Asiatic lions

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  • Asiatic lions are cousins of the African lion.
  • They are believed to have split away 100,000 years ago.
  • They are slightly smaller and have distinctive fold of skin along their bellies.
  • Gir sanctuary is the only wild population of Asiatic lions in the world.
  • With serious conservation efforts of the State and the Union Government, the population of Asiatic lions have increased to over 500 which used to be around 50 by late 1890s.
  • According to the last census conducted in 2015, the number of lions in Gir sanctuary stood at 523.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, has been categories as Endangered on IUCN Red List and is listed Appendix I of CITES.
  • The Gir Protected Area Network of Gujarat includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary and adjoining forests. It has an area of 1648.79 sq. km.

Canine distemper virus (CDV)

  • CDV is highly contagious disease that attacks gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous systems, immune system and other vital organs in animals.
  • In most of the cases, the infection is fatal.
  • It is mainly found in wild dogs, jackals and wolves.
  • The disease can be contracted by lions if they eat any animal infected by it.
  • CDV is considered dangerous virus and is blamed for wiping out 30% population of African lions in East African forests.
  • The virus is blamed for the death of as many as 23 lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary in less than month.

 

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Neelakurinji plant

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  • Neelakurinji is a tropical plant species.
  • It is native to Shola forests in Western Ghats.
  • It is also seen in Shevroys Hills in Eastern Ghats, Anamalai hills and Agali hills in Kerala and Sanduru hills in Karnataka.
  • It grows at height of 30 to 60 cm on hills slopes at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where there is no tree forest.
  • The flowers of Neelakurinji are purple-blue in colour and blooms once in 12 years. 
  • The flower has no smell or any medicinal value. 
  • It is because of these flowers, Nilgiri hills in southern tip of Western Ghats are called blue mountains.
  • It is rarest of rare plant species that grows in Western Ghats and does not grow in any other part of the world.
  • It has been categorized as endangered species.
  • In ancient Tamil literature, kurinji flowers symbolize love.
  • Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu use this flower bloom as reference to calculate their age.

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Sangai Brow-Antlered Deer

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  • It is an endemic and rare sub species of brow antlered deer found only in Manipur
  • It is the state animal of Manipur
  • Its habitat is restricted to the marshy wetland of Keibal Lamjao over the floating biomass in Loktak Lake which is locally called ‘phumdi’
  • It is also one of the seven Ramsar sites of international importance.
  • The habitat of the sangai is now protected as the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
  • Keibal Lamjao is the only floating national park in India.
  • Phumdi is the floating mass of entangled vegetation formed by the accumulation of organic debris and biomass with soil.
  • While walking on the floating biomass, Sangai often balances itself which looks as if it is dancing on the green grassland and therefore popularly called as ‘dancing deer’ of Manipur
  • IUCN status : Endangered.

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Pangolin

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  • Pangolin is only scaly mammal on the planet.
  • According to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is also the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia).
  • Of the eight species of pangolin worldwide, two are found in India. They are Chinese pangolin (manis pentadactyla), mostly found in northeast India and Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata).
  • Pangolins has large, overlapping scales on its body which act as armour.
  • It can also curl itself into ball as self-defence against predators.
  • The colour of its scales varies depending on colour of earth in its surroundings.
  • Pangolins is an insectivore, feeding on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws.
  • It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day.
  • Pangolins is smuggled for its scales as it believed that they possess magic or charms and have medicinal properties.
  • The scales serves as base component for indigenous (traditional) psychotropic substances.
  • China is main illicit hub (market) for smuggled scales of Pangolins, where they have huge demand for medicinal and magical purposes.

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  • Protection Status: 
    • Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered” by UN affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
    • Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered” in IUCN Red List.
    • It is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Blackbuck

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  • Indian Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is an antelope and is the only living species of the genus Antilope.
  • It is considered to be the fastest animal in the world next to Cheetah.
  • The horns of the blackbuck are ringed with one to four spiral turns and the female is usually hornless.

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  • Habitat: 
    • Blackbuck inhabits grassy plains and slightly forested areas.
    • Due to its regular need of water, it prefers areas where water is perennially available.
    • It is found in Central- Western India (MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha) and Southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu).
  • Protection Status: 
    • Hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
    • It has been categorised least concerned in IUCN Red Data Book.
  • The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts to blackbuck and Chinkara.
 
Why in news?
  • Blackbuck’s population is on rise.
  • The Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet has approved Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in trans-Yamuna belt near Allahabad. It will be first of its kind conservation reserves in India exclusively dedicated to blackbuck.

Gangetic River Dolphin

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Gangetic River Dolphin

  • National Aquatic Animal of India
  • They are freshwater dolphins.
  • It is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in Yangtze river, Indus river in Pakistan and Amazon river.
  • It is found in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
  • IUCN Status : Endangered
  • It is also placed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Major threats:
    • Fishing nets
    • Hunting for their oil and meat
    • Water pollution
  • MoEFCC had launched Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Programme in 1997 to build a scientific database of their population status and also study their habitat quality of the dolphins’ distribution range.
  • Fresh water dolphin species are practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey. 
  • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district of Bihar is India’s only dolphin sanctuary is spread over 50 km along the Ganges.
  • National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) will be set up on the banks of the Ganga river in Patna University campus in Patna.

Olive Ridley turtle

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Olive Ridley Turtles

  • Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in the world.
  • It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded.
  • It is found in warm waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
  • It spends entire lives in the ocean and migrates thousands of kilometres between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
  • It is classified  as Vulnerable  in IUCN Red List and is listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  • In India, it is protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years.
  • Conservation of Olive Ridley turtles is done in the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS),Andhra Pradesh.
  • Members of the Yanadi tribe are directly involved in the conservation bid.
  • They are best known for their behaviour of synchronized nesting in mass numbers.

Breeding Season:

  • It commences its journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year.
  • A single female can lay up to 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on the beaches.
  • Six weeks later these eggs hatches and the newly hatched turtles start the journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.
  • The destination for majority of the turtles for laying egg is Gahirmatha in Odisha.
  • The sandy stretches of Hope Island of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also have turned into a breeding area

Why in news?

  • Hope Island in Andhra Pradesh has become graveyard for Olive Ridley turtles.
  • The breeding cycle of this species got severe blow due to mechanised fishing boats scouring in the Bay of Bengal coastline. These boats crush most of these turtles under it leading to their death.