Matters concerned with Environment

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Government makes snake venom trade legal

DNA, Saturday, August 15, 2009 2:23:00 AM
Government makes snake venom trade legal
Ashwin Aghor / DNA

The illegal snake venom trade is all set to become legal and a possibly a lucrative trade for the snake rescuers with Maharashtra forest department deciding to allow venom extraction from the snakes rescued from human localities.

According to state forest minister Babanrao Pachpute, a multi-purpose welfare society for snake rescuers has been formed at Dhulia and the venom extraction activities would be conducted at Nashik.

Chief conservator of forests, Nashik circle VK Mohan said, “The move is intended to enable snake rescuers to earn money as they are doing the service voluntarily. At present they are not paid for the service being provided to the society”.

He said the government has set a target of extracting venom from 8,000 snakes per annum.

The decision of the state government has evoked sharp reactions from environmentalists who feel the move is most likely to encourage venom smuggling and even trade in snake parts.

“The decision is bound to prove to be the last nail in the coffin of herpitofauna of the state,” said Kishor Rithe of Nature Conservation Society, Amravati, an NGO working for forest conservation in central India.

According to naturalist Sunjoy Monga, it is a bad idea and a recipe for a bit of a snake-disaster in the making. “There is ambiguity as regarding who will monitor that snakes are only caught in human localities. Venom is a highly valuable resource and such a permission will be difficult to monitor and more easy to manipulate and especially since now it will not just be a question of catching snakes in human localities but also earning money from them,” Monga said.

Even some senior forest department officials are shocked by the decision.

“It is ridiculous to believe that all the snake to be brought in would be rescued from human settlements. This is nothing but legalisation of venom trade,” said a senior forest official.

© 2005-2009 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bee aware Tip for farmers: caterpillars fear the sound of bee wings

Bee aware  Tip for farmers: caterpillars fear the sound of bee wings
(from Down to earth)

JURGEN tautz has a passion for delving into the daily lives of bees. He has figured out much of the complex mechanism behind the waggle dance which honeybees use to beckon other bees to a food source. Now this scientist, from the University of Wurzburg in Germany has come up with a novel way of pest control involving bees. Tautz and his team observed that the flapping sound of bees’ wings scares away caterpillars feeding on leaves. They put bell pepper plants in a tent with bees and caterpillars. The plants suffered 70 per cent less damage in tents with bees, compared to plants in tents with caterpillars alone.

When a caterpillar senses the presence of an insect, it drops down from the leaf’s surface. They have sensory hairs which help them detect air vibrations, including those made by an approaching insect. “These sensory hairs are not fine-tuned. Therefore, caterpillars cannot distinguish between hunting wasps and harmless bees,” Tautz said. If the caterpillars are constantly stressed by buzzing bees, as on trees heavily laden with blossoms, they will feed a lot less. The study was published in the December 23 issue of Current Biology.

These results show that honeybees can be much more than pollinators. The group plans to plant flowering plants along with crops so that honeybees are constantly in the area. If this works, farmers with beehives in their fields will have better yields without the use of pesticides. Pesticides cause the colony collapse disorder in honeybees. According to the research this only means stripping the plants off one level of pest control.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tiger Decline - This may be the last time you see a tiger

This may be the last time you see a tiger

Neelam Raaj, TNN 9 August 2009, 01:27am IST

Tiger country is losing its stripes, surely, and not slowly enough. From an estimated 40,000 big cats in India a century ago, the number may be down to just 1,300 and falling. Soon, Kipling's Jungle Book may be all that we have of Sher Khan. The next time, President Bill Clinton comes visiting, there may be no `Bamboo Ram' or his cubs to spot. The mighty Royal Bengal Tiger is in trouble. The latest blow was the Panna reserve's admission last month that it has lost all of its 24 tigers. It was a repeat of the 2005 Sariska story, though there were warning signs this time round.
The tiger tragedy is being played out everywhere. Namdapha (Arunachal Pradesh) had 12 tigers in 2006 but has not had a single sighting this year. Ditto Buxa (West Bengal), which also had 12 tigers. Dampa (Mizoram) may have only two tigers left. Indravati in Chhattisgarh has been taken over by Maoist rebels. The situation is bad in Palamau in Jharkhand and Simplipal in Orissa. In MP's Kanha reserve, one of the best tiger habitats, there have been six unexplained tiger deaths since November 2008.
The conservation story is back to square one - or rather the 1970s, when Project Tiger was launched and the numbers stood at 1,827. Forty years and millions of rupees later, numbers rose, only to drop to an all-time low. The last tiger census in 2006 put numbers at 1,411. Since then, nearly a 100 have died. What's killing the Indian tiger?
Hunting the hunter
Tiger numbers may be falling but not the price on its head. In the international market, a tiger pelt goes for $10,000, a bowl of tiger penis soup (said to improve sexual prowess) for $320 and a single claw for $20. It's estimated that a single specimen - ground down and separated into various medicines - earns roughly $50,000. China's rising affluence has meant greater demand for tiger parts. "It's the traditional Chinese medicine market that's driving demand," says Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. For poachers, who use Nepal as a transit route to China, the big cat is big business.
Squeezed for space
In the name of development, forests are being cleared to build roads and human encroachment is eroding buffer zones, reducing the animals' habitat and food supply. "Tiger reserves take up just 2% of India's landmass. All we need to do is make is those 35,000 sq km inviolate," says P K Sen, founder-director of Project Tiger. Easier said than done. In 2006, a new law granted tribals legal right to forest land. Thousands of people flooded into the forests, elbowing out wildlife. But the government also declared that the Act did not mean `Critical Tiger Habitats'. Rs 50 crore was also set aside for a Tiger Protection Force.
Toothless force
The budget for tiger protection has gone up but the green army tasked with saving the big cat has neither the equipment nor the training for the job. Forest guards, wielding lathis or .315 rifles have to take on poachers armed with automatics. "There are huge vacancies in their ranks and most of them are old since there has been no recruitment for 20 years," says Ashok Kumar of the Wildlife Trust of India. Range officers get no training in wildlife enforcement. "They are not well-versed in legal procedures and 90% of the cases against poachers fail to stand up in court," says Kumar.
Too many Centres of power
Better co-ordination between the Centre and states could save many a tiger: that's the consensus among conservationists. "Funds are required but what is even more urgently needed is the two working in tandem," says Wright. She cites Panna as an example. The Madhya Pradesh authorities ignored warnings by a Central team.
Tourist trap
Today, tigers are prisoners of human intruders. At night, they are wary of poachers. By day, there are camera-clicking tourists. "Irresponsible tourism can pose a big problem for the tiger," says Sen. But the good news is that the National Tiger Conservation Authority has now barred visitors from breeding areas.
So is it too late?
"Bagh Bachao, Jungle Bachao, Bharat Bachao" is the rallying cry of tiger NGOs. Some experts worry that the small population makes the future of the tiger scientifically unviable, others are optimistic. Until now, the big cat has always been extraordinarily adaptable and resilient. "All a tiger needs," says Kumar, "is a little bit of cover, some water and some prey."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Centre sets-up panel on proposed EIA notification changes

Centre sets-up panel on proposed EIA notification changes

New Delhi, Aug 6 (PTI) The Centre has set up a six member-panel to consider suggestions and objections to the proposed controversial amendments to Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006 which exempts expanding or modernising industries from critical regulatory and oversight mechanisms for three years.

An official in the Environment Ministry said the panel headed by J M Mauskar, Additional Secretary in the ministry, and complete its task within three months.The government is facing flak from several environmentalists, social activists, social action networks and NGOs for the proposed amendments to the EIA Notification - 2006 which they alleged"give undue benefits to the industry"."The most unconstitutional feature of the proposed amendment is that it does away with critical regulatory and oversight mechanisms for three years.This is sought to be done by extending to applicants a relief in the form of'self certification'that merely requires them to declare their projects cause no additional pollution and thus open the gateway for self regulation,"Leo F Saldanha of the Environment Support Group, Bangalore said.If notified it would end the environmental clearance system in the country, he alleged.

Snake venom worth Rs 20 cr seized, 2 held


Kottayam, Aug 5 (PTI) About two litres of snake venom with street value of Rs 20 crore was today seized in the district by excise authorities who arrested two persons in this connection.

The snake venom, used for some medicinal purposes, was recovered from the two men when they were transporting it to some place.

The two were taken into custody and later handed over to forest department officials along with the consignment, police said.

During interrogation, the accused claimed that they had bought the venom from a snake farm owner in Bangalore, police said.


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