Time to protect our endangered wildlife species

After 65 million years of existence, the earth’s biodiversity is facing a threat of extinction once again. But this time around, man is responsible for this loss. We have secured the human race from being a victim of most of nature’s vagaries and have managed to control nature’s mechanisms such as diseases and some natural calamities. But now, our unplanned management of the planet’s resources is putting pressure on other species.

Scientists term this as an anthropogenic mass extinction. They are calling it the sixth occurrence of mass extinction (five mass extinctions have already occurred in the history of earth). This is an exclusive kind of extinction, because this time, each case is facing a unique kind of consequence and all the reasons behind such an occurrence are initiated by various deeds of human beings.

While this is a worldwide phenomenon, let us focus on India for now, where many of our species have reached the brink of extinction. For example, in a 10-year-period, the number of four common species of vultures crashed by 99 per cent in the wild, just because of a single drug called diclofenac. Another large bird -- the Great Indian bustard -- has also reached a very diminutive level.

There are many more bird species like Jerdon’s courser, Bengal florican and lesser florican, among others, which are facing habitat destruction and consequent population decline issues. To make matters worse, not much information is available on the possible threats to these species.

There are many more miserable stories, and even though the success rate of survival exists, it is quite low. But statistics related to the Indian one-horned rhino, Asiatic lion and pygmy hog are some big successes, and need to be given their due. For instance, the number of Indian one-horned rhino came down to 200 in early 1900s, but is now touching 3,000 in the wild. This miracle could come about largely due to the dedicated forest staff of Kaziranaga Park who controlled poaching in the area and set an example for the rest of the world.

And even though we have lost the Asiatic cheetah, we have been successful in saving the Asiatic lion. Facing the threat of destruction due to hunting by royals in various princely states in the pre-Independence era, the number of Asiatic lions has now grown from 20-25 to above 400. The credit for this positive story again goes to the forest department of Gir which managed to effectively curb poaching and hunting.

The positive story of the pygmy hog is also most encouraging. Thanks to the initiative shown by wildlife expert, Goutam Narayan, the species has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Pygmy hog is the smallest pig in the world and it makes a nest to live. However, the status of this pig’s survival is more critical than that of tigers as it is still considered critically endangered according to IUCN, while the tiger comes under the endangered category.

Such success stories motivate us to work towards reversing the extinction process, but we need a proper plan and willingness to make these rare and valuable species safe in our country. It is now time to think and reflect on how we can -- in our small capacity -- make the change!

(The writer is a conservation biologist at

Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)

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