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Gujarat loses over 3 per cent of lion population in 20 days
gir.jpeg

21 Asiatic lions have died since September 12 at the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat (India Today file photo)

HIGHLIGHTS
  • 4 of the 21 lion deaths were due to a virus infection
  • 7 lions were found dead in the wild, 14 died under treatment
  • The Gujarat government has sought help from experts across India
21 Asiatic lions have now died in the last 20 days at the Gir National Park in Gujarat, forest authorities said this week. The 21 lions constitute 3.5 per cent of the around 600 lions currently believed to be present in Gir.

The deaths of lions in Gujarat have been in focus since mid-September when forest officials first revealed that 11 lions had died between September 12 and September 19.

The death toll later went up to 14 and has now reached 21 after seven big cats died during treatment. Of the 21 lions who died, seven were found dead in the wild while the remaining 14 died under treatment.

Along with updating the death toll, the Gujarat Forest Department also revealed that some of the lions had died due to a mystery virus infection.

Examination of blood samples sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune has revealed at least four of the lions died to a viral infection, the Forest Department said. Around 10 other lions died due infections spread by tick bites.

The revelation that four of the 21 Gir lions died due to a virus infection is significant as up until now the Forest Department had mostly blamed infighting for the unusual string of deaths. The Forest Department did not name the virus nor has it completely discounted its earlier infighting theory.

However, the Gujarat government, as an emergency measure, has requisitioned special medication from the United States of America to combat the viral infection. The government has also sought help from wildlife experts across the country.

The confirmation that a virus killed at least four lions at the Gir sanctuary also comes amid worries of an outbreak of the canine distemper virus (CDV). CDV is a deadly, contagious viral disease seen among a number of wild as well as domestic animals.

In 1994, CDV decimated the lion population of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, killing nearly 1000 lions.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Forest Department is keeping a hawk-like vigil on the Gir forest's lions. In the last days, more than 500 officials spread across 140 teams have covered an area of around 3,000 sq. km in order to identify sick lions and transport them to medical centres.

The forest-wide search has led to authorities discovering that the population of lions in the Gir sanctuary has gone up. A 2015 census had put the number of lions in Gir at 523. Now, the Forest Department says, there are around 600 Asiatic lions at the Gir National Park.
 

Volcano

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Mar 11, 2018
2,253
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India, Kerala
Gujarat loses over 3 per cent of lion population in 20 days
gir.jpeg

21 Asiatic lions have died since September 12 at the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat (India Today file photo)

HIGHLIGHTS
  • 4 of the 21 lion deaths were due to a virus infection
  • 7 lions were found dead in the wild, 14 died under treatment
  • The Gujarat government has sought help from experts across India
21 Asiatic lions have now died in the last 20 days at the Gir National Park in Gujarat, forest authorities said this week. The 21 lions constitute 3.5 per cent of the around 600 lions currently believed to be present in Gir.

The deaths of lions in Gujarat have been in focus since mid-September when forest officials first revealed that 11 lions had died between September 12 and September 19.

The death toll later went up to 14 and has now reached 21 after seven big cats died during treatment. Of the 21 lions who died, seven were found dead in the wild while the remaining 14 died under treatment.

Along with updating the death toll, the Gujarat Forest Department also revealed that some of the lions had died due to a mystery virus infection.

Examination of blood samples sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune has revealed at least four of the lions died to a viral infection, the Forest Department said. Around 10 other lions died due infections spread by tick bites.

The revelation that four of the 21 Gir lions died due to a virus infection is significant as up until now the Forest Department had mostly blamed infighting for the unusual string of deaths. The Forest Department did not name the virus nor has it completely discounted its earlier infighting theory.

However, the Gujarat government, as an emergency measure, has requisitioned special medication from the United States of America to combat the viral infection. The government has also sought help from wildlife experts across the country.

The confirmation that a virus killed at least four lions at the Gir sanctuary also comes amid worries of an outbreak of the canine distemper virus (CDV). CDV is a deadly, contagious viral disease seen among a number of wild as well as domestic animals.

In 1994, CDV decimated the lion population of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, killing nearly 1000 lions.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Forest Department is keeping a hawk-like vigil on the Gir forest's lions. In the last days, more than 500 officials spread across 140 teams have covered an area of around 3,000 sq. km in order to identify sick lions and transport them to medical centres.

The forest-wide search has led to authorities discovering that the population of lions in the Gir sanctuary has gone up. A 2015 census had put the number of lions in Gir at 523. Now, the Forest Department says, there are around 600 Asiatic lions at the Gir National Park.




The F*****g Gujarat government didn't allowed central government's plan to move some lions out of Gir forest to other states for so long. The scientists were warning for decades that it is huge risk to keep all wild Asiatic lions in a single forest and if a epidemic spreads, the entire species will die.

The Gujarat government blocked all attempts to move some lions to other states based on narrow minded play to keep the tag "only place which have Asiatic Lion"

Now, the entire species is in danger. Hopefully, the central government will tell the Gujarat goverment to effff off and move some lions to other locations forcefully.


Even supreme court ordered Gujarat state to co-operate with the relocation of lions to a sanctuary in MP to avoid the possibility of extinction due to epidemic. But Gujarat refused to comply with the order.

Supreme Court gives Madhya Pradesh lions' share from Gujarat's Gir - Indian Express
Tired of Gujarat reluctance on Gir lions, MP to release tigers in Kuno - Times of India
Stalemate on translocation of Gir lions
 
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Volcano

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Lion.jpg

Reuters/Amit Dave
Waiting to be saved.
CALL OF THE WILD
A canine virus may be killing the last of India’s Asiatic lions
By Kamalika GhoshOctober 8, 2018
A deadly epidemic may be wiping out the world’s last few Asiatic lions.
In the past one month alone, at least 23 of the big cats have died in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the western Indian state of Gujarat. These deaths include those of three cubs and three adult females.
Initially, forest officials suspected some of these deaths to have occurred in a territorial battle. “This is a natural course of action among lions,” Gir forest official GK Sinha had said. Three adult male lions from another area entered the forest in September and killed the cubs in an incident of infighting, Sinha had said.
However, tests conducted at the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology, Pune, have officially confirmed the presence of the deadly canine distemper virus (CDV) in at least four of the tissue samples extracted from the carcasses.
“CDV is extremely infective (sic). In Serengeti (national park in Tanzania) it killed a 1,000 lions in three weeks. Such epidemics are like natural catastrophes that come without any forewarning. Translocation is good for lion conservation and one has to only follow the supreme court’s order to implement it,” Ravi Chellam, a conservation scientist, told the Mint newspaper.
Environmentalists believe scavenging for food and sharing space with feral dogs has lead to the spread of CDV.
While the lion population has jumped from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015, and then to 600 lions by now, Gir’s 1,621 square kilometre area has remained constant. That leaves a decreasing amount of area per lion.
In the meantime, listed as a “critically endangered” species in 2000, the Asiatic lion’s status was upgraded to just “endangered” in 2008 after its numbers increased.
Emails to the ministry of environment, forest, and climate change and to the forest department of Gujarat remained unanswered.
Warning ignored
Foreseeing such mass deaths, the supreme court of India had, more than five years ago, ordered the shifting of some lions from Gujarat to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to keep them safe from such epidemics.
But the Gujarat government opposed this order
. The state contended that the translocation couldn’t take place because of insufficient prey density. However, the supreme court cited various surveys to counter’s Gujarat’s opposition.
Further, dilly-dallying by both the Indian environment ministry and the Madhya Pradesh forest department made sure that the lions didn’t find a new home.
“The management has completely failed to comply with the supreme court orders. The habitat that these lions get in Gujarat is way less than what they actually need. Naturally, they are so crammed for space that they have ventured out of their territories, which has exposed them to diseases,” Ajay Dubey, a Madhya Pradesh wildlife activist who has filed a contempt petition in the supreme court over non-compliance, told Quartz.

A canine virus may be killing the last of India’s Asiatic lions


Its time to diversify the habitat of Asiatic Lions for good. Politics of states shouldn't be coming in between the fate of a majestic Indian Am=nimal Species. Supreme court should take a "contempt of court" charge against states and institutions failed to implement its order.
 
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Himanshu

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India to top U.S. as 2nd-largest carbon spewer from power: IEA
India will overtake the U.S. to become the world’s second-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide from the power sector before 2030 as the nation’s electricity demand skyrockets, the International Energy Agency said in its latest World Energy Outlook.

Carbon dioxide emissions from India’s power sector are expected to rise nearly 80 percent by 2040 as power use almost triples, driven in part by air conditioning, the Paris-based IEA said in the report released Tuesday. China will remain the biggest emitter.

Two-thirds of India’s households are projected to own an air conditioning unit over that period, a 15-fold increase from today, according to the IEA, citing its main New Policies Scenario. India’s electricity demand for cooling is set to increase by as much as 700 percent over the period, assuming no major improvements in the country’s air conditioning efficiency.

Even with the jump in power demand and emissions, India’s per-capita electricity consumption will remain one of the world’s lowest, according to the report.

India and Southeast Asia combined are the growth centers for coal-fired power, with demand more than doubling over the period to 2040, the IEA said. In contrast, developed nations including Canada, Germany and the U.K. are considering how to phase out coal for power generation, it said.
India to top U.S. as 2nd-largest carbon spewer from power: IEA
 

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Villagers fear for survival on India's disappearing island
Where is it
Residents of India's Ghoramara Island want to leave their home as it shrinks each year due to rising seas, but many say they can't afford it.

The 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) island, part of the Sundarbans delta on the Bay of Bengal, has nearly halved in size over the past two decades, according to village elders.

1/7

Reuters

life-on-ghoramara-island.jpg


Life on Ghoramara Island
The tiny island is home to 4,800 people, down from 7,000 a decade ago.

"If a tsunami or a big cyclone hits this island we will be finished," said Sanjib Sagar, village leader on the island 150 km (93 miles) south of the Indian city of Kolkata.

2/7

Reuters

the-sundarbans.jpg


The Sundarbans
The Sundarbans, shared by India and Bangladesh, include the world's largest mangrove forest as well as rare or endangered tigers, dolphins, birds and reptiles.

Ghoramara is among many islands in the delta affected by rising sea levels and soil erosion experts say is caused by climate change.

3/7

Reuters

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Threatened by floods
Residents say the flood waters are getting worse, threatening their homes and livelihoods.

"If government gives rehabilitation I will leave," said Sheikh Aftab Uddin, sitting outside his new mud house with his wife, after his previous home was destroyed by flood waters.

4/7

Reuters

ready-to-move.jpg


Ready to move
Half of the villagers are ready to move if the government provided free land in a safer area, Sagar said, but there has been no response to their request for compensation or to move people off the island.

Two people in the office of Javed Ahmed Khan, the minister in charge of disaster management in the state government of West Bengal, declined to comment on whether it had any plans to relocate inhabitants.

5/7

Reuters

big-loss.jpg


Big loss
Floods have churned the island's shoreline into mud fringed with broken coconut palms. Fishermen cast their nets to try to take advantage of the rising waters.

As well as damaging homes, floods destroy valuable betel leaf crops that many islanders have depended on for a living.

"Every year, high-tide salt water enters my farm and destroys my cultivation, so I have to face a big loss," said Mihir Kumar Mondal, a betel leaf farmer.

6/7

Reuters

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They need to relocate
Climate change experts say the entire island population will have to be relocated one day.

"There has to be some planning for those people, in terms of relocating them to other areas. Frankly speaking, this has to be in the plan of the government," said Suruchi Bhadwal, a researcher on climate change at the New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute.
Villagers fear for survival on India's disappearing island - Where is it
 

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In Arunachal Pradesh, first photo evidence of India’s only snow tigers bring cheers
By: FE Online | Published: December 2, 2018 6:13 PM

Interestingly, where the Tigers have found, the area is not a designated tiger reserve. However, more tigers are found here than in other designated tiger reserves in Arunachal Pradesh such as Pakke, Namdapha, and Kamlang.
mishmi-tiger_759_1.jpg
Team went through three years of trekking to the remotest reaches of the Mishmi Hills and set up of 108 camera traps. (Photo Courtesy: GV Gopi and Aisho Sharma Adhikarimayum | Wildlife Institute of India)

Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley has witnessed a significant event that brings cheers to wildlife enthusiasts. A research team after conducting a survey has brought out the first photo evidence of India’s only snow tigers. Interestingly, the findings show that what often believed to occupy only lower altitudes, studies of tigers occupying higher reaches are not very common. According to an Indian Express report, the study has revealed the first photographic evidence of tigers in the snow, after Russia’s Amur tigers.

Interestingly, where the Tigers have found, the area is not a designated tiger reserve. However, more tigers are found here than in other designated tiger reserves in Arunachal Pradesh such as Pakke, Namdapha, and Kamlang.

In December 2012, the villagers of the Idu Mishmi tribe of Dibang Valley district of the state spotted three tiger cubs somewhere in the Dibang Valley district, they immediately reported it to the forest department and the scientific community got involved with GV Gopi and Aisho Sharma Adhikarimayu, who carried the task, Indian Express reported.

The Mishmi cubs were later studied in the lab and were soon moved to Itanagar zoo, 900 kms from where they were captured in 2012. Itanagar is the state capital city.

View image on Twitter




A preliminary survey was carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in collaboration with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in 2014 and it threw up concrete evidence that tigers did reside in the higher and in January 2014 survey camera trap captured a partial image of the tiger. The NTCA sanctioned another survey in 2015, again under Gopi and Adhikarimayum — long term and higher up.

According to an Indian Express report, the team went through three years of trekking to the remotest reaches of the Mishmi Hills and set up of 108 camera traps. The survey results have been published in the current issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa, brings out 42 images of 11 individual tigers including two cubs were recorded.

In the highest altitudes of 3,246m and 3,630m, two male tigers were captured at. The elevation of 3,630m is the highest photographic evidence of tiger presence in the Indian part of the Eastern Himalayas.

The surveyors are certain that there are tigers even further up the Mishmi Hills as they carried out the survey only in 330 square km out of the Dibang sanctuary’s 4,000 sq km area and kept it limited to the river valleys. According to the team, If they had gone further up, they would have definitely found more.

The Idu Mishmi tribe itself — the 12,000-strong sub-tribe of the ethnic Mishmis of Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh — are known to have deep respect for tigers. Connection with the nature of the tribe can be understood by the fact that for the Idu Mishmis, the tiger is like their brother.

Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh is also the only state that is believed to have all the four major varieties of big cats in its jungles – Tiger, Leopard, Clouded leopard and Snow leopard and home to the lesser known feline species like the Golden cat and Marbled cat.

In Arunachal Pradesh, first photo evidence of India’s only snow tigers bring cheers
 
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Hunters target endangered pangolins in India
A study published today in the journal Nature Conservation by researchers at University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the nonprofit World Animal Protection sheds new light on pangolin hunting in India, a country known to be a source of pangolins entering the illegal trade but that’s been little studied.

Pangolins are scaly, ant-eating mammals that live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Their scales are in high demand in the illegal wildlife trade, valued for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Two species—Indian pangolin and the Chinese pangolin—live in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, where the research was carried out.

Researchers interviewed 141 hunters from the Biate, Karbi, and Dimasa tribes in the rural district of Dima Hasao, with the goal of understanding how, why, and to what extent they hunt pangolins. People from these tribes mostly rely on subsistence farming and hunting, and pangolin meat is an established—though not favored—source of protein.

Across India, nearly 6,000 pangolins were seized between 2009 and 2017, according to a 2018 estimate by Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring organization. That's likely just a fraction of the actual trade. Traffic also counted 90 seizures of illegal pangolin products over that period, with more than a third taking place in the northeastern state of Manipur, near Assam. From northeastern India, the scales typically travel to China via Nepal and Myanmar, according to a 2015 paper.

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Because pangolins are widely distributed, nocturnal, and solitary, little is known about their numbers in India; however, all eight species in Africa and Asia of pangolins are considered endangered or critically endangered.
This new study finds that most traditional hunters in Assam no longer take pangolins only opportunistically, for personal use, while out on a hunt for any edible animal. Instead, they’re hunting the animals intentionally, for commercial purposes. That’s because substantial money can be made by selling the scales to urban middlemen.

Hunters boil pangolins to remove the scales, which they then sell to middle men who smuggle them to China.

“If you’re a hunter, and you’re hunting for a bit of protein, in the past if you’d seen pangolin tracks, you’d say, ‘I’m not going to waste my time,’” says lead author Neil d’Cruze, of World Animal Protection and WildCRU. “But there’s more widespread engagement now that the word has spread there’s financial value.” Hunting these animals is labor intensive, he says, and can involve trekking through the forest, following tracks in the mud, and many hours of chopping at a pangolin’s nest in a tree or digging into its burrow in the ground, he says.

Although the survey says that selling pangolin scales is not the primary source of income for these hunters, a single transaction could be a life-changing amount of cash for them. If the hunter is part of a group, each person might take home a month’s salary or more by selling the scales. For a single hunter, the scales could be sold for as much money as he earns in a whole year.

“Finding a pangolin is in a way like winning a small lottery prize,” d’Cruze says.

HUNTERS ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LADDER
“It’s important to see this in the context of a much longer standing history of exclusion and marginalization of tribal peoples in Indian society,” says Rosaleen Duffy, a professor at the University of Sheffield, in the U.K., and the leader of the BIOSEC project, which examines the links between wildlife crime and security. “If people have no other opportunities or options, then they’ll engage in illegal hunting.”

“Direct law enforcement [against poachers] is not always the answer,” says Jose Louies, the head of enforcement at the nonprofit Wildlife Trust of India, a conservation organization.

That’s because in India, Duffy points out, there’s a history of heavy-handed law enforcement toward tribal communities.

“The key is to work with the community and gain their support in conservation—which is a major task as many of these communities consider hunting a birthright and not a crime,” Louies says.

D’Cruze says it’s important to look at the big picture when figuring out how to reduce illegal hunting. Poverty reduction efforts at the local level must be combined with efforts to reduce demand for pangolin in China and Vietnam and with efforts to disrupt the transnational supply chains at higher levels, he says.

“Whilst interventions to reduce poverty are no doubt required, we argue that such interventions alone are unlikely to be effective in reducing pangolin hunting,” the paper says.

It appears that these rural hunters are being exploited by the middlemen and traders higher up the chain. Most of the 141 hunters interviewed said they either “strongly liked” or “quite liked” pangolins, and, d’Cruze says, he often heard that it was good luck if a pangolin came across your path or entered your home. That, combined with the fact that they all ranked pangolin meat toward the bottom of their taste preferences, suggests that most wouldn’t have an interest in targeting pangolins at the scale they’re now being hunted, all other things being equal.

But in an impoverished community, the potential windfall can be too great for some to pass up. How can you criticize someone “when they tell you the money from that pangolin paid for their child’s medical treatment that saved their life?” d’Cruze asks.

Furthermore, the survey found that most hunters seem to have no idea that the scales they sell are part of a giant, international illegal trade. That many of the hunters have little or no understanding of why people would buy the scales “adds weight to concerns that more wealthy urban actors are exploiting rural hunters,” the paper says. In fact, most hunters thought the middlemen were buying the scales for themselves, either for traditional medicine
(especially to treat hemorrhoids) or for protection against termites, for good luck charms and amulets, or even to unclog toilets. (“It’s a bit of spin,” d’Cruze says—a rumor he thinks could have been started by a trader trying to deflect from the fact that scales increase astronomically in price as they move up the ladder.)

Nearly all the Assamese hunters said it’s harder to find pangolins now than it was five years ago, even though the level of successful hunting seems low: Only about half of them said they’d caught a pangolin during the past year.
But the anecdotal evidence of rural people seeing fewer pangolins, combined with the number of seizures, suggests that the hunting of pangolins in India—elsewhere in Asia and in Africa—is unsustainable.
Hunters target endangered pangolins in India
 

Himanshu

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DNA database of captive elephants ready
Kerala becomes the first state in the country to have a DNA database of its captive elephants. A DNA database is considered an effective means to prevent the illegal trade in captive elephants...


Train Mauls 3 Endangered Adult Lions in India’s Gujarat - Reports
1058947647.jpg


The lions belonged to a six-lion pride living in the wild near the village of Borala in the Junagarh district of the state of Gujarat. They were lazing around on the railway tracks when a freight train passed by and killed three members of the pride.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — India's low number of Asiatic lions took a further hit on Monday night after a freight train in the Junagarh district of Gujarat mowed down three adult members of a six-member pride, according to ANI.

Asiatic lions fall under the category of endangered species, with a total remaining global population of just around 600. Gujarat's Gir forest is the only sanctuary where these lions live.

The incident has galvanised the forest department of the Gujarat state. Commenting on the incident, chief conservator of forests D T Vasavada said they are aware of the matter and are in the process of conducting an inquiry into the incident.

The inquiry will include details such as the train speed and other pertinent information.
"We will take action under Wild Life Protection Act against the guilty," Vasavada said as per an ANI report.

Meanwhile, Roopa Srinivasan, Bhavnagar's divisional railway manager, said, "We have to examine what went wrong as we usually are provided alerts on lion movements prompting us to reduce train speeds."

Normally, train speeds are not allowed to exceed 40kph in areas where lions are known to reside. Reportedly, the driver of the goods train did not follow this speed limit, potentially resulting in the accident.

"There are suggestions for us to install infra-red cameras on trains. This will help us avoid such accidents," said Srinivasan
 

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Marine life in Ganga set for a splash as water quality improves
Aquatic life in the Ganga is set to flourish due to considerable improvement in level of dissolved oxygen in more than a decade, feel experts who are camping here and carrying out research.

While the dissolved oxygen level has achieved the required standard, the hydrogen (pH) level too has been found highly satisfactory in the water.

A team of experts drawn from various institutes and scientific bodies, including Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), recently had collected river water samples at 20 points in six highly polluted river banks - Ganga Barrage, Bhaironghat, Parmat, Shuklaganj, Jajmau and Wajidpur. This team is on a two-year long project to monitor the quality of Ganga water.

While laboratory tests of the water samples revealed a pH level of more than 8.5 milligram per litre, the dissolved oxygen level was 2.5 milligram per litre of water. “It is high encouraging for us and the aquatic life,” said Prof Pravin Bhai Patel of CSJM University Kanpur and principal investigator in the project.

The average pH level in the last 10 years has been below 6 while the dissolved oxygen level consistently stood between 3.5 and 4, posing a threat to the aquatic life. At the points from where the water had been collected, the scenario was even more dismal in the past.

Experts attribute the change in the water quality to the tapping of the big drains bringing waste straight into the river and a check on tannery waste.

UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) regional officer Kuldeep Misra also corroborated the findings with his own data. “At present the water quality of the river has improved due to two reasons. First, the sewers has been tapped and there is complete control over tannery waste water going into the river. This has checked the oxygen depletion both upstream and downstream,” said Misra.

“The river water has now become friendly for marine life. The ideal water condition for marine life requires pH level at 6.5 to 8.5 milligram per litre of water and the dissolved oxygen level less than three milligram per litre. But marine life can also survive if the dissolved oxygen level is higher but it is not good for human use,” Misra said.

The survey of the river water was conducted under the two-year project given by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) in the year 2016. The project, though it ended in May 2018, got an extension up to February 2019, said Patel.

The team members include Anurag Misra of ISRO Hyderabad, Sushil Kumar a remote sensing scientist from Jodhpur, Prof Santosh Kumar of Allahabad, Himanshu Shukla, Abhishek Chandra and Arpita Yadav.
Marine life in Ganga set for a splash as water quality improves
 
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India's Environmental Body Slaps State Gov't With Penalty for Elephant Deaths

The decision by the country’s environmental watchdog comes two months after seven elephants died of coming into contact with electric wires in Dhenkanal district of Odisha State.

The National Green Tribunal(NGT) of India has imposed a fine on the state government of Odisha over the electrocution of elephants in the state.

The NGT fine of 40 million Indian rupees ($5.7 million) has been imposed on Odisha state's Central Electrical Supply Undertaking (CESU) for its laxity towards the safety of humans and animals. This penalty by NGT is in addition to the previous fine of 10 million Indian rupees ($1.5 million) on CESU, which NGT had levied in lieu of Suo-motu cognizance of media reports in the month of October.

On October 26 of this year, 7 elephants were electrocuted when they came into contact with a carelessly-laid cable supplying power to a railway construction site from an 11 KV line in the Dhenkanal Sadar forest in Odisha. One of the deceased elephants was pregnant with an 18-month foetus. The green tribunal was especially furious about reports that CESU had not acted on complaints by forest officials in this regard, which led to the elephant deaths.

"The deaths of the elephants was due to sheer carelessness. Our organisation had on several occasions informed the forest department about 200 locations in Dhenkanal alone where high voltage power lines are open and prone to cause calamity and deaths. These deaths were murder", Dr Biswajit Mohanty of Wildlife Society of Odisha, told local media about the historic NGT decision.

The region was gripped with civil tension after the incident in October with locals holding railway construction site and power department responsible for the deaths of the animals.

Ahmedabad’s ‘Spider Man’ finds new species, names it after Kargil martyr - Times of India
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AHMEDABAD: Dhruv Prajapati, an Amdavadi who is pursuing his doctoral studies at Sacred Heart College in Kerala, has found a new species of jumping spider from Kerala. His findings have been published in the latest issue of Arthropoda Selecta.

He has proposed the name Icius Vikrambatrai for the arachnid to honour Captain , a 1999 hero who was awarded posthumous Param Vir Chakra, the highest military honour. A former zoology student at , Prajapati had documented 78 species of spiders on GU campus as part of his postgraduation thesis. His PhD thesis is focused on spiders of south Gujarat. Prajapati has so far discovered nine new spider species from different parts of India including Gujarat.

Prajapati, along with J J Malamel and P A Sebastian from division of Arachnology at Sacred Heart College, had documented the presence of the spider at Pathiramanal Island in Alappuzha district.

“A total of 35 valid species has been known world-wide in the genus Icius of which seven have been recorded/described from south and south-east Asia – one from Afghanistan, three from China, one from and two from India. Icius alboterminus I. kumariae were recently described from both sexes from India. The new discovery would add a new chapter in the presence of the species in south India,” said Prajapati. The new spider can be identified by its distinct eyes, pattern on its head, shape of the body and legs.

While a majority of the population might not find the spiders friendly, Prajapati was fascinated by the arachnids and used to observe their habits in his vicinity. “There are a number of misconceptions about spiders and I am happy to have found my calling in studying them and their habitat. I was a teen when the Kargil war took place and I wanted to immortalize one of the heroes. Thus, I proposed the name of Captain Batra to be associated with the species,” he said. He had earlier named one of the species after former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and one after Gujarat capital Gandhinagar.
 

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Indian Wild *censored* makes a comeback in Rajasthan
A new chapter is unfolding in the natural sphere of the state. After probably over a hundred years, a species that was once found in abundance in the dry plains of the state, the Wild Indian *censored* is making a comeback.

Although less in numbers at present, a little push from the forest department could go a long way in boosting their numbers and allowing them to thrive again. Efforts have been made for its revival here, but officials believe that large-scale plans need to be drawn and put on the ground.

The Indian Wild *censored*, found in large groups in the Rann of Kutch, was once present in the desert swathes of Rajasthan and particularly in the salty and rocky plains of the state's Marwar region. And this is where a few of them are being seen for the past several months.

"According to well-documented historical accounts of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Wild Asses were seen in that time all the way till Haryana. With indiscriminate hunting, and loss of habitat, the number dwindled rapidly, so much so, that by the time the British Raj ended, their major stronghold remained the salty Rann, which could offer protection as it is hard for humans to live there," said Rajpal Singh, a member of NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority).

In 2016, a group of officials touring Jalor district came across a handful of these animals and on questioning the villagers, learnt that though these were only recently seen in the area, their sighting has been fairly common since.

"It was then decided that proper conservation efforts must be made for the animals, which are trying to make another stronghold on their own. Nature is carrying on its course and if we can provide a little push, then we must," said Raghuvir Singh Shekhawat, retired IFS.

Singh was Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Jodhpur division when the discovery was made and he set out to fulfil the basic necessities of these animals.

"The discovery was made in Rankhar area near Sanchore town in Jalore district. We decided to build water reservoirs for them, along with check posts and posted officials while drawing a proper plan for the activities to be carried out by officials to monitor their movements," he said. "Rajasthan would be the second state where Wild Asses could be found if appropriate efforts are made. The department should draw and execute long-term plans to that effect," Singh added.

“According to well-documented historical accounts of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Wild Asses were seen in that time all the way till Haryana. With indiscriminate hunting, and loss of habitat, the number dwindled rapidly, so much so, that by the time the British Raj ended, their major stronghold remained the salty Rann, which could offer protection as it is hard for humans to live there,” said Rajpal Singh, a member of NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority)
https://www.dnaindia.com/jaipur/rep...JVhLcQ2AiYMsebWe3N8M6ORanYk7rUlcSNOgnMZ9y12NM
 
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Rare bird spotted at Bhandup, Mumbai's first sighting in 104 years
Birdwatching on the first day of the year proved to be quite an exciting affair for an Andheri-based birding enthusiast Akshay Shinde who spotted a Sykes's nightjar at the Bhandup Pumping Station, making it the first documented sighting from Mumbai and adjoining areas in 104 years.

What makes this spotting important and interesting as per renowned ornithologist, photographer and naturalist Sunjoy Monga is the fact that there is just one specimen of Sykes's collected in October 1915 from somewhere in Kalyan area, which is a part of the Bombay Natural History Society's (BNHS) collection.

"There are few unusual bird sightings that are being reported from Mumbai currently and it could be due to cold, unusual weather condition and drought conditions in north-west part of India. Nightjars are nocturnal and very elusive birds and the difference between nightjar species is also very subtle and hence it was a soft flight image that Shinde managed to take helped in tis identification," shared Monga, adding that Sykes's Nightjar is commonly found on the north-west region of the country, including Gujarat and Rajasthan boundaries.

Meanwhile, an excited Shinde said he is still unable to believe that such a rare bird for Mumbai literally came so close to him on Tuesday. He and a friend Hema Sagare began birding since 7am at the Bhandup Pumping Station, considered a birders' paradise and had managed to spot 41 species in nearly two hours, when he hit the 'jackpot'.

"We began exploring the grassland to look for something 'special' but since the pangs of hunger were driving us crazy we decided to turn back. As we were walking on a trail, a small bird walk came close to my feet and flew. Since it was so well camouflaged, we actually realized its presence only when it took off," shared Shinde adding that he realised that it was a nightjar and the images taken by him helped in the identification later.

Sykes's nightjar is also called Sindh nightjar and is distinguished by a white spot on its wings, called flag.

"It was this flag that made me realise that it's a Sykes's nightjar and since i was not completely sure I shared this image on birding groups and consulted expert birders like Monga," informed Shinde who also updated his prized sighting on an ebird portal.
ABOUT THE BIRD

  • Sykes’s nightjar is also called Sindh nightjar; are nocturnal
  • Commonly found are Indian nightjars, Jerdons nightjars
  • Grey-brown, mottled, streaked and barred plumage provide camouflage during day
  • Feed on insects moths and beetles, prefer grassland
Rare bird spotted at Bhandup, Mumbai's first sighting in 104 years
 
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2 Isro scientists to be sued for animal deaths in gas leak - Times of India


The forest department is set to lodge a formal complaint against two senior Isro scientists in connection with the death of 31 monkeys and 14 pigeons allegedly due to a chemical gas leak in the erstwhile HOCL petrochemical plant at Rasayani, Panvel taluka. While the duo’s statements have been recorded, a forensic lab report is awaited to complete the process. “Based on information gathered during our investigation, the plant was taken over by Isro from HOCL. Two Isro scientists are now in charge of the plant from where gas related to nitric acid production leaked. Both will be prosecuted for the deaths of the animals and birds and the dumping of carcasses,” said assistant conservator of forests (Panvel range) Nandkishor Kupte. “It is now clear that the accused tried to dump the animals’ carcasses by trespassing onto BPCL land without informing the firm. Officials of BPCL and HOCL have no role in the matter.” Though a post-mortem report on the animals and birds has been received, it doesn’t confirm the reason for their deaths. “But, in it, the forest department has been asked to rely on the forensic report for confirmation on the cause of death,” said Panvel range’s forest officer Dnyaneshwar Sonawane. The two Isro officers will be booked under the Wildlife Protection Act’s sections 9 (prohibition of hunting), 39 (restricting possession, gift or sale, and destruction or damage of government property), 52 (attempt to contravene or abet the contravention of any of the provisions of the Act) and 58 (punishment for an offence under the Act committed by a company or person).


3 Bhutanese Nationals Held in India for Wildlife Smuggling

Although banned, illegal poaching of designated animal organs, especially of those categorized as endangered species, is a flourishing trade.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Officials from the Jalpaiguri district in the eastern state of West Bengal swooped down on three Bhutanese citizens and arrested them for possessing animal parts that are contraband, IANS reported.

The officials conducted a search operation in the Dooars area of the district acting on a tip-off.

Sanjay Dutta, the range officer, said: "We have recovered a bag having one rhino horn weighing 1,030 grams and an elephant tusk weighing about 500 grams".

The destination of the illegal consignment was Nepal, where the organs would have been sold for Rs 5 million ($ 72,100 approx.).
India has requisite laws in place to regulate and restrict trade in wildlife. Under the umbrella Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the country has a strong legal and policy framework prohibiting trade in over 1,800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivatives.

But the soaring prices of wildlife animal parts have emboldened poachers to take risks, resulting in a spurt in illegal smuggling. A decade or so ago, they usually got about Rs 50,000 ($720 approx.) for a rhino. They now get around Rs 200,000 ($2,900 approx.) for doing the same job.
 

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Back from the brink of extinction: How the Gangetic dolphins made a comeback
On the verge of extinction, recent spotting of Gangetic dolphins in the state’s river system has brought cheer to scientists, forest officers and environmentalists. The species, one of the four freshwater dolphins in the world, was declared India’s National Aquatic Animal in 2009

Efforts of some government officers to bring down pollution in Ganga have revived the dwindling population of the freshwater mammal. As many as 110 dolphins were spotted in a 90 km stretch from Kaushambi to Handia in a recent dolphin population mapping project.

The mapping was jointly undertaken by district administration, forest department and World Wildlife Fund India (WWF India). The inclusion in Schedule 1 of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 provides absolute protection to the endangered species.

Conservation of dolphins in this part of UP was spearheaded by district magistrate, Sanjay Kumar. The DM said the re-appearance of Gangetic dolphins was indicative of improved and excellent water quality.

“Their conservation was a Herculean task because of unabated pollution. Moreover these dolphins get trapped in fishing nets. Fishermen had to be educated about changing the kind of nets they use so that dolphins are no longer threatened. Dolphins feed on a certain species of fish. We focused on the availability of this fish in Ganga,” he said.

Amit Bhatt, subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Fatehpur, also involved in the project said dolphin population had increased since water nutrification had also improved. Nutrification is a process in which water bodies receive an excess amount of nutrients which supplement the habitat in which dolphins thrive.

Bhatt, on how water quality was improved said, “We reversed the deterioration through anti-bacterial processes. Population of freshwater dolphin declines in polluted water. So we closed down 24 drains discharging sewer water into Ganga. Six sewer treatment plants were also made functional. It took us some time, but the efforts paid off.”

Bhatt said a Japanese research team also visited Allahabad to study the behavior of the dolphins. The team was conducting research in a stretch from Gomukh to Gangasagar, he said.
Back from the brink of extinction: How the Gangetic dolphins made a comeback
 

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Good to see rhinos like that


Walls Come Down: Indian Court Rules Against Forest Barrier Obstructing Elephants

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India’s highest court has decreed that an obstructing wall built illegally by a state-owned oil refinery in the nation’s heavily-forested northeastern regions must come down.

In a Friday ruling, the Supreme Court of India dismissed an appeal from an oil refinery to maintain a wall in an elephant migration corridor in the Deopahar Reserve Forest in Golaghat, in the extreme northeastern regions of India.
Illegally built in a heavily-forested area, the wall obstructs elephant migration and other wildlife movement, according to reports and studies from environmental groups and wildlife organizations.

In striking down the appeal from state-owned fossil fuel facility Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, the nation's top judges noted that "Elephants have first right on forest," cited by the NEnow.in news group.

A lawsuit to demolish the man-made forest barrier first gained traction following the May 2015 death of a 7-year-old male elephant due to a ‘severe haemorrhage' after it attempted to smash its way through the oil refinery wall.

Environmentalists recorded multiple instances of elephants using legacy migration pathways attempting to get through areas in which the refinery had illegally constructed barriers.

The walls, built in an area declared in 1996 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to be a No Development Zone, prevented the migration of the huge mammals and presented a danger to their livelihood, according to animal researchers in the region.

A regional court allowed for the refinery to open a small part of the wall in 2016. Environmentalist groups and locals working together then successfully fought for the demolition of the entire wall.
 

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Garbage dumps leading to shift in food habits of wild animals: study

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Modern day garbage dumps, which are full of harmful products and chemicals, are emerging as a serious threat to animal and plant life. A new study has found that these dumps are resulting in a shift in food habits of birds and wild animals.

The main culprit is plastic waste which is known to cause health complications and disruptive reproductive patterns in animals that accidently ingest it. It also causes environmental pollution through chemicals leaching from it. The study examined the relationship between animal type and behavior vis-à-vis the risk of plastic ingestion.

The researchers used direct observation as well as infrared camera-traps to monitor animal visits and food intake behaviour at two selected sites in the Nainital district. The sites were monitored for 2 to 3 hours daily for a period of two months and scanning was done every 10 minutes throughout the observation period. Feeding patterns and frequency of animal and bird visits to these garbage sites was recorded. A total of 32 species of animals and birds were identified which were seen to feed on garbage.

Based on the observed behavior of animal at the sites, researchers divided them into different groups. Peckers, who used beaks to pull out food from plastics, included 19 species of birds. The second group was of handlers - two species of animals with hand like front body parts that were capable to segregate food from other waste. The last group identified was gulpers, who lacked hand-like organs as well as mouthparts and thus could not separate food from plastics.


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" An ecological shift is happening where few animal species at some places are becoming more dependent on anthropological food waste. "
It was found that the average time spent by an animal or a bird at garbage sites is about 2.8 minutes. Among all the visitors, large billed crow showed highest contact rate with plastic while Sambar showed lowest contact rate with it. Among the three types of animals, handlers and peckers were seen to come in touch with plastic more than twice than gulpers.

The research was conducted in Uttarakhand where tourists generate a lot of garbage in and around such natural habitats. Two Garbage dumps in Nainital district were taken as sample sites. The location assumes importance because of presence of 200 bird species and 75 mammals in the area. The dumping site was characterized by leftover food mixed with non-biodegradable waste such as plastics, glass bottles, metal cans, light bulbs, cartons etc.

“An ecological shift is happening where few animal species at some places are becoming more dependent on anthropological food waste. If we don’t enforce proper waste management strategies, particularly in and around natural sites and forest areas, it would have disastrous implications on wildlife,” pointed out Geetanjali Katlam, a member of the research team.

Garbage dumping sites have both physical and toxicological implications on animal life. Plastics present in garbage gets ingested by wild animals, leading to lethal injuries and damage to digestive tract which results in starvation, ulceration of stomach, reduced fitness, growth problems and premature death.

The study concludes that there should be segregation of waste generated from domestic and other activities at the source only in order to prevent harm to animal feeding on it and also to address the problem of ecological impact of non-biodegradable waste accumulation.

The research team included Gitanjali Katlam and Soumya Prasad from School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU); Mohit Agarwal from Asian Adventures and Raman Kumar from Nature Science Initiative. The study has been published in journal Current Science.



UK to support nitrogen research in India

The five-year programme is being established with funds from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and is worth 19.6 million pounds (about Rs 182 crore). It will focus on impacts of different forms of nitrogen pollution, particularly looking at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries in South Asia. It is expected to boost cleaner and more profitable farming, as well as industrial recycling of nitrogen.

“India is the only country in South Asia that has completed its nitrogen assessment over a year ago and is already co-leading the South Asian nitrogen assessment for the UN Environment,” N Raghuram, who chairs the International Nitrogen Initiative, said.

“Better nitrogen management offers a triple win — for the economy, health and environment. Joining up across the nitrogen cycle will catalyse change for a cleaner, healthier and more climate-resilient world,” said Mark Sutton, who will lead the new project.