WWF Current Affairs - 2019

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Ganges Dolphin census begins

The annual Ganges river Dolphin census is conducted by the World Wide Fund in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. The census is undertaken along the 250 km stretch of Upper Ganga between the Hastinapur Wild life sanctuary and Narora Ramsar site

This year tandem boat survey method is being used. Previous years, direct counting was done. This is because, the tandem boat survey method is more accurate where in the officials use two boats that move in tandem to count the dolphins. Also, this year the upstream of Bijnor Ganga Barrage has also been included.

In 2015, the count was 22 and has so far remained stable. As the animal is a mammal, it certainly has to come to the surface for breathing that helps the census to count. They are also spotted by their strange sounds when they breathe. They are also identified by detecting their high – frequency ultra sound waves.

The National Aquatic animal is important as it is a reliable indicator of the health of the river ecosystem.

About Ganges Dolphins

The Ganges Dolphins are one of the oldest creatures as that of crocodiles, sharks and turtles. They were first discovered in 1801. During its early days of discovery, the species lived in the Ganges – Brahmaputra – Meghna and Karnaphuli – Sangu river systems in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. However, it is extinct from most of its distribution ranges.

These dolphins can live only in freshwater. They hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds. The rays bounce off fish and other prey that enables them to see an image in their mind. They dwell alone and also in groups. But the mother and calf always travel together. Female dolphins are larger than the males and they give birth once in 2 to 3 years.

It was declared the National Aquatic animal in 2009.

Threats to Dolphins

By catch

The habitat of the Ganges river dolphins is within the most densely populated areas of the world. Both fishermen and the dolphins prefer areas of the river where the fish is plentiful and the river current is slower. Hence, more dolphins die as they accidentally get caught in the fishing nets. They are also hunted for meat and oil to be used in medicinal purposes.

Pollution

Every year 9,000 tons of pesticides and 6 million tons of fertilizers are used in the vicinity of the river. River Dolphins are the top predators in the Ganges ecosystem. Hence, they tend to have high levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies that affects their health adversely.

IUCN

The Ganges River Dolphins are placed under “Endangered Category” in the IUCN Red List.

Royal Bengal Tigers may not survive Climate Change: UN Report

According to a recent UN report, Climate change and rising sea levels may eventually wipe out ‘The Sundarbans’, which is one of world’s last and largest tiger strongholds. The studies of report rely on climate change scenarios developed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for its simulation models.

Key Findings of Report

  • As per UN findings if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continued at current rate, the atmosphere would warm as much as 1.5C (above preindustrial levels) by 2040. This climate change would lead to rising sea level and existential threat to the Sundarbans.
  • In 2010, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, a Non-governmental organization) estimated that sea level rise of 11 inches could reduce number of tigers in Sundarbans by 96% within a few decades.
  • By 2070, there will be not be any suitable habitats of tiger remaining in Bangladesh Sundarbans.
  • 70% of Sundarbans is just a few feet above sea level, thus faces grave threat due to climate changes. It is one of the prime habitats of Bengal tigers, who are among 500,000 land species whose survival is in question because of threats to their natural habitats due to climate change.
  • Once the Sundarbans are flooded it may lead to increased confrontations (conflict) between humans and tigers, as the latter would stray outside their habitat in search of new land.
  • Conservation efforts and fight against habitat loss in Sunderbans needs to begin immediately, as it could take about 20 years for these efforts to even start showing any results, but if action isn’t taken soon there won’t be any forest or tigers to save in 50 years.

About Sundarbans

  • They are 10,000 square kilometres of marshy mangroves ecosystem shared between Bangladesh and India.
  • They hosts world’s largest mangrove forest and a rich ecosystem that supports hundreds of animal species, including Bengal tiger.
  • They are only mangrove forests in world where Bengal tigers are found.

About Bengal tiger (Panthera Tigris Tigris)

  • It is national animal of India and Bangladesh.
  • It found predominantly in India with some populations in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China and Myanmar.
  • Initiatives by India: As Bengal tiger species is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies (about 2,500 left in wild) Indian government undertakes various initiave to in a bid to conserve species. The Project Tiger launched in 1973 was India’s first-ever tiger conservation programme.
  • IUCN Red List Status is endangered.
  • Since early 1900s, hunting, poaching, habitat loss, and illegal trade of animal parts (to meet growing demand in Asia) have decreased global population of tigers from around 100,000 to fewer than 4,000 and puy the species at risk.