Image by Tati Halabi from Pixabay 

Cheetah (Acionyx jubatus), The world's fastest land mammal made a comeback in India, more than 70 years after it became extinct in the country. A challenging, yet commendable step opens up the prospects for the Translocation of a few other species which are already been declared extinct from the wild. This article considers the possibilities and challenges for the Reintroduction of those few species in India.

Why there is a need for such Reintroduction efforts?

Most of the intelligentsia was critical about the Reintroduction of exotic species (African) cheetah in India, as it takes significant Monetary and technical investments. The plan for the Reintroduction of cheetahs from the African continent involved reinstallation and re-establishment of habitat in the potential areas having climatic parallels with their original habitat also considering potential impacts on the native biodiversity of those areas. But these are the only ways to conserve and protect them from inbreeding depression and geographical isolation threats. For example, the only natural abode of Asiatic Lion remains Gir National Park in Gujarat. The single "Canine distemper virus" Clouded there possibilities for survival few years ago. The similar scenario is also threatening many other species. Ecological diversification can save them from the threat of complete disappearance from planet.

Here we are considering only two such examples which can possibly be next in the line for Relocation efforts on Indian Profile.

Case for Reintroduction of javan Rhinoceros:

  • Scientific name: Rhinoceros sondaicus
  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Rhinocerotidae
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Kingdom: Animalia Conservation status : IUCN : “Critically endangered”

  • Distinctive features

The javan Rhinoceros are most threatened amongst the five rhino species, The family Rhinocerotidae consists of only four existing genera: Ceratotherium (white rhinoceros), Diceros (black rhinoceros), Dicerorhinus (Sumatran rhinoceros), and Rhinoceros (Indian and Javan rhinoceros). As they belong to the same genera as Indian rhinoceros, there height ranges from 4.6 to 5.8 feet. & weight ranges between 1,984 – 5,071 pounds. The species is a dusky grey in colour and has numerous cutaneous loose folds, giving them the appearance of armour plating. They have less apparent skin folds and much smaller head in comparison with Indian rhinoceros. They have a single horn in size ranging up to 10 inches.

  • Habitat preferences

Javan rhinos can live around 30–45 years in the wild, mainly preferring lowland rain forests around equator, wet grasslands, and the floodplains of large perennial rivers. (Just like Brahmaputra)

  • Prospectus of Reintroduction

Once one of the most widespread rhinoceros species, the Javan Rhino has dropped to becoming one of the most endangered species in the world. Currently, they are extinct in India. They used to thrive along with the Assam and Bengal belt, along the sunderbans and all across south-east Asia. However, now the only population exists in Ujong Kulon National Park in Java. Prime Causes for the decline remains Poaching for their horns; Something that is threatening all Rhinoceros species worldwide.

According to UNESCO " Ujong kulon National Park located in the extreme south-western tip of Java on the Sunda shelf contains the largest remaining area of lowland rainforests in the Java plain The Krakatau volcano as part of the formation of the property, is the most well known and studied of all modern volcanic eruptions, due primarily to the devastating effects" Thus, this makes the need of Translocation of remaining 60 Javan Rhinoceros even more pragmatic Case due to ecological isolation & inbreeding depression.

If we have to take this case seriously, let us consider the possible habitats for introduction. The javan Rhinoceros had historically wandered in the catchment area of greater Brahmaputra river and it's tributaries, the Eco zone which today hosts some of the most highlighted and protected ecological zones of India, namely

  1. Kaziranga National park
  2. Manas National park
  3. Orang National park zone.

The ecological profile & climatic parallels make those places some of the most Suitable locations for the plans of Reintroduction with minimal ecological fragmentation and invasive effects of the indigenous species. Altogether the facts shows that the case of relocation of javan Rhinoceros to its lost habitat deserves consideration.

The Case of Introduction of Hawksbill Turtle:

[Taxonomical Hierarchy]

  • Kingdom : Animalia
  • Phylum : Chordata
  • Class : Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Super family : Chelonioidea
  • Family : Cheloniidae
  • Subfamily : Cheloniinae
  • Genus : Eretmochelys
  • Species: E. imbricata

  • Distinctive features

The name Hawksbill is indicative of their narrow pointed beak. They are embedded with a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their serrated-edged shells. This Explicit colour and pattern made them more vulnerable to poaching as they are commonly sold as "tortoiseshell" in markets. The data from US Natural repository shows that they are amongst the most poached marine animals in the world.

  • Habitat

The natural habitat of the Hawksbill Turtle is the tropical ocean area of the world. They are mainly sponges feeders using their hawk-like beaks. They also can thrive on sea anemones or jellyfish. They exist in ample at Mesoamerican Reef, Coastal Eastern Africa, and the Coral triangle.

  • The case for introduction

Sea turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed the Earth for nearly 100 million years. They are flagship species which contribute in maintaining the health of the world’s coral sea bed. The introduction efforts of this Hawksbill turtle may have a positive ecological impact in addition to the existing sister species such as

  1. Northern River Terrapin (batagur baska)
  2. Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea)
  3. Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
  4. Black softshell turtles (Nilssonia nigricans)

Which are all "critically endangered" species (except Olive Ridley Turtles - Vulnerable) according to IUCN conservation status.

India had been a torchbearer in Turtle Conservation efforts with its National Marine Turtle Action Plan by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate change. India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’.

They are included in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1.

  1. South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman
  2. Galathea on Great Nicobar mentioned as an “Important Marine Turtle Habitat in India” are also the ideal location for the introduction efforts of Hawksbill Turtle. Although further scientific research on the impact on Indigenous flora & fauna is required. The valuable inputs from intelligentsia like Mr. Shailendra Singh who received Behler Turtle Conservation Award for Conservation efforts for Critically endangered Turtle species can be inculcated in the introduction & conservation programme.

The Explicit Fauna has much more impact than we generally perceive and their importance gets highlighted when they are on the verge of disappearance from the earth. The world has already lost more than a fourth of its biodiversity in this era of the next mass extinction. When most of these flagship species are neglected and isolated in the world, their presence in the wild makes significant ecological leverage for India. Such efforts in near future to have a more inclusive Eco zone can make India an Important Tourist Destination on world profiles. India, which is already a biodiversity Rich country shall not neglect its indigenous Flora and fauna too in efforts of exotic introductions. Together concentrated scientific efforts can make us the biodiversity heaven which cares for its natural environment and is dedicated to its conservation by setting benchmarks for the rest of the world.

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