The Biology Topics of ecology involve studying the relationships between living organisms and their environment.
Endangered Organisms and their Conservation – Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species
Endangered species are those considered to be at risk of extinction, meaning that there are so few left of their kind that they could disappear from the planet altogether. Endangered species are threatened by factors such as habitat loss, hunting, disease, and climate change, usually, endangered species have a declining population or a very limited range. The current rate of extinction is thought to be far greater than the expected natural rate, with many species going extinct before they have even been discovered. Shockingly, current estimates suggest that a third of the world’s amphibians, a quarter of all mammals, and one in eight birds are endangered. An endangered species usually has a small or declining population size or a very limited range, meaning factors such as habitat loss, hunting, disease or climate change could cause them to disappear completely within our lifetimes.
Organisms that are, at the present time, facing every possibility of extinction are termed as endangered. The causes of such extinction of species may be over-exploitation, human population, and even pollution and deforestation. Some of the endangered organisms are listed below.
Endangered Plant Species:
|1. Rauvolfia serpentine||Apocynaceae||Important medicinal plant, roots used against hypertension.|
|2. Aloe vera||Liliaceae||Used against skin diseases.|
|3. Atropa acuminate||Solanaceae||Endangered medicinal plant.|
|4. Dioscorea deltoidea||Dioscoreaceae||Ornamental plants are endangered due to changes in the environment.|
|5. Drosera indica||Droseraceae||Endangered insectivorous plant.|
|6. Nepenthes khasiana||Nepenthaceae||Endangered insectivorous plant.|
|7. Psilotum nudum||Psilotaceae||Valuable fern but endangered.|
|8. Vanda coerulea||Orchidaceae||Endangered due to export.|
|9. Gnetum ula||Gnetaceae||Highly endangered gymnosperm.|
|10. Cycas beddomei||Cyadaceae||Highly endangered gymnosperm.|
Additionally, some endangered plant species are
- The Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara) only exists in five U.S. States in the Midwest. The endangered species coalition estimates that there are only 172 populations of this plant, with merely four with more than 1,000 plants.
- The Rafflesia flower (Rafflesia arnoldii) is thought to be the largest flower on the planet. This rootless, leafless, and stemless flower, is considered an endangered species.
- Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum) is native to the southeastern United States. But now there are about only 60 populations of this plant due to natural habitat development.
- Wiggin’s Acalypha (Acalypha wigginsii) is native to a tiny part of the Galapagos islands. Construction work and loss of habitat are the main reasons these plants have declined in number.
- Texas wild rice (Zizania texana) only has 140 clumps left, with a seemingly grim future ahead. Growing only in the freshwater of San Marcos River, this plant is endangered by lowering water levels caused by the Spring Lake Dam, according to the Center of Plant Conservation.
Endangered Animal Species:
|Class||Common Name||Scientific Name|
|Mammal||1. Indian Tiger||Panthera tigris|
|2. Asian Lion||Panthera leo persica|
|3. Wild Donkey||Equus hemionus|
|4. One horned Rhino||Rhinoceros unicornis|
|5. Leopard||Panthera pardus|
|6. Amur Leopard||Panthera pardus orientalis|
|7. Black Rhino||Diceros bicornis|
|8. Javan Rhino||Rhinoceros sondaicus|
|9. Giant Panda||Ailuropoda melanoleuca|
|10. Malayan Tiger||Panthera tigris jacksoni|
|Birds||1. Peacock||Pavo cristatus|
|2. Crane||Grus monacha|
|3. Eagle||Accipiter gentilis|
|4. Himalayan quail||Ophrysia superciliosa|
|Reptiles||1. Marine tortoise||Chelonia mydas|
|2. Ghariyal||Gavialis gangeticus|
|Amphibian||1. Himalayan salamander||Tylototriton verrucosus|
|2. Leatherback turtle||Dermochelys coriacea|
|3. Green turtle||Chelonia mydas|
|4. Loggerhead turtle||Caretta caretta|
Why are Species Endangered?
Animals and plants face a large number of different threats with many of them being a direct result of human activity. Some of the most common threats include:
1. Habitat Loss and Habitat Fragmentation:
The ever-expanding human population constantly requires additional space and resources. The land is being cleared to harvest products such as timber as well as to make way for human settlement, agriculture, and transport links.
2. Hunting and Poaching:
A wide variety of animals have been hunted, or fished, beyond sustainable levels and now face possible extinction. Species, such as the tiger, are often hunted because they provide a resource such as food or parts which are used in traditional ‘medicine’. However, some species, such as the cheetah have been persecuted after gaining a negative reputation for feeding upon livestock or crops or posing a threat to human safety.
3. Invasive Species:
Humans have introduced non-native species (both intentionally and accidentally) to a wide variety of habitats, often with devastating consequences. Introduced species may prove highly adaptable and outcompete native species for resources. Introduced predators can decimate local species that are not adapted to avoid predation, for example, ground-dwelling birds like the kakapo.
4. Climate Change:
Droughts. ocean acidification, the loss of sea ice, and an increase in storms and extreme weather events can all threaten species’ survival. Sedentary species like plants or specialist species which inhabit small ranges or islands, or those with specific habitat requirements are particularly vulnerable.
Small populations, especially those which are limited in terms of genetic diversity are particularly vulnerable to disease. The disease can often be spread by domestic animals or accidentally introduced by humans traveling from an affected area to one that had not previously been exposed.
6. Collection/Pet Trade:
Many animals and plants, such as the Venus flytrap, have been collected from the wild beyond sustainable levels to be sold through the pet trade or kept in private horticultural collections.
Acid rain, heavy metals, pesticides, plastic waste, and oil spills all harm the environment and put species at risk. Chemicals are particularly harmful to species that live in water.
IUCN (International Union of Conservation in Nature) is an international institution that takes up the task of enlisting and conserving endangered species throughout the world. They have enlisted and categorized the extinct, endangered or threatened species in the Red Data Book, Green Data Book, and Blue Book.
Some Endangered Species of India and Their Conservation
Many wildlife animals are threatened and endangered in India and they need conservation. Some of these animals are Tigers, Rhinoceros, Lions, crocodiles, and Red Panda in the Indian subcontinent.
1. Tiger (Panthera tigris)
The tiger is an endangered animal in India and the name of the tiger got a place in the Red Data Book. The tiger population has been reduced from 40,000 in 1972 to 1872 at the present time. For this reason, a conservation program has been taken by Govt, of India.
The name of the project: is Tiger Project.
Conservation sites: Various National Parks and Sanctuaries have been established by the Govt, to conserve tigers. Presently about 27 tiger Reserve forests have been under implementation of Project Tiger in India. Almost all the Indian states are practicing tiger conservation. In West Bengal, the tiger project is found at Sundarban.
Result of conservation practice: Our Forest Department is successfully managing a conservation program for tigers. Presently tiger population is increasing in the Tiger Reserves.
2. Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
Indian one-horned Rhinoceros (R. unicornis) is a gracious bold animal in the forests of North East India. In West Bengal, they are available in the Jaldapara Sanctuary and some other forests of North Bengal. As such their enemies are not available in the forest. The only problem is poaching. Because of this, they need protection and hence they are being conserved in Reserve Forest and Sanctuaries.
Name of the project: Rhino project.
Conservation sites: Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park of Assam, Jaldapara Forest, and Gorumara Forest of West Bengal are prominent places where Indian Rhinoceros are being conserved.
Present scenario: It is to be mentioned that the rhino population occurs only within and around the protected areas. Unless they have been given protection at the Govt, level, it would be difficult to rescue them from the hands of unscrupulous poachers and hunters. It is optimistic news that the rhino population is not depleting at the present time. Kaziranga National Park of Assam which contained only 10-20 Indian rhinos, is now housed for about 70% of the world’s population.
3. Lion (Panthera leo porsica)
The lion is known as the king of the forest. In India, the lions are called Asiatic lions and they are available in the State of Gujrat. Gujrat is proud of the wildlife in their forest. Because of the decline of their population, Asiatic lions are protected in protected forests.
Name of the project: Leo project.
Conservation sites: Gujrat is the only state where Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo parsica) are available. These lions prefer dry scrub land and open deciduous forest and they are being conserved in Gir Forest of Gujrat. Gir National Park is the only site for the conservation of lions in the state.
Present scenario: The lion conservation programme has achieved sufficient success in achieving the goal. The population of lions was 305 in 2005 which became 411 in 2010 and now as per the census of 2015 it has increased to 523.
4. Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Crocodiles share an ancient relationship with India. They are depicted along with many Hindu gods and goddesses in sculpture and painting. In the pre-historic period, seven species resided in India.
The number has decreased to three primary species: the Mugger (or marsh) crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), gharial, and the estuarine (coast) crocodile (C. porosus). In India, their habitat includes lakes and rivers. Saltwater crocodiles are found on the eastern coast of the country and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. Because of depletion in number, the crocodiles require conservation, and necessary steps are being taken.
Name of the project: Crocodile project.
Conservation sites: Sundarban in West Bengal and Bhitarkanika in Orissa where the crocodile is being conserved.
Strategy for conservation: Active breeding of crocodiles is done in the rehabilitation centers and baby crocodiles are raised and reared in captivity. Then they are released in their natural environment for the increment of crocodile population or they are released in the sanctuary.
Present scenario: Achievement in the crocodile project is successful. In 10 breeding centers successful breeding of Mugger took place, In 2 stations estuarine crocodiles are allowed to breed, whereas Gharials are allowed to breed in 1 center.
5. Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
Red panda is called a ‘red bear cat’ which is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and south-western China that has been classified as vulnerable by IUCN as its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals. The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is an arboreal animal with nocturnal habits. The animal is cat-like with a woolly coat, chestnut red in colour, and with a roundish head with a white face. The animal contains a fluffy tail with light and dark shades.
Name of the project: Red Panda Project.
Conservation of Red Panda: In India, they are available in the hilly region of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal. The adjacent country Nepal also contains red pandas. The animals live on bamboo shoots, fruits from the trees, and insects. Occasionally they take small animals. Because of the depletion of the population of red panda, they require conservation.
Sites for conservation: Sanctuaries and protected areas in the upper mountain range of the Himalayas as Singalila National Park, West Bengal, and Kanchanjungha National Park in Sikkim.
Current Status: Due to the formation of protected areas and the development of their habitats as well as captive breeding with introduction in the natural habitats, the red panda population has now increased.
Red Data Book and IUCN
An endangered species has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as a red list as likely to become extinct. ‘Endangered’ is the second most important conservation status for the wild populations in the IUCN’s scheme after critically endangered. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system. This list uses the terms ‘endangered species’ and ‘threatened species’ with a particular meaning: ‘Endangered’ (EN) species lies between ‘Vulnerable’ (VU) and ’Critically Endangered’ (CR) species, while ’Threatened’ species are those species determined to be vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
International Union of Conservation in Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) which is now called the World Conservation Union (WCU). It has its headquarters in Morges, Switzerland. It maintains a red data book or red list which is a catalog of taxa facing the risk of extinction. The purpose of preparation of the red list is to:
- Provide awareness of the degree of threat to biodiversity.
- Provide a global index about the decline of biodiversity that has occurred already.
- Identification and documentation of species at high risk of extinction.
- Preparing conservation priorities and helping in conservation action.
WCU or IUCN has recognized 8 categories of species in the Red list. They are
1. Extinct (EX):
The taxon has been completely eliminated from the earth, e.g., Dodo, Javan tiger, Golden toad, etc.
2. Extinct in Wild (EW):
The taxon is absent in any of its expected habitats in the wild. A number of domesticated animals and plants have become extinct in the wild, e.g., Hawaiian crow, Socorro dove, Wyoming toad, etc.
3. Critically Endangered (CE):
The taxon is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild and can become extinct any moment in the immediate future, e.g., Berberis nilghiriensis, black rhino, gharial, Javan rhino, red wolf, Malayan tiger, mountain gorilla, brown spider, monkey cheetah, Bactrian camel, saiga, etc.
4. Endangered (EN):
The taxon is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future due to a decrease in its habitat, excessive predation or poaching, e.g., Red panda (Ailuriis fulgens), Asian elephant, blue whale, green sea turtle, hyacinth macaw, Japanese crane, proboscis monkey snow leopard, Srilankan elephant, fishing cat, etc.
5. Vulnerable (VU):
Presently the population of the taxon is sufficient but is undergoing depletion due to some factors so it is facing the risk of extinction in the medium-term future, e.g., Blackbuck (Antilope cervical), African lion, cheetah, golden hamster, polar bear, red panda, sloth bear, yak, American crocodile, King cobra, etc.
6. Lower Risk (LR):
The taxon has a lower risk of extinction but requires only small attention to become a normal flourishing species, e.g., giraffe, grey wolf, house mouse, cane toad, American crow, etc.
7. Data deficiency:
When there is inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction.
8. Not evaluated:
The taxon has not been evaluated for the risk of extinction.
Out of 8 categories of species in the red list 4 categories: critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and lower risk species are included under threatened species. Two more categories are added to them. They are
- Rare species (R): These are small populations in the world that are not at present endangered or vulnerable but are at risk, and are called rare. They are usually localized within restricted geographical areas or are thinly scattered over a more extensive range, e.g., the Clouded leopard of the Himalayas.
- Indeterminate species: The species are in danger of extinction but the reason is not known, e.g., short-eared rabbit of Sumatra, Mexican Prairie dog.