After the 68th session in 2013, United Nations General Assembly declared March 3 as world wildlife week, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.
The theme for world wildlife day this year was “Life below water: for people and planet” that aligns with goal 14 of the sustainable development goals. In accordance with that Wildlife Trust of India, along with its like-minded organisation celebrated the day dedicating it to species with water as their habitat. Please see a snapshot of the celebration here.
1) Re-establishing the presence of Eurasian Otters and addressing its conservation threats in Wular Lake, Jammu & Kashmir
The Eurasian Otter or Common Otter (Lutra lutra) restricted to cold climatic conditions is distributed mainly in the Himalayan belt has drastically declined over the past few years, reasons could be poaching/hunting or loss of habitat The lack of information on the species in Jammu & Kashmir, there was a need to identify their distribution and cause for population decline. A RAP was initiated with Dr.Zaffar Mir who is currently working with the local community and gathering information on Eurasian otter presence and threats prevailing in and around Wular Lake.
As part of World Wildlife Day 2019, Dr.Zaffar organized an interactive sensitization programme in Banyari village. Around 20-30 youth and village heads participated in the event. Topics on wildlife, need for conservation and different species found around the village were discussed. The team also briefed them about the otter species and discussed more about it. The villagers mentioned the otters were once common and now are rarely seen near the lake. Contact details were exchanged with the enthusiastic youth to help keep a lookout for any threats to species near Wular Lake.
2) Support to release bycatch emanating from Tiger prawn fishing by engaging the targeted fisherfolk in Sundarban
As part of the RAP project, NGO Rani Rashmoni Mission based out of Sunderbans TR is working with the fisherfolk of Bally and Satjelia. They have been engaging with the women folk (who forms the majority in Prawn fishing) providing them with an incentive to release the by-catch and skill training on alternate livelihood. As part of World Wildlife day, selected 20 women from Bally were provided with a large bucket to collect the by-catch and were motivated to release the by-catch immediately.
The surge in prawn farming, fueled by the high demand abroad, is threatening the fragile ecosystem of Sunderban’s mangrove swamps. The prawn collectors often pull out the nets and separate tiger prawn (locally called bagda) seedlings from other tiny fish and collect them in small vessels. The remaining seedlings are then dumped on land, affecting 90-95% of the fish population of the area. We hope these initiatives help us raise awareness on this year’s theme ” Life Below Water” in turn conserve aquatic and marine biodiversity of Sundarbans.
3)Mitigate Human-Smooth Coated Otter Conflict by engaging local communities in Surat outskirts, Gujarat
In Surat, an event was organised with the fishermen and Surat Forest Department officials- Range officers and their staff at Nature Club Surat’s office on 3rd March. As part of World Wildlife Day, in collaboration with the Forest Department, fishing nets and certificate of appreciation were awarded to ten fishermen who had helped in the RAP project. The fishermen were actively involved in reporting otter sightings, threats and assisted in installing camera traps in the area. The fishermen were very happy with the project as it provided them with a platform to reach the government officials for mitigating their problems. Other issues discussed were problems in Tapi river such as water hyacinth, pollution, industrialization, etc. We hope this project further helps facilitates dialogue between the key stakeholders.