Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ministry of Environment and Forests Introduces Campaign to Save India's Snow Leopards and Dugongs

Snow leopard

It has recently been reported that a special conservation program is being designed in an attempt to take crucial measures to protect India's snow leopards and dugongs as they are struggling to survive in their habitats. Although the decrease in numbers of the snow leopards over the last few years has not been officially recorded due to physical limitations deriving from high-altitude mountains, committed wildlife groups have estimated that the current species' number in the country is around 700. It is said that the upper Spiti landscape in Lahaul and Spiti district in the state of Himachal Pradesh have a density of only one snow leopard in every 100 square kilometers of area. Wildlife conservationists indicated that the government had proposed a committed conservation program for the snow leopard in 2009, but the project was never carried out. The failure of utilizing the project followed by growing stress on the Himalayan ecosystem in the last five years has worsened the snow leopard's survival. Koustubh Sharma, a regional ecologist for the Snow Leopard Trust, pointed out that the leopard is an indicator species of the mountain ecosystem indicating its health. That is, it is known to indicate the state of rivers and rainfall quantity determined by the mountains. He further added that the main reason for the snow leopard's decline is inadequately planned advanced projects such as hydro-power dams, large-scale cutting, and mining in the Indian Himalayan region that disintegrates the animal's corridors and annihilates its habitats. A senior wildlife official of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) assured that the program will be in shape shortly and described it as a "landscape-based, trans-Himalayan approach with cooperation with other habitat countries like China, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, and other Central Asian countries."

It is very beneficial for the wildlife of India that a unique conservation program is being devised, in order to implement necessary measurements to ensure the survival of the country's dugongs and snow leopards. Both of these species are highly endangered due to numerous factors. The snow leopard has suffered immensely from threats such as poaching, habitat destruction, and persecution as a livestock predator. This graceful, yet ghostly cat is one of the top predators of the Himalayas and plays a significant role in keeping the populations of mountain-dwelling herbivores in check. In addition, it is also an indicator species of the mountain ecosystem's health. That is, it is indicates the state of the region's rivers and rainfall quantity determined by the mountains. This could mean that the snow leopard may serve as an indicator to the impact of climate change affecting the Himalayas. This is why it is extremely crucial to provide protection measurements to ensure its survival, which would not only help the Himalayan ecosystem but also scientists and researchers studying the impact of climate change so that they can come up with necessary steps to prevent any further damage to the region. Furthermore, the dugong, like its relative the manatee, is severely threatened by habitat degradation, pollution, fishing, hunting, etc. It is known to keep the balance in marine ecosystems by grazing on seagrass. Therefore, it is necessary to implement strong protection measurements to guarantee the survival of the dugong otherwise its disappearance would greatly impact the ecological balance of marine ecosystems of India.

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