This is a short essay on wildlife conservation for students – probably more senior students. If you like it, or parts of it, feel free to copy or use it in any way you wish under a creative commons license.
The purpose of wildlife conservation is to protect wild flora and fauna against the encroachment of expanding human activity. The planet’s human population grew by 1.6 billion people between 1990 and 2010 (30% growth rate). The ever increasing amount of commercial activity that this brings with associated use and abuse of the earth’s resources damages the prospects of survival of wild flora and fauna.
Let’s pray for a change in humankind’s relationship with wildlife. Photos: cut tree: by Mara ~earth light~ free potential. Praying hands: by Alejandro Hernandez. This image is free to use under a creative commons license but please credit the original authors and me: Michael @ PoC.
Wildlife on continents such as Africa is particularly vulnerable to pressure from commercial activity because Africa’s population is expanding faster than any other continent and it is rich is natural resources which are being exploited by foreign powers involved in mass manufacturing. Access to minerals etc. results in mining activity which destroys the habitat of many species including the cheetah. Forests are logged to make way for palm oil plantations, which removes the habitat of the elusive African golden cat.
Perhaps the most famous of all wild creatures is the tiger. The fight over the conservation of the tiger is the classic battle between wildlife conservationists and big business. The truth is that the battle is being lost by the conservationists. The tiger population has been in consistent decline over 100 years. The Bengal tiger lives in India. The human population of India has grown by 40% over the period 1990-2010. Although the tiger lives on reserves and buffer zones around reserves they are not places untouched by commercial exploitation. The tiger is running out of space in which to live.
It is not simply that the human is relentlessly occupying the landscape that once belonged to wildlife. People like to use wildlife to turn a profit. The illegal international trade in live wild species is worth billions yearly. CITES, which is an international treaty to prevent trade in wildlife, is failing. Agreements depend on goodwill. Many governments are corrupt to varying degrees and some members of these governments personally benefit from this trade. This opens the door to illegal trade in wildlife, dead or alive.
Regarding flora, the greatest battle between conservationists and business is being played out in the virgin, ancient forests in places such as, Brazil, Borneo and Indonesia. These beautiful places have great commercial value. Many ancient trees are logged for such mundane products as photocopying paper. In destroying these forests many wildlife species are also gradually destroyed as the forest is their home and the home of their prey. The Borneo bay cat is being eradicated from the planet as it is only found in Bornean forests. The promotion of the concept of sustainably resourced timber is abused because it takes thousands of years to grow the sort of forests that are being cut down.
Despite fantastic work by conservationists, wildlife conservation is gradually losing the battle to save many species of plant and animal from extinction in the wild. This is because business, the main reason for population declines in wildlife, has greater financial resources than conservationists. Business is also more motivated and is constantly growing due to human population growth.
For conservation to become more successful it requires a greater involvement by the average person who is usually distanced from the issues and wildlife itself.
Governments are torn between the need to promote economic expansion and the quality of life of the people it represents. Governments choose growth. The universal model of economic growth has been the preferred way forward for generations of governments at the expense of nature.
People are on their own when it comes to wildlife conservation. At present, concerned people are unable to put a balance back into our relationship with wildlife, and nature in general.
A modern classic of the failure of people to find a sustainable balance between commerce and the earth’s resources is the depletion of cod in the North Sea to fewer than 100 mature, individual fish. Let us think about that for a while. Where there were once millions there are now almost none.
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India boasts a variety of species and organisms. Apart from a handful of the major farm animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats, chickens, and both Bactrian Camels and, Dromedary Camels, India has an amazingly wide spectrum of animals native to the country. It is home to Bengal and Indochinese tigers, Asiatic Lions, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Clouded Leopards, various species of Deer, including Chital, Hangul, Barasingha; the Indian Elephant, the Great Indian Rhinoceros, and many more amongst others. The region's rich and diverse wildlife is preserved in 120+ national parks, 18 Bio-reserves and 500+ wildlife sanctuaries across the country. India has some of the most biodiverse regions of the world and hosts three of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots – or treasure-houses – that is the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas and Indo-Burma. Since India is home to a number of rare and threatened animal species, wildlife management in the country is essential to preserve these species. India is one of the seventeen megadiverse countries. According to one study, India along with other 16 mega diverse countries is home to about 60-70% of the world's biodiversity. India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, is home to about 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of avian (bird), 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species.
Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, to which India originally belonged. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic change 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians. Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. These include the Asian elephant, the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, Indian rhinoceros, mugger crocodile, and Indian white-rumped vulture, which suffered a near-extinction from ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with over 515 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 18 biosphere reserves, 10 of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 26 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
The pipalfig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. The word has been also made famous in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous other tales and fables such as the Panchatantra.
Main article: Fauna of India
India is home to several well-known large mammals, including the Asian elephant, Bengal and Indochinese tigers, Asiatic lion, Indian leopard,Indian sloth bear and Indian rhinoceros. Some other well-known large Indian mammals are: ungulates such as the rare wild Asian water buffalo, common domestic Asian water buffalo, gail, gaur, and several species of deer and antelope. Some members of the dog family, such as the Indian wolf, Bengal fox and golden jackal, and the dhole or wild dogs are also widely distributed. However, the dhole, also known as the whistling hunter, is the most endangered top Indian carnivore, and the Himalayan wolf is now a critically endangered species endemic to India. It is also home to the striped hyena, macaques, langur and mongoose species.
Main article: Flora of India
There are about 17500 taxa of flowering plants from India. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 helped to improve protection of the natural habitat. Many ecoregions, such as the sholaforests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.
India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies.
The need for conservation of wildlife in India is often questioned because of the apparently incorrect priority in the face of direct poverty of the people. However, Article 48 of the Constitution of India specifies that, "The state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country" and Article 51-A states that "it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures." The committee in the Indian Board for Wildlife, in their report, defines wildlife as "the entire natural uncultivated flora and fauna of the country" while the Wildlife (protection) Act 1972 defines it as "any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacea, fish, moths and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat."
Despite the various environmental issues faced, the country still has a rich and varied wildlife compared to Europe. Large and charismatic mammals are important for wildlife tourism in India, and several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs. Project Tiger, started in 1972, is a major effort to conserve the tiger and its habitats. At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 40,000, yet an Indian tiger census conducted in 2008 revealed the existence of only 1,411 tigers. 2010 tiger census revealed that there are 1700 tigers left in India. As per the latest tiger census (2015), there are around 2226 tigers in India. By far, there is an overall 30% increase in tiger population.  Various pressures in the later part of the 20th century led to the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. At the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) General Assembly meeting in Delhi in 1969, serious concern was voiced about the threat to several species of wildlife and the shrinkage of wilderness in India. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed, and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. The framework was then set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach. However, there is not much optimism about this framework's ability to save the peacock, which is the national bird of India. George Schaller wrote about tiger conservation:
The exploitation of land and forest resources by humans along with capturing and trapping for food and sport has led to the extinction of many species in India in recent times. These species include mammals such as the Indian/Asiatic cheetah, wild zebu, Indian Javan rhinoceros, and Northern Sumatran rhinoceros. While some of these large mammal species are confirmed extinct, there have been many smaller animal and plant species whose status is harder to determine. Many species have not been seen since their description. Gir forest in India has the only surviving population of Asiatic lions in the world.]]Some species of birds have gone extinct in recent times, including the pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) and the Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa). A species of warbler, Acrocephalus orinus, known earlier from a single specimen collected by Allan Octavian Hume from near Rampur in Himachal Pradesh, was rediscovered after 139 years in Thailand.
National symbols (animals)
The Indian government has established eighteen biosphere reserves of India which protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more national parks and/or preserves, along buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
The bio-reserves in India are:
Ten of the eighteen biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCOMan and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) list.
The diversity of fungi and their natural beauty occupy a prime place in the biological world and India has been a cradle for such organisms. Only a fraction of the total fungal wealth of India has been subjected to scientific scrutiny and mycologists have to unravel this unexplored and hidden wealth. One-third of fungal diversity of the globe exists in India. The country has an array of 10 diverse biomes including Trans-Himalayan zone, Himalaya, Desert, Semi-Arid zone, Western Ghats, Deccan Peninsula, Gangetic Plain, North-Eastern India, Coasts and Islands where varied dominating regimes manifest. This enables the survival of manifold fungal flora in these regions which include hot spot areas like the Himalayan ranges, Western Ghats, hill stations, mangroves, sea coasts, fresh water bodies etc. Many fungi have been recorded from these regions and from the country in general comprising thermophiles, psychrophiles, mesophiles, aquatic forms, marine forms, plant and animal pathogens, edible fungi and beneficial fungi and so on. The number of fungi recorded in India exceeds 27,000 species, the largest biotic community after insects. The true fungi belong to the Kingdom Fungi which has four phyla, 103 orders, 484 families and 4979 genera. About 205 new genera have been described from India, of which 32% were discovered by C. V. Subramanian of the University of Madras. These features indicate a ten-fold increase in the last 80 years.
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