When we talk of wildlife conservation in broader terms we refer not only to charismatic or flagship species like lions, tigers, or elephants rather we mean biodiversity conservation in totality.
In common parlance, however, we have particularly such charismatic species on mind when referring to wildlife. The emphasis I want to lay here is on the fact that we cannot think of conservation of an animal species in isolation ignoring other inter-dependent physical and biological factors.
The most important integral and indispensable ecological entity is the habitat of such animal species. The biggest threat today to our wild animals is the depletion and destruction of habitat. Ironically we are allowing such irreversible damage to habitat and irreparable loss to our wild animal species in the name of development exigencies. A power transmission line, a road or highway, or a hydro-electric power project are allowed even in such important areas identified as relic wildlife hotspots or protected habitats which are already under severe stress of burgeoning socio economic and anthropogenic pressure. This is justified mostly on the pretext of exigencies or sustainable development. “Sustainable” because the perceived loss due to such developmental interventions is sometimes compensated with funding to make up the loss or mitigate the deleterious impacts. A module of development and progress based on destruction of ecology, forests, wetlands or habitats can never be sustainable one, it sooner or later creates unhealthy environment with misery to humans and animals as well.
To bring my point more emphatically let me narrow down on my state, the Jammu and Kashmir, which we boast of as paradise on Earth contrary to it’s actual ailing environmental health status. The summer capital city, Srinagar, was in news recently for being one of the most polluted cities in the world. Dal, Wullar, Hokersar and numerous other water bodies have always been in the eye of storm despite continues unyielding or ostensible efforts to save them since years.
We are the only state in India where black-necked cranes, our state bird, breed in summer; but only a few breeding pairs are left. We are the only home to Hangul or Kashmir red deer; but only a few dozen are left. We are the only state in India where more than sixty percent of snow leopards roam in high altitude Himalaya and trans-Himalayan landscape; but they are critically endangered now. We are probably again the only state where relic populations of Pirpanjal markhor (largest wild goat), Himalayan thar, musk deer, Tibetan gazelle, brown bear, western tragopan, koklas and chir pheasant are gasping for life in the most vulnerable habitats already under the target of myopic and greedy eyes of development monsters.
The result of our progress and unwise developmental activities, unfortunately, pushed many of our species more nearer to doom as recently witnessed none other than the county’s prime government agency MOEFCC when it notified in the month of August this year ten wild animal species: snow leopard,hangul, Himalayan thar,markhor,Tibetan gazelle, chiru,Kashmir musk deer, Tibetan wild dog, Western tragopan, and twenty plant species as nearing extinction in Jammu and Kashmir.
Shall all those at the helm of affairs seriously and honestly realize their responsibilities towards protecting our environment and our voiceless co-inhabitant sharing this tiny planet in the infinite universe with us?
(The author is presently Regional Wildlife Warden, Jammu region.)