Destruction of habitat a real threat to wildlife

Human habitations, firewood extraction and quarrying pose problems

June 04, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 16, 2016 10:35 am IST - VIJAYAWADA:

Multiple violations and government apathy are leading to the destruction of some of the best wildlife sites in the State which is a cause of concern for environmentalists.

The Lanka Malleswara Wildlife Sanctuary, Kadapa, is the only habitat in the world for the highly endangered Jerdon’s Courser ( Rhinoptilus bitoquatus ), a bird species . It has an extremely limited geographical range -- Valley of Godavari river near Sironcha and Bhadrachalam and in the Pennar river valley of Kadapa and Anantapur districts.

The habitat of this “critically endangered” species (IUCN rating) is under threat because the residents of 57 villages under the Somasila Project had been relocated in the region the endangered bird was found.

Lankamala, Palakonda and Seshachalam areas were not as populated before that. With the rise in population, there was increase in livestock pressure and firewood extraction. There was also extensive quarrying that destroyed the scrub habitat preferred by these birds.

Conservationist, ornithologist and former wildlife warden K Mruthyumjaya Rao said that this year’s theme of the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) for the World Environment Day (WED), observed on June 5, was “Go wild in Life”. The UNEP has asked every person in the world to take wildlife crime personally. Illegal trade in wildlife products was eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity and robbing us of our natural heritage and pushing entire species to extinction. Even destruction of the natural habitat of some species was pushing them to extinction, he said.

Severe setbacks

The Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary is known as a habitat of the critically endangered (IUCN) Great Indian Bustard. The sanctuary was established with the primary aim of protecting the Bustard, but the conservation efforts have suffered severe setbacks. Changes in the ecosystem due to the linking of the Alganur tank with Telugu Ganga Canal and the consequent rise in groundwater levels in the semi-arid region have led to changes in flora and nature of agricultural practices on the periphery of the sanctuary. Change in flora and fauna has led to reduction in the numbers of these huge birds. Conservationists in the State are fighting to protect the habitats of several endangered species from destruction. Kolleru and Krishna wildlife sanctuaries are two unique habitats that are under threat from various quarters.

Kolleru Lake is a Ramsar Wetland of international repute. It is an important wintering, feeding or roosting area on the Central Asian-Indian Flyway. At the end of the rainy season, the lake, a depression between the Krishna and Godavari deltas, extends right up to contour +10 (points having equal mean sea level- MSL) (covering 901, but its size shrinks in the summer to +5 contour (308 or even less depending on the rainfall. The flora and fauna in this intermediary zone is unique and attracts avian fauna from all over the world. The outer fringes of the lake are ideal for aqua culture and, therefore ,it is constantly under the threat of encroachment. The Andhra Pradesh Government under popular demand decided to reduce the size to +3 contour (135 Attempts to lay road into the sanctuary are made repeatedly and often foiled by the Forest Department personnel. But the Forest officials are facing an uphill task in their duty of late. A road has been laid through the lake at Atapaka where the Forest Department develops a haven for the Spotbilled Pelican. Kolleru Lake is home for over 50 per cent of the Spotbilled Pelican population of the world. Recently, Forest officials had to beat a hasty retreat when they tried to stop revenue officials from laying a black-topped road through the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary.

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