|Indian rhinoceros being observed by tourists in Chitwan National Park|
Recently, conservationists have stated that the Chitwan National Park in Nepal is under threat from an invasive plant species known as Micania Micrantha. This foreign invader, which hails from South America, is notorious for destroying the park's native ecosystem by smothering, choking, and pulling over native plants. It was thought to have been introduced in southern Asia during World War II as a form of camouflage for military bunkers in India. It was later used on tea plantations to conceal exposed strips of soil, in order to prevent erosion. It was first reported in Nepal in 1966. The plant, though edible to herbivores, is nutritionally deficient compared to Nepal's native plants which sustain Chitwan's rhino population. According to Naresh Subedi, a biologist working for the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), the plant has engulfed more than a third of the national park and can cause soil erosion which will have a devastating impact on the wildlife. A single plant can produce between 20,000 and 40,000 seeds, which can be dispersed by wind, and the shoots are said to grow up to 2.7 centimeters per day. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservationist Rinjan Shrestha, who is working on a national plan to control the spread of this plant, stated that India is conducting experiments with a fungus that poisons the plant. But he acknowledged that it is going to be difficult, as no reliable method for killing it without hurting the native plants has been found yet.
I sure hope that the WWF, along with biologists and conservationists, will come up with a technique in keeping this invasive species' population in control. While this plant does not seem to be inedible to rhinos and other herbivorous animals in Chitwan National Park, it is infamous for causing soil erosion. Hearing about this foreign plant in the Indian subcontinent, made me think about another South American plant called the water hyacinth. This water plant is particularly common in ponds and lakes in India, especially in Kaziranga National Park. There, animals such as rhinos and buffaloes would be seen grazing on these succulent plants in waterholes. However, being an invasive plant, I wonder how the water hyacinth's population is kept under control. Does it involve any work from local conservationists and biologists? Or do the animals themselves keep the plant's population in check?
View article here