pillai, 1982). The situation has since improved, all states and union territories with national parks or sanctuaries having set up wildlife wings. The adoption of a National Policy for Wildlife Conservation in 1970 and the enactment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972 lead to a significant growth in the protected areas network, from 5 national parks and 60 sanctuaries to 69 and 410 respectively, in 1990 (Panwar, 1990). The network was further strengthened by a number of national conservation projects, notably Project Tiger, initiated in April 1973 by the Government of India with support from WWF (IBWL, 1972; Panwar, 1982), and the crocodile Breeding and Management Project, launched on 1 April, 1975 with technical assistance from UNDP/FAO (Bustard, 1982). Indian Forest Act of 1927 The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The first and most famous was the Indian Forest Act of 1878. Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act. Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 refers to a sweeping package of legislation enacted in 1972 by the Government of India. Prior to 1972, India only had five designated national parks. Among other reforms, the Act established schedules of protected plant and animal species; hunting or otherwise harvesting these species was largely outlawed.
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The Act provides for the protection of Wild animals, birds and plants and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. It extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own wildlife act. It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection, with absolute protection being provided under Schedule I and part II of schedule II with the highest penalties prescribed for offences under these schedules and Species listed in the Section IV are also protected but the penalties are much lower, with the enforcement authorities having the power to compound offences (as in they impose fines on the offenders). Biological Diversity Act of 2002 India has recently passed a pioneering piece of legislation in the Biological Diversity Act 2002 that provides a framework for taking advantage of several significant new provisions of the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): 1. Assertion of sovereign rights of India as a country of origin. 2. Assertion of intellectual property rights over codified traditional knowledge like Ayurveda and Yunani systems of medicine. 3. Assertion of intellectual property rights over orally transmitted traditional knowledge. 4. Assertion of intellectual property rights of grass-roots innovators. The Biological Diversity Act visualizes the establishment of a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the level of all local bodies, namely, Gram, Taluk and Zilla Panchayats, as well as Municipalities and Corporations. The NBA working with SBBs and BMCs will have the responsibility for and authority to: (1) Decide upon the admissibility of all patent and other Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) applications based on Indian biodiversity resources and associated knowledge in consultation with relevant local Biodiversity Management Committees. (2) Decide upon applications to access biodiversity resources and associated knowledge for commercial use in consultation with relevant local Biodiversity Management Committees. (3) Decide upon appropriate benefit sharing arrangements in relation to IPR applications in consultation with relevant local Biodiversity Management Committees. (4) Issue guidelines on appropriate collection fees and other benefit sharing arrangements in relation to applications to access biodiversity resources and associated knowledge for commercial use in consultation with relevant local Biodiversity Management Committees. (5) Decide on admissibility of joint research proposals involving foreign agencies. (6) Decide on priorities and appropriate actions for conservation and sustainable use of natural populations of biodiversity resources. (7) Decide on priorities and appropriate actions for maintenance of health of natural ecosystems. (8) Decide on priorities and appropriate actions for conservation of domesticated biodiversity. (9) Decide on priorities and appropriate actions for constitution of heritage sites. (10) Decide on priorities and appropriate actions for identification of threatened species. (11) Promote scientific research pertaining to biodiversity and associated knowledge. (12) Promote public awareness pertaining to biodiversity and associated knowledge.

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Wildlife Conservation in India

Protected Areas The first national park in India was declared in 1935, now famous as the Corbett National Park. Since Independence, there has been a steady rise in the number of Protected Areas (PAs) (National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries), especially after the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972. In 1988, there were 54 national parks and 372 sanctuaries covering a total area of 109,652 sq km. By the year 2000, this number had increased to 566, covering 1,53,000 sq km, or 4.66% of Indias geographical area. There are currently about 597 nationa l parks and sanctuaries in India, encompassing 1,54,572 sq km or 4.74% of the countrys geographical area. The latest review of the Wildlife Protected Area Network document brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, recommends to bring the total area under the Protected Area network to 870, totaling 1,88,764 sq km or 5.74 % of the countrys geographical area. This would translate into 163 national parks covering 54,789 sq km or 1.67% and 707 sanctuaries covering 1,33,975 sq km, or 4.07 % of the countries geographical area. Recently, the Bombay Natural History Society, in collaboration with various NGOs and government, has identified 463 important bird areas (IBAs). Out of these 463 IBAs, 199 are not officially protected. Many of these IBAs are extremely important for bird and general biodiversity protection and should be included in the PA network system. Similarly, the Wildlife Trust of India along with the Asian Elephant Research and the Conservation Centre have identified 88 elephant corridors that also need protection and lie outside the PA network. Besides the official PAs, there are numerous sacred groves, scattered all over the country, that are important for biodiversity conservation. Some sacred groves represent forest types that have disappeared from the area. Besides sacred groves, there are many small community conserved areas. Many villagers do not allow hunting in their village ponds and lakes. These serve as excellent habitats for waterfowl. Similarly, the tribal reserves of Andaman and Nicobar are perhaps the best-protected forests left in these emerald islands. Biosphere Reserves Apart from the protected areas system mandated under the WPA,1972, certain areas have also been declared as biosphere reserves by the Government of India. The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated under the 'Man and Biosphere' (MAB) programme by UNESCO in 1971. The purpose of the formation of the biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality, so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in natural ecosystems. There is a need to develop guidelines for the formation of Biosphere Reserves, which lay down clearly not only the criteria but also the management implications. In the existing situation, it is not clear as to how the object of a Biosphere Reserve is significantly different from National Parks and Sanctuaries. It is pertinent to point out that only 3 of the 13 Biosphere Reserves meet the criterion of the Man and Biosphere Programme of the UNESCO. Since management and conservation applications are stricter under the Wildlife Protection Act, it should not be that instead of creating a Park or Sanctuary a Biosphere Reserve be created to avoid the regulations of the WPA. Nor is it advisable to superimpose a biosphere reserve where a PA already exists or to change the category at this juncture. The attempt should be to establish biosphere reserves where it is neither appropriate nor feasible to establish one of the four PA categories listed under the WPA.
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Policy and administrative setup at the GOI (Government of India)

Forest and wildlife are subjects listed in the Concurrent List of the Constitution. At the Central Government level, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is responsible for all matters dealing with policy on wildlife conservation, at the State Government levels the Forest Departments under their control implement the national policies. The Wildlife Wing in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, is headed by the Director, Wildlife Preservation, who is also designated as the Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife) to the Government of India. The Wildlife Wing has three Divisions, namely, Project Tiger Division, Project Elephant Division and Wildlife Division, each headed by an officer designated as Inspector General of Forests. A Deputy Inspector General of Forest (Wildlife) and an Assistant Inspector General and Joint Director (Wildlife) provide support to the Wildlife Wing. These three Divisions look after national policies and projects, international co- ordination, Centrally Sponsored Schemes and State level implementation of activities relating to the conservation of wildlife in Tiger Reserves, Elephant Reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of India, wildlife laws, International Conventions and Treaties, matters relating to zoos, wildlife conservation, international trade in wildlife and wildlife articles, research, capacity building, major policy interventions, court cases, Parliament related matters, budget, besides a host of other related matters. Two autonomous organizations, the Wildlife Institute of India and the Central Zoo Authority, also headed by officers of the rank equivalent to that of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India are under administrative control of the Wildlife Wing. The Wildlife Institute of India is an academic institute recognized as one of the Centres of Excellence in the country. The Central Zoo Authority is the statutory authority for the recognition and technical development of the zoos in India. The Director, Wildlife Preservation is assisted by four regional subordinate offices, each headed by a Regional Deputy Director, Wildlife Preservation, with headquarters at the four main ports of export and import, viz., Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, to check on international trade in wildlife and wildlife articles.

Wildlife Conservation Division

This Division deals with all matters relating to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries not covered by the Project Tiger and the Project Elephant Divisions. The Division also acts as a nodal point for the Wildlife Institute of India and the Central Zoo Authority, which are autonomous bodies under the administrative control of the Government of India. The two organizations receive support from the Government of India in the form of grants processed by the Wildlife Division. The details on these two bodies are given separately. The Division also handles the Centrally Sponsored Scheme Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries and the Central Sector Scheme Strengthening of Wildlife Division and Consultancies for Wildlife Conservation. Conservation of National Parks and Sanctuaries The Government of India through a Centrally Sponsored Scheme Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries provides the financial assistance to national parks and sanctuaries managed by the State Governments. The scheme provides 100% Central assistance on items of works of non-recurring nature. There are a few identified items of recurring nature which are essential and which need support for a few years. The scheme provides assistance on such items on a 50% sharing basis, the matching share coming from the State Government concerned. Under the scheme, an assistance of Rs 72.28 crores was provided to the States during the IX Five Year Plan. The outlay for the X Five Year Plan is Rs 350 crores, which includes the merged schemes for Eco-development and Tribal Rehabilitation.
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Strengthening of Wildlife Division and Consultancies Under this Centrally Sponsored Scheme the infrastructural and conservational requirements of the Wildlife Division are met. This Division handles the works of the four subordinate offices of the Deputy Directors, Wildlife Preservation located at Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi, with their supporting offices at Amritsar, Guwahati and Cochin. The function of these offices is to monitor and take measures to check the international trade in wildlife and wildlife articles passing through the ports of entry into and exit from the country. Besides, research proposals from independent research agencies and institutions on applied aspects of wildlife conservation, are also provided support from this head. There are 10 ongoing research projects, dealing mainly with applied wildlife conservation undertaken by various organizations including the BNHS (4), Institute of Environment Education and Research, Pune (1), University of Patna (1), Garhwal University (1), Nature Environment and Wildlife Society (1), Gene Campaign (1) and the Chilika Development Authority (1). The subjects covered relate to wildlife habitats in the Dangs, Rajaji National Park, Western Ghats, ecological studies on the Gangetic Dolphin, Irravady Dolphin, forest spotted owlet, vultures, spot-billed pelican, endangered wildlife in West Bengal and genetic diversity in the Western Ghats. Central Zoo Authority The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) was established as a Statutory Authority under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in February 1992, with the prime objective of overseeing the management of zoos and to provide them with the necessary technical and financial inputs to come up to the desired level of management. The Authority specifies the minimum standards for housing, upkeep and veterinary care of the animals kept in a zoo; evaluates and assesses the functioning of the zoos with respect to the prescribed standards or norms and based on it, recognizes or derecognizes zoos. The law does not permit functioning of a zoo in India unless it is recognized by the CZA. The Authority also, inter-alia, identifies endangered species of wild animals for purposes of captive breeding, coordinates the acquisition, exchange and loaning of animals for breeding purpose, coordinates training of zoo personnel in India and outside India, coordinates research in captive breeding and educational programmes and provides technical and other assistance to zoos for their proper management and development on scientific lines. The CZA have evaluated 418 zoos in the country and granted recognition to 164 zoos. Since its inception in 1992, 91 zoos have been closed down and their animals rehabilitated appropriately. Wildlife Institute of India Established in 1982, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an autonomous body under the administrative control of the Government of India and is recognized as Indias premier institution that provides both capacity building as well as research inputs for improvement of wildlife conservation in India. Under the Central Sector Scheme, grants- in -aid to the Wildlife Institute of India amounted to Rs 50 crores for the X Five Year Plan. During the past year the Institute trained 20 officers in wildlife management under their 9 month Diploma course, 23 officers under their 3-month Certificate course and 8 students are attending the M.Sc Wildlife Biology course conducted biennially by the Institute. Short term specialized course modules are also being conducted by the Institute in subjects related to wildlife conservation. The subjects covered by the Institute relate to training in eco-development for biodiversity conservation, wildlife protection law and forensic sciences, environmental impact assessment, wetland conservation and legal issues in wildlife management.
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Project Tiger
Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation project initiated in India in 1972 to protect the Bengal Tigers. It was launched on April 1, 1973 and has become one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted tiger reserves representative of various biogeographical regions throughout India. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in their natural environment. In 2007, there were more than 40 Project Tiger wildlife reserves covering an area of 37,761 km. Project Tiger helped increase the population of these tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in 1990s. However, a 2008 census held by Government of India revealed that the tiger population had dropped to 1,411. Since then the government has pledged US$153 million to further fund the project, set-up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers, and has relocated more than 200,000 villages to minimize human-tiger interaction. The efforts did pay-off when in July 2008, the Sariska Tiger Reserve, whose tiger population was nearly wiped out in 2005, had a recorded tiger population of 21. History At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 45,000. The first ever all-India tiger census was conducted in 1972 which revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. A recent report published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority estimates only 1411 adult tigers in existence in India (plus uncensused tigers in the Sundarbans). The project was launched in 1973, and various tiger reserves were created in the country based on a 'core-buffer' strategy. Management plans were drawn up for each tiger reserve based on the principles outlined below:

Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbance from the core area and rationalization of activities in the buffer zone. Restricting the habitat management only to repair the damages done to the eco-system by human and other interferences so as to facilitate recovery of the eco-system to its natural state. Monitoring the faunal and floral changes over time and carrying out research about wildlife.

Global organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), contributed much funding to Project Tiger. Eventually, however, it was discovered that the project's field directors had been manipulating tiger census numbers in order to encourage more donations. In fact, the numbers were so exaggerated as to be biologically impossible in some cases. In addition, Project Tiger's efforts were damaged by poaching, as well as the Sariska debacle and the latest Namdapha tragedy, both of which were reported extensively in the Indian media. In the wake of these incidents, tiger activists and environmentalists like Valmik Thapar and Belinda Wright have demanded that the Prime Minister establish an independent census to determine the actual number of the tigers in India. (The country is already conducting a nationwide tiger census, but its objectivity has been questioned by some because it relies on persons known to have fudged previous census results.) Initially, 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74, by pooling the resources available with the Central and State Governments. These nine reserves covered an area of about 13,017km -- viz Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa),
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Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal). The World Wildlife Fund For Nature has given Project Tiger assistance in the form of equipment, expertise and literature worth US $ 1 million. There are 28 tiger reserves in India. Project Tiger was a pet project of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. The main achievements of this project are excellent recovery of the habitat and consequent increase in the tiger population in the reserve areas, from a mere 268 in 9 reserves in 1972 to above one thousand in 28 reserves in 2006. Tigers, being at the apex of the food chain, can be considered as the indicator of the integrity of the ecosystem. Thus, 'Project Tiger' is basically the conservation of the entire ecosystem and apart from tigers, all other wild animals' population have also increased in the project areas. In the meantime, the struggle to save the Indian tiger remains difficult as poachers kill the endangered animal to meet an international demand for tiger parts. Wright, for example, has cited a strong demand for tiger skins in China and Tibet as serious problem in tiger preservation. According to the latest census figures as of 2007, the tiger population in India has further dropped; particularly in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where 65 percent of the tigers have vanished, and the states of Chattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, where there are less than 100 tigers each. The primary reason attributed to this increasing drop in numbers is poaching. However, the method used to count the number of tigers earlier was by identifying pugmarks, which could have resulted in figures larger than actual. The latest method which includes analysing habitat, prey base densities and camera trappings, is more precise and scientific. Present Organization and aims The Project Tiger was meant to identify the limiting factors and to mitigate them by suitable management. The damages done to the habitat were to be rectified so as to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystem to the maximum possible extent. The overall administration of the project is monitored by a 'Steering Committee'. A 'Field Director' is appointed for each reserve, who is assisted by the field and technical personnel. At the Centre, a full-fledged 'Director' of the project coordinates the work for the country. Wireless communication system and outstation patrol camps have been developed within the tiger reserves, due to which poaching has declined considerably. Fire protection is effectively done by suitable preventive and control measures. Voluntary Village relocation has been done in many reserves, especially from the core area.. Livestock grazing has been controlled to a great extent in the tiger reserves. Various compensatory developmental works have improved the water regime and the ground and field level vegetation, thereby increasing the animal density Future plans Wildlife protection and crime risk management in the present scenario requires a widely distributed Information Network, using state-of-the-art information and communication technology. This becomes all the more important to ensure the desired level of protection in field formations to safeguard the impressive gains of a focused project like 'Project Tiger'. The important elements in Wildlife protection and control are: Mapping/plotting the relative spatial abundance of wild animals, identification of risk factors, proximity to risk factors, sensitivity categorization, crime mapping and immediate action for apprehending the offenders based on effective networking and communication. Space technology has shown the interconnectivity of natural and anthropogenic phenomena occurring anywhere on earth. Several Tiger Reserves are being linked with the Project Tiger Directorate in the GIS domain for Wildlife Crime Risk Management. A Tiger Atlas of India and a Tiger Habitat & Population Evaluation System for the country is being developed using state-of-the-art technology.
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This involves:

Mapping , data acquisition and GIS modeling Field data collection and validation Data Maintenance , Dissemination and Use

The following potential tiger habitats in the country are being covered:

Shivalik-Terai Conservation Unit (Uttaranchal, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Nepal) North east Conservation Unit Sunderbans Conservation Unit Central Indian Conservation Unit Eastern Ghat Conservation Unit Western Ghat Conservation Unit

Satellite data is being used and classified into vegetation and land use maps on a 1:50,000 scale, with digitized data relating to contour, villages, roads, drainage, administrative boundaries and soil. The spatial layers would be attached with attribute data, viz. human population, livestock population, meteorological data, agricultural information and field data pertaining to wildlife, habitat for evolving regional protocols to monitor tiger and its habitat. Future activities Conservation of tigers and their prey species faces challenges from the need for income, lack of awareness, and lack of land use policy in landscapes having Tiger Reserves. These landscapes should be viewed as a mosaic of different land use patterns, viz, tiger conservation and preservation, forestry, sustainable use and development, besides socio-economic growth. Tiger habitats exist in environments of thousands of indigenous communities that depend on them. Therefore we cannot view these protected areas in isolation from the surrounding socioeconomic realities and developmental priorities of the Government. This calls for a cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary approach. Tigers now need a "preservationist" approach. Regional planning is important around Tiger Reserves to foster ecological connectivity between protected areas through restorative inputs with integrated landuse planning. The management plan of a Tiger Reserve, therefore, needs to be integrated in larger regional management plans.

Project Elephant
Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Government of India to assist states having free ranging population of wild elephants. The project was aimed at ensuring long term survival of identified viable population of elephants in their natural habitats. This project is currently implemented in 13 states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttranchal, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Other duties of Project Elephant are supporting the ecological and management research of elephants, establishing an elephant corridor, creating awareness among local people, and vet care for captive elephants.

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Olive Ridley Turtle Conservation Project

A significant proportion of the worlds Olive Ridley turtle population nests at nesting sites along the eastern coast of India. The endangered species of sea turtles is also a focus of attention of the international community who looks up to India to provide safety to the nesting sites and to the turtle populations that seasonally arrive there for the propagation of their species. The Sea Turtle Conservation Project initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, in collaboration with UNDP in November 1999, with a total allocation of Rs 1.29 crores, has been completed and the report published by the Wildlife Institute of India. The Project has identified and made an inventory map of the breeding sites of sea turtles, developed guidelines to safeguard the species and minimize turtle mortality caused by human activities. It has also prepared tourism guidelines for eco- tourism in sea turtle areas and has developed national and international cooperative and collaborative plans of action for Sea Turtle Conservation. A significant achievement of the project has been the use of satellite telemetry to trace the migratory route of Olive Ridley turtles in the seas, and the sensitization of fishermen and the State Government of Orissa to the use of the turtle excluder device (TED) by the fishing trawlers, to check turtle mortality in fishing nets.

Communal forests of India

A communal forest in India is a specific term which refers to forests governed by local communities in a way compatible with sustainable development, and can be of various types. Such forests are typically called village forests or panchayat forests, reflecting the fact that the administration and resource utilization of the forest occurs at the village and panchayat (an elected rural body) levels. Hamlets, villages or a community of villages may actually administer such a forest. Such community forests are usually administered by a locally elected body, usually called the Forest Protection Committee, Village Forest Committee or the Village Forest Institution. Such committees are known as Van Panchayats in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand, Forest Cooperative Societies in Himachal Pradesh and Van Samrakshan Samitis in Andhra Pradesh. Legislation pertaining to communal forests vary from state to state, but typically the state government retains some administrative control over matters like staff appointment, and penalization of offenders. Such forests typically conform to the IUCN Category VI Protected Areas, but protection may be enforced by the local communities or the government depending on local legislation.

Wildlife Conservation Society of India

The history of Wildlife Conservation Society research in India began in the 1960's - with the firstever scientific study of wild tigers in central India by George Schaller. Henceforth, following a break of two decades, Ullas Karanth accelerated the present WCS-India program as a single tiger research project at Nagarhole in the year 1986. Ever since, WCS-India has developed into a comprehensive collection of activities that revolve around major global conservation strategies of WCS - scientific research, national capacity building, site-based conservation and developing new models of wildlife conservation. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India program concentrates on charming endangered mega fauna in protected reserves (the last wild places) - as the most befitting social tactic for saving the ecosystem. During its 13 years of development, WCS-India program has flourished from a single research project to embrace all the major strategies now pursued by WCS globally - Research; Capacity Building Policy Interventions and site based conservation.
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International Programmes and Conventions

India participates with many international agreements and programmes concerned with aspects of nature conservation and sustainable development. These range from legal instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, to scientific programmes such as the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, a global programme of international scientific cooperation. Examples of agreements and programmes with which India is collaborating include: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Since India became a party to CITES on 18th October 1976 it has provided data annually to the CITES secretariat on the trade of endangered species through its CITES Management Authority. The text of the CITES convention along with the CITES appendices are provided. World Heritage Convention India ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1977 and since then five natural sites have been inscribed as areas of 'outstanding universal value'. These sites are:

Kaziranga National Park Keoladeo National Park Manas National Park Sundarbans National Park Nanda Devi National Park

Convention on Biological Diversity India signed the Convention on Biological Diversity on 5th June 1992, ratified it on 18th February 1994 and brought it into force on 19th May 1994. This convention will provide a framework for the sustainable management and conservation of India's natural resources. Ramsar (Wetlands) Convention India has been a contracted party to the Ramsar Convention since 1st February 1982. India has now six sites covering some 192,973 hectares of important wetlands. These sites are:

Chilka Lake Keoladeo National Park Wular Lake Harike Lake Loktak Lake Sambhar Lake

Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission The Working Group on Environment and Natural Resources is an important component of the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental Commission. In its meeting held in April 2003 at Moscow several important decisions were taken which included the Siberian Crane Conservation Project for introduction of captive bred Siberian Crane chicks in the flock of common cranes, so that the migration of the Siberian Cranes in India can be revived and the loss of this magnificent bird to India in recent years, be regained.
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India has a total of 89,451 animal species accounting for 7.31% of the faunal species in the world (MoEF 1997) and the flora accounts for 10.78% of the global total. The endemism of Indian biodiversity is high - about 33% of the country's recorded flora are endemic to the country and are concentrated mainly in the North-East, Western Ghats, North-West Himalayas and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. However, this rich biodiversity of India is under severe threat owing to habitat destruction, degradation, fragmentation and over-exploitation of resources. According to the Red List of Threatened Animals (IUCN. 2000), 44 plant species are critically endangered, 113 endangered and 87 vulnerable. Amongst animals, 18 are critically endangered, 54 endangered and 143 are vulnerable. Ten species are Lower Risk conservation dependent, while 99 are Lower Risk near threatened. India ranks second in terms of the number of threatened mammals, while India is sixth in terms of countries with the most threatened birds (IUCN. 2000). Keeping in mind all these thoughts, some of the methods that can prevent the anthropocentric causes of depletion of biodiversity in India are some thoughts:

Controlling Poaching, Illegal Extraction and Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna
It is abundantly clear that poaching and trade seriously affects a wide range of wild species. Measures for field control of poaching vary in quality in protected areas, but are practically non-existent in reserved forests and other categories of forests. Nevertheless, non-PA forest areas are vital for species and habitat conservation as well, for the PA network is only representative of the total forests of the country. Even in case of PAs it is observed that foresters at the level of Range Officers and below are not adequately trained and equipped in their duties. In particular, they lack knowledge of the provisions and practice of Wild Life (Protection) Act and that of the CrPC and IPC, which are just as important to bring an offender to book. The control of poaching and trade can only be achieved by intelligence gathering. This aspect of crime control is often not given the importance it deserves and is a sub-set of traditional anti-poaching operations such as camps, patrols, watchtowers, etc. A distinction not often understood is between anti-poaching and anti-smuggling. The mafia-type gangs operating from cities are the driving force behind poaching. A substantial part of species in trade is meant to be smuggled outside India. Wildlife crime is no different from many other kinds of crime such as narcotics, gunrunning, trafficking in humans, etc., and controlling this requires the same skills, aptitude and equipment as that of any other crime. Though empowered under the WPA, agencies of the government such as the CBI do not take wildlife crime as seriously as it should be taken. Greater motivation, training and empowerment should be provided to nonwildlife enforcement agencies to act in this field. This is particularly true of Customs Department as they are mandated to curb illegal movement of goods internationally. The World Customs Union has recently placed greater emphasis on environmental crime, including those on derivatives of wild species. As a signatory to CITES, India is committed to enforce regulations arising out of it and it is in her interest to do so. It would also be pertinent to point out that the Committee on Prevention of Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products or the Subramaniam Committee in its report of 1994 had recommended a number of measures for the control of poaching and trade. Partial implementation of the recommendations made in the report had taken place but the creation of a specialized wildlife crime unit and that to provide legal training and support to wildlife law enforcement agencies are still languishing.
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Improved Management of Forest Areas

It is regrettable that despite conclusive evidence that the nations incalculable natural wealth vests in our effectively managed protected areas and indeed, have a long-term future mainly in these entities, the forest departments of the States continue to regard them and the wildlife wings in whose charge they are or should be, as unimportant or even extraneous. Protected areas are viewed not as the regulators of water and the last havens of hope of our virgin and climax forests and biotic communities both faunal and floral, but as wasted resources. This mindset prevails despite the change in priorities from the National Forest Policy of 1952 to the current one of 1988 and despite the fact that experience has taught that usage once allowed, cannot be effectively regulated and that the nations needs cannot be fulfilled by exploiting the less than 2% of the area that is inviolate today. The PAs and the parent wildlife wings, therefore, are today suffered by the State Governments, not supported for what they are and what they mean to the nation. This attitude is reflected in the lack of importance that is accorded to them, and which in turn manifests itself in financial allocations, allotment of personnel and lack of support to fulfill management pre-requisites and implementation of law. Protection is the very basis of conservation, especially in a poor and populous country like India, with its mounting demographic impact. It is ironic, therefore, that the inverse pyramid manifests itself at the cutting edge of conservation i.e. the forest guard/beat guard/ wildlife/ game guard level. This is so in territorial forest divisions as it is in PAs. While the number of officers has increased, the area/size of the forest/ wildlife guard beat has remained constant for the last sixty years or more, in the whole country. Furthermore, while recruitment of vacancies continues in the case of officers, those of these field staff remain unfulfilled due to financial constraints and the daily wagers who used to complement these field personnel, are also being mostly discontinued. The average age of the forest/wildlife guard is now over 40 years in most States and over 50 in some. In decades gone by, a single guard could patrol alone. That is not possible anymore. Training in wildlife management is mostly not imparted to the subordinate staff either by their superiors, or in a training school.

Promoting Research and Monitoring

Knowledge about a species, ecosystem and ecological processes is essential for better management of PAs and for better conservation of species, especially when most PAs are becoming islands in a sea of humanity. Basic research is required to know the carrying capacity of PAs and of different ecosystems, to reduce man-animal conflict, to know the impacts of long-term overgrazing, collection of minor forest products, fire, floods, tourism etc, and also to know the benefits that PAs and ecosystems accrue to the nation and to local communities. One of the goals of setting up PAs is to increase our understanding of the ecosystems and biological processes, for the advancement of science. This can only be achieved through Research and Monitoring. Research and Monitoring are also essential for planning conservation management and for evaluating its efficacy. This also includes monitoring impact of climate change on natural habitats. Despite the importance of research, there is no legislation that promotes and facilitates research in natural habitats, whether these are PAs, reserved forests, community land, farmland, etc. In fact, there are several legislations that discourage research. The interpretation of research (permits, funds, entry, etc) is often left to the whims and fancies of decision makers. Fundamental research on species and ecosystems may look academic to a PA manager but it is essential for the advancement of science and also for long-term monitoring of species/ecosystem. Both fundamental and applied research should be encouraged, especially the latter. Wildlife disease is an emerging threat all over the world due to various reasons. While we have veterinarians in every district, who mainly look after domestic animals, we lack good
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wildlife vets. We do not have vets even in national parks. There is no short-term or long-term monitoring of wildlife diseases in any PA in India. There is not much research on the introduction and reintroduction of species. With increasing fragmentation of habitats and local extinction of some species, there is a need to gain knowledge about introduction and reintroduction and rehabilitation. Investigations and research also needs to be done to evolve techniques to mass capture, translocate and rehabilitate certain species like the nilgai, blackbuck and wild pig.

The cardinal principle when considering tourism, and all other issues, in National Parks, Sanctuaries and other protected areas is that in all such areas the conservation interests of wildlife, both fauna and flora and of their habitats, must be considered paramount. All other interests must be secondary to this prime and over-riding consideration. Tourism in PAs has the potential to prevent illegal activities such as illegal felling of trees, poaching, encroachments, etc. However uncontrolled tourism disturbs wildlife and even hinders their breeding behavior. Tourism properly regulated can be force for conservation, and create amongst the visitors on empathy for nature and particularly for the PA in question, while it is also true that indiscriminate unregulated tourism can destroy PAs. In most areas, with only a very few exceptions, all the revenues from tourism go to the consolidated fund of the State Government and are not available directly to the PA. In any case the earnings from wildlife tourism are insignificant compared to the amount spent in maintaining the PAs. Mechanism should be set up for ploughing back the revenues earned and the PAs should also be in a position to receive donations and assistance from well-meaning NGOs, institutions, organizations directly rather than only through the department at the State level. Development around the protected area, particularly in the buffer zone, must be to protect the ecosystem and as far as possible to exert a centrifugal pressure on human populations in the area. Steps that serve to attract a population to these sensitive areas are not in the long-term interest of the PA. There is an especial category of visitors to several protected areas that need particular attention. Pilgrimages to very well known and deeply revered sites impinge on several protected areas where literally thousands of pilgrims go to temples and other sites within PAs. Some of the best known are the annual pilgrimage to Sabrimala in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, to the fort in Bandhavgarh by the Kabir Panthis, in Sariska to the ancient temples. Even in Ranthambore the temple in the fort on the hill attracts vast numbers of worshippers. Many, if not most PAs have a temple associated with it and worshipers do want and need access. Keeping in mind the religious sentiment of the people and the long-standing tradition of allowing access, it is not practical to cut- off access to these sites. However, it is important that the park and forest authorities ensure that traffic is regulated and the safety of both wildlife and pilgrims is ensured. Permitted periods and routes can be delineated and public awareness enhanced to make the annual event ecosensitive. The aim should be to not only protect the PA and wildlife, but to try and send back pilgrims as a force for conservation. Tourism not only occurs in Protected Areas alone but is also a feature of other forested areas, particularly those located in mountains near hill stations, along trekking routes and around water bodies. In such situations too the authorities must take steps to educate the public about being eco-sensitive, to avoid damaging natural flora and to ensure that there is no fire hazard caused by their careless picnicking.
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Mitigating Man-Animal Conflict

Man-animal conflict is going to be the most important issue that will threaten wildlife in India in the coming years. With over 60% of the worlds tigers, 65% of its elephants, 80% of the Asian rhinos and 100% of Asian lions, the country is home to a large number of the worlds megafauna. It is also home to over one billion human beings. Large animals need space to live, move, breed and feed. Inevitably, with fast shrinking habitat they come into conflict with human beings. This is accentuated by human development unthinkingly cutting into their migration paths, breeding grounds or core habitats. Conflict will be most acute when both animals and man first come into contact i.e. a new road cutting through a park, new settlements coming up in forest. There can be no more poignant example than the 11 elephants that were poisoned in 2001 in the reserve forests around Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam due to illegal encroachment of forest. Conflict will reduce either if the animal components have diminished in a landscape to an extent that there is no problem or if well thought out conflict mitigation measures that involve landscape level planning and local site level implementation, is put in place. In most cases, be it with elephants in North Bengal, leopards in Maharashtra or the western Himalaya, blackbuck in western India or nilgai in northern India, the final solution lies only in land use planning and implementation. Interim solutions include putting up barriers between man and animal, shifting problem animals or illegal encroachers out of conflict areas, etc. The current issues can be considered by looking at the three major species specific conflicts that occur in India involving elephants, carnivores (especially big cats) and ungulates, although, monkeys and bears also cause high levels of conflict in urban and Himalayan belts.

Ex-situ Conservation
The priority of conservation must overwhelmingly be upon in-situ conservation, as thereby protection is accorded not only to species as naturally evolved in biotic communities, but in the process, habitats, ecosystems, biodiversity and wilderness itself are also protected. Nonetheless, with the threat of extinction facing so many species of flora and fauna, especially micro fauna, ex-situ conservation assumes increasing importance. The guiding principle should be that no living species however insignificant or useless it may appear to be, should be allowed to go extinct. There are two methods of insuring this as a safeguard against extinction in the wild. a) Propagation in captivity and b) Gene bank preservation of genetic material and cloning/resurrection of the species that may have gone extinct.

Recovery of Endangered Species

There are a number of species of fauna and flora, listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which are critically endangered. They need to have special recovery plans prepared to ensure their recovery and to prevent extinction, local or total. Under these individual plans, which need to be revised every five years or so, the prevalent status and distribution of the species, its coverage under the PA system and which prominent habitats are left out of it, the threats, etc., would be assessed. The concerned States, assisted and motivated by MoEF, would be responsible for the implementation. Species covered under special projects like Project Elephant etc., need not have such recovery plans. Hence, detailed status and threat assessments of each species and taxa should be done by experts and only on the basis of their opinion species should be included in various schedules.
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Relocation and Rehabilitation of Species

Relocation and rehabilitation of species is done mainly for three reasons. Firstly, to translocate excess or troublesome individuals and groups of species, secondly, to reintroduce species locally made extinct or to augment populations rendered critically low, and thirdly to rescue temporarily displaced individual wild animals. Only when these deleterious factors have been overcome should the reintroduction be carried out. The individuals/herds so reintroduced, need to be constantly monitored.

Restoration Ecology
During the last 100 odd years, massive plantations of exotic trees have taken place, all over India. Sometimes prime forest was cut down to plant fast-growing, commercial timber and fuelwood trees. However, during the last 10 years, the Forest Department has stopped or curtailed growing such exotics in protected areas. There are many protected areas where these exotics or introduced species have matured and are ready for harvesting (e.g. teak and eucalyptus in Dudwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh, eucalyptus, pine and Acacia mearnsii in Mukurthi National Park in Tamil Nadu, teak again in Buxa tiger reserve, etc.) but due to the national park status of the sites, the State Forest Departments have not harvested them.

Environment Education
The future lies with the young children and the youth of India. Hence, by Educating them regarding the benefits of Biodiversity, and the threats to them, it is possible that the future citizens can do contribute towards the conservation of Biodiversity and they can realize the problems and come up with new solutions. Hence Environment Education is necessary and realizing this fact, the Government of India has made Environment Education mandatory in all schools and Undergraduate Colleges in India.

Involvement of the Military and Paramilitary

Armed and paramilitary forces deployed on the nations borders have effective control over vast habitats that are critical to a number of montane and other species. Their active involvement in the conservation of these areas would not only prevent poaching by these personnel themselves as has been the case in the past, but will prevent poaching and habitat degradation by others, prevent illegal transit of wildlife products and will provide periodic data to the wildlife authorities concerned as to the status and distribution of a large number of taxa about which very little is known. Similarly, if sensitized, the Air Force and the Navy could also be of invaluable help in this regard, to both carry out surveys in remote areas and to prevent illegal traffic in wildlife products. Therefore, effective measures must be taken by the Government of India for the conservation and sustainable development of Indian Bioresources by adopting a Wildlife conservation Strategy which involves: Maintaining the essential ecological processes and life supporting systems in which human survival and development depend Preserving genetic diversity on which depend the breeding programs Ensuring that mans utilisation of species and ecosystems on sustainable basis. ********
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