Project Snow Leopard
The species of Snow Leopard inhabits the Himalayan landscape as well as states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Himachal Pradesh. Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and IUCN declare the species as a ‘vulnerable’ category. Additionally, the species is listed in CITES and CMS which reveals that the highest conservation status has been accorded to them, both nationally and internationally.
The International Snow Leopard Day is celebrated on 23rd October each year. The Government of India launched the ‘First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment’ in 2019. This involves the use of technology such as camera traps and scientific surveys. This initiative was developed under the global protocol of Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program. This program is an intergovernmental alliance of 12 snow leopard range countries, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Russia, China, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia. The Population Assessment of World’s Snow Leopard (PAWS) is a collaborative effort of these countries.
The primary threats to snow leopards were loss of habitat, poaching, and man-animal conflict. In Sansar Chand vs State of Rajasthan (2010), the organized nature of wildlife crime has been highlighted. In this case, it was mentioned that an FIR was filed against his younger brother who was also involved in illicit trade of wild animals. One snow leopard skin was seized from the younger brother, Narayan Chand. He was also named as an accused under Section 55 of the Wildlife Act, 1972 in this case. There are several other cases pending against him.
Project Snow Leopard launched in 2009, aims to promote inclusivity and participatory approach for the conservation of the species.
The population of Indian Tigers was drastically declining towards the end of the 20th century. Resultantly, a nation-wide Tiger Census was conducted in 1972 to estimate the population of tigers.
Large scale development activities including dams, mines, railway projects and establishment of industries led to deforestation and further loss of habitat. Since the body parts of the tigers are used for traditional Chinese medicine, they were killed in high numbers. All these factors collectively led to a decline in the population of tigers.
In the case of Sansar Chand vs. State of Rajasthan (2010), the appellant was arrested in 1974 for poaching tigers and smuggling their body parts to various countries, particularly China. He was allegedly involved in 57 wildlife cases between 1974 and 2005. He was convicted in all the offences registered against him. The Supreme Court also requested the Central and the State Government to take stringent actions against such offenders.
The acts of poaching, killing, maiming, etc. of any animal are offences under Section 428 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The punishment under S.428 is imprisonment for two years and under S.429, imprisonment for five years.
In 1973, Project Tiger was launched in the Palamau Tiger Reserve, Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. This is a centrally sponsored scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It is primarily governed under the Wildlife Act, 1972 itself.The project is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was established in December 2005.
The aim of the project is the protection of tigers from extinction, by ensuring that there is a viable population of the species in their natural habitats. The Project began from nine reserves in 1973-74 and has substantially grown to fifty reserves. The Project has seen significant success in the recovery of the habitat and the population of the tigers in the reserved areas.
In 2019, the Tiger Census has shown that there are 2967 Bengal Tigers in India.
Project Elephant was launched in 1992 and is a centrally sponsored scheme. Elephants face the threat of attrition, as opposed to extinction faced by Tigers. The project aims at assisting the management and protection of elephants in the States which have free-ranging populations of wild elephants.
The Elephants’ Preservation Act, 1879 has also been formulated for the protection of elephants across the country. India has over 27,000 elephants spread over 26 elephant reserves but only 65% of the elephant corridors are in protected areas.
The protection of elephants is also important because it has been declared as a national heritage of the country. This was done by the Government of India in 2010 after the Standing Committee on the National Board of Wildlife gave its recommendations. This step was taken to create awareness about the dwindling population of the elephants so that people would actively participate in its conservation.
The objectives of the project are:
- Protection of Elephants, Elephant Corridors and their Habitats;
- Prevention of Man-Animal Conflicts; and
- Ensuring the welfare of domesticated elephants.
In the 1970s, the Jammu and Kashmir Government in association with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) designed a project for the protection and conservation of the Kashmir Red Stag and its habitat. This project came to be known as Project Hangul.
Hangul or Kashmir Red Stag is a subspecies of the Central Asian Red Deer, which is native to northern India. It is mostly found in the dense riverine forests of Kashmir Valley, some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Sindh Valley, Dachigam National Park and in the forests of Kishtwar. It is also the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. The project was started since Hanguls were enlisted in the critically endangered species list prepared by IUCN. The species is scattered through an area of 141 square kilometres in the Dachigam National Park.
The population of these deers was once approximately 5,000 in number. Problems such as overgrazing of domestic livestock in the habitat of Hanguls and criminal activities like poaching, illicit trading lead to the decline in the population of Hangul. Then, their population dwindled to as low as 150 by the end of 1970. The aim of the project was to create enclosures for artificial breeding of the species.
After the implementation of the project, the numbers rose to 340 by 1980. But over a course of time, the project however failed due to several factors. As per the census of 2008, their population was approximately 160.
Crocodile Conservation Project
The species of crocodilians was threatened in India due to the increasing number of indiscriminate killings. They were poached for commercial purposes, which led to a drastic decline in their population. Apart from this, there was a loss of habitat due to the increasing development projects and industrialization.
In light of this situation, Project Crocodile was introduced in 1975. The primary focus was on breeding and rearing in captivity. The initiative was taken by the Government of India in association with the Food and Agriculture Organization and United Nations Development Fund. Due to the implementation of this project, there is an increase in the population of crocodiles, which has saved them from extinction. The protected areas include National Chambal Sanctuary and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
There are mainly three species of crocodilians:
- Gharial or Gavialis Gangeticus
- Mugger or Crocodylus Palustris
- Saltwater Crocodile or Crocodylus Porosus
The strategy adopted for rehabilitation of these species was to offer them protection in their own habitats. The practice of captive rearing was followed and subsequently, they were released. The methods of ‘grow and release’ and ‘rear and release’ were used.
The objective of this project is to protect the remaining population of the species, to promote research which would help in improving management, to promote the rebuilding of their habitat and to encourage local public participation.
The project has saved the species from the verge of extinction, as they were enlisted as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. It has also been helpful in the creation of wetland sanctuaries which has led to active management of other species as well. These species include turtles, Gangetic dolphins, lizards and others.