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World likely to lose 68 Percent of its Wildlife by 2020, 6th mass Extinction on cards: WWF

The report says that about 41 per cent mammals, 46 per cent reptiles, 57 per cent amphibians and 70 per cent freshwater fishes are "threatened with extinction" in India

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Representational image. Pixabay
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New Delhi, October 27, 2016: The future of many living organisms is under question as the world may lose 68 percent of its wildlife by 2020 — a possible prelude for the sixth mass extinction, a major WWF report has said.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Living Plant Report 2016, 58 percent of the global population of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles has already been lost between 1970 and 2012.

These patterns are directly attributed to human-induced climate change.

The report says that about 41 per cent mammals, 46 per cent reptiles, 57 per cent amphibians and 70 per cent freshwater fishes are “threatened with extinction” in India. Four of the 385 species of mammals are already extinct in India.

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Seven per cent of birds may also extinct in the world.

Globally between 1970 and 2012, 38 percent of the terrestrial population, 81 percent of fresh water population and 36 per cent of the marine population had declined.

“Habitat loss and degradation and over-exploitation of wildlife are the most common threats to the terrestrial population,” the report says.

As per the report, by 2000, 48.5 percent of the tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forest habitat had been converted for human use. This has led to a 41 percent overall decline in tropical forest species.

The report held food production to meet the complex demands of an expanding human population as the primary reason for the destruction of habitats and over-exploitation of wildlife.

The world’s population has grown from about 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today’s 7.3 billion.

“By 2012, the bio-capacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year,” the report said, pointing out how planetary boundaries were stretched due to human-produced alterations to the functioning of the Earth system.

WWF focused on nine such alterations including unsustainable fresh water use and ocean acidification. As per studies, by 2050 there will be more polythene in the ocean than fish.

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“This is not just about the wonderful species we all love. Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away the species and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us,” said Dr Marco Lambertini, International Director General, WWF.

The researchers are already calling this time as “Anthropocene” — an era during which the climate changes, oceans acidify and the entire community of flora and fauna disappears — during a single human lifetime.

All these changes may lead to the world’s sixth extinction, following the extinction of reptiles, mammals (twice) and dinosaurs (twice).

As per IUCN, the total threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 8,462 since 1996. India, Indonesia, Brazil and China are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and birds.

“Not only wild plants and animals are at risk, people are victims of the deteriorating nature. Patterns suggest that without action during the Anthropocene the earth will become much less hospitable to our modern globalised society,” the report says.

India ranks fifth in terms of bio-capacity — means an ecosystem capable of producing resources like food, fibre and absorbing carbon dioxide. However, large population size and growing wealth which may change the consumption pattern is a challenge.

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“Our consumption patterns are constantly shaping the future of our planet,” said Ravi Singh, CEO, WWF-India.

WWF, however, finds addressing the social inequality and environment degradation as best remedy.

“There is still considerable room for optimism. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. We must create a new economic system that enhances and supports the natural capital upon which it relies,” says WWF.

While the prediction of losing two-third of the global wildlife population is expected by 2020, the landmark Paris climate agreement (COP21) that would enter into force the same year, is seen as another sign of optimism. (IANS)

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  • Antara

    Utterly tragic news!

  • Ruchika Kumari

    please save wildlife

  • Shivani Vohra

    Wildlife must be saved, as they maintain the ecosystem.

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Threat of untreated human waste lurking large on the “dancing deer” of Manipur

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Threat of untreated human waste lurking large on the
Threat of untreated human waste lurking large on the "dancing deer" of Manipur. wikimedia commons

 Imphal, December 27, 2017: “I managed to catch a glimpse of its tail”, “I saw its shadow,” “Lucky if you spot one!”

This usual banter among tourists at the tiny Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) in Manipur — the world’s only floating national park — is not about catching the Unicorn.

They are talking about the endangered and elusive Sangai or Eld’s deer — popularly known as the “dancing deer” by the locals. Celebrated for its gait, it is ubiquitous in Manipuri art, culture and folklore.

Now untreated human waste is threatening its already jeopardised survival at the park, its last remaining refuge.

Spread around 40 square kilometres, KLNP is the protected southern rim of the saucer-shaped freshwater lake, the iconic Loktak, and is about a quarter of the size of Assam’s famous Kaziranga National Park.

The swampy Loktak, originally a “wetland of wetlands” and the “lifeline” of the Manipur Valley’s people, is famous for the phumdis — the squelchy mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter bunched together and in various stages of decomposition — that has thickened to form floating meadows.

It is the largest freshwater lake in northeast India, bordering Myanmar and straddling the Barak-Chindwin river basin in the Indo-Myanmar region.

At Sendra, the highest point of the lake, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from state capital Imphal, one gets a bird’s eye-view of the phumdis dotting the water body.

Rings of green stretching across the clear blue expanse of the lake bring to mind images of crop circles synonymous with rumours of alien visitors.

These floating meadows harbour around 260 of the animals, whose dainty gait is said to inspire Manipuri dance traditions and folklore.

Under attack from water pollution due to untreated waste, these islets have thinned down — making it tough for the deer to live on and off them.

Of the 40 square km of the national park, about 65 per cent (26 square kilometre) is covered with thick and almost contiguous mat of floating meadows.

“To support the weight of Sangai (weighing between 90 kg and 150 kg) and sustain a stable population of the deer, the phumdis needs to be at least a metre thick,” Chongpi Tuboi of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) told IANS.

Tuboi, a project scientist, in the WII’s conservation action plan for Sangai, says the phumdis that have formed recently (it may take up to 20 years for one phumdi to form) are less than a metre in thickness.

“Overall, only nine square kilometres of the total park area has the required phumdi thickness of at least one metre,” Tuboi said.

Loktak’s water woes are mainly linked to loss of vegetation cover in its catchment and construction of the Ithai Barrage in the southern part of the lake.

While poor water quality has altered the vegetation cover and composition of the phumdis and hence their potential to sustain the Sangais, the construction of the barrage in 1983 disrupted the waterbody’s natural flushing mechanism.

“The Lake was a seasonally flooded wetland with several small wetlands which used to be separated during low water levels and merged into one during the monsoon,” Tuboi explained.

After the construction of the barrage, the water level in the Lake is maintained at a regular 769.12 metres above mean sea level so as to support the hydro-power project.

The lake is, as Tuboi says, in stress due to “permanent flooding”.

This hinders the phumdis from settling down on to the water bed during the dry season and picking up nutrients and soil to maintain the desired thickness.

From 2008 to 2010, Tuboi and his colleagues Syed Ainul Hussain and Michelle Irengbam tested water samples across 11 sites of the wetland, which is fed by around 30 rivers and streams, including the heavily polluted Nambul and Nambol rivers.

The Ithai Barrage is the only outlet for this lake.

Both liquid effluents and solid wastes discharged from Imphal city are drained directly into Loktak via the Nambul river which flows through the city.

The results of the study published in journal Physics and Chemistry of the Earth in October reinforce the message that the Loktak lake is “severely polluted” due to the “influx of sewage and other wastes from the Nambul and Nambol rivers.”

In addition, surface runoff from the surrounding agricultural and catchment areas is also diminishing the lake’s water quality, as indicated by high nitrogen concentration.

The researchers recommend setting up sewage treatment plants at strategic locations, such as at the inlet channel at Toubul village, which is surrounded by the lake.

Meanwhile, Tuboi and his team have been surveying spots within the lake where a satellite population of the Sangai could be re-located.

“Sangai is the flagship species. If we save it, we save everything else. Before the fragile balance between the lake ecosystem and the local cultural practices are permanently lost, the lake needs to be restored by improving its water quality and hydrological regime,” Tuboi added. (IANS)