Punjab Biodiversity Board and Punjab State Council for Science & Technology (PSCST) jointly commemorated UN proclaimed International Day for Biological Diversity, 2021 on the theme of “We’re part of the solution #ForNature” by organizing two days’ ‘Expert Lectures Series on Conserving threatened Fauna (Animals) of the State in Climate Scenario’ which culminated on 26th May , 2021. The web-series provided platform to the budding researchers to acquire knowledge on threatened fauna, key challenges and conservation initiatives from the most eminent Scientists & Conservationists and garnered huge response from researchers, academicians and NGOs of the region.
In her inaugural remarks, Dr. Jatinder Kaur Arora, Member Secretary, Punjab Biodiversity Board cum Executive Director, PSCST, shared that Punjab is among few states wherein, Biodiversity Management Committees have been constituted at each local body level u/s 22 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 for conservation & sustainable utilization of biological resources. The Board has also notified 13 species (8 floral & 5 faunal) as threatened species of Punjab under section 38 of the Act for initiating focused restoration / rehabilitation plans in the State.
Meanwhile, T. Narendran, Technical Officer, National Biodiversity Authority, Government of India (GoI) highlighted that operationalizing Access & Benefit Sharing mechanism defined under Biological Diversity Act, 2002 could be a powerful tool to achieve the objective of sustainable utilization of biological resources.Speaking on conservation of Indus River Dolphin-a State Aquatic Animal of Punjab, Geetanjli Kanwar, Co-ordinator Aquatic Biodiversity, WWF-India, said that a small but viable breeding population of this IUCN Redlisted endangered species exist only in a specific stretch of River Beas which has been recently, declared as a Ramsar Site of international importance. She also emphasized keeping optimal water quality and engaging communities as ‘Beas Mitras’ or ‘Dolphin Mitras’ for effective restoration plans.
In his address on ecological status & unique behaviour of Sarus Crane (the World’s tallest flying bird), Dr. K.S Gopi Sundar, Scientist-Cranes & Wetlands, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore shared that 11 out of 15 species of Crane family are endangered as small & medium sized wetlands, which are critical for their survival, are being lost at an alarming rate. He also cited evidence from mythology & culture highlighting sacred status & harmonious existence with humans.
Elaborating on the vital role of scavengers in the ecosystem, Dr. Vibhu Prakash, Deputy Director, Vulture Programme, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) familiarized the audience with interesting behaviour of vulture including courtship & parental care. He shared the experiences while heading Vulture Conservation Programme which included diagonosing the cause of sudden decline in population of Vultures, notification for banning diclofenac drug being practiced in veterinary treatment, the initiation of captive breeding for restoring fast declining populations & release of healthy populations back into natural habitats.
Delivering talk on Diversity and Conservation of Freshwater Turtles, Dr. Shailendra Singh, Programme Director, India, Turtle Survival Alliance, Centre for Wild Life Studies, India divulged that India is the third richest country in terms of diversity of turtles and out of 24 fresh water turtles, 8 species are found in Punjab. He also said that loss of habitat, poaching and the illegal pet trade are posing a grave threat to the freshwater turtles and emphasized on habitat restoration, community engagement & focused research programs to conserve this critically endangered species.
Sharing his views on the rehabilitation of Indian Rock Python, Nikhil Sanger, Wildlife Rescuer and Honorary Wildlife Warden, SBS Nagar said that Shivalik belt spread across the districts Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahar and Ropar is the natural habitat of Python which is Schedule I species under Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Expressing concerns on the shrinking population of the species caused by deforestation, climate change and poaching, Nikhil Sanger urged support from local people and students advocated more such initiatives for spreading awareness.Notably, more than 300 participants virtually attended the event and appreciated the initiative of training & engaging researchers & students in the area of biodiversity conservation.