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BJP’s minister exposes anti-coservation attitude regarding Dihing Patkai

GUWAHATI: Coal mining has forever remained a controversial business across India. In upper Assam the modus operandi of mining coal has always been alleged to be illegal and so, controversial.

The Assam government today hinted that it will back the Centre’s decision claiming that coal mining in the Dehing-Patkai reserve will be allowed only if it is sanctioned to be legal.

BJP’s promoinent leader , the state forest and environment minister, Parimal Suklabaidya, talking to media said, “It is during our BJP government that we identified the illegal mining going on in Dehing-Patkai and accordingly action was taken.” He further added that this government is only trying to make things legal, and it is the illegal nexus which had benefitted all this while that is creating the controversy now. Explaining further he said that illegal mining has been continuing in the area since 2003.

Moreover, it has never been reported that a single elephant has fallen victim to the illegal coal mining or its transportation in the area. “Is it really an elephant corridor where mining is taking place?” questioned the minister indicating that the “Amazon of the East,” i.e. the rain forest and the elephant reserve contained within it are far off from the actual area where mining of coal takes place. The forest minister further said that the state government has not yet given the approval, and it can happen only after proper scrutiny of the area.

For the record, a mining lease of 30 years was given to Coal India Limited (CIL) – a central government PSU – in 1973. After its expiry, CIL was supposed to apply for clearance from the forest department which it did only in 2012. However, coal mining had continued there always without the lease being renewed.

The Assam Forest Department had slapped a penalty of Rs 43.25 crores on CIL for this illegal mining activity inside the forest for 16 years since 2003; the department is yet to recover this amount. The forest department had also filed FIRs against officials responsible for alleged illegal activity on around 73 hectares of land inside the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve between 2003 and 2019. (Source: G Plus)


Amid Covid-19, African Swine Fever kills over 13,000 pigs in Assam

Guwahati: When India continues an all-out fight against the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, Assam is battling on an additional front as the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) has killed over 13,000 pigs in the state, affecting the livelihood of thousands of already economically distressed people in the animal resource trade, Ministers and officials said on Sunday.

Terming the situation as “serious”, Animal Husbandry, Veterinary and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said that 13,033 pigs died in nine districts of Assam during the past several weeks.

“The Kaziranga National Park authority has dug a two-km long and six-feet deep trench to protect its wild boars (also known as ”wild swine”) from the outbreak of the contagious ASF,” Bora told the media here.

The Minister visited the Kaziranga National Park and adjoining villages and reviewed the steps taken to protect the wild boars from the deadly disease.

Bora said his department has been working for several weeks to deal with the highly infectious ASF disease, whose mortality rate is very high — 90 to 100 per cent.

“We have already taken a series of steps, including creation of containment zones, within one km radius of an infected area and surveillance zone within 10 km, to prevent spread of the virus to other adjoining districts. We have formed a committee with officials, experts, specialists and pig farmers and are working according to their advice,” he said.

Despite the Central government”s advice, the Minister said as of now, the department did not have any plans to cull the pigs.

According to the officials of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department, the infection spread initially in six districts — Dhemaji, North Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar and Jorhat in February but in the last few weeks, has also been detected in three more districts — Majuli, Golaghat and Kamrup (Metro).

According to the 2019 census, Assam”s pig population was around 21 lakh, which by now according to the officials, has increased to around 30 lakh.

Due to the ASF, hundreds of pigs” deaths were also reported from the nine districts of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh.

Because of the outbreak of ASF in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, all the state governments in the northeast have sounded a high alert and asked people, especially owners of piggeries, to refrain from bringing pigs from other states.

Animal resource experts in northeast India suspect that the highly contagious ASF came to the region from Tibet through Arunachal Pradesh.

The annual pork business of the northeast is worth around Rs 8,000-10,000 crore with Assam being the largest supplier. Pork is one of the most common and popular meats consumed by both tribals and non-tribals in the northeastern states.

According to the animal resource experts, the pigs generally are affected by the Classical Fever, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome besides the ASF. The ASF was first detected in 1921 in Kenya. No vaccines or medicines have been discovered so far. According to some experts, human beings do not get infected by the ASF, but they could be the carriers of the virus.



Overfishing Drives West Bengal’s Hilsa Fishers Up the Creek

On the eve of Maghi Purnima, while marine fishers were preparing for Ganga puja at West Bengal’s Sagar Island, everyone was talking with a sense of foreboding. Abdar Mallik, secretary of Sagar Marine Matsya Khuti Cooperative Society, said, “Bajar bhalo na, Goto teen bochor ilish aschhena,” (Translated: The market is not in a good state. As a result, we haven’t been receiving any hilsa here for the last three years).

The decline in the production of hilsa on the Indian side (West Bengal) of Bay of Bengal has been a rising concern in the recent past. Researchers claim hilsa is destroyed by over-exploitation in northern Bay of Bengal, which has threatened the livelihoods of over 26,000 fishers in West Bengal.

Unsustainable Fishing Practices
In a recent study, scientists questioning the sustainability of hilsa fishing practices in the northern Bay of Bengal region. They suggested that excess of licensed fishing trawlers are responsible for declining hilsa stock. From the estuary of the Ganga to deep in the Bay of Bengal, about 15,000 trawlers are hovering in the migratory path of the hilsa as the fish approaches the river to spawn, and on its way out.

The study revealed that between 2002 and 2015, even though the number of boats engaged in fishing increased by 25%, the hilsa catch dipped by 13%. “In spite of the ban on nets with mesh holes less than 90 mm, such nets are used most of the time. A very large number of juvenile hilsa are caught regularly. Apart from this hundreds of nets, each around 1-2km long, block the mouth of the estuary. How will the fish enter the river?” asked Debasish Shyamal, district president of Dakhhinbongo Matsajibi Forum.

The damage is twofold – the possibility of getting mature hilsa in the future is reduced, and it also hampers the reproduction of the fish. Shyamal further explained, “West Bengal has 158km coast line, comparatively smaller coast line than others but production rate is higher than other coastal states. Government is always pushing to increase production numbers without thinking the environmental consequences. In 2012 hilsa production in the state was 8510 tonnes. According to fisheries department data 14203 tonnes hilsa caught in 2016. As result trawlers involved in destructive fishing practices to increase production numbers.”

Bottom trawling is prohibited up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline but small fishers alleged that trawlers start trawling just 1km from the coastline that threatened life of traditional small fishers. Moreover, trawler owners claim they do mid-level water trawling but in reality it is similar to bottom trawling.

Professor Sugata Hazra, director of School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University further elaborated:

“In case of Tamil Nadu, after 12 nautical miles from coastline you will get deep sea but in northern Bay of Bengal after 12 nautical miles water level is shallow as this area fall under delta region. So, trawler shouldn’t do fishing within 30 nautical miles from Bengal coastline to stop habitat destruction of marine biodiversity.”

Ban Without Surveillance
In order to increase production of hilsa and other fishes, every year Fisheries Department of Government of West Bengal issues notifications to control fishing. According to circular, from 15 April to 31 May, fishing is prohibited in the sea and adjoining areas.

Moreover, a special ban is imposed specifically for the conservation of the hilsa during 15 September to 24 October. This system was initiated for the undisturbed breeding of hilsa. Besides fishing, selling, transporting and hoarding of hilsa, less than 23 cm long hilsa is prohibited.

However, Debasish Shyamal of Dakhhinbongo Matsajibi Forum said, “This is just an eyewash from state fisheries department.”

Accepting that the ban is not obeyed by some fishers, a fisher working in trawler at Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas district, who wished to maintain anonymity, claimed, “A mature hilsa weighing between 700 grams and a kg but we don’t obey any rule once we get large number of fish in sea. If 500 kg of hilsa is caught, large portion of that weighing below 200 grams, all juvenile fish, even we catch 50 gm hilsa which also has a good market.”

In the absence of government surveillance, juvenile hilsa fishing goes on. Shyamsundar Das, Secretary of the trawler owners’ association – United Fishermen’s Association denied all allegations against trawlers and dismissed the claim of overfishing. He told, “How do you define overfishing while government has not yet put any limitation per trawler. We catch fish according to act and beyond 12 nautical miles which is not state subject.” Das further questioned the act regarding mesh size, “The act says 90mm mesh for hilsa and 40mm for other fishes, then how could one use 90mm while others are using 40mm mesh to catch fish.”

They claimed that they are trying to observe the fishing ban and prohibition on mesh size and urged government to exempt taxes from diesel.

Chandranath Sinha, Minister of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal, claimed, “Overall fisheries department has successfully implemented the fishing ban during the spawning period across the coast. Few fishers from Odisha used to catch juvenile fishes and then export it to West Bengal market.” He further explained that state government continuously conducting awareness campaign among fishers about ill impact of overfishing.

“State has notified the ban but there’s no surveillance on ground. Bangladesh has a strict winter ban during September-October. There’re many instances that they (Bangladesh) burnt nets and all fishing equipment those ventured into fishing during this period. Our government must take such steps to minimise the destruction,” said Professor Hazra.

Traditional fishers alleged fishing space is gradually occupied by those from other livelihood background. Nowadays most labours working in trawlers came from Jhargram, West Medinipur district.
Traditional fishers alleged fishing space is gradually occupied by those from other livelihood background. Nowadays most labours working in trawlers came from Jhargram, West Medinipur district.

With the fishing space so crowded and the catch uncertain, respecting restrictions on the size of the fishing net or the ban on catching small-sized hilsa becomes a real challenge. State fisheries department has started a livelihood scheme in 2013-14, there are several difficulties in implementation. Abdar Mallik, member of small fishers’ union of Sagar Island alleged, “Department has started data collection about the number of fishers who depend on hilsa for a livelihood but the data is not yet available. Even vending units given to the panchayats were distributed to those who are not engaged in hilsa fishing at all. ”

Earlier, there was a savings cum relief schemes for fishers where a fisher contributes Rs 900 and state fisheries department and National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) also contribute same amount.

“This scheme is not active anymore. State says central government isn’t giving their share,” said Debasish Shyamal of small fishers’ union – Dakhhinbongo Matsajibi Forum. Moreover, there is no subsidy available for small fishers in the state. “Trawlers get modernised jetty, toilets and free ice inside harbour but there’s nothing for Khuti (fish landing centres) fishers. How we’ll (small fishers) survive during ban period?” asked Shyamal.

Huge quantities of hilsa fish have reached Kolkata market. Demand for hilsa in Bengali cuisine is always high.
Huge quantities of hilsa fish have reached Kolkata market. Demand for hilsa in Bengali cuisine is always high.
(Photo: Tanmoy Bhaduri/ The Quint)
State fisheries minister claimed, “All fishers in the state get Rs 2 per kg rice throughout the year. If anyone left out of the list we will definitely include them.” Many fishers in South 24 Parganas alleged that benefits announced by the government does not reach all sections. “The trend that we are seeing is most fishermen migrate out of Bengal to Andhra Pradesh and Kerala for better livelihood,” Abdar Mallik claimed.

Moreover, researchers claim there has been an overall decline in natural fish stock in all of the major river transboundary river systems across India and Bangladesh that impacted traditional small fishers. The Bangladesh government has introduced an extensive hilsa management action plan to increase hilsa production not only by conserving the juveniles but also by protecting the brood fish during breeding seasons by imposing a ban on fishing and restricting the mesh size. The Bangladesh Government also offers vulnerable group feeding programmes for underprivileged fishers during the ban period. “If state government support fishers with alternative scheme during ban period like Bangladesh do, we can successfully conserve hilsa as well as livelihoods of fishers,” said Professor Hazra.

(Tanmoy Bhaduri is Kolkata-based independent journalist who focuses on social, cultural and environmental issues. This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.)

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Nagaland: Drive against single-use plastic in Kohima


Kohima District Task Force carried out its fourth checking and confiscation exercise to enforce the total ban on all single-use plastics in Nagaland’s capital city Kohima on Friday.

The task force on total ban of all single use plastics has been conducting checking and confiscation exercise at regular intervals to ensure that the ban on the sale and use of single-use plastic is properly enforced.

It aims to create awareness and ensure that the dream of a plastic pollution free Nagaland stays alive.

The team,  divided into two groups and aided by various NGOs and government departments, conducted the exercise, visited all the shops in and around the Kohima main town to check the use and sale of all single-use plastics, including poly-propylene bags.

A number of shops were caught using the banned plastic bags and selling minerals water bottles below one litre.

The erring shopkeepers were fined and the banned products were all confiscated.

The seized items will later be disposed off by the Kohima Municipal Council.

The Kohima district administration thanked the various public organistions, Kohima Municipal Council, various government departments for their c-operation and participation in the exercise. (Source: NE NOW)


The largest cave fish on earth discovered in Meghalaya

  • New cave fish dwarfs all other known kinds
  • Puts paid to assumptions about body size
  • Not yet clear if it’s a new species

Proving a long-held notion “spectacularly wrong” is a scientist’s wet dream. To do it shining a torchlight in a dingy Indian cave, as whiskered fish acquaint themselves with the sole of your boot, is something else entirely.

Yet that is what experts from the UK, Switzerland and India say they did by discovering a new kind of cave fish, similar in anatomy to an endangered mahseer species, in Meghalaya last February. It is “by far the largest known subterreanean fish in the world”, they write in a recent paper.

The biggest specimen they found was longer than 40 cm — way too long to fit in your geometry box. That may still seem small, but the scientists explain that it dwarfs the vast majority of cave fish. (Imagine encountering a human close to 30 feet tall.)

The discovery of the Meghalayan fish, they say, puts paid to the long-held assumption that the paucity of food in caves limits body length to 35 cm or less.

“All previous discoveries of cave fish from India have been of small fish, and this is the largest of the cave fish discovered in the country, and probably from anywhere in the world,” said Rajeev Raghavan, an aquatic conservation biologist and one of the paper’s co-authors.

The other Indian on the team is Neelesh Dahanukar from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune.


Widely consumed in India, mahseer live mostly in “fast-flowing streams and rivers and also large reservoirs”, Raghavan told The new species is similar to the golden mahseer, Tor putitora, except for its blander look, lack of eyes and — of course — its unusual underground home in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills. It is not clear yet if a new species has been found.ADVERTISEMENT

“A locked cave population of mahseer is a very interesting find that shows how little we know about these groups of fish, though the first mahseer in the world was described in 1822,” said Raghavan, who works at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies in Kochi.

But how did it go undetected for so long?

“Caves are one of the least-explored of all habitats,” Rajeev Raghavan said. “We know absolutely nothing about the cave fauna of India — especially in the streams and lakes that are found inside the caves.”

What about conservation? Are there any known threats to the fish’s survival?

Raghavan says no.

“It is difficult terrain to get to, and so I think no short-term threats would impact the populations,” he said.

There’s much left to discover about the Meghalayan cave fish, but one thing’s for sure. We know they don’t mind biscuits.

by Ganesh Radha-Udayakumar

Environment, Nature

Wetlands of Assam need urgent conservation measures

Chandan Kumar Duarah : Wetlands in Assam have been carrying out a great role minimising intensity of flood in Brahmaputra valley. Better conservation of wetlands in the state may be the most effective way to control flood and erosion problems. Because wetlands store a large amount of excess water during flood.

Most of wetlands in the state have become shallow due to turbidity, silt and sediment deposition. As they are becoming shallow the capacity of flood water storage also decreasing. So if these wetlands can be dredged and make deeper these will have more capacity to store more amount of flood water. Continue Reading


Black necked cranes face plastic threat in Bhutan

Bhutan reinforced its 20-year old ban on plastics in April this year. First introduced on the 25th year of the reign of the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the ban has been only partially successful. Part of the reason is that it was never comprehensive, and did not apply to goods packaged in Bhutan, only for single use plastic bags. Even this was poorly implemented.

The new phase of implementation will penalise shopkeepers for offering plastic bags, but still allow plastic packaging for goods produced by small farmers and businesses. This may not be enough as plastic has penetrated deep into Bhutan’s ecosystem. A team of researchers, in an ongoing study, have found plastic for the first time in the faeces of the endangered black-necked cranes.

Black-necked cranes are classified as vulnerable and globally threatened, and they are also considered sacred in many communities along the Western Himalayan region, from China to India. This new discovery has raised new concerns on the health, safety and long-term survival of the endangered species.

The new discovery

The team that made the discovery comprised researchers from the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS). They collected more than 1,000 samples of faeces in Bumdeling, one of the major wintering grounds for black-necked cranes in Bhutan.

The study is part of the Black-necked crane conservation project where RSPN, UWICER and BWS has tied up with the US-based International Crane Foundation (ICF).

Of the 95% of the samples that were analysed so far, researchers confirmed 5% had plastics in them. The analysis was carried out at Sherubtse College, Bhutan’s oldest and largest college located in eastern Bhutan, as well as at UWICER’s own laboratory in Bumthang.

The faeces are soaked in distilled water overnight and then placed on a petri dish where the samples are examined and segregated. A microscope is then used to examine the segregated contents and to take pictures.

The team came across 6.6 grams of plastics in one of the samples on 16 May and is finding more plastics as the study progresses.

“We found some more plastics today morning,” said Sherub from UWICER, one of Bhutan’s top ornithologist who is leading the team of researchers, on Tuesday.

He said that although Bhutan has strong environmental regulations, it has not taken the responsibility of disposing plastics properly and they have found their way into the black-necked cranes’ habitat.

While already facing several other challenges in terms of habitat degradation, plastics, which has been found for the first time in the crane’s faeces is expected to push the government to step up its conservation policies.

“They are not natural food, so it will definitely affect the health and long term survival of the endangered bird,” Sherub said.

Jigme Tshering, Deputy Chief of RSPN said the study was carried out to gain better understanding on the feeding habits of the cranes and to influence decisionmakers to come up with effective habitat management and conservation plans.

The team is also carrying out video recording of the cranes’ feeding habits to complement the faecal analysis study.

Changing ecosystem, changing diet

The primary diet of black-necked cranes consists of insects, plant fibres, tubers, weeds and domestic food crop grains. With more farmers giving up farming due to human wildlife conflict, and flashfloods washing away paddy fields Jigme Tshering said the availability of food for the cranes has been affected.

Karma Tempa, Chief of Bumdelling Wildlife Sanctuary said the birds roost in Bumdeling but they feed most of the time near the town, where there is a bigger waste problem.

Located in northeastern Bhutan, Bumdeling is a tiny town, one of eight village blocks in the district of Trashiyangtse. The last census, conducted in 2005, revealed that it had a population of only 2,695. It is an unlikely area to have much waste, plastic or otherwise, although eastern Bhutan has, historically, had less infrastructural development than western Bhutan.

Black-necked cranes winter in Bhutan after the harvest season and forage on paddy fields and potato farms. The study is also expected to influence policy makers to incentivise farming.

“We want to look into whether food grains constitute a major source of diet for the cranes and then suggest policy changes to encourage farming and harmonious living between the cranes and human beings,” said Sherub.

Black-necked cranes in Bhutan are admired and respected and throughout ages, they have inspired traditional music, songs, poems, and literature.

Last winter, Bhutan received more than 600 cranes. The cranes arrive around the third week of October and return to the Tibetan plateaus by the third week of December

(first published in the Thirdpole)


Nidup Gyeltshen is a journalist based in Thimphu, Bhutan


Asia’s Great Rivers: Climate Crisis, Pollution Put Billions of Lives at Risk

Some of the world’s largest rivers, such as Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus, begin in Asia, and their health is inextricably linked to that of the continent.

Hong Kong: The year is 2100. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region — the world’s “Third Pole” — are vanishing as the planet warms, the ice that once fed the great rivers of Asia is all but lost, and with it much of the water needed to nurture and grow a continent.

Further stressed by extreme heatwaves, erratic monsoons, and pollution, the waterways are in crisis and the lives of hundreds of millions hang in the balance. Access to clean water, now more precious than oil, is a preserve of the rich and has become a resource so valuable that people — and nations — are willing to fight for it.

This apocalyptic vision is the continent’s future if nothing is done to limit global warming, scientists and environmentalists warn.

“If urgent climate action is not taken rapidly, starting today, and current emission trends continue unabated, it is starting to look conceivable that this will entail grave threats to all of humanity as we know it,” says David Molden, director general of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as a way of curbing the worst impacts of global warming.

A lower cap of 1.5C was set, only as a goal for nations to work towards. But this year’s Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) Assessment Report says unless it is met — two-thirds of the region’s glaciers will be lost by the end of the century.

Running from Afghanistan to Myanmar, the HKH region takes in the Tibetan Plateau, and the Himalaya, Hindu Kush, and Karakoram mountain ranges.

Functioning as a vast water tower, some of the world’s largest and most important rivers, including the Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong and Indus, begin here.

Its health is inextricably linked to that of the continent: Some 1.65 billion people directly rely on these waters — for their lives and livelihoods.

But tens of millions more rely on the agriculture, hydropower, and industries the rivers fuel.

“This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” ICIMOD’s Philippus Wester explains, adding that alongside glacier melt, there will be increased risk of floods, droughts, landslides and avalanches.

But many in Asia are already living this dystopian future.

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, 2019 brought a drought so severe reservoirs ran dry. Residents were forced to queue for water from government tanks or pay black-market prices. In some cases, desperation led to violence.

Northern India was lashed by flooding as the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers burst their banks, with more than 100 reported dead and many more displaced. In Pakistan, thousands of glacial lakes have formed, with its mountain people facing the threat of at least 30 bursting.

In parts of China, villagers must choose between paying a premium for bottles or risking their health with the potentially contaminated stream or river water.

More than half the world’s population lives in Asia, but there is less fresh water available per person there than on any continent, according to the UN, often leaving the most vulnerable at risk.

“Climate change is rapidly diminishing our access to clean water, which will have a devastating impact on human health, access to food, and sanitation, radically reshaping communities and cities,” Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, tells AFP.

“As always, the poorest people are and will be the most affected.”

Asia’s rivers feed the continent’s breadbaskets and rice bowls — the Indus, Yangtze, and Yellow basins rely heavily on meltwater to irrigate agriculture that helps sustain not only those that live there, but national economies too.

Any change — either the initial surge of meltwater — or the later drastic decline in river flow could cause catastrophic food shortages, with Molden warning the worst-case scenario, if nothing is done to combat global warming, would be “starvation and conflict”.

Despite proclamations that we are in “the Asian Century”, there are fears lack of proper planning for the coming water crisis may stifle the economic dreams of a rapidly growing region.

Debra Tan, director of the NGO China Water Risk, adds: “Asia faces a triple threat in terms of water because 1) some parts — including China and India — have very limited water resources to develop, 2)climate change exacerbates scarcity, and 3) our cities and populations are clustered along vulnerable rivers.” Every key industry on the continent — from electronics and automobiles to clothing and agriculture — requires water but few use the resource judiciously.

Irrigation methods are often inefficient and crops grown can be water-intensive, while many industries still discharge untreated water in the rivers with few facilities for recycling.

Tan insists: “If the risks are not managed well, they will not only have detrimental consequences to billions of livelihoods but also to trillions of dollars of economic growth.”

Mass migration away from most affected areas will put intense pressure on other towns and cities.

This may exacerbate tensions in a conflict-prone area — both within and between countries, Wester says.

In a 2008 report, Goldman Sachs hailed water as the “the petroleum for the next century”, underlining fears its scarcity will lead to unrest.


Bhutan: Development threatens takin habitats

Bhutan takin is found between 1,200 meters and 5,374 meters in northern Bhutan. Human-induced changes are threatening the habitats of Bhutan takin (Budorcas taxicolor whitei).

By Choki Wangmo / Kuensel via Asia News Network: 

Linear infrastructure such as expansion of road and transmission lines and improper land-use planning were found to hinder wildlife movement and disturb prime habitats of the species, according to the first national report on takin by the forest department.

The infrastructure developments, if unchecked, could cause unforeseeable risks due to penetration into the takin habitats.

The Bhutan takin is one of four subspecies of takin and is endemic to Bhutan. It is a large bovid ungulate found along the warm broadleaved forest through the alpine region between the altitudinal range of 1,200 meters in warm broadleaved forest to 5,374 meters in northern Bhutan.

The animals mostly inhabit Jigme Dorji National Park and Wangchuck Centennial National Park although they are found also in Paro, Thimphu, and Wangdue forest divisions.

The report stated that winter habitats of takin were highly vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure due to its closer proximity to human settlements. “Building roads closer to or within the takin habitats will not only alter the animal behaviour but will also fragment the habitats.”

To deter negative impact within the habitats, the study recommended the government focus on maintaining the existing farm roads rather than building new roads. “If new construction is required, it should be cost-effective and environmentally less damaging.”

The current method of “cut-fill” construction involves high cost and is not environmentally friendly. Experts documented the indirect impact of such developments on wildlife — physical barriers for movement and dispersal, displacement and change in habits, among others.

Takin prefer continuous gentle terrain and an undisturbed habitat for foraging, finding mates and long-term sustenance. For that, low-altitude forested habitat outside protected areas should be incorporated into takin management plans and should be protected as takin habitats, according to the report.

Further to that, takin inhabit remote areas away from high-density human settlements, which increases the poaching risk. It was observed that Bhutan takin were susceptible to snaring, illegal trapping and disturbance from feral dogs.

Bhutan takin migrate from alpine valleys to lower forests in autumn and return to the summer habitats in early spring. The species has been reported from Xizang in China and Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh in India. Its population is estimated between 500-700 individuals.

The Takin is found in steep forests extending to the timberline and mountain valleys in the Eastern Himalayas and adjoining mountain ranges of Bhutan, India, Myanmar and China.

The Bhutan takin was declared the national animal of Bhutan in 1985 and is strictly protected under the Schedule I of the Forests and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan 1995. The takin is categorised as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List