Posted in Environment

Under Threat: Bitra: Floating Marine Reserve, India.

Ref: How the Bitra Floating Marine Reserve was born – by Rohan Arthur and T R Shankar Raman , from ‘At the feet of living things’ -edited by Aparajitta Datta

Always amazed by fish spawning frenzy spotlighted by underwater videos that we come across in Animal Planet etc. Never knew it had a scientific name: FSA (Fish Spawning aggregation). What is more surprising is learning that India has a Floating Marine Reserve (among a handful) at Bitra, Lakshadweep group of Islands falling under the Union Territory, off Kerala coast, in the Arabian sea.

Some of the books I have read on the wildlife in India were authored by wildlife research aspirants who were gathering material and evidence for their doctorate. The Bitra Reserve apparently was born thanks to the efforts of two such ambitious and enthusiastic PhD candidates of Fisheries who had chosen Bitra for their studies. I am blogging this from a series of essays on Indian wildlife conservation efforts in about a quarter century until the 1990s. Some articles lie outside the purview of the scope of the book obviously, because the Bitra scene is from very recent. One of the group of islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago, Bitra is an impoverished fishing island where naturally fishing continues to be the way of life. The two researchers Rohan Arthur and T S Shankar Raman venture into this sleepy fishing center and stumble upon the FSA off the reefs of Bitra sea. They discover in the year close to 2012 that there is the FSA (fish spawning aggregation) ritual happening under sea near the reef where the square tails aggregated in tens of thousands to spawn their litter. A rare event in Indian territory, the Fisheries guys congregate with the locals and take steps to preserve the FSA from damages of fishing.

Seriously I wish they hadn’t tabled their findings! In a bid to submit their papers for their diplomas, they have given away the precious info to the locals that they seem to exploit for commercial gains. The earliest boost for their venture was the kudos that came from the Fisheries department itself that went against their grain. The department seconding to save fish is anathema to their founding principles and motto. No wonder, the plans fell flat in their face as the local fishermen refused to comply with the restrictions and started fishing vigorously in the delicately balanced marine eco system with the mother boats that made a killing catch every season of spawning (around new moon day a particular time of the year). Thus in matter of ten years the FSA fish count has dropped by over 90% . Human greed knows no bounds. Educating the local fishermen, bringing the awareness is a slow process but can work in the long run. Hopefully by the time realization dawns, there are still square tails left out in the Arabian sea/Indian ocean to make it to the Bitra reef for their annual appointed FSA.

Will the center look in and do something decisive about the protection of the Bitra reef and FSA therein? #narendramodi

I am banking on our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji on saving the floating marine reserve at Bitra and the annual FSA, saving the square tail and other fish species from extinction in near future. FSA is way of nature. We shall be making or breaking the natural cycle in Bitra shortly as frenzied fishing activity near the reef can drive the fish away from the FSA pool which for some evolutionary/geographic/scientific reason has been natural selection for the fish species since ages.

Posted in Environment

India doubles her Tiger population.

India Tiger Count tops 3000. Now pegged at 3167 as per latest census .

As we celebrate 50 years of Project Tiger in India that was rolled into motion way back in 1973 for conservation of Tiger the national animal, it emerges that India has recorded a doubling of the Tiger population since 2010. The thirteen tiger countries of the world met at St Petersburg in Russia at an international tiger conservation forum, the Global Tiger Summit where it was decided to boost tiger breeding doubling their count in the next twelve years by 2022. India achieved the target well within time. India accounts for 70% of the tiger count in entire world. Bengal Tigers and tigers from across India have seen a surge in headcount in the various wildlife reserves and sanctuaries spread around the country. India is also home to the native (Gir) Lions, (Indian/Asian) Elephants and a stunning array of wildlife – both flora and fauna. To those who ask why is our population 1.3 billion, this is the reason. For millennia we had the ideal weather conditions that natured both human race and the wildlife that helped them breed and thrive healthy and happy in this part of the world. As man and beast jostle for space in this cramped peninsular subcontinent of ours in modern times, conservation efforts are proving to be an increasingly tougher job. A highly bio-diversified country, India boasts of both the snow peaks of the Himalayas as well as the Thar deserts; the serene beaches of the south; the mangroves; the biosphere of the Nilgiris or the western ghats that are home to widest range of avian population in their rainforests as well as exotic fauna such as the sandalwood trees; the eastern jungles recording highest rainfall in the world per year. The elephant corridors and the tiger corridors of this country have been here for thousands of years, from long before recorded human history. Only in recent times they have cut short or taken over by human greed. As our prime minister visited Bandipur sanctuary in Karnataka from where he drove into Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu right through the forests in recognition of the golden jubilee year of Project Tiger, the nation celebrates the big cats of the country with enthusiasm and vigour. Last year saw the re-introduction of Cheetah in India, brought in from Namibia. The native cheetahs of India were hunted down to extinction by the British (who are behind the extinction of many species of wild life) alongside the erstwhile royals of India.The nation mourning the loss of life of one precious fertile female cheetah was compensated with the arrival of four healthy cubs from a cheetah mom late last week.

adorable cheetah cubs born in India after a 70 year hiatus…

The Tiger countries of the world:  Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia (locally extinct), China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR (locally extinct), Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Viet Nam (locally extinct).

Rounding off with some adorable shots from the Tiger reserves of India. The disturbing image is that of the tourists, but then the tourists pay for the tiger conservation efforts.