Large-scale burning of grasslands detrimental to invertebrates: study Sarus Cranes Order to cull Himachal Pradesh’s ‘Vermin’ monkeys draws activists’ ire Researchers discover new tree species in Tanzania mountains Madhya Pradesh government to declare Ratapani sanctuary a tiger reserve Stubble Cutting Machines
LARGE-SCALE BURNING OF GRASSLANDS DETRIMENTAL TO INVERTEBRATES: STUDY
A recent study on “prescribed burning” of large tracts of grassland for the conservation of threatened ungulates in the Eravikulam National Park (ENP), a biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats, reveals that such burning is detrimental to endemic invertebrates, including grasshoppers.
Ungulates are any members of a diverse group of primarily large mammal, which includes odd-toed ungulates such as horses and rhinoceroses, and even-toed ungulates such as cattle, pigs, giraffes, camels, deer, and hippopotamuses, as well as subungulates such as elephants.
ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK (ENP)
Eravikulam National Park is located in the Kannan Devan Hills of the Southern Western Ghats in the Idukki District, Kerala State. In the local language, Eravikulam denotes streams and pools. The highest peak in peninsular India, Anamudi (2695 m), is situated in this park. The catchment area of three important rivers, Periyar, Chalakudy and Pambar is located in this area. Three major types of plant communities found in the park are: Grasslands, Shrub Land and Shola Forests.
Neelakurunji ,a plant endemic to the Western Ghats, blooms once every 12 years is found in this national park. It also is home to and the sanctuary of the Nilgiri tahr, an endangered goat species. The Muthuvans are the indigenous people, who have traditionally been associated with the management of the park.
LARGE-SCALE BURNING OF GRASSLANDS DETRIMENTAL TO INVERTEBRATES: STUDY
As grasshoppers represent a major faunal component of grasslands, effects of fire on them can be easily studied in grassland habitats. The endemic and wingless creatures are sensitive to environmental change and exhibit a high extinction risk. Burning is practised on 90 sq. km. of the park by dividing it into 50 hectare grids to ensure palatable fodder for the Nilgiri tahr and has been practised since the British colonial time. However, the impact of burning of Nilgiri tahr habitats on other biota has never been documented.
It is suspected that prescribed burning in the park for the past many decades is a major cause for the decline of grasshoppers.
The study suggested that the interval of burning should be extended to more than five years, and the area of burning should be made only in small plots of 25 m. X 25 m. or 50 m. X 50 m., with unburned adjacent areas between plots.
The sarus is the tallest flying bird in the world, and was declared the official state bird of Uttar Pradesh in 2014. It is also India’s only resident breeding crane, as per the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), a leading nature conservation organisation that works with the State wildlife department. Sarus cranes generally make habitats in marshy places like wetlands. The sarus is listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and also listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. (CITES Appendix II) According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, their population is now on the decline, with only 15,000-20,000 in India, a majority of which are in UP.
Sarus cranes are known to live in association with humans and prefer well-watered plains, marshlands, ponds and wetlands, which are suitable for their foraging, roosting and nesting. The Sarus habitat is outside protected areas, in natural wetlands with low water depth, marshy and fallow areas and agricultural fields. They play a vital role in ecological balance by controlling the population of harmful insects and have significant cultural importance, while also being sociable. Sarus is omnivorous, feeding on fish and insects, as well as roots and plants
The population of sarus cranes (grus antigone) in Ghaziabad district has failed to pick up in the last five years in a row as seen in the annual census conducted by the divisional forest department. There are many contributing factors to the stagnation of their population in Ghaziabad — infrastructure projects, pollution, development of housing and nonmaintenance of water bodies and wetlands. But the population has climbed to 15,938 as per the 2018 census (summer). This is a jump of 5.2% from 2017, when there were 15,138 Sarus cranes across U.P., as per the State Forest and Wildlife department.
ORDER TO CULL HIMACHAL PRADESH’S ‘VERMIN’ MONKEYS DRAWS ACTIVIST’S IRE
The decision was taken on request of the state government which reported harm to life and property including large-scale destruction of agriculture due to overpopulation of this species outside forests. Though Rhesus Macaque monkeys are protected species under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the law allows for it to be hunted by declaring it ‘vermin’ for a specific period if it poses a danger to human life or property. As per Section 62 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter.
This is, however, not the first time the ministry has taken such a decision. It had declared wild pig ‘vermin’ in Uttarakhand in November last year, allowing authorities to carry out extermination wild pigs on a large scale in certain identified a (tehsils) of 13 districts in the state for one year under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
RESEARCHERS DISCOVER NEW TREE SPECIES IN TANZANIA MOUNTAINS
A new species of flowering tree, which grows up to 20 metres, was discovered in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, according to a research paper published in the journal Kew Bulletin in June 2019. Mischogyne iddi (M. iddi) trees have larger leaves than other species of the genus and range between 13 and 45 centimetre in diametre. The genus of small- to medium-sized tropical trees and shrubs have four other known species, all in western Africa, including one in the semi-arid Angola. It was earlier considered to have only two species, stated the study, M iddi has been categorised ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature list. It is unknown what kind of wildlife might rely on the tree. But it is most likely pollinated by a species of beetle, according to Andy Marshall of the University of York, who discovered the new species.
MADHYA PRADESH GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE RATAPANI SANCTUARY A TIGER RESERVE
The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to declare the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary a tiger reserve for better conservation of tigers. The state had received an approval for the same from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) 11 years ago. All the conditions of NTCA to declare Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary a Tiger Reserve have been completed. The final approval for the reserve will be given in the state wildlife board meeting, scheduled to be held in August.
This will boost tourism and improve the local economy of the area.
STUBBLE CUTTING MACHINES
To address air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue, a new Central Sector Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’ for the period from 201819 to 2019-20 has been launched with the total outgo from the Central funds of Rs. 1151.80 crores.