Science Express on biodiversity shows natural wealth fragile earth has and trampled upon
What do Tiger, Lotus and Peacock have in common? Yes, you got it right. They are India’s national animal, flower and bird respectively. To add to this list are Elephant, the national heritage animal, the Gangetic Dolphin, the national aquatic animal, and Banyan, the national tree.
One can know more about these species and lot more on the rich biodiversity of the country onboard the Science Express-Biodiversity Special, stabled on the Koodal Nagar railway station in Madurai. Besides, visitors also have an opportunity to choose the national microbe among eight.
All that a visitor need to do is to push the button against the microbe of their choice in an interactive panel in the first coach of the exhibition. Among them are Mucor, Rhizobium, Blue Mold, Wild Yeast, Bacteriophage, Spirogyra, E. coli, and Lactobacillus. “We will be the first country to have a national microbe. All others will have to follow us,” said one of the science communicators while explaining to a group of students on Thursday.
Eight coaches of the exhibition train, a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Environment and Forests, showcase the biodiversity of the country. While the first coach gives an introduction to the rich biodiversity, the next seven coaches deal on different biodiversity zones — Himalayas and Trans Himalayas, Gangetic Plains, North East India, Desert and Semi-Arid Zone, Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau, Coasts and Islands.
The expo has been designed with lot of back-lit colour photographs of flora and fauna — animals, birds and plants and trees endemic to the particular zone.
Besides, there are maps, brief write-ups, models of animals and plants, audio-visual clippings in each of the zone that explain the value of each of the species, their role and duty in nature and their linkage to the livelihood of man.
Man has learnt a lot from those species. “Flight of birds gave the spark to invent aeroplane. Grasshopper inspired men to invent helicopter, and dolphins the technology in ships,” the communicator said. “The animals and plants are there not only to cater to the aesthetic sense of human beings, but beyond that. If listening to the singing of a single Koyal can bring in so much of happiness to us, think of what 3,900 species of birds can do to us,” another communicator said.
The expo explains the threats to the species, for both flora and fauna, owing to greeds and needs of human beings. Deforestation, urbanisation, construction of dams and hydel- power projects, mining and other man-made dangers such as hunting and poaching of animals for flesh, skin, horns, and tusks have reduced many endemic species to vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species.
“If there were no tigers, the population of deer will grow so much that it will gobble up all the plants that we depend on our food,” the students were told.
The exhibits also revealed the traditional way of conservation of nature in different parts of the country where people worship trees and animals and thereby protect them. Details of the efforts of the government in setting up national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community areas were also put up.
To cheer up the children, every coach has got an interactive zone where children can identify a bird or an animal, match the characteristic of a plant with its name. “Guests from abroad” corner lists birds that migrate between countries with different biodiversity zones. Similarly, “Did you know” boards give interesting titbits.
The Science Express also has exhibits on climate change and biodiversity and water. The exhibition was inaugurated by Divisional Railway Manager A.K. Rastogi in the presence of Collector Anshul Mishra. It is open to all between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. till Sunday.