Saturday, August 22, 2009

Verify the need, feasibility of Venom Extraction Centre: BNHS

Mumbai, Aug 22 The proposed Snake Venom Research and Extraction Centre planned by Government of Maharashtra on cooperative basis in Nashik should be started only if the right procedures are ensured in capturing, handling and releasing snakes, the BNHS has said.

BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) is of the opinion that proper safety of captured snakes should be ensured before setting up the Centre, since snakes are vital to the future of environment and mankind, it said in a release issued here.

"If a programme for snake collection and venom extraction is well-designed, it could work. The danger is that if it is not done properly, snakes are not handled carefully and extraction is done in a crude manner, then it may result in the death of snakes captured for the purpose," Romulus Whitaker, BNHS Advisor and founder of Madras Snake Park and co-fo under of Madras Crocodile Bank said.

Moreover, guidelines issued by WHO (World Health Organization) should be referred to and the Government of India should call a meeting of the main stakeholders such as venom extractors, anti-venom producers, state forest departments, health officials, WHO officials and clinicians, before implementing this idea, the veteran herpetologist said.

Government of Maharashtra has recently cleared a plan to set up a Snake Venom Research and Extraction Centre on cooperative basis in Nashik. Chalisgaon-based Sanjivani Bahuddeyshiya Society has been authorized to run this Centre.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More than 350 new species discovered in Himalayas

More than 350 new species of animals, fish and plants have been discovered in one of the world's "most biologically rich areas" over the last decade, conservationists said today.

New species discovered in fragile Eastern Himalayas
Among the discoveries are a bright green frog (Rhacophorus suffry) which uses its red and long webbed feet to glide in the air Photo: WWF

But the Eastern Himalayas, a region spanning Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, north eastern India and the far north of Burma, is also one of the areas most under threat from climate change, a report by WWF warns.

It is feared the impacts of a warming climate, such as melting glaciers and flooding, will exacerbate existing environmental threats including logging, overgrazing, the wildlife trade and pollution.

Already only a quarter of the region's original habitat, which includes the lowland home of Asian elephants, clouded leopards, cobras and geckos and the high northern region where snow leopards, red pandas and blue sheep are found, remains.

The region harbours 10,000 plant species, 300 mammals, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles and 269 types of freshwater fish, has the highest density of the Bengal tiger and is the last bastion of the greater one-horned rhino, WWF said.

But some 163 species are globally threatened with extinction, the Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide report warns, with 14 of them critically endangered.

In the last 10 years, 244 new plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds and two mammals – a macaque monkey and a miniature muntjac, the oldest and smallest species of deer – have been discovered.

When scientists first spotted the "leaf deer", they thought it was a juvenile of another species but DNA tests confirmed it was a distinct and new species.

The discoveries of 353 new species, which also included a bright green frog, which uses its red webbed feet to "fly" through the air and species of orchids, poppies and bamboo, puts the area on a par with Borneo as a hot spot for new wildlife.

The Eastern Himalayas are also the site of the discovery of the oldest fossil gecko species known to science, the 100 million-year-old gecko, found in an amber mine in the far north of Burma.

Mark Wright, WWF's conservation science adviser, said: "These exciting finds reinforce just how little we know about the world around us.

"In the Eastern Himalayas we have a region of extraordinary beauty and with some of the most biologically rich areas on the planet.

"Ironically, it is also one of the regions most at risk from climate change, as evidenced by the rapid retreat of the glaciers, and only time will tell how well species will be able to adapt – if at all."

The WWF report calls for a number of measures to protect the environment of the Eastern Himalayas, and the people that live in and depend on the region for their food, fresh water and livelihoods.

The study urges Bhutan, India and Nepal to work together for a region-wide vision for conservation and sustainable development and to tackle wildlife crime.

It also calls for efforts to support communities to cope with the impacts of climate change and says development such as hydropower schemes and tourism ventures must take the environment into account.

The conservation charity is also calling for governments meeting in Copenhagen in December for talks on a new climate change global deal to commit to a reduction in emissions of 40% by developed nations by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

Mr Wright said: "There is no room for compromise on this issue; without these cuts the Himalayas face a precarious future – impacting both the unique wildlife and the 20% of humanity who rely on the river systems that arise in these mountains."