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Issue #1681      April 22, 2015

Endangered wild animals- Some good news

With lots of bad news regarding so many species of threatened wildlife that are in danger of extinction, it is very encouraging to read some good reports about endangered wild animals. Recently, there was really wonderful news about one of the world’s most iconic animals, the Giant Panda. The Giant Panda population has risen by 268 individuals over the last decade, increasing to a total of 1,864 animals, according to the latest Chinese survey. This represents a total rise of 16.8 percent.

Found only in China, Giant Pandas are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The only surviving member of its genus, the giant panda lives almost solely on bamboo. It’s currently threatened by habitat loss and land degradation.

In addition to a rising population the survey found that Giant Pandas are also expanding their range. The species now covers 2.57 million hectares, an expansion of 11.8 percent since 2003 with about a third of the animals inhabiting range outside of protected areas.

“A lot of good work is being done around wild Giant Panda conservation and the government has done well to integrate these efforts and partner with conservation organisations including WWF,” said Xiaohai Liu, the World Wildlife Fund China’s executive director of programs.

There has also been cheery news regarding Indian Rhino conservation. Even as poaching increases in India, there is also cause for optimism. A paper published this month by Assam’s environmental ministry reveals that the population of Indian One-horned Rhinos in the state has grown by 27 percent since 2006, hitting a high of 2,544 animals. This puts the population well on track toward the Indian government’s goal of 3,000 rhinos by 2020. Smaller Indian Rhino populations live in neighbouring Nepal.

That represents a tremendous success for conservation, said Barney Long of the World Wildlife Fund, pointing out that there were only about 200 Indian Rhinos in the early 1900s. “I think this is a lovely story of conservation success, despite the hideous poaching crisis that we’re in,” he said.

“We know how to save rhinos,” he added. “You have to protect their habitat and you have to protect the animals themselves.” A third element involves moving the animals into new, safe habitats as their populations increase. “When rhinos get too dense of a population, they decrease their breeding rate,” Long said.

And there was further splendid news from India, this time about Bengal Tigers. India’s tiger population has increased by nearly 30 percent over the last four years! A recent census showed numbers of these forest-dwelling big cats reached 2,226 last year. While poaching remains the greatest threat to tigers in the wild today, the latest count released by the government of India proves that this tiger species can recover and thrive.

India is unique in having a significant number of tigers in the wild, in spite of growing population and resource extraction pressures on their habitat. The latest estimate of tigers in various landscapes published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests claims an appreciable rise in numbers of the big cat, up from 1,706 four years ago, to 2,226 in 2014 in India’s various nature reserves, ranging from the hills in the Northeast to central Indian forests and the Western Ghats, to the mangrove-rich Sundarbans delta. India’s great efforts give it a special standing in the global conservation field.

Some Indian states deserve credit for strengthening the protection of wild tigers. This shows the need to improve those aspects that lead to a rise in tiger numbers, voluntary relocation of forest-dwellers from core forests, a severe crackdown on the hunting of prey animals, improved patrols against poaching, safeguards against harmful land-use changes and constant monitoring. Conserving Bengal Tigers is increasingly focussed on saving ‘source populations’ of these big cats.

More inspiring news too is that the Amur Leopard population has also increased. The population of one of the world’s rarest leopards has doubled in the past eight years, showing that recent conservation efforts are beginning to bear fruit. At least 57 Amur Leopards now exist in Russia’s National park “Land of the Leopard”.

Next article – Matargarup, home to the homeless

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