By Chetan Chauhan
Rapid decrease in suitable habitat across India has resulted in the addition of 253 new species of wildlife in the endangered list in just two years. The number of endangered species in 2010 was 190, which jumped sharply to 443 in 2012, according to the latest data by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
The startling information became public through a Comptroller and Auditor General’s report tabled in the Parliament on Friday highlighting malaise in the ZSI, a 100-year-old institution, and its failure to conduct status surveys of endangered species — its primary objective.
The ZSI list is split in five categories: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Of them, birds were hardest hit with 139 species on the list in 2012 – up from 57 in 2010. The list includes the Nicobar Megapode, Black-necked Crane and Jerdon’s Curser.
“Birds are the first sign of health of a habitat and quality of life,” said Fayaz Khudsar, a biologist in the Delhi University. “As the external environmental parameters are not conducive, the birds of specialist foraging guild are shrinking and the list of endangered birds is enlarging.”
The number of mammals on the endangered list has gone up from 62 in 2010 to 123 in 2012 and includes the Snow Leopard, Hangul Kashmir Stag and the Pygmy Hog.
Rapid water contamination has taken a toll on the fishes too with 45 new species added to the list for a total of 67 endangered species in 2012.
39 new species of Amphibians have been added to the list – up from 35 species in 2010 to 74 in 2012. The Anamalai Flying Frog, Gundia Indian Frog and Kerala Indian Frog figure on the list.
There are now 40 endangered reptiles – up from 14 in 2010 – including Gharial, Hawksbill Turtle and the Red-crowned Roofed Turtle. Blaming the ZSI for failing to carry out its mandate to provide direction to the government for protecting India’s massive biodiversity, the CAG said status surveys were carried out on only three endangered species since 1993 and were ‘insignificant’.
The institute also failed to perform its primary job of regularly updating the Red Data Book --- the country’s official record of threatened species, said the national auditor. The book was last updated about 20 years ago and the environment ministry blamed lack of expertise and logistical constraints for ZSI’s failure.
This was despite money being provided for the job.
India is home to about 8% of the world’s total species and has one of the finest biological hotspots on the globe. An estimated 45,000 plant and 89,000 animal species have been recorded in Indian forests so far.