Buck­ing ex­tinc­tion

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 |

Down to Earth - - WILDLIFE -

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

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