India calls for inclusion of 3 species in conservation list —

Bengal Florican (Author - Nejib Ahmed) (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bengal Florican (Author – Nejib Ahmed) (CC BY-SA 4.0)

India proposed on 20 February 2020 to include three animals – the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), Asian Elephant, and the Bengal Florican – in the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS) appendix 1 at the ongoing thirteenth Conference of Parties (COP-13) in Gandhinagar.

This inclusion will ensure international protection to these species across their range or all the countries they visit during the seasonal migration. The appendix-I lists species that are under threat of extinction either across its migration range or in some of the countries.

“The inclusion in the appendix-I would mean that these animals will now get international protection. All countries that are parties to the convention and are in the range of these three animals will now have to prepare their own conservation plan,” said Soumitra Dasgupta, Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife).

“All the three species are included in the schedule of our Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, ensuring legal protection, but we do not know about the conservation status of these animals in the other range countries,” he added.

The convention, however, does not have a mechanism to ensure implementation of its decisions.

The GIB, which was selected as the mascot for COP-13, is categorised as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The GIB is one of the largest flying birds in the world and has a population of only about 100-150, which is largely restricted to Rajasthan’s Thar Desert.

Some GIBs, however, cross over to Pakistan, where they are hunted with impunity. Collision with power lines is the other major threat it faces, with its population having declined by 90% over the last 50 years.

“Pakistan is also a party to the convention and will have to come up with a conservation plan for the GIB,” said Dasgupta.

The Asian Elephant, which is India’s heritage animal, freely travels to neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The animal is under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, human elephant conflict, poaching and illegal trade. Around 75 elephants died due to train accident, electrocution, poaching and poisoning in India in 2018.

Even as India has backed the inclusion of the animal for international protection, the elephant corridors do not have legal protection under the wildlife protection Act. “Habitat protection is important for conservation of the species. Inclusion of the elephant habitat might happen under the act,” Dasgupta said.

The Bengal Florican is also a critically endangered species. They live in open tall grasslands and have trans-boundary migration pattern between India and Nepal, where they face threat of collision with power transmission lines. (Hindustan Times)

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