Even as the number of species nearing extinction increases each year, here's a look at the conservation strategies that have helped revive four key species RAJESHWARI GANESAN |
THE STRIKE rate of successful wildlife conservation initiatives remains poor. In fact, more species are included in the near extinction and other endangered categories each year (see graph ‘The slide down’). That’s why the latest Red List report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (iucn) has come as a breather for four key species.
The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) has moved from the more alarming “endangered” category to the “vulnerable” category; the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) from being “endangered” to “near threatened”; the Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor) from “vulnerable” to “near threatened”; and, the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) from “endangered” to “vulnerable”. Their populations have today increased significantly, and they offer critical conservation lessons.
These successes have been attributed to stringent conservation measures adopted by governments. Take for instance the Giant Panda, whose numbers dropped to less than 1,000 in 1970s. Found only in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, the pandas were close to extinction due to habitat fragmentation and their inability to find food, bamboo, in winters. They were forced to confine themselves to narrow strips of land, where they had to face new threats— they were being poached for their skins and panda cubs were caught and trained for Chinese circuses.
The Chinese government implemented various strategies—it created 67 protected panda reserves and started captive breeding programmes. Initiatives such as the Natural Forest Protection Project and Grain for Green Project increased bamboo plantations, and under the “Rent-a-Panda” programme, pandas were rented for up to US $1 million a year, and the money generated was used to fund conservation programmes. “These projects also checked soil erosion