Protect Our Species

M Lokeswara Rao IFS (Rtd)

Director, Protect Our Species, Earth Day Network;
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES) warned on 7 May 2019 of one million species at the risk of going extinct at least in part due to humankind’s activities. The report’s findings were carefully examined and negotiated by representatives of 132 governments before it was finalised and approved. The landmark report is a cumulation of nearly 15,000 studies, government reports as well as reports from indigenous and local communities. It is also the first appraisal of the earth’s biodiversity of global scale since 2005, and shows alarming statistics about species loss alongside strategies to overcome them. It’s grim stuff.

The Earth has seen five mass extinctions so far, where species were lost in the millions. The largest mass extinction took place some 250 million years ago, and drove 90 percent of sea life and 70 percent of life on land into extinct in what’s now being called “the Great Dying”. A domino effect triggered by a volcanic eruption triggered extreme changes to the environment that ended in the bulk of natural diversity dying off. The planet is undergoing a sixth mass extinction – the sixth time in the history of life on Earth that global fauna has experienced a major collapse in numbers. Earlier mass extinctions have been caused by catastrophic events like asteroid collisions. This time, however, human activities are to blame such as deforestation, mining, and carbon-dioxide emissions that cause the planet to heat up.

The new UN report the IPBES’ 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services looks at how the unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching.

The UN has proclaimed 22 May the International Day for Biological Diversity to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme of the 2019 edition will be ‘Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health’. This year’s celebrations of the International Day for Biological Diversity, on 22 May 2019, focus on biodiversity as the foundation for our food and health and a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human health. The theme aims to leverage knowledge and spread awareness of the dependency of our food systems, nutrition, and health on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. The theme also celebrates the diversity provided by our natural systems for human existence and well-being on Earth, while contributing to other Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystems restoration, cleaner water and zero hunger, among others.

We are celebrating biodiversity day at the time of releasing of UN report — the IPBES’ 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. We have more responsibility to protect the biodiversity to decelerate the sixth extinction. Severe stress on wild habitat, over exploitation, fragmentation of habitats, climate change, invasive species etc. Ministry of Environment and Forests and climate Change, Government of India has launched ‘Recovery programme for Critically Endangered Species’ is one of the three components of the centrally funded scheme, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) started in 2008-09. Seventeen (17) species have been identified under the recovery programme. These are the Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, Nilgiri Tahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species- the Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale, Red Panda- to a Recovery Programme on the recommendation of a Standing Committee. Totally 21 species are identified under recovery programme. Department of Posts has released 17 critically endangered species stamps which are in recovery programme.

Earth Day Network a global environment NGO that grew out of the first Earth Day (April 22nd, 1970) and today, 48 years later engages with over 50,000 organizations in some 190+ countries.Earth Day theme for global focus for this year is 2019 theme is Protect Our Species. Earth Day Network has begun work protecting and conserving biodiversity and on helping protect the critically endangered species like Hangul in Kashmir the Gangetic Dolphin in Varanasi etc.

Earth Day network India has show casing these stamps in social media and website to create awareness under it’s “protect our species campaign” under its programme Know our species some of the critically endangered species stamps from the collection of Mr Rao are shown here. India has issued first stamp on Wildlife Great one horned Rhinoceros in 1962. It is our duty to protect our species by spreading the message the importance of flora and fauna by protecting habitat and adopting ecofriendly habits on the occasion of International Biodiversity Day.