Down To Earth brings you the top happenings in the world of global ecology
The president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, announced on May 30, 2020 that his government would allow farmers in the country to keep small game on their farms to encourage locals’ participation in agro-tourism.
The president said Botswana’s tourism sector needed a boost in the aftermath of the severe impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.
“The agro-tourism guidelines are also being reviewed to facilitate citizens to make a decent living out of their fields (masimo) to complement agro-tourism and diversify its products. Game farming guidelines shall soon be issued to enable those Batswana who are interested to keep small game or wildlife in their fields if they meet set criteria,” Masisi said.
Trees getting shorter and younger due to climate change
Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide have been altering the world’s forests, resulting in shorter and younger trees, according to a new study.
The changes in trees happen due to increased stress and carbon dioxide fertilisation and because of the increasing frequency and severity of disturbances such as wildfire, drought and wind damage.
Trees are growing shorter and younger because of a reduction in their ability to store carbon and potentially large shifts in the mix of species that compose and inhabit these forests, according to the researchers
The changes in trees will have major implications on the services that forests provide including mitigating climate change
India’s first dolphin observatory coming up in Bihar
The Bihar government is setting up India’s first observatory for river dolphins in Bhagalpur district. Construction at the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in the state’s Bhagalpur district is scheduled to be completed by early next year.
“This is going to be a positive development despite the fact that it was delayed. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced the building of a dolphin observatory three to four years ago,” Sunil Choudhary, director of Vikramshila Biodiversity Research and Education Centre of Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, said.
The structural design of the observatory is such that it will promote eco-tourism. “It will give people an incentive to visit the place and see dolphins in the sanctuary without disturbing them,” Choudhary said.
“There would be no bad or adverse impact on the river’s ecology as the observatory is being constructed on a bridge over the Ganga,” he added.
The observatory is being built on the Sultanganj-Aguwani Ghat bridge over the Ganga, Alok Kumar Jha, an official of the private construction company engaged in the ongoing construction of the dolphin observatory, said.
“It will be in the middle of the river, where bridge’s width will be nearly 100 feet. We have completed construction of four special pillars for this structure in the river,” he said.
The four-storey observatory will be 40 feet high, with the bridge passing through its middle. “The observatory building will be transparent, with glass from all sides to ensure people can watch the dolphins,” Jha said.
There will be a cafeteria at the dolphin observatory complex, along with a facility to park 75 vehicles.
Dugongs fighting for survival in Indian waters
The dugong, commonly known as the sea cow, is fighting for its survival in Indian waters and unless conserved, could one day become extinct, experts have said on the eve of ‘World Dugong Day’ on May 28, 2020.
Dugongs are an endangered marine species like sea turtles, seahorses, sea cucumbers and others. They are protected in India under Schedule I of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972.
There were just 250 dugongs in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat according to the 2013 survey report of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
The survey was conducted under the leadership of then ZSI director K Venkataraman, Basudev Tripathy deputy director of ZSI, Kolkata, told this reporter.
In 2010, we had counted 250 dugongs in the Gulf of Mannar, the Andamans and Gulf of Kutch through a boat survey, K Sivakumar, a senior scientist of the department of Endangered Species Management at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, said.
This year, we will count the dugongs with the help of underwater drone cameras, he added.
There is no doubt that dugongs are an important part of the marine ecosystem and their depletion will have effects all the way up the food chain, Sivakumar noted.
Dugongs are mammals, which means they give birth to live young and then produce milk and nurse them.
Once the female is pregnant, she will carry the unborn baby, called a foetus for 12-14 months before giving birth. Female dugongs give birth underwater to a single calf at three to seven-year intervals.
Dugongs graze on seagrass, especially young shoots and roots in shallow coastal waters. They can consume up to 40 kilograms of seagrass in a day.
Human activities such as the destruction and modification of habitat, pollution, rampant illegal fishing activities, vessel strikes, unsustainable hunting or poaching and unplanned tourism are the main threats to dugongs.
The loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling was the most important factor behind dwindling dugong populations in many parts of the world, Sivakumar said.
Hundreds of dugongs inhabited waters off the Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh coasts two centuries back. But they are extinct in these areas now, he added.
Seagrass in Odisha’s Chilika lake is a proper habitat for dugongs. However, there is not extant population in Chilika, Sivakumar said.
He talked about how a decade back, fishermen used to sell dugong meat at Rs 1,000 per kilogram in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andaman. Many gullible people used to consume the meat under the wrong impression that it would cool their body temperature.
The killings have stopped though, ever since, the WII began awareness drives among people.
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