In the first post in this Ecology series, we looked into some of the prominent threatened animals with reference to IUCN’s Red List for India. This is the second and final part in this series in which we look into some of the prominent animals that are facing extinction owing to various reasons. Note that this is not an exhaustive list but describes the existential threats of some of the prominent animal species in India.
- Listed as Endangered as the Asiatic Wild Ass is estimated to have declined by more than 50% over the past 16 years based on direct observation and potential/actual levels of exploitation. The Asiatic Wild Ass is also estimated to continue declining by more than 50% over the next 10 to 21 years.
- Threats to the species include loss of habitat as a result of human settlement, cultivation, overgrazing, developmental activities, conflict with humans (crop depredation), competition for water, salt extraction, poaching for meat, and competition with domestic livestock and, in certain parts of the range, war and civil unrest have had a detrimental effect on the species.
- Perhaps the greatest threat to the population of Asiatic Wild Ass appears to be the potential for catastrophic population declines due to poaching.
- Disease and/or drought are “stress events” that are a constant threat to small, isolated Wild Ass populations, such as those in India, Iran, Israel, and Turkmenistan.
- Continued fragmentation and marginalisation of the smaller populations could result in similar extinctions.
- Small, isolated populations are demographically and genetically vulnerable. The Khur (Equus hemionus khur) in the Little Rann of Kutch is the subspecies subject to the most direct threat from increasing human activities.
- The ecology of the Wild Ass Sanctuary, for example, is threatened by a canal building project – the Sardar Sarovar Project of the Narmada Development Authority.
- There is growing competition for resources as an increasing number of livestock are grazed within the reserve during monsoon season.
- At the same time, salt mining, the major economic industry for local people, has increased 140% since 1958. Such increased activity is particularly disruptive as the period for salt mining coincides with advanced stage of pregnancy in the Khur.
- The increase in Khur population and its range expansion into the human dominated landscapes has resulted in increased incidences of crop depredation. Agriculture has intensified with better irrigation facilities thus changing the land use patterns.
PANGOLIN OR SCALY ANTEATER
- This species is listed as Near Threatened (NT) because it is suspected to be in significant decline (though not at a rate of over 30% over the past and future ten years) primarily due to hunting for food and medicine.
- The future threats from hunting could increase even more, given the significant declines experienced by Manis pentadactyla and Mains javanica. Almost qualifies as threatened under criterion A.
- The species can adapt to modified habitats, although a large proportion of its range has high human population density. The principal factor affecting the species is exploitation, largely for meat and for medicinal purposes, with the scales thought to have aphrodisiac properties.
- Trade in Mains crassicaudata parts appears to be mostly at a subsistence or local level, with little international trade currently reported. Records of trade in this species outside of the confirmed range states are presumed to be misidentifications of other Manis species.
- Although populations in Pakistan and Iran have been greatly reduced by over hunting, the Indian population was estimated at certainly > 100,000.
- Indiscriminate hunting has adversely affected gazelles in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan (hunted for meat and to a lesser degree for trophies).
- Habitat loss through overgrazing, conversion to agriculture and industrial development is also a factor.
- Listed as Endangered because its population size is estimated to number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, there is an observed continuing decline in the number of mature individuals, and no subpopulation contains more than 250 mature individuals.
- Principal threats are habitat loss (mainly from domestic livestock and spread of invasive plants) and poaching.
- The general trends of decline even in the best managed Tahr habitats indicate that the total population of the species does not exceed 2000 at present and a conservative estimate would place the numbers within the 1,800-2,000 range.
- Currently, the only populations with more than 300 individuals are in Eravikulam National Park and in the Grass Hills in Anamalal.
- The most recent information from the Nilgiri hills (Mukurti Wildlife Sanctuary), which previously had more than 300 tahr indicates that only between 75 and 100 individuals remain.
- Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) plantations and cattle apparently no longer threaten the Mukurti population, so their decline is probably due solely to illegal hunting. The status of the other smaller populations (many of which are less than 100 individuals), which are also subject to continued illegal hunting, can be considered precarious.
- Similar population decreases and threats to the species were reported in a survey in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.
INDIAN FLYING FOX (LEAST CONCERN)
- Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, it occurs in a number of protected areas, has a tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
- There appear to be no major threats to this species as a whole. This species is assumed to be locally threatened by cutting down of roosting trees because of road expansion or other purposes. The species is also hunted in several locations for meat and for medicine.
- New roosts have been observed, but the impact of roost disturbance and felling is not known, and the impact of hunting is also not understood.
- Surveys of local people at more than 30 roost sites indicate a steady decline in roosting populations.
- In parts of its range, some deforestation seems to help this species as it has occupied areas of the Western Ghats once the vegetation was disturbed.