• Wildlife Conservation Efforts and Projects in India is a critical endeavor to protect endangered animal and plant species, along with their natural habitats. These wildlife conservation efforts are essential for maintaining ecological balance, preserving biodiversity, and ensuring the well-being of future generations.
  • There are many laws in India that protect and conserve wildlife, as well as general biodiversity. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 is a law that was enacted to safeguard wild animals, birds, and plants in order to ensure India’s ecological and environmental security.
  • Wildlife means the entire flora and fauna growing in wild and not domesticated. It includes animals, plants and microorganisms, which are not domesticated by humans. Wildlife is defined by Section 2(37) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to include any animal, either aquatic or terrestrial, and vegetation that forms a part of any habitat.
  • Wildlife is an important component of biodiversity. A Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has also been established to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, particularly the trade of endangered species.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts in India

  • India is unique in diversity of both its wild animal and vegetation. But due to rapid industrialization, increasing population & pollution and high demand of food, hunting etc. has led to over exploitation and extinction of some well-known animals and plants from this nation. For prevention of extinction of species, conservation efforts have been initiated.
  • Since independence, wildlife conservation efforts in India have been commensurate with the constitution of India as well as international conventions.
  • Article 48, under the Directive Principles of State policy of the Constitution of India puts an obligation on the state to protect, safeguard and work for the improvement of forests and wildlife in the country. Article 51(g), of the constitution of India provides for a fundamental duty which guarantees the protection of wildlife and compassion for living creatures.
  • Moreover the subjects relating to the protection of wildlife are mentioned under the concurrent list, which means both the parliament and the state legislative assemblies are empowered to make laws on this subject.
  • India has started wild life conservation programmes since 1930 with the establishment of Jim Corbett National Park.
  • A large number of Projects have been initiated by the Govt. of India to save animal biodiversity and prevent the extinction. India’s commitment to preserving its rich biodiversity and safeguarding endangered species is evident through a range of dedicated initiatives:
    1. Project Tiger
    2. Project Elephant
    3. Project Hangul
    4. Project Snow Leopard
    5. Project One Horn Rhino
    6. Project Ganges Dolphin
    7. Project Crocodile
    8. Project Cheetah
    9. Gir Lion project
    10. Project Sea Turtle
    11. Vulture Conservation
    12. Captive breeding program
    13. Adoption of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network by India
  • Similarly, wildlife conservation efforts in India have also been initiated by international conventions. India is signatory to international conventions like ‘The convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna‘ (popularly known as CITES). The international agreements signed under this convention categorized various species that are to be conserved. Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is also involved in this.
    • Apart from this numerous NGOs like World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy and Conservation International are also are also assisting the wildlife conservation efforts in India.

Wildlife Conservation Projects

Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation movement initiated in India in 1973 to protect the Bengal tiger. The primary objective of Project Tiger is to ensure the survival and maintenance of the tiger population in their natural habitats by creating dedicated Tiger Reserves.
    • Project Tiger was established in the Palamau Tiger Reserve, Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, in 1973. This is a Ministry of Environment and Forests – sponsored initiative.
    • It is primarily governed by the Wildlife Act of 1972. The National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was founded in December 2005, oversees the project.
  • Project Tiger’s main aims are to:
    • Reduce factors that lead to the depletion of tiger habitats and to mitigate them by suitable management. The damages done to the habitat shall be rectified to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystem to the maximum possible extent.
    • Ensure a viable tiger population for economic, scientific, cultural, aesthetic and ecological values.
  • The monitoring system M-STrIPES was developed to assist patrol and protect tiger habitats.
    • It maps patrol routes and allows forest guards to enter sightings, events and changes when patrolling.
    • It generates protocols based on these data, so that management decisions can be adapted.
  • During the tiger census of 2006, a new methodology was used extrapolating site-specific densities of tigers, their co-predators and prey derived from camera trap and sign surveys using GIS.
  • Starting with only nine reserves covering 9,115 sq. km, the project marked a paradigm shift in wildlife conservation efforts.
  • Growth Rate in Tiger Population:
    • The first tiger census, in 1972, used the unreliable pug-mark method to count 1,827 tigers.
      • The tiger census is held once in every 4 years by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in association with state forest departments and the Wildlife Institute of India.
    • As of 2022, the tiger population is estimated at 3,167-3,925, showcasing a growth rate of 6.1% per year.
    • India is now home to three-quarters of the world’s tigers.
  • Tiger Reserve:
    • In 1973, Project Tiger began with nine reserves covering 9,115 sq. km. By 2018, it had grown to 55 reserves in different states, totalling 78,135.956 sq. km or 2.38% of India’s land area.
      • The various tiger reserves were created in the country based on the ‘core-buffer’ strategy.

Tiger Task Force

  • The Tiger Task Force is a task force set up by the Prime Minister of India to strengthen the conservation of Tigers in the country.
  • It was set up in 2005 following the open exposure by the media on the sudden disappearance of the tigers from the Sariska Wildlife Reserve.
  • Some of the initiatives of the Tiger Task Force are as follows:
    • To look into the various problems of tiger conservation and suggest methods for its improvement.
    • Limit the poaching of tigers and all the illegal practices followed in the wildlife sanctuaries.
    • To improve the method of counting and forecasting the tigers.
  • The task force pointed out flaws in the existing strategy that heavily depended on weapons, guards, and fences.

Conservation Status of Tigers

  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List: Endangered.
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I.

Project Elephant

  • Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Government of India as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide financial and technical support to wildlife management efforts by states for their free-ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants.
  • The project aims to ensure the long-term survival of the population of elephants in their natural habitats by protecting them, their habitats and migration corridors.
  • Other goals of Project Elephant are supporting the research of the ecology and management of elephants, creating awareness of conservation among local people, and providing improved veterinary care for captive elephants.
  • Presently, the Project Elephant is being implemented in 22 States/UTs, viz. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andaman & Nicobar, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat and Haryana (where an elephant rescue centre has been set up supported by Project Elephant).
  • The Project Elephant aims at providing support to the States for achievement of the following broad objectives:-
    • Conserve and protect viable population of wild elephants in their natural habitats in the country;
    • To conserve and protect and, where necessary, to restore natural habitats and traditional corridors/migratory routes or movement paths used by the elephants — through eco-restoration, acquisition etc ;
    • To take concrete measures to protect the elephants from poaching and other threats by taking suitable measures like deployment of patrolling squads, intelligence gathering etc;
    • To create a viable mechanism to ensure inter-state and regional and national level coordination in protecting and conserving the elephant and its ranges;
    • To create infrastructure and other facilities for conservation support activities like veterinary care, management training, humane methods of capture, tranquilizing and translocation etc of wild elephants, as and when required;
    • To improve and create infrastructure for the welfare of elephants in domestic use, including their veterinary care, training of mahouts and supervisory staff in proper treatment of elephants in captivity;
    • To encourage and create facilities for research related to the management and ecology of elephant, and also with respect to its veterinary care;
    • To take appropriate steps to mitigate man-elephant conflict through suitable measures, such as eco-development, public education and awareness programmes, scientific management, ex-gratia payments, deployment of anti-depredation teams etc.
    • To take measures for detection and prevention of diseases in wild elephants.
  • According to current population estimates, there are approximately 50,000-60,000 Asian elephants in the world.
  • India is home to more than 60% of the world’s elephant population. India has about 27,000 Asian Elephants, which is the world’s largest population of the species.
    • As per Elephant Census (2017), Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054)
    • The elephant is the Natural Heritage Animal of India.
  • In India, 88 elephant corridors have been identified.
    • There were 20 corridors in south India, 12 in north western India, 20 in central India, 14 in northern West Bengal, and 22 in north-eastern India out of a total of 88.
    • Elephants regularly use 77.3 percent of the total corridors.
  • According to the government, there are approximately 33 elephant reserves in India.

MIKE Programme

  • MIKE the abbreviation of the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants program was started in South Asia in 2003 after the conference of parties a resolution of CITES. 
  • The aim of MIKE was to provide the information required by the elephant range countries for proper management and long-term protection of their elephant populations.
  • The objectives of the MIKE program is as follows:
    • To measure the levels and trends in the illegal poaching and ensure changes in the trends for elephant protection. 
    • To determine the factors responsible for such changes, and to assess the impact of decisions by the conference of parties to CITES.

Campaign Haathi Mere Saathi

  • The Ministry of Environment and forests in partnership with Wildlife Trust of India has launched a campaign Hathi Mere Sathi.
  • The aim of the campaign was to increase public awareness and develop friendships between elephants and the local population. The campaign Haathi Mere Saathi was for the welfare of the elephants, to conserve and protect the elephants in India. 
  • The campaign was launched in Delhi on 24th May 2011 at Elephant- 8 ministerial meetings.
    • The countries that are a part of the Elephant-8 ministerial meeting are Kenya, Srilanka, Botswana, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Indonesia, Thailand, and India.

The Campaign Mascot ‘Gaju’

  • The campaign’s target audience groups include locals near elephant habitats, youth, and policymakers, among others.
  • It plans to establish Gajah (elephant) centres in elephant habitats across the country to raise awareness about their plight and encourage people to get involved in addressing the threats to elephants.
  • It also aims to strengthen the capacity of protection and law enforcement agencies on the ground, as well as to advocate for policies that benefit pachyderms (the elephant).
  • The campaign “Take Gajah (the elephant) to the Prajah (the people),” which was recommended by the ministry’s elephant task force (ETF) last year, aims to raise awareness and encourage people to participate in the conservation and welfare of elephants.

Elephant Task Force

  • The increased tension due to rampant retaliatory killing of elephants and human-elephant conflict prompted the government to set up the Elephant Task Force along the lines of the Tiger Task Force.
  • In 2010, the Union government established the Elephant Task Force (ETF) under the leadership of historian Mahesh Rangarajan to review India’s current elephant conservation policy and formulate future interventions.
  • The focus of the Elephant Task Force was to bring pragmatic solutions for the conservation of elephants in the long-term. 
  • The Elephant Task Force’s primary goal was to develop long-term solutions for elephant conservation.
  • In India, there are between 25000 and 29000 elephants in the wild. However, tuskers (male elephants) in India are as endangered as tigers because there are only about 1200 tusker elephants left in India.
  • Asian elephants are threatened by habitat degradation, man-elephant conflict, and ivory poaching.

Asian elephant’s conservation status:

Project Hangul

  • Project Hangul is a conservation and protection project for the critically endangered Kashmir Stag or Hangul. 
  • In the 1970s, the Jammu and Kashmir government prepared a project to protect the Hangul and its habitat with the help of the IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 
  • The Kashmir stag also called hangul is a subspecies of Central Asian Red Deer native to northern India. It is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. Project Hangul was the name given to this ambitious project for the conservation and protection of Kashmir stags. 
  • In Kashmir, it’s found in Dachigam National Park at elevations of 3,035 meters. These deer once numbered about 5000 animals in the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Unfortunately, they were threatened, due to habitat destruction, overgrazing by domestic livestock and poaching. As a result, their numbers dwindled to as low as 150 by 1970.
  • However, the state of Jammu Kashmir, along with the IUCN and the WWF prepared a project for the protection of these animals. It became to be known as Project Hangul. As a result, by 1980, the population of this species had increased to 340.
  • Further, this project was again launched with the name of “Save Kashmir’s Red Deer Hangul” in 2009. Another attempt to save the Hangul was to breed it in captivity. Funds were sanctioned for captive breeding. Under the Species Recovery Programme, conservation breeding centres are opened at Sikargah Tral, Pulwama District and Kangan. But there is not much progress on increasing the numbers.
  • According to the IUCN Red List, Hangul is a Critically Endangered species. 

Hangul Conservation Project

  • The Wildlife Conservation Fund was established in 2010 with the goal of protecting wildlife and wilderness in Jammu and Kashmir’s UT, with Hangul conservation as its first priority.
  • It was to be accomplished through community involvement, wildlife education, and management.
  • It also aimed to change people’s attitudes toward nature and promote human-animal harmony.
  • The Hangul Conservation Project was created by the Wildlife Conservation Fund. WCF plans to address issues concerning several Hangul species in Kashmir, specifically in the Dachigam National Park.
  • It should be emphasised that the project did not achieve its goals because locals did not participate in it. Furthermore, the project was restricted to a 10-kilometer radius around Dagwan.
  • Furthermore, government offices approved the construction of cement factories near the Dachigam National Park, disrupting wildlife.

Project Snow Leopard

  • Snow Leopard also known as Mystical Apex Predator is a highly endangered species. They are mostly found in China and Mongolia other than India.
  • The Project Snow Leopard is an Indian initiative launched by MoEF&CC for strengthening wildlife conservation in the Himalayan high altitudes.
  • The Project Snow Leopard was launched in 2009 in 5 states of the country namely J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserving snow leopards and their habitat.
  • Goal: To safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
    • It aims to promote a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
  • Project Snow Leopard is designed for all biologically important habitats within the snow leopard’s range, irrespective of their ownership (e.g. Protected Areas, common land, etc.).
  • The Snow Leopard, along with the Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Indian Leopard, and Clouded Leopard, is one of India’s five Big Cats. Their brilliant camouflage and elusive nature have earned them the moniker “Ghost of the Mountain.” It is the most difficult to spot Big Cat in the wild.

Snow Leopard – Protection Status

  • The snow leopard is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the snow leopard’s conservation status to “vulnerable” from “endangered” in September 2017.
  • The change in status comes 45 years after the snow leopard was declared endangered in 1972. However, experts have warned that the snow leopard species is still under threat from poaching and habitat destruction.
  • The snow leopard was added to the Convention on Migratory Species’ Appendix I in 2003.
  • Similarly, in 2003, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) expanded the scope of the CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force to include all Asian big cat species, including the snow leopard.
Ladakh becoming role model in protecting Snow leopard
  • The Ladakh region has set an example as a role model for the rest of the country to protect the endangered Snow Leopard. This is an excellent example of cooperation among government and local community for success of any project.
  • With the help of local community, the Wildlife Department and several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) succeeded to prevent man-animal conflict and discouraged killing of the exotic wild cats or Snow leopards found in Trans Himalayan-Karakorum Mountains of the region and central Asia.
  • There are more than 400 wild cats found within the Indian Territory in Ladakh.

Project One Horn Rhino

  • The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is a rhinoceros species native to the Indian subcontinent. It is also known as the Indian rhino, greater one-horned rhinoceros, or great Indian rhinoceros.
  • Project Rhino was launched in 2005 to protect and conserve the rhinos. The Indian Rhino Vision 2020 project aimed to achieve a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread across seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by 2020. 
  • The IUCN Red List classifies it as Vulnerable because populations are fragmented and limited to less than 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi). Furthermore, human and livestock encroachment is thought to be reducing the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, the alluvial Terai-Duar savanna, grasslands, and riverine forest.
  • As of August 2018, the global population was estimated to be 3,588 people, including 2,939 in India and 649 in Nepal. In 2009, Kaziranga National Park alone had an estimated population of 2,048 rhinos. In 2009, the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam had the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world, with 84 individuals spread across 38.80 km2 (14.98 sq mi).
  • Indian rhinos once roamed the entire Indo-Gangetic Plain, but overhunting and agricultural development reduced their range to 11 locations in northern India and southern Nepal. In the early 1990s, it was estimated that between 1,870 and 1,895 Indian rhinos were still alive. Since then, the government’s conservation efforts have resulted in an increase in population.
  • Poaching, however, remains a constant threat, with poachers killing over 150 Indian rhinos in Assam between 2000 and 2006.
  • Assam is home to nearly 85% of the world’s Indian rhinoceros population, with Kaziranga National Park housing 70% of the rhino population.

Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020)

  • The Indian rhino vision 2020 implemented by the Assam Department of Environment and Forests, with The Bodo Autonomous Council as an active partner. WWF-India, WWF areas (Asian rhino and elephant action strategy), the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), zoological institutions worldwide, and a number of local NGOs will support the programme.
  • The program’s vision is to increase the total rhino population in Assam from around 2000 to 3000 by 2020, and to ensure that these rhinos are distributed across at least 7 protected areas (PA) to ensure the long-term viability of the one-horned rhino population.
  • Indian Rhino Vision 2020 was an ambitious effort to achieve a wild population of at least 3,000 great one-horned rhinos spread across seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
    • Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park, Manas National Park, Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, and Dibru Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary are the seven protected areas.
  • Translocations from densely populated parks, such as Kaziranga National Park, to parks in need of rhinos, such as Manas National Park, were a critical component of IRV2020.

Project Ganges Dolphin

  • Project Dolphin is an Indian government initiative to conserve both riverine and oceanic dolphin species launched in 2021.
  • The project was announced on 15 August 2020 during the 74th independence day celebrations by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. It is under the Wildlife Institute of India, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • In 2019, the initiative received preliminary approval at the first meeting of the Prime Minister-led National Ganga Council (NGC).
    • Project Dolphin is one of the activities planned as part of Arth Ganga, the government’s ambitious inter-ministerial initiative approved in 2019.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change in India is funding the project. It entails conducting systematic status assessments of target species and potential threats in order to develop and implement a conservation action plan. It aims to address existing conservation concerns while also empowering stakeholders to participate in dolphin conservation. 
  • Project Dolphin will be similar to Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.

Gangetic Dolphin

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests designated the Ganges River Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal.
  • The Ganges river dolphin is blind and can only live in freshwater.
  • They hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds that bounce off of fish and other prey, allowing them to mentally “see” an image. They are also known as ‘susu.’
  • The species’ global population is estimated to be 4,000, with nearly 80 percent found in the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is a reliable indicator of the overall health of the river ecosystem.
  • The River Dolphin lives in the GangesBrahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
  • Their total population is estimated to be around 2,000 individuals, and they are listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
  • The gangetic Dolphin is one of 17 species identified for participation in the ‘Recovery Programme of Critically Endangered Species,’ as part of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat.’
  • The Ganges Dolphin is one of four “obligate” freshwater dolphins found in the world, the others being the ‘baiji’ of the Yangtze River (China), the ‘bhulan’ of the Indus (Pakistan), and the ‘boto’ of the Amazon River (Latin America).
  • Although several species of marine dolphins have ranges that include some freshwater habitats, these four species only live in rivers and lakes.
  • A team of international scientists declared the Chinese River Dolphin functionally extinct in 2006.
  • The Ganges River Dolphin is threatened in India by river water pollution and siltation, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and oil poaching.
  • Furthermore, river modifications such as barrages and dams are separating populations.
  • Several organisations, including the WWF-India in Uttar Pradesh, have launched conservation and reintroduction programmes for the River Dolphin.

Conservation Status of Gangetic Dolphin

  • Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Endangered
  • Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): Most endangered
  • Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – migratory species that need conservation and management or would significantly benefit from the international co-operation.

Project Crocodile

  • Crocodilians were threatened in India due to indiscriminate commercial killing and severe habitat loss until the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.
  • By the 1970s, all three crocodile species (Gharial, Mugger crocodile, and Saltwater crocodile) in Odisha’s river systems were on the verge of extinction.
  • Crocodiles were scarce due to increased human activity in rivers and other traditional habitats, resulting in a reduction in the extent of habitable stretches. In addition, predation reduces the survival rate of crocodile hatchlings in the wild.
  • From the 1960s onward, piecemeal efforts were made to save the crocodile.
  • Dr. H.R.Bustard, an FAO expert hired by UNDP/FAO and the Government of India, studied the prospects of crocodile rehabilitation, and a Crocodile Conservation Project was launched in 1975 in various states based on his report and guidance.
    • The Gharial and Saltwater Crocodile Conservation Program was launched in Odisha in early 1975, followed by the Mugger Conservation Program.
  • As a result of the programme, the estimated number of saltwater crocodiles in India increased from 96 in 1976 to 1,640 in 2012.
  • The project received funding and technical assistance from UNDP/FAO via the Government of India.
  • The Crocodile Project began with the goal of increasing the population to the point where sightings of 5 to 6 crocodiles per kilometre length of water were possible.
  • Through rear and release operations, the Project attempted to compensate for natural losses caused by death and predation.
  • This included collecting eggs from nests as soon as they were laid, incubating and hatching the eggs in hatcheries under temperature and humidity control, rearing the young juveniles, marking and releasing the young crocodiles into Nature in protected areas, and assessing the degree of success in restocking any protected area with crocodiles released from hatcheries.
  • To accomplish these goals, three separate research units for the Gharial, Salt Water Crocodile, and Mugger were established in Tikarpara, Dangmal, and Ramatirtha, respectively.
  • Captive breeding plans for all three species were pursued at the Nandankanan Biological Park.
  • Soon after the project began, it became clear that well-trained staff were required for a successful crocodile conservation programme. In 1980, a Crocodile Breeding and Management Training Institute was founded in Hyderabad.

Objectives of Indian Crocodile Conservation Project

  • Creating sanctuaries to protect the remaining crocodilians in their natural habitat.
  • To quickly rebuild natural populations, more than 7000 crocodiles have been restocked, including 4000 gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), 1800 mugger (Crocodylus palustris), and 1500 saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus)
  • To promote captive breeding.
  • To conduct research to improve management.
  • To increase the number of trained personnel on project sites through the (then) Central Crocodile Breeding and Management Training Institute in Hyderabad.
  • Involve the community in the project on a personal level.

Project Cheetah (Cheetah Reintroduction Project)

  • “Project Cheetah aims to bring back independent India’s only extinct large mammal – the cheetah. As part of the project, 50 cheetahs will be introduced in various National Parks over five years.”
  • The Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India formally commenced on September 17, 2022, with the objective of restoring the population of cheetahs, which were declared extinct in the country in 1952.
    • The project involves the translocation of cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The project is implemented by the NTCA in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa.
    • Challenges in the project include monitoring, protection, and management of the reintroduced cheetah population.
  • This international endeavor will not only strengthen the efforts for global conservation of the Cheetah but also the re-establishment of his species in its historical range.
  • Bringing the Cheetah back to India has very vital and far reaching conservation consequences and we aim to achieve the following ecological objectives:
    • (i) Re-establish the functional role of the Cheetah in representative ecosystems within its historical range.
    • (ii) Contribute to the global effort towards conservation of the Cheetah as a species.
    • (iii) Additionally, Cheetah introduction is likely to improve and enhance the livelihood options and economies of the local communities.
  • An action plan for introduction of cheetah in India with emphasis on first release site- Kuno National Park as per the latest IUCN Guidelines has been prepared by joint effort of all stakeholders.

Gir Lion project (Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project)

  • The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an ambitious conservation initiative aimed at establishing a second, independent population of Asiatic lions in India.
  • Currently, these majestic big cats are found exclusively in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
  • This concentration of lions in a single protected area poses significant risks to their long-term survival, making them vulnerable to disease outbreaks, habitat loss, and potential human-wildlife conflicts.
  • The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), once found throughout Asia from Turkey to India, has experienced a dramatic decline in its range and population. Once numbering in the tens of thousands, Asiatic lions were hunted extensively for sport and trophies, and their habitat was fragmented and destroyed for human settlements and agriculture. By the early 20th century, Asiatic lions were virtually extinct, with only a small population of around 30 individuals remaining in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India. 
  • The conservation of Asiatic lions began in the early 1900s, when the Nawab of Junagadh, the ruler of the princely state that included the Gir Forest, took steps to protect the lions from hunting. In 1965, the Gir Forest was declared a national park, and the Government of India initiated a series of conservation measures to protect the lions and their habitat.
  • These measures included:
    • Banning hunting of lions: This was essential to stop the direct killing of lions and allow their population to recover.
    • Habitat protection: This involved expanding the Gir Forest National Park and establishing buffer zones around it to protect the lions’ habitat from encroachment.
    • Anti-poaching patrols: These were established to deter poaching and protect the lions from illegal hunting.
    • Prey base management: This involved managing the populations of prey animals, such as deer and wild boar, to ensure that there was enough food for the lions.
  • The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in 1990 suggested the creation of a second wild population in order to protect the primary population of the Asiatic Lion species in the Gir National Park. To this end, several assessments were made regarding viable habitats based on ranging and availability of prey.
  • The data from the WII was used by the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) in 1993 to prepare a report on viable sites that was presented to the state forest department of Gujarat. The sites were as follows:
    • Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Darrah – Jawahar Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Barda Wildlife Sanctuary
  • The Conservation measures have been successful in increasing the Asiatic lion population to over 650 individuals today. However, the lions are still confined to the Gir Forest, and their long-term survival is dependent on maintaining their habitat and protecting them from threats such as disease and human-wildlife conflict.
  • In recent years, there has been a growing effort to reintroduce Asiatic lions to other parts of their historical range. In 2018, eight lions were translocated from Gir Forest to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India. This is the first time that Asiatic lions have been reintroduced to a new area in over 70 years. The reintroduction project is still in its early stages, but it is hoped that it will be successful and help to secure the future of Asiatic

Project Lion

  • Project Lion is an Indian government initiative to conserve the Asiatic lion species that was announced on 15 August 2020 during the 74th independence day celebrations by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
  • It will be under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and is modelled on the lines of Project Tiger.
  • The project has established three “gene pool” sites at Rampara in Saurashtra, and Sakkarbaug and Satveerada in Junagadh for the purpose of breeding the lions.
  • One of the aims of the project is to address human-wildlife conflict between local residents and the lions.
  • The project has also identified six new potential sites of reintroduction of the species in the country. The six new potential sites are:
    • Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh
    • Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan
    • Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
    • Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
    • Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan
    • Jessore-Balaram Ambaji WLS and adjoining landscape, Gujarat

Project Sea Turtle

  • Every winter, a significant proportion of the world’s Olive Ridley Turtle population migrates to Indian coastal waters to nest, primarily along the eastern coast.
  • With the goal of conserving olive ridley turtles and other endangered marine turtles, the Ministry of Environment and Forests launched the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in November 1999 in collaboration with UNDP, with the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun serving as the implementing agency.
    • The project, which began in late 1999, includes extensive surveys along the coast, legislative and community-based conservation reviews, education and awareness, GIS studies of key nesting areas, TED demonstrations and implementation, and training for wildlife and fisheries managers and field biologists.
  • The project is being carried out in ten coastal states of the country, with a particular emphasis on the state of Orissa.
  • This project establishes guidelines for development activities in the area, with the goal of securing turtle breeding areas and protecting them from other types of disruptions.
  • Furthermore, it provides funds for project development and monitoring. The satellite method is used to examine the nesting area of Olive Ridley Turtles.
  • The project assisted in the preparation of the following:
    • an inventory map of sea turtle breeding sites,
    • identification of nesting and breeding habitats along the shoreline, and migratory routes taken by sea turtles,
    • development of guidelines to safeguard and minimize turtle mortality,
    • development of national and international cooperative and collaborative action for sea turtle conservation,
    • development of guideline plans for tourism in sea turtle areas, and
    • development of infrastructure and habitat.
  • One of the significant achievements has been the demonstration of the use of Satellite Telemetry to locate the migratory route of Olive Ridley Turtles in the sea, as well as sensitising fishermen and the State Government to the use of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED) in fishing trawlers to reduce turtle mortality in fishing nets.

Sea Turtle

  • These are large, air-breathing reptiles that live in tropical and subtropical seas all over the world.
  • Their shells are made up of an upper section (carapace) and a lower section (plastron).
  • Hard scales or scutes cover all but the leatherback, and the number and arrangement of these scutes can be used to identify the species.
  • The upper shell, or carapace, of each sea turtle species, varies in length, color, shape, and scale arrangement.
  • Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, Leatherback Sea Turtle, and Flatback Sea Turtle are the seven sea turtle species.
    • In Indian waters, there are five species (Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley).
  • Though sea turtles are protected in India under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, consumption of turtle meat and eggs is prohibited by all except indigenous tribal communities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, including the Onges and Shompen.
  • Conservation Status:
    • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Status:
      • Flatback Turtle: Data Deficient
      • Green Turtle: Endangered
      • Hawksbill Turtle: Critically Endangered
      • Kemp’s Ridley: Critically Endangered
      • Loggerhead Turtle: Vulnerable
      • Olive RidleyVulnerable
      • Leatherback Turtle: Vulnerable
    • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) status:
      • All seven species of sea turtles are currently listed as Appendix- I under CITES.

Project Vulture (Vulture Conservation)

  • Vultures, which feed on dead animals, were once the most common birds on the planet, including the Indian subcontinent. Until the 1980s, vultures were very common in India. With India losing more than 95 percent of its vulture population between the 1990s and the mid-2000s, conservation efforts were urgently needed to prevent vultures from becoming extinct.
  • The Government of India launched Project Vulture in 2006 to increase the population of Indian vultures.
  • To address the vulture decline and conserve these important birds, several conservation initiatives and strategies have been implemented in India, including:
    • India’s Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025 has also laid down various measures, including enhancement of conservation breeding programs, monitoring populations, and setting up rescue centers.
    • Vulture Safe Zones: Identifying and designating vulture safe zones, where the use of diclofenac and other harmful veterinary drugs is banned, to provide safe feeding areas for vultures.
    • Ban on Diclofenac: The government of India took measures to ban the veterinary use of diclofenac to prevent its consumption by livestock.
    • Recently, other drugs like Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac have also been banned in 2023.
    • Vulture Conservation Breeding Centers: Establishing vulture conservation breeding centers to breed and rear vultures in captivity releasing them back into the wild to augment wild populations.
    • Vulture Restaurants: Creating vulture restaurants where safe food is provided to vultures to supplement their diet and ensure their survival.
    • Rescue and Rehabilitation: Setting up facilities for the rescue, rehabilitation, and treatment of injured or sick vultures.
    • Research and Monitoring: Conducting research and monitoring programs to study vulture populations, behavior, and ecological requirements.
    • Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating and raising awareness among the public, farmers, veterinarians, and other stakeholders about the importance of vultures and the threats they face.
    • Involving local communities in vulture conservation efforts, as their cooperation is essential for the success of conservation initiatives.
    • Collaborating with international organizations and experts to share knowledge, expertise, and best practices in vulture conservation.

Vultures Species in India

  • It is one of the 22 species of large carrion-eating birds that live predominantly in the tropics and subtropics.
  • They act an important function as nature’s garbage collectors and help to keep the environment clean of waste.
    • Vultures also play a valuable role in keeping wildlife diseases in check.
  • India is home to 9 species of Vulture namely the Oriental white-backed, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Himalayan, Red-headed, Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.
    • Most of these 9 species face dangers of extinction.
      • Bearded, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Oriental white-backed are protected in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Rest are protected under ‘Schedule IV’.
Vultures Species in India

Captive Breeding Programs

  • Captive breeding, also known as “conservation breeding,” refers to the practise of keeping endangered plants and animals in a controlled environment.
  • Animals and plants are kept in zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and other similar facilities outside of their natural habitats to keep them safe and protected from extinction. Humans control the selection of individual animals to be part of a captive breeding population, as well as the mating partners within that population.
  • Purpose of Captive Breeding:
    • To breed animals for commercial purposes (pets, food, fibre, medicine, and other human uses).
    • To produce animals for zoos, aquariums, research institutions, and other public facilities.
    • To increase the number of threatened or endangered species in captivity.
    • In some cases, these individuals are part of a management programme aimed at eventually reintroducing captive-bred animals into wild habitats and populations.
    • In other cases, captive facilities claim to be breeding animals for such purposes, but the animals may not be suitable, or they are not part of a legitimate conservation and management programme.
    • Some situations which necessitate the requirement of captive breeding are:
      • Endangered species
      • Disease transmission
      • Predation that is excessive
      • Overhunting by Humans
      • A chance to reintroduce a species into the wild
    • All of these factors serve as the foundation for establishing such breeding programmes.
    • Captive breeding thus improves the chances of preserving our endangered species; this is also one way captive breeding benefits ecosystems.
    • According to the IUCN’s List of Threatened Animals, approximately 11% of birds and one-fourth of mammals are on the verge of extinction, such programmes are critical to preserving species populations.

Captive Breeding Parks of Indian Wildlife Animals

  • Katraj Snake Park, Pune:
    • Katraj Snake Park in Pune is one of the few parks in the country with the greatest number of snake species.
    • This well-known conservation park has a large collection of snakes, reptiles, birds, and turtles.
    • The park also has a rescue centre for injured and orphaned animals.
  • Madras Crocodile Bank, Chennai
    • Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is Asia’s first crocodile breeding centre, founded in Chennai to save three endangered Indian crocodile species.
    • It is India’s largest crocodile breeding facility, and the park is also home to the largest reptiles, including green anacondas, Komodo dragons, river terrapins, and olive ridley sea turtles.
  • Devaliya Safari Park, Gujarat
    • Devaliya Lion Safari Park is a breeding park for Indian lions located near Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
    • It is one of India’s most fascinating and beautiful places, organised by the Gir National Park.
  • Chambal National Sanctuary, Chambal
    • The National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary is a riverine sanctuary in India and the sole home of the critically endangered gharial.
    • The Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the Chambal River and is home to the endangered Ganges river dolphin and the Red-crowned roof turtle.
  • Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary, Karnataka
    • Ramanagar is a popular tourist destination and the country’s first vulture sanctuary in Karnataka, located on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway at an elevation of 747 metres.
    • Many critical vulture species, including the long-billed vulture, Egyptian vulture, and Indian vulture, can be found on Ramdevarabetta hill.
  • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, Bhagalpur
    • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur District, is Asia’s only protected area for endangered Gangetic dolphins.
    • The Gangetic dolphins are India’s national aquatic animal, and their sanctuary is a 50-kilometer stretch of the Ganges river near Sultanganj.
  • Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai
    • The Arignar Anna Zoological Park, also known as Vandalur Zoo, is India’s largest zoological garden and a captive breeding ground for lion-tailed macaques.
    • The park is India’s first public zoo, and it houses endangered species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN)

  • The illegal wildlife trade is a type of transnational organized crime that endangers many iconic species around the world. South Asia is especially vulnerable to such threats because it has a diverse network of natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
    • Apart from key species such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos, illegal exploitation and trafficking endanger a wide range of medicinal plants, timber, marine species, birds, and reptiles.
  • To combat such threats, the eight South Asian countries have formed the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN), an organized and coordinated body.
  • The South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) was formed with major assistance from TRAFFIC (Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce) in uniting the South Asian nations.
  • In accordance with the Convention, SAWEN supports regional cooperation in “wildlife conservation and countering illegal trading in wildlife and bioresources.” In January 2011, the Royal Government of Bhutan hosted an intergovernmental gathering in Paro (a town in Bhutan) when SAWEN was formally created. This initiative’s major goal is to have the nations work together and cooperate against wildlife crime in the area.
  • Mission
    • To strengthen, advocate for, and coordinate regional cooperation in order to stop the illegal wildlife trafficking that endangers South Asia’s native flora and fauna.
  • Goals
    • To enhance wildlife law enforcement through cooperation, coordination, capacity building, and communication in order to combat wildlife crime.
  • Objectives
    • To take steps to harmonize and standardize the laws and policies of member nations for the conservation of wild fauna and flora;
    • To track the development of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, as well as related risks to the region’s natural biodiversity;
    • To boost institutional responses to combat wildlife crime by encouraging collaboration with pertinent institutions for research and information sharing, training and capacity building, and technical support; and
    • To encourage each of the member nations to create and implement their own National Action Plans to combat wildlife crime and to work together to ensure that these plans are carried out effectively.
  • SAWEN – Members:
    • The SAWEN is a group of South Asian nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, that assist regional intergovernmental wildlife law enforcement.
    • In order to improve wildlife law enforcement in the member nations, it focuses on policy harmonization, institutional capacity improvement through knowledge and intelligence sharing, and coordination with regional and international partners.
    • The Secretariat of SAWEN is located in Kathmandu, Nepal, and oversees its operations.

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