'Why just tigers, protect other endangered species too'
New Delhi: Tigers, lions and elephants in India get all the attention when it comes to protection. But all this may soon change as experts and environment ministry officials feel that other critically endangered animals require equal if not more focus.
This was proposed at a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month.
"One board member pointed out that not much attention is given to the other critically endangered species, including those on the verge of extinction," a senior official in the environment ministry told.
India's environment ministry in 2011 came out with a detailed list of 57 critically endangered species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, spiders and corals. It also started a species recovery programme for 16 of them but was hampered by financial crunch and monitoring of the project.
"It was not possible to focus on all the 57 species together; so after talking to experts, the ministry started a species recovery programme for saving 16 species along with their habitats. Funding and implementation of the project are two areas that need to be strengthened," said the official.
Among the 16 species for protection are Jerdon Courser (bird), vulture, gharial, wild buffalo, Great Indian Bustard and Gangetic dolphin.
"The shift in the thinking of the government that attention should also be paid to less glamorous animals compared to lions, tigers and elephants is good. Both the ministry officials and panel members agreed with the suggestion, but it will take some time before anything concrete is arrived at," he added.
The NBWL is a statutory body and advises the central government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country. The prime minister is chairperson of the board.
The ministry has already appealed to the Planning Commission to increase the monetary support for the species recovery programme from Rs73 crore (Rs 730 million) to Rs600 crore (Rs 6 bn).
Wildlife experts explain that they do not want the focus to be shifted away from the tiger, lion or elephant, but want the other endangered species to also get their due.
"The tiger and elephant are very important animals, but other species like vulture and the Great Indian Bustard are equally critical. We want their protection to be brought to the level of 'Save the Tiger' campaign," said a member of the NBWL who did not want to be named.
The member was keen that the species recovery programme be given more funds and that monitoring of the project be strengthened.
"The budget for Project Tiger is Rs.80 crore annually, and in comparison only Rs.73 crore is spent a year on protection of these 16 species. The tiger and these 16 species are critically endangered and they need equal protection," the member told IANS.