Andaman’s new taste is sweet-and-sour

Edible wild banana species discovered, the second such on the island in two years.

Botanists in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been quietly going bananas. And it is not their fault, for the islands are a biodiversity hotspot that hosts seven different species of wild banana that we know of, not to mention numerous, as yet undocumented, others.

The latest discovery, published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, is of a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana, in honour of Paramjit Singh, who happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, 6 kilometres from any human habitation.

The plant grows to a height of nine metres and bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds. Its conservation status has been declared as ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump.

According to Mr Lal Ji Singh(a BSI scientist),who made the discovery, the fruit is part of the diet of local tribes. “The fruits and seeds have ethnomedicinal importance. Pseudo-stem and leaves of these species are also used during religious and cultural ceremonies,”

“These discoveries present a great opportunity for plant breeders and horticulture experts to improve the existing banana crop. The germplasm of all the wild banana species needs to be conserved on an urgent basis since most of these are found in very small habitats and at risk of extinction,”
In 2014, he discovered Musa indandamanensis, another wild banana, in a remote tropical rainforest on the Little Andaman island. It has dark green cylindrical flower buds.

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New ant species discovered in the Western Ghats

Researchers have discovered a new species of ant in the Western Ghats, recognised as one of the world’s ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
The new species was found in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The research, published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa, was undertaken by Kalesh Sadasivan and Manoj Kripakaran, members of the non-governmental organisation Travancore Natural History Society’s Ant Research Group.

Belonging to Tyrannomyrmex, a rare tropical genus of ants, the species was discovered by the team from the Vallakadavu range during an expedition a year ago. Paying tribute to their mentor and eminent myrmecologist Musthak Ali, who is regarded as the country’s ‘ant man’, the authors of the study have named the new species Tyrannomyrmex alii (or T. alii) Sadasivan and Kripakaran 2017.

According to Dr Sadasivan, Tyrannomyrmex is a rare myrmicine (subfamily of ants) ant genus that is distributed in the Indomalayan bio-region that extends from southern India and Sri Lanka to Southeast Asia.

The particular genus had been erected in 2003 with the discovery of the species, Tyrannomyrmex rex Fernández, in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia. Later, two more species that were under the same genus had been discovered; Tyrannomyrmex dux (or T. dux) from the Ponmudi hills in 2007 and T. legatus from the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka in 2013. T. alli has thus become the four species of the rare genus and the second one from India. Notably, both of the Tyrannomyrmex species that have been described from the country are known from the Western Ghats range in Kerala.

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India to host UN summit on migratory species in 2020

India will host the next UN global wildlife conservation and international species protection conference in 2020.

“India to be the host of the next CMS Conference of the Parties CMSCOP13! Officially announced at the closing CMSCOP12 plenary, in Manila,” the UN for Environment Programme tweeted.

An announcement in this regard was made on the last day of the week-long 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS COP12, the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.

Delegates from 91 countries participated in the CMS COP that is held once in three years. This was for the first time the summit was held in Asia.
The CMS COP12 in Manila has been the largest-ever meeting in the 38-year history of the convention, which is also known as the ‘Bonn Convention’ after the German city in which it was signed.

The summit saw some notable outcomes, including a vulture multi-species action plan to better protect 15 species of Old World Vulture in more than 120 countries, comprising four that are critically endangered in India.

Governments also agreed to cooperate on reducing the negative impacts of marine debris, noise pollution, renewable energy and climate change on migratory species.

Other mammals that will benefit from the additional protection include the African wild ass — the most endangered wild equid in the world — Przewalski’s Horse and four species of Lasiurus Bat.

The proposal to add the Chinkara (Indian gazelle) was withdrawn.
Addressing the Plenary of COP12, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim said the sustainable development goals were directed at both “people and planet”.

He added that new technologies and political commitment could protect both the planet and bring development to people with the same policies.

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Four Asian vulture species now on highest protection list

Several species of vultures, including four that have India on their migratory routes, were awarded the highest protection by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

The whale shark, which inhabits the Indian Ocean, got global protection too. However, the proposal to extend additional protection to the chinkara or Indian gazelle was withdrawn, the summit’s organisers said.

The week-long convention in Manila concluded with approvals for protection of 34 species in submissions made by 24 countries from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Delegates from 91 countries had attended the summit, the next edition of which will be held in India in 2020.

The Asian vultures that are set to get collaborative international protection are the red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, Indian vulture and slender-billed vulture. They are faced with threats such as poisoning, hunting, collision with electricity cables and habitat degradation.

A subspecies of the black noddy, the yellow bunting and the lesser and great grey shrike are the other avians on the protected list.

Widespread over-fishing is driving many shark species, including the whale shark, to extinction. India is among 121 nations whose waters are home to sharks threatened with near extinction. The major threats are by-catch in nets and vessel strikes.

Proposals for conservation of the blue shark and common guitarfish have also been accepted. A resolution to develop and manage protected area networks within the ASEAN region has been adopted, a spokesperson said. Proposals submitted by Mongolia to protect two of Central Asia’s rarest species, Przewalski’s horse and the Gobi bear, also got the nod.

The Caspian seal has also been identified for conservation. It is the only marine mammal found in the world’s largest inland sea, where its migration is prompted by ice formation and foraging.

Protecting migratory species poses particular difficulties since they cross borders, including possibly moving to countries with less stringent wildlife protection systems, said Mr. Chambers.

Multi-nation approach

Governments also agreed to cooperate on reducing the negative impact of marine debris, noise pollution, renewable energy and climate change on the lives of migratory species.

Lions, chimpanzees, giraffes and leopards were marked out as species that needed additional protection.

More than 120 states are party to the Convention, but this does not include China and many other Asian countries.

The summit held in Manila has been the largest in the 38-year history of the Convention, which is also known as the Bonn Convention after the German city in which it was signed.

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New species of large gecko discovered from Eastern Ghats

Geckos or house lizards usually evoke in us varying degrees of disdain. But a team of scientists’ fascination for these reptiles led them to discover a new species from the Eastern Ghats. The Kanger valley rock gecko Hemidactylus kangerensis is the newest addition to India’s lizard species.

The gecko was discovered from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park. Though named after this park, the species is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in the adjoining State of Telangana, which are part of the Eastern Ghats.

Growing to over eight inches long, the adult Kanger valley rock gecko is fairly large.

The distinct black-bordered beige bands that the new species sports right from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs (which are visible only on closer inspection) set the Kanger valley rock gecko apart from the commonly-found rock gecko.

According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for dedicated surveys across the Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well. Most areas here also need protection from various anthropogenic pressures.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Zeeshan Mirza

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New Project for Protecting wildlife in the Himalayas

A new Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported the effort to protect the iconic snow leopard and its natural mountain environment was launched today at the start of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP) annual conference in New Delhi, India.

The project, Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable Use and Restoration of High Range Himalayan Ecosystems project (SECURE Himalaya), was launched by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Honorable Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change of the Government of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is part of the GWP, a seven-year program funded by the GEF and led by the World Bank, that was developed as a response to the growing crisis of illegal trafficking in wildlife.
SECURE Himalaya received a GEF grant of $11.5 million and will receive over $60 million in co-financing from the Indian government. It is being implemented by the Government of India in partnership with UNDP to sustain critical ecosystem services and to conserve vulnerable snow leopards by securing community livelihoods, enhancing enforcement, strengthening community institutions, and improving knowledge, advocacy and information systems for promoting landscape-based conservation approaches. This project will contribute to the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GLSEP), an effort to conserve the species in the 12 range countries, including India. A renewed commitment to the conservation of the species and the GSLEP was made at the “International Snow Leopard and its Ecosystem Forum” held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, August 2017.

Co-hosted by the GWP, the World Bank, UNDP and the Government of India, the annual conference this year is called People’s Participation in Wildlife Conservation, and is convening 100 participants from over 20 countries in New Delhi and the Pench Tiger Reserve, India, from October 2-5, 2017. It is an occasion for GWP country focal points to discuss specific issues regarding the projects in their countries as well as to facilitate knowledge exchange.

“Through the SECURE Himalaya project in India, our partners will build alliances between the private sector, local communities and local government authorities. We hope this conference will give our stakeholders in India and our partners across the GWP’s 19 countries the ability to engage people in wildlife conservation across all walks of life

India’s rich wildlife is critical to the prosperity of its growing population. One of the GWP’s main objectives is to promote the co-existence between people and wildlife. Engaging people across all sectors is therefore critical for the survival of many endangered species. The project will develop participatory natural resource management practices and enterprise-based sustainable livelihoods for local communities that will help safeguard the future of local economies as well as the survival of critical species.

About the GWP

The GWP is a $131 million global partnership on wildlife conservation, crime prevention and sustainable development led by the World Bank and funded by the GEF that coordinates with partners in 19 countries across Asia and Africa (Afghanistan, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Philippines, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) to improve wildlife and protected area management, enhance community livelihood benefits, strengthen law enforcement, reduce demand for illegal wildlife products and accelerate learning on relevant topics on the illegal trade of wildlife.

Many of the GWP’s national projects invest in activities that involve the active participation of individuals and communities in wildlife conservation so they may benefit from the economic value of wildlife through tourism or alternative livelihoods in order to sustain conservation efforts.

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