Tag Archive | "conservation"

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Russian Sturgeon

Posted on 09 January 2013 by RE Team

The Scientific Name : Acipenser gueldenstaedtii

Where is it found?

The Russian is currently found the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. In the Caspian sea region it spawns in the rivers Ural and Volga, where in the Black Sea spawning occurs in the lower Danube and Rioni rivers. Once it was found in abundance in the Azov Sea basins, which is now considered as extinct as no known native spawning population is there in that region. The species prefers shallow water of the coastal sea and deep regions of large rivers where the current is strong.

 

Russian Sturgeon Range

 

How does it live?

The Russian Sturgeon feeds on a wide variety of benthic molluscs, crustaceans and small fish. Males attain maturity at around 8 years, while females at around 10 years. The females reproduce every 4-6 years while males 2-3 years. This long reproduction cycle is a major threat for the fish. After maturity they migrate from the sea to the fresh water rivers into several hundred kilometers. It usually happens in the Autumn of in the Spring when the temperature rises above 10 deg C. Juveniles mostly spend their years in the sea till they attain maturity.The maximum age ever recorded of a Russian Sturgeon is 48 years.

How does it look?

Russian Sturgeon is a gigantic fish usually reaches a length of 2 meters and weight more than 100 kg. The juveniles look beautiful with white diamond like scales that become grey with age. They grow very fast, 1 ft/year, for initial few years. Body Of the Russian Sturgeon is spindle-shaped and proportionally wide. Dorsal scutes can range from 8 to 18, lateral scutes 24-50 and ventral scutes 6-13. It differs from other species of the Acipenser genera by its short snout with rounded tip, as well as by its lower lip, which is interrupted at its center. Barbells are not fringed, they are short, curved and situated near the top of the snout.

What are the threats?

The Russian Sturgeons are struggling hard to survive. The spawning grounds for the species have been lost to various large river dams created in the Danube, Don and Volga river. It is estimated that the species has lost more than 70% of its spawning grounds since 1950s. Annual catch for the fish has dropped drastically since 1980s from 90 – 100% i n most of the regions. Fishing, which is now strictly banned, is also one of the major threat to the fish currently. The caviar of the Russian sturgeon is one of the most sought after, and the flesh of the fish is also in demand always making poaching of the fish more frequent. High levels of pollution (from oil and industrial waste), in both the Black and Caspian Sea basins have altered hormonal balance, and increased the number of hermaphroditic fish. In 1990, 55,000 sturgeon were found dead on the shore of the Sea of Azov as the result of pollution.

Conservation Efforts

The fishing of Russian Sturgeon is made illegal many years ago in Russia and Iran both. But the enforcement of the law is not happening. The increasing demand is luring the poachers. General conservation measures for the fish is also weak or never applied. Fish lifts and artificial spawning grounds have been introduced to parts of the Caspian region without much success. The pollution level of the Caspian and Black sea have been decreasing in recent years, but the fish is still not out of danger from genetic deformation.

The Russian Sturgeon Conservation

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Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

Posted on 21 December 2012 by RE Team

Wolves in the Himalayas, despite their abstruse status as distinct species or subspecies, serve an important role in the ecology of Trans-Himalaya, holding the status of the top predator along with the snow leopard. Wolves in India are protected by law under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. However, the wolves from the Himalayas are one of the least protected large mammals and also the least studied mammals of the country. The only study on their abundance, so far, concludes with the presence of only 350 animals in the wild. The fact revealed through the genetic studies, that they are the oldest lineage of the wolves in the world, adds to their importance with respect to conservation. The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun started a project on ecology and conservation of wolves in the Himalayas in 2010 to fill this information gap and formulate conservation measures for these mammals of high altitude.

An initial survey was conducted by a team of Wildlife Institute of India, to study the level and pattern of human–wolf conflict in their distribution area and mark their distribution range in the Himalayas, with identification of conservation priority areas for them. Studies show that these wolves are the top predators of livestock accounting for 60% of the total livestock loss because of predation, followed by the snow leopard (38%). Agriculture is limited in arduous living conditions in the Trans-Himalayan region and livelihood of local people is mainly dependent on small livestock. This landscape serves as a grazing ground for nomadic and local herders and is economically important to these groups. Moreover, low productivity in these areas constricts the population of wild prey population and brings the wolves into conflict with humans. This results in retaliatory killing of the wolves, which is one of the biggest threats to them.

We have already mentioned the effort from Wildlife Institute of India to conserve this rare wolves of Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan region (refer ). The team from the Institute, consisting Shivam Shrotriya, Salvador Lyngdoh and Dr. Bilal Habib, have recently extended their study on the lineages of various Himalayan/Trans-Himalayan wolves. An article published in “Current Science” magazine, they raised the grave concern in the in-conclusive taxonomy of the Himalayan wolves which may in-turn affect and mobilize the conservation efforts of the animal. It has been 165 years since the wolf of the Himalayas was first described but the conclusion on the exact taxonomy of the animal not yet arrived due lack of proper study and good genetic field sample from the field. B. H. Hodgson was the first to describe the Himalayan wolf as a distinct species,  Canis laniger,  in 1847.  After many scientists described and identified Himalayan wolves as different species and given various lineages. Some important snapshot from the article published in “Current Science” is given below:

“They (Sharma, D. K., Maldonado, R. E., Jhala, Y. V. and Fleischer, R. C), further, argue that Himalayan  C. lupus chanco  is the most ancestral and diverged at 800,000 years ago, when the Himalayan region was going through a major geologic and climatic upheaval.  Indian Canis lupus pallipes is altogether diverged from wolf-dog clade 400,000 years ago. These lineages are the oldest of all wolf lineages in the world, hence it is postulated that India could have been the centre of origin of wolf-dog clan. In this study, dogs were reported to be in close relation with the wolves from Europe and America, therefore, wolves of India might have not been used for domestication. Dogs have originated from multiple wolf ancestors and they started to diverge about 150,000 years ago. ”

 

Wolves from (a) Kashmir valley, North-west Himalayan region of India (courtesy: Mir M. Mansoor); (b) Sikkim Zoo - Captive-bred individuals, wild individuals were captured from Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, Trans-Himalayan Landscape (courtesy: Pankaj Kumar); (c) Leh- Ladakh, Trans-Himalayan Landscape (courtesy: Y. V. Bhatnagar); (d) Peninsular India, central Indian Landscape (courtesy: A. Patil).

 

“Taxonomic confusion regarding the identification and recognition of wolves from the Trans-Himalayan region of  India and parts of Tibet has persisted for the last 165 years. Hodgson
was the first to describe the Himalayan wolf as a distinct species,  Canis laniger, noting its well-developed frontal sinuses, unusually elongated muzzle, distinct coloration and the woolliness of its under fur (cited in Sharma et al.). Blanford later combined C. laniger with C. lupus and elevated the Indian wolf to  C. pallipes. His views about the wolves of Baluchinstan and Gilgit are consistent with the findings of Sharma  et al. Much later,  Pocock described both taxa as subspecies of  C. lupus, making  C. laniger and  C. pallipes parts of the more widely distributed C. lupus chanco and C. lupus pallipes respectively. These views were widely accepted until genetic analysis revealed otherwise and revived the discussion.

However, so far none of the studies has been able to sort out the problems related to the taxonomic identification of wolves of the Trans-Himalayan landscape of India.”

Please find the complete research article here.

 

 

Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

 

 

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Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo

Posted on 11 July 2012 by RE Team

 

The Scientific Name : Dendrolagus mayri

Many scientists consider Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo as a subspecies of the tree-kangaroo species Dendrolagus dorianus.

Where is it found?

Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo was located in the Wondiwoi peninsula of West Papua at an elevation of 1600m within mossy montane forest. It is thought that the Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo can occupy an area of 300 square kilometers. Very few expeditions have been made to it’s habitat and till now very little is know about the habitat of this species.

How does it live?

The Tree Kangaroos spend their lifetime in trees only. They live on sap, eggs, grains, flowers, barks, etc. As no special research is done on Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo, very little is known about their exact food, reproduction etc.

 

How does it look?

The Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo is a distinctive animal, carrying to an extreme the yellowish silver tipping of the fur. The underlying colour of the coat is blackish, but it is so heavily frosted with yellowish hairs that at certain angles the coat appears to be yellow. The rump and limbs are reddish, while the tail is almost white. The only specimen weighed was in 1928 by Mayr. The adult male weighed by Mayr was 9.2 kilogram.

What are the threats?

Hunting is considered the most serious threat to Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo. The mountains of the Wondiwoi Peninsula include substantial deposits of high grade mica. Mining plans have been developed there in recent past. These plans may have serious impact on the conservation of this distinctive tree-kangaroo.

Conservation Efforts

An immediate research and study on the species is needed if it’s still surviving. The study will help creating a conservation plan for the species. There is no protected area known for this species.

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Frog Sizes in Extremes

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

A frog species can be as small as few millimeter, while the largest species grows more than a feet. There is an interesting world of this amphibian.

Few years back in the jungles of Borneo, Dr Indraneil Das and colleague Alexander Haas discovered a new tiny species. It is a frog measuring only 3 mm in length. The full grown adults of the species are of the size 9mm to 12mm. This species named as “Microhyla nepenthicola” was found in Kubah National Park, Malayasia. This is one of the smallest known frog species in the world. But what is the smallest known Frog?

 

Goliath Frog in it's natural habitat @ courtesy Arkive.com

 

There is fierce competition for the smallest Frog award. Till 1996, Brazilian Gold frog (Psyllophryne Didactyla) was unanimously accepted by scientists as the smallest known Frog. This species grows 9.8 mm. But in 1996, a new frog species discovered  in Monte Iberia, Cuba claims equally small size. This species is names as  Eleutherodactylus iberia.

On the contrary, the largest living frog is out of any competition. It is known as Goliath frog (Conraua goliath) and found in central western African country Cameroon. This frog can grow up to 33 cm (more than a foot) without counting the legs. It can weigh around 3.3 kg (7 lb). Though very huge in size, this frog is very calm in nature and has a life span of 15 years. Though the Goliath frog is the largest “living” frog, the largest ever ”known” frog is called “Devil Frog” and lived in Madagascar 65-70 million years ago. From the fossils found it is apparent that it could grow till 40 cm in length and weigh up to 4.5 kg (11 lb). It was powerfully built, and had a very wide mouth and strong jaws.

There are hundreds new species of frogs discovered in recent. The above records may change any time. But, unfortunately the frogs along with all amphibiansa are facing serious extinction threat. It is estimated that more than 100 species have been declared extinct from the planet in last three decades. Thousands of them are on the verse of extinction. This mass extinction of amphibians is due human cause pollution, deforestation and also due to fungal a skin disease.

Scientists and researchers are taking serious steps to save them from this extinction event!

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Karpathos Frog

Posted on 16 May 2012 by RE Team

Karpathos Frog is one of the most isolated and rarest amphibian species found in Europe.

The Scientific Name : Pelophylax(Rana) cerigensis

Where is it found?

The Karpathos Frog is currently found only in the Karpathos island of Greece situated in the Carpathian Sea of the Mediterranean. Till mid 90s the frog was believed to be found in the near by Rhodes island too. But later confirmed the species to be endemic to the Karpathos island only. In the island also, the frog is very restricted to just an single river system of area at most 100 square km(while the total area of the island is 350 square km) on the northern part of the island, near Olympos. The last population of the frog is found in the water sources of high altitude and mountains of Olympos. The Karpathos Forg prefers still or very slow running water.

How does it live?

The Karpathos Forg is mostly aquatic. Breeding and larval development of the Karpathos Frog takes place in their habitat waterbodies. The frog is probably carnivourous like other water frogs.

 

How does it look?

The Karpathos Frog is considered as a mid-sized frog, the adults can grow upto 7 cm in length. It has light brownish gray to olive color dorsal, with or without light brown spots. The venter is usually cream-colored with gray spots. The males have paired external lateral vocal sacs which are dark gray in color.

 

What are the threats?

Habitat loss is the greatest threat to the Karpathos Forgs. They are very sensitive to any habitat change. Any water pollution may be fatal to the species. karpathos is a dry island and in recent days there is a scarcity of fresh water sources due to excessive abstraction of it for agriculture and industries. The species is vulnerable to climatic change too which is a global phenomenon now. Wild fires are are considered as a threat to the species. Though the frog population site is remote, the species may go extinct anytime because of its small single site distribution of population.

Conservation Efforts

The Karpathos Frogs were adundant in the island in 1960s, the sitings of the frog have reduced dramatically in recent days. The government has declared protected areas for the Karpathos frogs. But not many organizations are known to have been working on the conservation of the species. There are no captive insurance population too. There were very little studies and researches done on the species and its conservation in the past. There is an urgent need to know more about the frog and provide proper monitoring and protection to its habitat.

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Chinese Alligator

Posted on 16 May 2012 by RE Team

The Chinese Alligator is one of the rarest crocodilian and the smallest of the only two alligator species surviving today. It is also known as Yangtze Alligator as it it found only the Yangtze river system of China.

The Scientific Name : Alligator sinensis

Where is it found?

Once the Chinese alligator was found in the extensive lakes and marshlands of the middle-lower Yangtse River region and along the river from Shanghai to Jianling City. Due to its rarity and also secretive behavior, in recent historical times the alligator have never been abundant. Due to rapid habitat loss and uncontrolled killing of the species with the human population growth in China, the Chinese alligator was found only in scattered groups in southeastern Anhui Province and parts of adjacent Zhejiang and Jiangau provinces as early as 1920s. Today the alligator species is mostly restricted to a 433 square kilometer reserve in the Anhui province of the lower Yangtze. Chinese alligators prefers slow-moving freshwater sources including marshlands, ponds, lakes, reservoirs and river backwater canals. With the loss of natural habitats, they are also found in rice paddies, irrigation networks, etc in recent times.

The range of the Chinese Alligators wild population

 

How does it live?

The Chinese alligator is an opportunistic feeder. Its diet mostly includes snails, crustaceans, insects and fish, but young waterfowl and rodents are also taken if available. They are not known to have eaten any large mammals. In recent days are known to have attacked ducks of the villagers, for which it has faced the wrath of human society quite often. The alligators spend most of their lifetime in burrows avoiding extreme winters and also human intervention during daylights. They hunt only during the summer from April to October during nights. They reach adulthood at an age of 4-5 years. The mating is polygamous and usually very aggressive when the opposite sexes meet. The breeding period is the summer and the female lays 10-15 eggs. The incubation period is usually around 70 days. Social life of the Chinese alligator starts during the incubation period only, when nest mates communicate egg to egg and with parents who open the egg chamber. This results in synchronized hatching. The babies spend weeks to years under the protection of the mother. Juvenile makes a vocal sound to bring the group together , and mother also respond to then with a distress call. Chinese Alligator known to have a lifespan of around 50 years in wild and 70 years in captivity.

How does it look?

Chinese Alligator is considered to be one of the smallest crocodilian species. It normally reaches 5 feet in length. The largest alligator measured in recent times was 7 feet 1 inch. It can barely weigh upto 45 kg. Whole body of the Chinese alligator is covered with dar green abd black scales. The scales are harder on back and softer on the sides and belly. Even the upper lids are covered with boney scales for this alligator which is a major difference with it’s other counterpart, the American Alligator. The Chinese alligator has 72-76 teeth, adapted more for crushing shells of molluscs. The juveniles are black with bright yellow cross-banding.

What are the threats?

Habitat loss is cited as the most important threat for the Chinese Alligators. Most of the natural wetlands, marshlands were destroyed in the past decades for agriculture and other developments. Building dams in the river system have eliminated core habitats of the alligator. The remaining natural habitats are also frequently destroyed by flooding of the Yangtse river.

Apart from habitat loss, human-alligator conflict has killed many of the precious species in the past. Though the alligator is not capable of attacking or killing large mammals or humans, the very concept of considering any crocodilian species as dangerous predator in culture has killed many innocent animals. Also the large burrow created by the alligators hamper the irrigation system of the farmers at times, which make the farmers angry towards the species.

Many of the Chinese alligators have been killed due to their meat value in the Chinese market. There is a mythical believe that the alligator’s meat can cure many diseases including cancer. Any human-alligator conflict which always results in the killing of the alligator, usually ends in the market of China selling meat and various other organs of the alligator by the farmers.

Conservation Efforts

Some experts considered the Chinese Alligator as extinct evern during 1920s. But later some fragmented populations were discovered in wild. There was no significant research or conservation effort held on the species till the Communist revolution in China in 1949. The need of protection of alligator became important only post revolution stage. In 1972 for the first time Chinese government listed Chinese Alligator as the first class endangered animal of the country. In 1979, captive breeding centers were established in Anhui and Zhejiang provinces. The government conservation efforts has been more focused on the captive population rather than the wild survivors. Almost till date, the wild eggs are collected artificially incubated to increase the captive population. The first ever scientific study on the alligator was done in 1980 with the collaboration of both Chinese and US scientists. The studies were performed in the captive breeding centers and all the knowledge on the Chinese alligator in till recent times are based on these studies. In 1990s the species got international recognition as critically endangered species. In recent days public awareness has also been created to reduce any killing of the species in the wild. The captive breeding centers releases live alligators for the meat business to counter the market demands and also recover their costs. In last couple of years there have been reports of the species recovering in the wild, with the population stregth growing from 100 to 300. The captive breeding programs have been largely successful with a population strength of whooping 10000 now. The conservationists are now concentrating on reintroducing the alligators into wild from the captive centers. Some of the organizations that work for the conservation of the species now are Wildlife Conservation Society, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Management of the State Forestry Administration of China,

The Chinese Alligator – Species on the Brink

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Radiated Tortoise

Posted on 14 May 2012 by RE Team

The most beautiful tortoise in the world, Radiated Tortoise, endemic to Madagascar may face extinction soon due to constant exploitation on the species in recent years.

The Scientific Name : Astrochelys radiata

Where is it found?

The Radiated Tortoise is endemic to Madagascar. The tortoises natural distribution is limited to xeric spiny forests on the Mahafaly and Karimbola plateaus of southwestern Madagascar. Historically, the range of the Radiated Tortoise encompassed a 50 km band along Madagascar’s southwestern coast, from northeast of Morombe to the Bay of Ranofatsy. But in late 90s the tortoise population became highly fragmented in the south east and north regions. In 1995 the population of the tortoise was estimated to around 2-4 millions. There were an estimated decline of population by around 30% in 2003 as compared to in 1975. Currently the core-area of the tortoise’s range is the Mahafaly and Karimbola plateaus, from Lake Tsimanampetsotsa to Cap Sainte Marie. The total area spans approximately 10,000-16,000 km2. The core are has a population density of around 2500 individuals per square km. Radiated tortoises live in dry regions of brush, thorn bushes and woodlands. They are herbivorous, feeding on grasses and succulents, including the Opuntia cactus, which was introduced to Madagascar and spread quickly. The native calls this species as “Sokakes”.

How does it live?

The Radiated Tortoise prefers new growth plants rather than mature plants due to the high protein and low fiber content of the vegetation. They graze in the same area for an extended period of time, keeping the vegetation in that area trim. These tortoises don’t prefer warm temperature, drink lot of water to avoid any dehydration. They are diurnal and active during daytime. The mating of the radiated tortoises may become a noisy affair. The male involves into mating after it reaches a size of around one foot (30 cm). They males fight for the females and the winner makes hissing and grunting sound while mating. The female tortoise digs a hole on the ground post mating to form a nest. it normally lays around 3 to 12 eggs. Incubation period for the eggs is long, from 145 to 231 days. The hatch-lings measure between 3 to 4 cm in length and they develop their carapace quickly after hatching. The radiated tortoise makes very shrilling voice at times believed to be scare away any unwelcome enemies. If the tortoise is captures, it makes similar sound which can last upto an hour or more. The tortoise can live upto 50 years in wild, but in captivity they can live way beyond 100 years.

Radiated Tortoise Distribution


How does it look?

The radiated tortoises are considered as the most beautiful tortoise species by many. It has a high-domed dark colored carapace/shell with yellow lines running down from the center of the carapace. The tortoise was named as radiated tortoise because of the radiation pattern of it’s shell. The leg, feet and tail are of yellow color. An adult radiated tortoise may weigh up to 16 kg and can grow up to 40 cm in length. Males have slightly longer tails and more protruding scutes.

What are the threats?

There are three major threats to the Radiated Tortoise, habitat loss, poaching for food and international pet-trade of the species. The wild population of the tortoise has been declining in a very faster rate due to these threats. It is estimated as the populations have decreased by around 50% in the past 10 years. Interestingly, the tortoise’s geographic range is roughly coincident with regions occupied by the Mahafaly and Antandroy, local peoples who have a taboo against touching or eating tortoises. This kept the tortoise safe for centuries in the Madagascar with very little exploitation. The exploitation of the species for pet-trade, food and aphrodisiac started only after the outside immigrant started living in the area. The tortoise smuggling has become one of the most profitable business in Madagascar shipping loads of tortoises to Asia for further exploitation. Another important threat of habitat loss is outcome of various factors. Years of extreme drought in the tortoise region have sucked the moisture. Madagascar’s remaining forests are being systematically cleared for the charcoal and agriculture..It is estimated that less than 10% of its original forest, the tortoise’s natural habitat, remains. many experts predict the extinction of the species in just 20 years, if no drastic measurement has not been taken.

Conservation Efforts

In 1985 A Species Survival Plan (SSP) was established for the radiated tortoise by the American Zoo and
Aquarium Association (AZA). In recent years, Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been working towards the survival of the species. International trade in radiated tortoises is prohibited by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The captive breeding of the species has been successful and it has been also introduced to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius. But due to lack of local political pressure, the trading and habitat loss of the tortoise is still on the way and the species is heading towards extinction.

Conservation Thoughts

The Radiated tortoise is reproducing very well in the wild, so if we can save its habitat and poaching, the population will grow naturally. Local education and awareness for the protection of the species is very necessary. As the species breed well in captivity, tortoise farming can be done to meet the meat and pet demand in the market. Although Madagascar government has laws to protect the Radiated Tortoise, the laws need to be enforced properly and should give strict punishment to the offenders. Cattle grazing and other pet intruders like dogs should prohibited in the tortoise habitat. The cutting of forests in for agriculture or industrial development should be stopped. Instead, the eco-tourism and sustainable development should be encouraged to meet the required growth for the region.

A documentary on Radiated Tortoise conservation

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Endangered River Dolphins

Posted on 07 May 2012 by RE Team

River Dolphins are amongst the rarest aquatic mammals. They are  found in big rivers of  Asia and South America. The river dolphins can grow till 9-10 feet long and weigh  almost 200 pounds. There are four different species of the river dolphins known to humans, out of which three are fresh water dolphins and the other one lives in saltwater estuaries. The fresh water species are: Ganges and Indus river dolphins (Sisu and Bhulan),  Amazon river dolpins  (Boto) and Chinese river dolphins (Baiji). La Plata Dolphin (Franciscana) is the only salt water river dolphin found in South America. All these four species are critically endangered. In fact, Baiji or Chinese river dolphins are declared functionally extinct in 2007. Here goes the stories of all the different species:

 

River Dolphin

 

Ganges and Indus river dolphins:

Till 1998 Ganges and Indus river dolphins were considered as two different species. But in 1998 they were recognized as two sub species of the same species.  These dolphins are found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal in Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus rivers and their tributaries. The total estimated numbers of Ganges river dolphins is around 2000. Out of these, around 300 lives in Brahmaputra and are facing critical threat due to accidental killing through fisheries bycatch, followed by poaching for oil. Few decades ago the dophins were widely seen across Brahmaputra and almost all its tributaries. But now the dolphins survive only in small poackets of the river. The Indus rive dolphins also known as Blind river dolphins are found in the lower reaches of Indus river in Pakistan. Its believed that only 1000 of this species exist now in the Indus river.

Amazon river dolphins:

The Amazon river dolphins inhabit  Orinoco, Amazon and Araguaia/Tocantins River systems of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. This species is the largest and the most intelligent of all river dolphin species.  Although widely available in the Amazon, the number of this species is reducing every year.  Scientists believe that 1,500 dolphins are being killed annually in the western Amazon to fuel a lucrative trade in catfish, which feeds on dead animals.

Chinese river dolphins:

A team of scientists have concluded that the Chinese River dolphin, or baiji, is now functionally extinct following comprehensive surveys of its habitat.  Till 2006 it was found in Yangtze river of China. It is one more unfortunate event to animal history caused by human civilization. In last fifty years it is the only aquatic mammal extinction known to humans. Till 1950, around 6000 of this species existed in Yangtze river. But in few decades the number reduced due to hunting, pollution, habitat loss and other human interferences. The last Baiji was sighted in 2007.

La Plata river dolphins:

La Plata dolphins are the only river dolphins found in salt-water.  They inhabitat in in coastal Atlantic waters of southeastern South America.  They are greyish brown colour with the longest beak. The La Plata Dolphins grow 6 feet in length, weigh up to 50 kg (110 lb) and live for up to 20 years.  The La Plata River Dolphin is well known because of where it chooses to build it’s habitat.  It ranges through the La Plata River, which moves through Brazil and Argentina. Despite other fresh water dolphins, this particular dolphin has not adapted to only one type of water living.  It can move back and forth from the salt waters of the ocean and to the river waters that are fresh.  Scientists have raised concerns over the conservation of this species.  Large numbers of them are hunted or killed every year.

 

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New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Posted on 02 May 2012 by RE Team

Himalayan Wolf, one of the beautiful wolf species in the world, is considered one of the rare mammal too. Unfortunately, this gorgeous wolf found the Himalayan region has been studied on very few occasions. A proper study and research on the species is very important to save it from extinction. And the encouraging news is that Wildlife Institute of India has already initiated a project and it is already taking a roll.

Shivam Shrotriya, a researcher at Wildlife Institute of India, has completed the phase 1 of a project on “Ecology and conservation of Himalayan Wolf” under the guidance of Dr. Bilal Habib & Dr. Y.V. Jhala of the same institute. The project is also funded ‘The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund‘. The project focuses to fill the huge gap on the study on the biology and ecology of the Himalayan Wolves.

 

Ecology and Conservation of Himalayan Wolf

 

Till now whatever studies have been done on the Himalayan Wolves reveal that the Himalayan lineage of wolves, spread from Spiti to Sikkim, including Nepal are the most ancient lineages wolves of the world. Population estimation of wolves in Ladakh and Spiti by earlier studies revealed the presence of just around 350 individuals left in the wild.

The current research has taken various steps further on the Himalayan Wolf studies. The study concentrates on a baseline survey across the Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan landscapes to identify key areas for wolf conservation. Since October 2010, 90 villages and groups of nomadic herders have been visited and 244 interviews have been conducted using semi-structured questionnaires for obtaining records of wolf sighting by the local people and livestock predation, in the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in India. Indices were developed to compare the level of wolf-human conflict and wolf presence across the Protected Areas.

The initial results of the study reveals that Wolves accounted for 11.2% cases of livestock predation as compared to leopard (30.8%) and snow leopard (17.5%) in Himachal Pradesh and 57% cases compared to leopard (17.6%) in Jammu & Kashmir. In Himachal Pradesh, Conflict index was found to be higher in Kibber
Wildlife Sanctuary (9.12) followed by Pin Valley National Park (1.56). In Jammu & Kashmir, the Conflict index was higher in Thajwas-Baltal Wildlife Sanctuary (13.89) followed by Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary (9.43) and Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary (4.08). Wolf Presence index
was higher in Kibber (0.76) followed by Pin Valley (0.34) and Hirpora (1.00) followed by Changthang (0.88) and Thajwas-Baltal (0.80). Considering if the livestock predation cases and the sightings by the people are relative to the abundance of wolves, Kibber and Thajwas-Baltal with adjoining Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuaries and Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary are seen as potential sites of higher abundance.

These are pioneer data on the Himalayan Wolves behaviour and habitat. The project aims to go further deep in the research. We keep great hope for the success of this project which in turn will save one the magnificent species to vanish away from our sight.

 

Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

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Snow Leopard

Posted on 29 April 2012 by RE Team

Snow Leopard is one of the magnificent big cat species found on Earth.

The Scientific Name: Uncia uncia

Where is it found?

Snow Leopards are found in the high altitude regions of Central and South Asia. They are distribued in the countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. They live between 3,000 and 5,500 metres above sea level in the rocky mountain ranges of these countries. The montain ranges include Hindukush, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kashmir and the Himalayan. It is also found in the couthern Siberian region. In summers they live in the high altitudes of the mountains and during winters they come down to forests of altitude between 1000 meters to 2000 meters. They prefer broken terrains and can easily travel in snow up to 85 centimetres deep.

How does it live?

The snow leopards are carnivores and very intelligent hunters. Their prey includes from small animals like hares, birds to large size animals wild goats, sheep, deers. They normally ambush the prey and kill with a bite on the neck. The initial leap during hunting may be as far as 15 meters!
The Snow Leopards mate in late winter. The gestation period is 90-100 days. It usually gives birth to 2-3 cubs.

How does it look?

Snow Leopards generally weigh between 27 and 54 kilograms and grow from 75 to 130 centimeter in body length(excluding the tail). It is smaller in size compared to other big cats. Snow leopards have long thick fur, the base colour of which varies from smoky grey to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts. They have dark grey to black open rosettes on their body with small spots of the same color on their heads and larger spots on their legs and tail. Unusually among cats, their eyes are pale green or grey in colour.

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MOST CONCERNED ENDANGERED SPECIES

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