From conserving rare and endangered snake species to creating mangrove forests along the coasts, here are some organizations and individuals who continued their efforts to protect nature until 2021.
Through the blockages and restrictions imposed by the coronavirus in 2021, a few organizations and individuals have continued their efforts to preserve the environment. Refusing to get bogged down in the uncertainties of the pandemic, they have worked to raise awareness, mobilize public support, conduct research and conduct projects on the ground. In their own way, they have proven that local communities play a vital role in protecting the environment.
Here are a few that have made a difference in the biodiversity of South India.
The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society
At a time when biodiversity conservation remained limited to individual projects that rarely last long, an organization in Andhra Pradesh has led a community-based wildlife conservation project in the Eastern Ghats for the past two years. By working for the conservation of endangered king cobra species, rescuing other rare snake species to protect the world’s most trafficked animal, the pangolin, and raising awareness of little-known fishing cat species, Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS) has carried out a series of projects in the state.
The non-profit organization promotes community-based wildlife conservation through education, conservation-oriented research, public participation, institutional capacity building and sustainable development. 2021 was a milestone for the association’s projects. This year, EGWS rescued 400 snakes of 12 different species in the Northeast Ghats through snake rescues in rural areas. That aside, EGWS also rescued and freed 20 king cobras from the human-dominated landscape of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam.
“We have reached more than 30 villages in the mandalas of Madugula, Cheedikada and Devarapalli in Visakhapatnam district to sensitize communities on snakebite management and king cobra conservation. In fact, this year 12 king cobras were not killed by local communities in northern Andhra thanks to our outreach programs, ”said Murthy Kantimahanti, founder of EGWS. They also discovered new distribution records for rare species like the false viper and the yellow green cat snake from Visakhapatnam. “We will set up the first Eastern Ghats conservation field station in the Eastern Ghats of northern Andhra Pradesh,” Murthy said.
The very elusive fishing cats have an uneven distribution along the Eastern Ghats. The species is threatened by habitat loss (degradation of wetlands), sand mining along river banks and conflict with humans in some areas, resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings. This year, the company organized a unique awareness program called “Swim Like a Fishing Cat” to promote the conservation of fishing cats in the Eastern Ghats. The event encouraged participants to swim in an open lake near the Chodavaram forest area in Visakhapatnam district and learn about ecology and conservation.
Mangrove activist Murukesan TP
Rows of plants with glossy leaves occupy the front yard of Murukesan TP’s house at Malippuram in Vypeen, Kochi. These are mangrove plants, which were cultivated by Murukesan. The mangrove nursery he created on his eight hundred estate can hold 15,000 to 20,000 plants at a time. The saplings are used for the various mangrove plantations in and around the Kochi coastal belt.
Small but significant, Murukesan campaigned for the conservation of mangroves in Kochi. Since 2014 he has been working with the Kerala Forestry Department and has planted over 40,000 mangrove seedlings in Vypeen, Chellanam, Vallarpadam, Cherai, Mulavukad and Kadamakkudy. These small islands that are part of Kochi are home to 13 species of mangroves and they are steadily declining in numbers. In Kerala, Kochi has the second largest mangrove cover (3.96 km²); Kannur has the largest area of mangrove (7.55 km²). In seven years, Murukesan has succeeded in raising awareness and mobilizing support from local communities to start planting mangroves.
He will go on a seed collection campaign by February-March. “This is the best season to harvest seeds. The Forestry Department plans to join rural women’s collectives for the planting campaign next year.
Murukesan helped the Forestry Department conduct mangrove surveys. “Only by raising awareness of the importance of mangroves can we get the message out,” he says. He has also been cultivating and planting casuarinas since 2018, which also serve to protect the shores. He has planted over 20,000 saplings in the Elamkunnapuzha panchayat in Vypeen.
“Mangroves are extremely important to our intertidal coastal regions. They act as a natural barrier against cyclones and tsunamis. The people living along the Kerala coast have had to contend with the rising tide and the mangroves can help prevent damage to a great extent, ”says Murukesan. “We have yet to fully appreciate the value of mangroves, which prevent coastal erosion and seawater intrusion and also provide habitat for marine and avian life,” adds Murukesan, who was a fisherman before turn to mangrove conservation.
Members of the Nature Society of Tiruppur with schoolchildren
Tiruppur Nature Society
Recently, students at the Subbiah Central School in Tiruppur, near Coimbatore, made headlines. They saved a 25-year-old jamun tree from the ax and moved the tree inside the campus. “It was encouraging to see children taking the lead in conservation,” says Ravindran Kamatchi, founding member. The company has so far carried out more than 280 nature appreciation education programs and reached up to 80,000 children in Tiruppur, Erode, Coimbatore, Pollachi and Tuticorin. “Introducing children to nature and motivating them towards conservation with a scientific temperament is our goal,” adds Ravindran.
As Frontline Academy students inaugurated a butterfly park on campus, more than 70 students are part of a thriving young bird watcher wing. As active members of the Nature and Eco clubs, the students commemorate events like International Tiger Day and are regulars on the green routes through the city. “Take a walk around campus and you will find water bowls for birds in various places. The education of children is a priority and the results are starting to be felt. »Then, self-study. They go on a weekend hike in the foothills of the Nilgiris (Mettupalayam, Kallar, Nellithurai, Kunjapanai, Longwood Shola, Aravenu, Mulli), Topslip, the hills around Tiruppur like Elathur, Othimalai, Arjuna Hills, Oothiyur Hills, and observe birds and butterflies in the water bodies around Tiruppur such as Nanjarayan Reservoir, Orathupalayam Dam, Lake Kathanganni and Vellode Bird Sanctuary.
The 18-member team are regulars in the Forestry Department’s surveys and census studies, and also rescues injured birds, mainly owls, koels and peacocks before handing them over to the animal rescue center. Members are also working to stop the illegal trade in parakeets, munias, freshwater turtles and francolins.
He remembers a memorable bird sighting at Point Calimere. “Every year we walk eight hours from here looking for flamingos. The first time, we didn’t see a single bird. The second year we saw a pair. And the third time around, we saw a herd of over 30,000, some flying and wading. On take off, the birds looked like a flame. It was an unforgettable sight.
They have long called on the government to declare the Nanjarayan Reservoir in Tiruppur, a biodiversity hotspot, as a protected wetland or bird sanctuary. “Spread over 440 acres, of which 280 acres are the watershed, we have recorded 194 species of birds here, including thousands of migratory birds like the bar-headed goose, northern diggers, garganeys, ducks. pintails, teals, sandpipers, barges, small relays, wagtails, swallows and more.
Ravindran says his mentor Mohammed Ali, founder of the Natural History Trust, has been a guiding force. “We formed a separate wing to focus on schools. We want to do our best to keep the planet safe for the next generation. “