Tag Archive | "conservation"

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Greater One Horned Rhino

Posted on 29 April 2012 by RE Team

Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, also known as Indian Rhinoceros, is exclusively found in Assam state of North-East India and in the in the Terai region of Nepal. Its most significant difference to African Rhinoceros is the single horn on its head compared to two horns of the African counterpart.

The Scientific Name: Rhinoceros Unicornis

Where is it found?

One-horned rhinos once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, including parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. They may have also existed in Myanmar, southern China and Indochina. But their habitat shrunk due to human influences and now confined to only eastern region of India and Terai region of Nepal. Two Third of the wild population of the species is found in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, North-East India only. Kaziranga National Park in Assam is home to more than 1500 One Horned Rhinoceros.

How does it look?

Greater one horned rhino is the largest living species of Rhinoceros, with African White Rhinoceros. The males are larger in size than the females. It weighs 1800 – 3000 Kg on average, but the largest specimen is known to have weighed around 4000 kg. Males have an average length of 3.1–3.8 meters with a shoulder height of 1.6-2.0 meters, while females have an average length of 3.0–3.4 meters and a shoulder height of 1.4-1.8 meters(6 feet). Greater one-horned rhinos have one horn, present in both adult male and female. It typically grows around 20 cm long, and weighs up to 2-3 kg. The longest ever recorded horn is 58 cm. The horn is pure keratin, has the same structure as the hooves of horses and re-grows if broken. It is not used for fighting but for the search of food and foraging for roots. Armour-plating appearance is the most interesting feature of Greater one horn rhino along with it’s horn. The Armour plating is actually thick folds of shin. Several prominent folds of skin protect the neck. The skin can have a maximum thickness of 4 cm; the subcutaneous fat is 2-5 cm thick and well supplied with blood, which helps therm-regulation, so that the animal is able to regulate its own body temperature in varying weather conditions. Between the folds, around the stomach, the inner legs and the facial area, the skin is rather soft and thin.

How does it live?

The Indian One horn Rhinoceros live on wide variety plants, mainly grass, fruits, leaves, branches of trees, shrubs, submerged and floating aquatic plants and sometimes agricultural crops too. Due to their love of aquatic plants, they are usually found near water sources. Socially the One-horned Rhinos mostly live in solitary. Two mature Rhinos are found together only during mating season. The calf accompany mother up to 4 years. Sometimes mother allow even the older calf to accompany with a new born. Though the One horn Rhinos are solitary in nature, they are usually friendly to each other when confronted. But males are known to fight with each other and this fights can even turn out to be fatal to the weaker contender at times. The territories of males are also defined loosely and often overlaps. The territory can extend 4-8 square km in area. The female attains maturity at the age of 7 years while the males after 10-12 years. The gestation period is 16 months. The average life of One-horned Rhino is around 40 years. The maximum recorded age is 47 years.

What are the threats?

In the early 20th century the One horn Rhinoceros almost reached a phase of extinction. This was attributed to habitat shrinking due to human population rise and agriculture. Sport hunting during 1800-1900 was another grave reason to it’s decline. According to reports, in 1908 only 12 Rhinos were surviving in the Kaziranga. But strict conservation measures were put for the species and the population increased encouragingly in specific pockets. But the Rhino faced extinction in most of the ranges in northern India. In recent times, poaching is considered as the most alarming threat to the Greater One Horn Rhinoceros. In Traditional Chinese belief, the Horn of the Rhino is considered cure to many diseases like fever, rheumatism, gout etc. and also it is considered as aphrodisiac. Like China, the Rhino horn has traditional demand in various other countries of Asia. Though there is no scientific base for all these believes, the Rhino horn fetches exotic price in the black market. This is the main reason for increasing poaching of the species which mounts to more than hundred every year. Apart from poaching, Rhino habitat mostly coincides with populous human habitats. This continuously is bringing the wetlands and other habitat of the species as those lands are converted into cultivation. Increasing human-wildlife conflicts also is a major threat to the species. In some places, human interventions have also brought invasive alien plants into Rhino habitat shrinking their food availability.

Conservation Efforts

Since the beginning of 20th century, major conservation efforts have been put to save the Magnificent Rhino species. All Rhinos in wild now live in special protected zones in both India and Nepal. There are anti-poaching measures placed in all these zones, but it requires strict implementation and proper infrastructure and resources. There have been efforts to prevent invasive plants and also to increase the area of habitat. The species is listed in CITES Appendix I since 1975. WWF has been very active in conserving the species along with other local organizations. There have been also efforts on translocation of the One horn Rhino since 1980s.

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African Elephant

Posted on 29 April 2012 by RE Team

African Elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal on Earth. It inhabits the Savannah, brush, forest, river valleys, and semi-desert regions of Africa, ranging from sub-Saharan region to the rain forests of central and West Africa.

Where is it found?

The African Elephants are found range throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of central and West Africa. The continent’s northernmost elephants are found in Mali’s Sahel desert. The small, nomadic herd of Mali elephants migrates in a circular route through the desert in search of water.
Poaching is the biggest concern for the elephants in Africa. Huge number of elephants are killed every year by poachers for Ivory and other elephant parts. Due to economical and political issues, the conservation of the elephants vary from country to country. Human encroachment into or adjacent to natural areas have shrink-ed the habitat of this largest mammal. In 1990 an international ban was imposed on Elephant Ivory. The poaching reduced after that. It is estimated that the total population of African Elephants reduced from 1.3 million to only 0.6 million due to poaching and hunting. The current population of African Elephant is stated from 500,000 to 700,000.

How does it live?

Elephants are herbivorous. Their diet varies according to their habitat; elephants living in forests, partial deserts, and grasslands all eat different proportions of herbs and tree or shrubbery leaves. Elephants inhabiting the shores of Lake Kariba have been recorded eating underwater plant life too. An adult elephant can consume up to 200 kilograms of food in a single day.
African Elephant lives up to around 70 years, with females mostly fertile between 25 and 45. Males need to reach 20 years of age in order to successfully compete for mating. Young elephants wean after 6 to 18 months, although they may continue nursing for over 6 years. Male elephants leave their natal group at puberty and tend to form much more fluid alliances with other males. Usually, a single calf is born every 2.5-9 years , after a gestation period of 22 months. But there are some examples of twins too.

How does it look?

There are two recognized subspecies of African Elephant. The Savanna (or bush) elephant (Loxodonta africana africana), and the Forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis). Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants, and their tusks curve outwards. In addition to being smaller, forest elephants are darker and their tusks are straighter and downward pointing. There are also differences in the size and shape of the skull and skeleton between the 2 subspecies. The elephants most prominent body part is the trunk. It is actually a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, etc. Males have large tusks that they use to battle with one another. The African Elephants are distinguished with Asian Elephants by the larger ears.

The male Elephants are bigger in size than females. A full grown male African Bush Elephant can reach almost 4 meters (13 ft) in height while African Forest Elephant hardly exceed 2.5 meters (8 ft) in height. The Bush Elephant can weigh upto 9,000 Kg (20,000 lb).With regard to the number of toenails: the African Bush Elephant normally has 4 toenails on the frontfoot and 3 on the hindfoot, the African Forest Elephant normally has 5 toenails on the frontfoot and 4 on the hindfoot.

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White Rhino

Posted on 25 April 2012 by RE Team

One of the five species of Rhinoceros alive.

Scientific Name : Ceratotherium simum

Where is it found?

White Rhinoceroses are found in grassland and Savannah habitat. Once distributed all over Africa, the White Rhinos are now surviving in very few countries. The southern subspecies is found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda. The southern white rhino was under severe threat in the early 20th century. But conservation measures helped and it is estimated to have around 20,170 specimens in wild as of December 2010. On the other hand, the northern white rhino is one of the rarest species on earth. It is currently found only in Garamba National Park of Congo Republic. Scientists and conversationalists are trying the save this species with numbers less than 10.


The Distribution of White Rhinoceros



How does it live?

White rhinos are most social rhino species. Their herd may comprise of 10-15 most of them are female. Most adult males are solitary and they mark their territory with excrement and urine. The mating period is normally of just 5-10 days. Gestation occurs around 16–18 months. A single calf is born and usually weighs between 40 and 65 kg. A white rhino can live up to 35-40 years.

How does it look?

The white rhinos are world’s second largest land mammal after Elephants. The head and body length is 3.4 to 4.2 meters (11 to 14 ft). They may weigh till 4500 kgs. The males are heavier than the females. They have two horns. The front horn is larger than the back and can length up to 1.5 meter. Horns are made of compressed hair. Like most rhinoceroses, the young are quite hairy but adults are hairless except for their ear rims, tail tip and eyelashes.

What are the threats?

White Rhinoceros is legally protected across all habitats, but the survival of the species is threatened. Human activities are the primary threat to this large mammal. Habitat is destroyed by the expansion of settlement. But the most serious threat is poaching. Every year great number of the animals are poached for their horns, which are prized extra-ordinarily in some Asian countries, special in China, for their supposed value as an aphrodisiac and other medicine. Another reason why this animal is poached is the ornamental value of it’s horn in the international market.

Conservation Efforts

The conservation requirements for both the sub species of white rhinoceros are completely different. Northern white rhinoceros is considered one of the rarest mammal on earth, while Southern white rhinoceros is set as an example of successful conservation effort. many effective measures of conservation have been taken to protect the White Rhinoceros. Many remaining rhino are now concentrated in fenced sanctuaries, conservancies, rhino conservation areas and intensive protection zones. Over 5,500 White Rhino across Africa are now managed by the private sector throughout Africa with the majority in South Africa. Starting 1977, all African rhino species were listed on CITES Appendix I, and all international commercial trade in rhinos and their products was prohibited. However all these efforts frequently find set back from various human factors. The increasing black market prices for rhino horn, and increased poaching of rhino and involvement of criminal syndicates in recent years pose a significant threat to rhino populations. Also the private management of the Rhinos are declining because of increasing protection costs and risks involved.

A Documentary on rare Northern White Rhinoceros

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Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Posted on 30 May 2011 by RE Team

If a list of the most endangered mammals of Indian Subcontinent is made today, one species that should get a higher position, that is the Himalayan Wolf. Unfortunately this beautiful animal is getting much less attention than its required.

Himalayan Wolf was believed to be a subspecies of gray wolf called the Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco). But recent studies on Himalayan Wolf by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has revealed some very interesting biological aspect of the animal. The extensive research suggested that the Himalayan Wolf should be considered as a distinct species and it is given the name Canis himalayensis. This scientific name was proposed as nomenclature and taxonomic change for Himalayan Wolf by the Nomenclature Specialist on the CITES Animals Committee in April 2009.

Unfortunately the status of the new species claim of the Himalayan wolf is still uncertain, but it is now widely considered as a distinct species. In today’s explored world, it is indeed a rare event to discover a new species of mammal, especially that of a large carnivore. The wolf is considered to be the most studied of Carnivores in the world and this the discovery is as thrilling as it is surprising. Another interesting face of the Himalayan Wolf is that unlike Gray Wolves, they are completely distinct from domestic dogs. It might be the the most ancient representative of the animals anywhere in the world. The Analysis done on genetic material from one of the wolves showed that its lineage stems back around 800,000 years.

Despite all these very important aspects of the Himalayan Wolf, the animal yet to get the status and attention it deserves. There is only ~350 Himalayan Wolves surviving in the trans-Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The conservation of this animal is becoming urgent now.

Global Acceptance

The first hurdle in the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is the older concept about the species. Till a decade back it was considered as a subspecies of Tibetian Wolf found in the high mountain regions of the Himalayan range. The Tibetain Wolf is a subspecies of Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus), one of the widely distributed mammal in the planet. The gray wolf is given “Least Concern” status by the IUCN Red List and so the Tibetian Wolf. Still being considered a variety of Tibetian Wolf by many, the Himalayan Wolf getting the least concern signal from many conservationists. The stand from IUCN Red List to declare this as a separate species and put in the critically endangered status is uncertain.

Education, Conflict & Compensation

The major threat to the Himalayan Wolf is it’s conflict with the local villagers in the region of its habitat. The wolf locally known as Shanku, is considered as the key threat to the livestock of the villagers. There is a strained relationship existed between the villagers and the wildlife of the region, specially the carnivores like Himalayan Wolf. The Himalayan Wolf is a big menace to the local people as every year it is accountable for at least 100 livestock killings in the region. The amount of damage caused by this animal force the villagers to take drastic steps as killing them or poison them. Adding more to their agony, the government or any organization have come up to support these people.

With shrinking habitat for the wolves, the conflict and preying on livestock is increasing resulting in more killings of this rare wolf. Now it requires a full fledged campaign to educate the local people about the importance of Himalayan Wolf for eco balance. There are organization like “Snow Leopard Conservancy” and project like “Muse” that focuses on the Sustainable development, education among the local by linking their economical growth to the wildlife. The organizations are doing good job by bringing revenues to the villages via eco-tourism. The new generation is becoming aware of the wildlife due to these efforts. But this is not enough to save the species like Himalayan Wolf whose territory is wide covering more than 70000 sq km. More involvement from the government is expected to bring a huge change. There should be proper compensation for the loss of livestock which brings down anger of the people against the wolves. Also the process to get the compensation should be made easier for the villagers. A tedious process will not be fruitful.

Special Protection Zone

Another major problem with the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is protected area. There is no protected area declared by Indian Government till now for this rare mammal species. The increasing agriculture and population in the villages slowly shrinking the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. This is a grave concern for the species. When the breeding ground of a species is affected, the survival of the species comes under a question! There should be initiative from the government to make sure that outsiders don’t disturb or pollute the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. The probable places will be Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh where groups of Himalayan wolves are sighted frequently.

Global Climate Change

One major threat that is affecting the whole wildlife in the Himalayan region is the climate change. The global warming or the increasing temperature is causing glacier melt in the region. The Himalayan wolf who survives in this low temperature region are facing habitat issue due to the glacier melts. This is one global issue and if special care not taken to the Himalayan Wolf, they can be one of the initial victims of the global warming.

Effective Captive Breeding

Captive Breeding programs are started for the Himalayan Wolves in four Zoos in India. These are Padmaja Naidu Himalayan, Zoological Park, Darjeeling; Himalayan Zoological Park, Gangtok; Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri; and Pt. Gobind Vallabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital. These are programs for Tibetian wolves and there is no special program for the Himalayan wolves. The captive breeding population is around 20. More funds and area to be put under these captive breeding programs to make it successful. A major challenge faced by animals bred in captivity is their struggle to adjust in the wild where they need to feed and protect themselves. Only Darjeeling Zoo is trying to solve this problem of the Himalayan endangered species by planning to set up an off display breeding centre. The primary objective of such an initiative is to release the zoo bred animals to the wild with the near wild environment of the proposed centre facilitating both breeding and honing of hunting skills of these animals. These kind of special facilities need to be started in all the Zoos for the Himalayan Wolves.

Please provide more thoughts and suggestion to Save the Himalayan Wolf!


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

New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

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Success Story: European Bats

Posted on 26 October 2010 by RE Team

New research backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reveals European bats to be a major conservation success. Bats are the only true flying mammal in the Earth and there are more than 1,1oo known bat species across the planet. They play very crucial role  in insect control and pollination.

With a majority of bat species in Europe stabilising or increasing in number, European bats are well on the way to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7 on Environmental Sustainability, which aims for a significant reduction in the rate of species loss by 2010.


European Bat


This bucks the trend in global conservation targets, which are currently being discussed in Nagoya. World governments agreed eight years ago at a UN summit in Johannesburg to reduce the rate of species loss by 2010 but in the majority of cases, the pledge has not been met. This is mainly due to a lack of conservation action in the field, which is essential in protecting vulnerable species.

Among the 26 bat species in western and central Europe, increasing or stable population trends have been reported for at least 14 species, while only two species have shown a decline. (Reliable data is not yet available for the remaining species).

The credit of this success largely goes to legislation and treaties that promotes specific conservation measures. These include the UNEP-administered Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Council of Europe) and the European Union’s Flora Fauna Habitat Directive.

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Photos of Nature