Unpredictable future

October 2 to 8 is Wildlife Week. India is home to many species of flora and fauna. However, faced with poaching, habitat loss and hunting, the numbers are dwindling. What can we do to protect them?

Wildlife Week is celebrated in India between October 2 and 8. The purpose of this celebration is to create awareness on the need to preserve animal life.

The idea was first mooted in 1852 in the hope of serving long-term goals of safeguarding our wildlife through action. The Indian Government established a Board of Wildlife in 1972, which works to not only create awareness but also hopes to preserve wildlife.

India is home to many species of birds and animals, thanks to its geographical diversity. But sadly, many species are endangered, some critically endangered, while others are on the verge of extinction or near threatened. In India, there are close to 400 wildlife sanctuaries and 80 national parks that are home to these vulnerable animals.

In danger

We are too late to save the auroch (a species of wild cattle), the Asiatic cheetah (functionally extinct in India) and the pink-headed duck. However, with a little help, we can save some endangered animals. The number of big cats in the Felidae family are dwindling. Lithe, powerful and strong though they maybe, the Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion, and the snow leopard are fighting hard to survive.

The beautiful, elegant blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), which is a herbivorous ruminant animal finds itself near threatened because it is targeted for its skin and meat. Similarly, the western red panda also known as the red fox, has found itself on the list because of poaching and loss of habitat. It lives in the deciduous and coniferous forests of the eastern Himalayas.

The Nilgiri tahr once roamed freely in the Western Ghats. Today, its very existence is threatened with the construction of numerous hydroelectric projects, deforestation and monoculture plantation of eucalyptus and wattles. It is the only caprine ungulate that is found south of the Himalayas in India. The 11 other species of Indian caprine ungulates are confined to the Himalayan bio-geographical zones.

Likewise, the Nilgiri langur, a type of old world monkey, found in the Nilgiri hills of the Western Ghats has been listed as vulnerable. Its beautiful glossy black fur and golden fur on its head could well be its undoing, as it is poached for this.

On the other hand, the graceful Kashmir stag or hangul is poached for its skin, flesh, as well as its horns. It is now an endangered animal. The list is endless. The lion-tailed macaque, gaur, Ganges river dolphin, vulture, wild ass, phayre’s leaf monkey, and the four horned antelope are also on the list.

The Indian pangolin with its lack of teeth and bad eyesight is a victim of illegal animal trade and has now found its way to the endangered animals list. This large anteater is covered dorsally by 11 to 13 rows of scales. It has a sticky tongue, which is longer than its body and is especially adapted to reach out and lap up insects in deep crevices. To tear open anthills and termite mounds it has powerful forelimbs with three disproportionately long claws. In sharp contrast, the hind legs have tough soles and short, blunt nails on the five toes.

This week, let’s participate in events and activities that have been organised as a part of the celebrations. Why? Because in doing so we learn more about animals and why they are diminishing in numbers.

Compiled by Nimi Kurian

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 3:25:27 PM |

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