Wildlife Protection Act 1972 Current Affairs - 2019

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Odisha renews effort to revive Gharial population

Odisha has renewed its effort to revive population of gharials in their natural habitat by releasing 5 reptiles, fitted with radio transmitters, into Satkosia gorge of Mahanadi which is the southernmost limit of gharials’ home range in India.

About Gharial

Features: When compared to alligators and crocodiles, a gharial has a very long and narrow snout (instead of a broad snout). Also, male gharial has a distinctive boss at end of snout, which resembles an earthenware pot.

Habitat: They are a fresh-water crocodile. They live in deep fast-flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.

Gharial population is found only in India and Nepal.

India: Mahanadi River, Girwa River, Son River, Chambal River, Ken River, Ramganga River. In India major ‘breeding’ populations are confined to two Chambal and Girwa rivers only. However Chambal River supports largest population of Gharials in wild.

Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River

Worry: They once inhabited all major river systems of Indian Subcontinent, from Irrawaddy River in east to Indus River in west. Their total distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range.

IUCN Red List-Critically Endangered

Threats: Being hunted for skins, trophies and indigenous medicine. Their eggs are also collected for consumption. Major reason is decrease of riverine habitat as dams, barrages, irrigation canals and artificial embankments were built; siltation and sand-mining changed river courses.

Conservation & Protection:

Species Listed in Schedule 1 under Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Project Crocodile: It began in 1975 intensive captive breeding and rearing program. It was undertaken by Government of India in collaboration with United Nations Development Fund (UNDF) & Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  intensive captive breeding and rearing program.

Protected areas: National Chambal Sanctuary and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

Scientists sequence Asiatic lion’s Genome for the first time

The scientists from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s (CSIR)-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, for the first time sequenced the entire genome of Asiatic lion.

Key Highlights of Study

  • The population of Asiatic lion, an endangered species is very low. At present only 523 animals are found in the Gir forests in Gujarat.
  • Need for Conservation: The study of genomes unraveled evolutionary history of Asiatic lion. It noted that evaluation of genetic diversity (i.e. the total number of genetic characteristics of a species which serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments) placed Asiatic lion in lowest bracket of genomic diversity index which highlights the gravity of its conservation status.
  • Multi-Pronged Approach: As per scientist for conservation of Asiatic lions it is crucial to adopt a multi-pronged approach. Therefore, genome study which will identifying characteristics which are specific to Asiatic lions will enable better population and disease management of endangered big cat.
  • Importance: The genome sequencing of Asiatic lions would enable scientists to better understand their evolution. With better understanding they can develop specific markers to study Asiatic lion’s population genetics (it means the differences at gene level within a population) and can further get newer insights into their population status and subsequent management.
  • Significance: Until now only partial genomic information of African lion is available. Therefore a comparative genomics between both African lion and Asiatic lions can only be undertaken once complete genome of African lion is sequenced. Therefore, once complete genome of African Cheetah, Royal Bengal tiger, and Jaguar will be available, the comparative studies of all these big cats would be possible.
  • This signifies that final objective of scientists is to understand species at DNA level and study that if there are any specific problems with regard to adaptability of Asiatic Lion to environment or behaviour vis-à-vis other big cats.

About Asiatic Lion

  • They are also known as Indian Lion, and Scientific Name is Panthera Leo Persica.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Endangered
  • They are also Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • At present the only home of Asiatic lion is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
  • Threats: Asiatic lion presently exists as a single sub-population. They are vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, like epidemic or large forest fire and in recent years poaching incidents were also indicated.