Activists want a comprehensive government policy to ensure the survival of critically endangered species in India, especially outside national parks, sanctuaries, conservation and community reserves
Wgile the government has been focusing on the protection of wildlife inside Protected Areas (PAs), many threatened wildlife species of wildlife also reside outside these spots. This often makes their conservation a challenging task, and in cases of livestock and crop damage, also leads to losses for local farmers.
Conserving wildlife outside designated, protected areas has become a tough ask
On March 18, wildlife conservationists filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court, asking state, road and rail authorities about the steps they have taken to mitigate the conflict areas, and requesting for a policy to deal with wildlife outside PAs. The primary objective of the petition is to ensure adequate thought to the conservation of threatened species like the great Indian bustard, Asian elephant, snow leopard, among others, taking into account the welfare of people who share space with these animals.
The Supreme Court had taken cognisance of the writ petition a few weeks back.
One of the petitioners, biologist and leopard expert, Dr Vidya Athreya from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “India has a unique cultural ethos of humans and wild animals sharing space, but in recent times, due to various reasons, losses are increasing on both sides. Also, many states have done good work in wildlife conservation, but since this is a state subject, the good experiences remain confined to that state. We are hoping that this petition will draw the attention of the government at various levels, so that we can move forward while making lives of people safer, as well as conserving wild animals, using the latest management and research knowledge available. Several species use areas outside protected areas. At present, all the management is focused on PAs, which is small.”
Dr Vidya Athreya says lives of people can be made safer, along with wildlife conservation, using the latest management and research knowledge available
“We want the government to go through the case studies of wildlife outside PAs, and prepare a holistic policy that will be better for the people and wildlife,” added Athreya.
The petition also highlights the issue of animals that die in road accidents. Roads are improving, and the speed of vehicles travelling by them has also gone up, taking a greater toll on wild animals inhabiting the hinterlands. Unlike other countries, not enough underpasses or wildlife crossings have been constructed in India; ergo, many wild animals have been losing their lives. The ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP (Sanjay Gandhi National Park)’ report released in 2012, says that an average of two leopards die every year due to road accidents. The numbers shot up in the years 2002 and 2007, with seven and six deaths recorded respectively. On the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, leopards are most vulnerable on the stretch between Delhi Darbar Inn and Kolli Chowki, along with spots around Chena.
The report also revealed that 40 leopards have died in road accidents along the periphery of SGNP between 1994-2011.
The other important point mentioned in the writ petition is that there is an absence of any comprehensive, coherent government policy or programme to ensure the survival of critically endangered species in India that will probably become extinct in the wild in the next few years.
The petition points to “the absence of any effective programme to save the following species from extinction in the lifetime of the present generation of Indians, namely, the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), the Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), the Indian Wolf (Canis lupus), the Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellanus) and the Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia). The natural range of most of these critically endangered species extends beyond Protected Areas and hence the urgent necessity for suitable directions to prevent extinction.”
The appeal also states that at times, approvals and clearances for development projects are given without proper mitigative measures; these approvals often ignore the irreversible impact on local wildlife, despite evidence of their presence.