Daily Current Affairs Environment and Biodiversity

The Caracal Cat

Context: The National Board for Wildlife and Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) included the caracal cat, a medium-sized wildcat found in parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.

  • So far, 21 (now 22) species have been identified under the recovery programme. 
    • Though not under grave threat in its other habitats, The Caracal Cat is on the verge of extinction in India. 
  • The recovery programme for critically endangered species in India now includes 22 wildlife species.

Analysis

  • The Indian Caracal  is an endangered animal and listed as a schedule-I species in the Wildlife Act, 1972. In India caracal is known as “Siyagosh.”
  • The Indian sub-species of this nocturnal caracal weighs less than 10kg. 
  • It has a plain rufous coat that camouflages it in sandy, scrubby vegetation. 
  • Its distinctive feature is the black pointed tufts of hair on its large ears and black markings on its cheeks. 
  • With its acute hearing, it can detect rats—which form the major part of its diet—and its longer hind legs enable it to out-jump and catch ground birds. 
  • It’s found in the dry scrublands of southern and East Africa, the southern Sahara, Middle East, Central Asia and north-west India.
  • India forms the easternmost boundary of the caracal’s worldwide range. 
  • Species can often be rarer at the edge of their geographical distribution since the habitats they use become limited. So, the caracal cat is a naturally occurring rare species in India. 
  • Since 2000, the caracal has been recorded largely in only two states, Rajasthan and Gujarat. 
  • This amounts to the disappearance of the caracal cat from 95% of its distribution (range). One doesn’t know what is the status of the caracal (in the country).
  • The apathy towards arid landscapes is the primary threat to the caracal’s survival. 
  • This small cat is found in two kinds of landscapes. 
  • One, open forest landscapes like those outside Sariska and Ranthambore, which are extensively dominated by human and cattle populations. 
  • Two, the semi-arid scrub areas in Kutch, Gujarat, and the Chambal ravines, Madhya Pradesh, many of which are categorised as “wastelands” in existing land-use policies.
  • Biologists have got a higher number of captures outside of some sanctuaries than inside. 
  • The Caracal Cat use the open areas next to agricultural fields to hunt the rodents and hares.
  • In India caracals and cheetahs were tamed and trained for hunting small and large game respectively, which is surprising given that the Caracal cat is known to be solitary, with a pair only coming together for mating. 

Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)

  • The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently also added four species- the Northern River Terrapin (Critically Endangered), Clouded Leopard (Vulnerable), Arabian Sea Humpback Whale (Endangered), Red Panda (Endangered) – to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.
  • It should be noted that all the animals listed under this programme are actually not critically endangered as per IUCN Red List.
  • The progamme is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).
  • Started in 2008-09, IDWH is meant for:
  • providing support to protected areas (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves except tiger reserves), 
  • protection of wildlife outside protected areas and 
  • recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
  • These are the Snow Leopard (Vulnerable), Bustard (including Floricans – both Critically Endangered), Dolphin (Endangered), Hangul (Critically Endangered), Nilgiri Tahr (Endangered), Marine Turtles, Dugongs (Vulnerable), Edible Nest Swiftlet (Least Concern), Asian Wild Buffalo (Endangered), Nicobar Megapode (Vulnerable), Manipur Brow-antlered Deer (Endangered), Vultures, Malabar Civet (Critically Endangered), Indian Rhinoceros (Vulnerable), Asiatic Lion (Endangered), Swamp Deer (Barasingha – Vulnerable), and Jerdon’s Courser (Critically Endangered).
  • Both Irrawaddy Dolphin and Ganges River Dolphin are Endangered.
  • Protected Areas, viz., National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves covering important wildlife habitats have been created all over the country under the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to conserve wild animals and their habitats.

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)

  • It is the highest advisory body on wildlife chaired by the Prime Minister. 
  • The NBWL is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
    • It is primarily responsible for the promotion of wildlife conservation and the development of wildlife and forests.
    • It is a statutory body constituted in 2003 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and replaced the Indian Board for Wildlife, which was formed in 1952 as an advisory board.
  • It approves projects in and around the protected areas (National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc.).
    • It advises the central government on policy matters concerned with wildlife conservation in the country.
  • No alteration of boundaries of the protected areas is possible without the NBWL’s approval.
  • The NBWL may constitute a standing committee at its discretion. The committee would be headed by the Environment Minister as its vice-chairperson, and consist of not less than ten members that the Minister nominates from among the Board’s members. 
  • The Standing Committee’s function is to regulate land diversion within Protected Areas and Eco Sensitive Zones, making it a purely project clearance body. The NBWL, on the other hand, has the power to deal with policy-level decisions on wildlife.

 

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