How India’s proposals at UN event can help elephants, migratory birds?

Asian Elephant to be into CMS Priority

Approx Read Time: 7 minutes

In News:

  • India has moved to include the Asian Elephant, the great Indian bustard and the Bengal florican to the Appendix I of Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) at the Committee of Whole (COW) which unanimously cleared the proposal.

Asian Elephant into CMS Priority

News Summary:

  • India has proposed inclusion of the three species including Great Indian Bustard, Bengal florican and Asian elephant on Appendix-I of the Convention.
  • Appendix-I lists species threatened with extinction, while Appendix-II lists those in need of global cooperation for favorable conservation status.
  • If listed on Appendix-I, it would facilitate trans-boundary conservation efforts of the these species.
  • In a first step towards incorporating India’s proposals, they were adopted unanimously by the conference’s committee of the whole.
  • The proposal will now be sent for final voting to the plenary session of the conference of parties (COP) to the CMS, which will take a final call on the listing on 22nd of February.

About: Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)

  • The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) is an intergovernmental treaty agreed by 129 countries plus the European Union, and functions under the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The treaty provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.
  • It is the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes.
  • The pact was signed in 1979 in Germany and is known as the Bonn Convention.
  • It works for protection and conservation of species that migrate across frontiers and are facing threats of extinction or require urgent attention.
  • CMS aims to bring together different countries that are part of range of a given species, and facilitate coherent conservation and protection regimes in a group of countries.
  • It provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
  • CMS listing makes member countries responsible to work towards protecting these animals/birds, conserving their habitats and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
  • The conference is being held in India for the first time. Delegates from at least 78 countries are attending.
NOTE: According to CMS, despite the listing and consequent efforts, 73% of 175 migratory species on Appendix-I and 48% of the 518 on Appendix-II have an overall decreasing population trend.

Appendix I of the Convention: ‘Threatened Migratory Species’

  • Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention.
  • CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
  • Currently, 173 species from across the globe are listed in CMS Appendix I.

Appendix II of the Convention: ‘Migratory Species requiring international cooperation’

  • Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention.
  • The Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) includes species that are facing a ‘very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future’.
  • A total of 518 species are listed in Appendix II, but this listing also includes entire species groups including subspecies.

Why do migratory species need special attention for conservation?

  • With a change in season, many mammals and birds move from one country to another in search of food and shelter, and for breeding.
  • Many migratory species are threatened with extinction due to habitat degradation, barriers in their migration routes, and other pressures.
  • Therefore, these species need special attention by all countries that are part of their range.

About the species that India is trying to protect

Great Indian Bustard (GIB):

  • There has been seasonal fluctuation in numbers of GIB indicating cross-border movement.
  • It is a critically endangered species with a population of just around 150 individuals and its present habitat having shrunk to 10% of its historical range.
  • India said there is prima facie evidence that the birds fly across the India-Pakistan border and hence the need for bilateral cooperation for recovery of the species.
  • Listing of the species in Appendix I will help range countries take immediate steps for its conservation including curbs on hunting.

Bengal florican:

  • The Bengal florican is a critically endangered species of bird that belongs to the bustard family.
  • The bird’s migratory range includes India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
  • It is on verge of extinction due to habitat loss, habitat degradation and hunting.
  • The present population of the South Asian subspecies has shrunk to around 1,000 individuals and its present habitat been restricted to the Terai and Dooars grassland regions of the Indo-Gangetic and Brahmaputra floodplains.
  • The species no longer breeds outside protected areas except in a few pockets in the Brahmaputra flood plains.

Asian elephant:

  • Asian elephant is an endangered species, trying to survive in a continually shrinking, degraded and fragmented habitat.
  • The current distribution of wild Asian elephants is in 13 countries across South and Southeast Asia spread over an area of 4.86 lakh sq km.
  • India, being home to 60% of the global population of Asian elephants, has a primary duty to ensure its survival.
  • Its inclusion on Appendix-I would ensure better coordination among the range countries, facilitate migration, increase effective habitat area, and reduce killings.

How India’s proposals will help?

  • Once the listing is done, contracting parties within the range of a species are obliged to cooperate in trans-border conservation efforts.
  • Conservation efforts would also gain from the international expertise of the CMS family, and could increase pressure on countries like Pakistan for preventing alleged hunting of the great Indian bustard.

Significance of Listing on Appendix-I:

  • Listing on Appendix-I, would facilitate trans-boundary conservation efforts of the species.
  • It generally leads to concerted actions in different national jurisdictions in which a species ranges.
  • Actions may include cooperation among range countries, harmonization in policies etc. through regional agreements.

How CMS helps in conservation of migratory species?

  • CMS has working groups specializing in various fauna families, and a Scientific Council that advises research-based solutions for conservation.
  • In 2014 CMS has set up an Energy Task Force which advises contracting parties on how to keep their energy projects wildlife-friendly.
  • Many countries started shifting towards renewable energy by building infrastructure like wind turbines, power transmission lines, solar parks; these pose risks to wildlife.

Other things to be discussed in COP13:

  • Proposals have been moved for including seven other species including jaguar, urial, little bustard, antipodean albatross, oceanic white-tip shark, smooth hammerhead shark and tope shark for listing on CMS Appendices.
  • COP13 also discussed marine noise pollution, plastic pollution, light pollution, insect decline etc.
  • India has also invited the COP13 to adopt the ‘Gandhinagar Declaration’ urging the world community to strive for ensuring ecological connectivity, especially for sustainable management and conservation of migratory species.

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