Wildlife Protection Current Affairs

March 3: World Wildlife Day

The World Wildlife Day is observed every year on 3rd March to celebrate and raise awareness about the world’s wild fauna and flora. It is celebrated to mark the signing of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on this day in 1973.

Significance of Day

  • It aims to create awareness and encourages people across the globe to protect endangered species.
  • It also calls for taking up urgent steps to fight wildlife crime which has wide-ranging environmental, economic and social impacts.

The theme for this year is ‘Big Cats: Predators under Threat’. Big cats are among most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. These predators are facing many and varied threats, mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade. The theme aims to raise awareness about plight of big cats and galvanize support for many global and national actions that underway to save these iconic species. It also expands definition of big cats being used, which includes not only lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar (4 largest wild cats that can roar) but also cheetah, snow leopard, puma, clouded leopard, etc.

Background

The World Wildlife Day was designated by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 68th session on 20 December 2013. On this day in 1973, CITES was adopted.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES is international agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species. Its aim is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild. It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN. It entered into force in July 1975.

It is administered through United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It’s secretariat is located in Geneva (Switzerland). CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.

It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. In addition CITES also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs.

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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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