Table of Contents
- On democratising tiger conservation
Facts for Prelims
- Uttaramerur inscription
- Chagas Disease
On democratising tiger conservation
Scientists were pleased that Project Tiger had maintained tiger populations in most of their original habitats for fifty years. However, the 2023 report shows that this success is now in danger of being lost.
Conservation in India’s National Parks and Tiger Reserves
- A Russian scientist viewed India’s National Parks and Tiger Reserves as glorified zoos or safari parks.
- India has a remarkable conservation history, with robust populations of large carnivores such as tigers, leopards, Asiatic lions, greater one-horned rhinoceros, and Asian elephants.
- The Wild Life (Protection) Act (WLPA) has been attributed to much of the success of wildlife conservation in India.
Tiger Population in India
- India’s tiger population is estimated to increase by 6% annually, as per the preliminary report of April 11, 2023.
- Authorities expect the final estimate to be 25-30% above the previous 2018-2019 estimate of 2,967 tigers.
- India banned hunting and enacted one of the world’s strongest legal frameworks to protect its natural heritage after the alarming revelation that tiger numbers had dropped below 3,000 fifty years ago.
- In science, conservation amnesia is known as the syndrome of shifting baselines.
- The new generation of wildlife managers mention only the figure of 1,400+ estimated in 2006.
- Despite strong political support, funds, and the legal framework provided, the tiger population does not reflect a great success from the longer perspective of looking at 50 years of tiger conservation under Project Tiger.
Losing Tigers from Different Geographical Regions
- In the 2023 preliminary report, we find that India is losing tigers from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, the Eastern ghats, and the North-eastern forests.
- With the loss, India loses genetic diversity unique to these geographical regions, dashing hopes of maintaining long-term population viability and natural recovery.
- A tool that is increasingly being used is to reintroduce tigers from central Indian forests, where the populations are thriving, but this needs to be looked at more seriously.
Umbrella Species and Tiger’s Habitat
- The tiger was considered an “umbrella species” to save the entire ecosystem in India.
- Tigers occur in a wide range of habitat types, from the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats to the terai grasslands of the Himalayan foothills.
- The focus stayed on boosting tiger numbers rather than their habitat and concomitant species.
Manipulating Ecosystems to Support High Densities of Tigers
- The most common interventions were to manipulate ecosystems to support high densities of the tiger’s principal prey species.
- Improving habitat for cheetal, a mixed feeder that thrives in the “ecotone” between forests and grasslands, is one such intervention.
- Provisioning water has resulted in the “cheetalification” of tiger reserves.
Unintended Consequences of Conservation
- In Kanha Tiger Reserve, the explosion in the cheetal population resulted in the habitat becoming unsuitable for the endangered hard ground barasingha.
- The excessive provisioning of water during the dry season tends to reduce natural, climate-driven variations in populations of wildlife.
- This is likely to have unknown and unintended consequences for these habitats in the long-term.
Conservation in India Depends on Protected Areas
- Conservation in India depends entirely on a network of Protected Areas (PAs).
- This is an exclusive conservation model that suffers from a “sarkaar” complex.
- The innate tolerance of Indians for wildlife is generally credited with the success of conservation.
The Need to Decentralize Conservation
- Decentralization of conservation in India is necessary.
- Conservation should extend beyond PAs and embrace community reserves, private reserves,
We’ve been checking on tigers for four years, five times now. But we don’t have a plan for the future, which is important to stop habitats from getting worse. We need to involve more people in conservation to protect tigers and other wildlife. If we do this, we might be able to double the number of tigers.
UK researchers led by Nobel laureate Andre Geim have discovered that graphene, a single-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, displays anomalous giant magneto-resistance (GMR) at room temperature. GMR is useful in various technologies such as hard disk drives, medical imagers, biosensors, and automotive sensors.
Graphene-based Device for Magnetic Field Sensing:
- Graphene Magnetic Resistance (GMR) devices are used for magnetic field sensing.
- Conventional GMR devices need to be cooled to low temperatures, unlike graphene-based devices.
- A conductor is sandwiched between two ferromagnetic materials to create GMR.
- The magnetoresistance in graphene-based devices is almost 100 times higher than other semimetals in the magnetic field range.
- The electrons in the material have “anomalously high” mobility at room temperature.
Neutral Plasma in Graphene-based Device:
- The magnetoresistance in monolayer graphene between two layers of boron nitride increased by 110% at 27° Celsius under a field of 0.1 tesla.
- The neutral plasma in the graphene-based device consists of equal numbers of thermally excited electrons and holes.
- A hole behaves as if it is positively charged and is a site where an electron is supposed to be but isn’t.
- The researchers had ‘tuned’ the graphene to have as many electrons as holes to make the total charge of the plasma zero.
Advantages and Disadvantages:
- Graphene-based GMR devices are more robust at high temperatures.
- The electrons in the neutral plasma in graphene-based devices are not scattered by vibrations in the atomic lattice.
- Graphene-based GMR devices cannot replace existing devices because they have other properties that they lack.
- Graphene-based devices may be used in novel applications that require magnetic-field sensing in extreme conditions.
Recently, the Prime Minister of India referred to the Uttaramerur inscription in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, while discussing India’s democratic history.
About the Uttaramerur Inscription:
- The most famous inscription is from the reign of Parantaka I (907-953 AD) of the Chola dynasty.
- The inscription is found on the walls of the Vaikunda Perumal Temple and gives details of the functioning of the local Sabha (village assembly). The Sabha was an assembly exclusively of brahmans and had specialized committees tasked with different things.
- It includes details about the members, their roles and responsibilities, and how they were selected.
Qualifications for Sabha members:
- The members needed to own a certain amount of land, have a house, be between 35 and 70 years old, and know mantras and Brahmanas (from the Vedic corpus).
- If someone has learned at least one Veda and four Bhashyas, an exception can be made for land ownership.
- One must also be well-versed in business and virtuous.
Selection procedure for the Sabha:
- There were 30 wards, and everyone living in these wards would assemble and select one representative for the village assembly.
- All those eligible and willing would write their names on palm leaf tickets, following which the representative would be chosen based on an elaborate draw of lots.
- The draw of lots was conducted by priests in the inner hall of the building where the assembly meets.
Disqualifications for Sabha members:
- Not having submitted accounts while previously serving on a committee.
- Committing any of the first four of the five ‘great sins’ (killing a Brahman, drinking alcohol, theft, and adultery). Being associated with outcastes and eating ‘forbidden’ dishes.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) observed World Chagas Disease Day to raise awareness about this little-known disease that affects millions every year.
About Chagas Disease:
- It is a communicable disease caused by the parasite protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi.
- The disease is named after physician Carlos Chagas who first detected it in a Brazillian child in 1909.
- Symptoms include fever, headaches, rashes, nausea or diarrhea, muscle or abdominal pain, and inflammatory nodules.
Transmission of the disease:
- The disease is mainly transmitted by bugs called ‘triatomines’ or the ‘kissing bug’.
- Other ways to contract the disease include congenital transmission, blood transfusions, organ transplantation, and consumption of contaminated food or accidental laboratory exposure.
- The disease cannot spread through casual contact with infected humans or animals.
Geographical spread and Treatment:
- The disease is most prevalent in Latin America, especially in rural parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Central America.
- There are currently no vaccines available for Chagas disease.
- The disease can be treated with antiparasitic medicines Benznidazole and Nifurtimox. Early detection is important, but it can be challenging because many patients show no symptoms throughout their lives.