Wildlife Protection Current Affairs

Environment Ministry refuses captive breeding of Chiru

The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has refused to allow captive breeding of Chiru (Tibetan antelope), whose underfur is used for making famous shahtoosh shawls.

The suggestion for captive breeding was made by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests asking to consider captive breeding as it will add to livelihood of people of Kashmir.

Shahtoosh shawls

Chiru for long time have been hunted for their underfur, which is renowned for its quality which is traditionally woven into an extremely fine fabric to make Shahtoosh shawls. It takes three to five hides to make a single shawl. Moreover, the wool cannot be sheared or combed and to collect the fur, the animals have to be killed. At present, Shahtoosh shawls’ sale and possession is banned in India and in many countries.

Parliament panel view

The Parliament panel was of view that MoEFCC should conserve and breed Chiru goat, which can then be given to shawl makers for collecting hair. This would increase number of these goats but would also add to sustainable livelihood opportunities of people of Kashmir, who are lot dependant on the handicraft of embroidered shawls. It also cited that China and Mongolia are breeding Chiru goats for its wool, which is very expensive. The cost of an embroidered shahtoosh shawl can run into crores of rupees.

MoEFCC Argument

Chiru is assessed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2017. Their current low population can only be maintained with continued high levels of protection in its natural. Any relaxation in protection regime of animal will lead to rapid population decline due to commercial poaching.

Chiru inhabits high-altitude Tibetan plateau and requires large expanse of land for its movement and ranging patterns to fulfil its feeding and breeding requirements. Rearing it in captivity is extremely difficult. Besides, any attempt to do conservation breeding at very high altitude regions of Ladakh may not be economical or feasible as humans cannot be posted there continuously for more than 2-3 months. Moreover Chinese also have failed to keep Chiru in captivity due to its poor survival rates.

Chiru (Tibetan antelope)

Its Scientific name is Pantholops hodgsonii. This antelope is considered to be close to goat family. It lives at a 3,250-5,500 metre elevation in high altitude plains and montane valleys comprising of alpine and desert steppe and pasture, distinguished by low vegetation cover and productivity. Predators such as wolf, lynx, snow leopard, and red fox are predators of chirus and their young calves.

Protection Status: ‘Near Threatened’ in IUCN Red List. It has been enlisted in Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. To enhance its protection, its prime habitats have been declared as Wildlife Sanctuaries viz.  Karakorma Wildlife Sanctuary and Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Breeding season of Olive Ridleys begin in Odisha

Olive Ridley turtles have started arriving in large at Gahirmatha beach in Odisha’s Kendrapara district for breeding season. Gahirmatha beach is known as world’s largest rookery of this species.

During the breeding season, large numbers of turtles arrive at Gahirmatha beach for mating. Later, they scale sand slope in large numbers to lay eggs in January and February. In 2016-17 season, around 9.75 lakh Olive Ridley turtles came out from sea to lay eggs along Odisha coast.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in world. It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. It is found in warm waters of Pacific and Indian oceans.

It spends entire lives in ocean and migrates thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in course of a year. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. It is recognized as Vulnerable by IUCN Red list. In India, it is protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act.

The breeding season of Olive Ridley turtle commences its journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year. A single female can lay upto 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on beaches. The destination for majority of turtles for laying egg is Gahirmatha in Odisha. The sandy stretches of Hope Island of Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also have turned into a breeding area. Six weeks later these eggs hatches and newly hatched turtles start  journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.

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