Where is the Bhitarkanika National park and what is it famous for?

The Bhitarkanika National Park is located in Odisha’s Kendrapara district which shares borders with famous Gahirmatha Beach and is surrounded by the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The Bhitarkanika group of islands offer great beaches and exciting trails through the dense forests teeming with thrilling boat rides. Therefore, the park attracts tourists from all over the world. Planning a Bhitarkanika trip is thus recommended for tourists willing to make the most of their holidays.

Spread over an area of 672 square kilometers, the National Park consists of the Brahmani, Baitrani Delta, backwaters, estuaries, and creeks. This National park in Odisha boasts of the world’s second largest mangrove ecosystem. It is considered as one of the most impressive national parks in India. The park is home to more than 215 species of birds and is inhabited by the Giant salt-water Crocodiles and various other species like Water Monitor Lizard, King Cobra, and Indian Python.

In the year 1975, there were only 90 Crocodiles in this area. Now their count is 1,742. As hunting was strictly banned the number of deers also increased to about 5,000. This place has a distinction of housing 23 feet long crocodile. It also holds the Guinness World Record of owning a skeleton of 19.8 feet long estuarine crocodile. A museum and Hatchery has been developed at Dangmal to attract tourists.

Credit : Financial Express

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What is Wood Buffalo National Park known for?

Spread across more than 40,000 sq km along the boundary between Alberta and the Northwest Territories in Canada, the Wood Buffalo National Park covers large swathes of forests, wetlands, and prairies. The Peace-Athabasca Delta located within the Park is one of the world's largest freshwater inland river deltas. It attracts several thousand birds, in addition to many animal species. Canada's largest national park, this UNESCO World Heritage Site nurtures the world's largest population of wood bison, numbering a few thousands. This makes the population the largest free-roaming herd left in the world. And not just that. The Park is the last remaining natural nesting site for an endangered bird species - the whooping crane. Also, two of the wetlands within the region are wetlands of International Importance under the RAMSAR convention. The Park's large size and low concentration of humans have played a role in the protection of the ecosystem to a certain level, but it is said that the lack of political will to conserve it is of grave concern.

Wildlife

Though the Park is most noted for its population of wood bison and whooping crane, it nurtures a variety of birds and animals. The region is home to more than 40 species of animals, including black bear, wolf, moose, fox, beaver, lynx, marten, and snow-shoe hare. Among the several species of birds in the area are falcons, sandhill cranes, hawks, eagles, and owls. The place also falls in the migratory route of several thousand ducks and geese.

Threats

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the 'conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle (2020). Way back in 2016, UNESCO researchers had cautioned that industrial development around the region was progressing at a great speed without its impact being studied properly. Further, upstream projects, two dams, and a relatively new hydroelectric project have together threatened to weaken water flow in the delta. In addition, "oil and gas operations in the northern reaches of Alberta continue to draw large amounts of water to sustain their operations". With mining sanctions too joining the list, the pressure of development on the water resources increased, with concerns that it could affect both wildlife and the indigenous people of the eco-sensitive region. This also means threat to the wood bison and whooping crane populations.

Following this, UNESCO gave Canada a year "to develop a solution to stem the rapid deterioration of the park", and warned hte government that 'inaction would "constitute a case for recommending inscription of Wood Buffalo national park on the List of World Heritage in Danger". After this Canada was given a December 1, 2020 deadline for submitting "a progress report on conservation efforts" in the region, which the country missed. It sought an extension and submitted the report by 21 the same month, addressing "specific UNESCO concerns and 14 pages outline whether each of the 142 items in the action plan are completed, underway, not started or not due yet". Meanwhile, earlier this year reports said "Canada has pledged an extra $59.9 million" to save the place, though many conservationists and indigenous people are concerned and sceptical of the promise due to what they see as the government's lack of commitment to the cause.

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Assam gets 2 new national parks; total goes up to seven

National parks are said to be found in more than 100 countries around the world. They play an important role in any ecosystem, and are set up by a country's government to conserve the biodiversity and the natural environment of a region. The creation and the measures initiated for the upkeep of national parks could be indicative of a country's commitment towards the protection of its natural environment and its inhabitants. Australia has the highest number of national parks in the world - over 650! India has the distinction of being one of the very few countries in the world to have more than a hundred national parks. And, just recently it added two more to that list. Let's find out more about this.

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of national parks among States - 10 (excluding the Ghughwa National Fossils Park). Among Union Territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands tops the list with nine. The second place among States has been taken over by Assam now, with seven. As many as five of these were created in the 20th Century - Dibru-Saikhowa, Kaziranga, Manas, Nameri, and Rajiv Gandhi Orang. The other two - Raimona and Dihing Patkai National Parks - were formally notified this June.

Raimona was earlier a Reserve Forest (among the oldest in Assam), and is now expanded to 422 sq km. "bound by Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary of Bhutan, the Buxa Tiger Reserve of West Bengal and the state's own Manas National Park". The region is said to host several endangered species, including the tiger, and many species of birds and butterflies. Dehing Patkai was earlier a wildlife sanctuary. It is expanded to over 230 sq km, and is noted for being home to a wide variety of mammals.

While it is understandable that as the second largest State Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of national parks, Assam, one of the relatively small States, having seven of them is a pointer to its healthy natural environment.

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What are the threats in the Iguazu National Park in Argentina and the Iguazu National Park in Brazil?

Jointly covering an area of nearly 2,40,000 hectares in South America, the Iguazu National Park in Argentina and its sister park, the Iguacu National Park in Brazil, are regions centred around the spectacular Iguazu Falls. The falls is among the widest in the world, wider than the popular Niagara Falls of North America. The Parks contain remnants of highly endangered rainforests, and were set up in the 1930s to preserve not just the scenic beauty of the falls but also the vegetation and wildlife in and around the region. Huge clouds of spray continuously immerse the several river islands and the riverine forests around. This creates a very humid environment giving rise to fertile and thick vegetation that supports a variety of wildlife. In 1984, the Iguazu National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Iguacu received the recognition two years later.

Wildlife

The region boasts vegetation that is both rich and varied. The subtropical rainforest surrounding the falls is believed to nurture more than 1,000 species of plants from orchids, pine, and bamboo to palm and even moss. This makes it a perfect haven for wildlife, which is said to be as varied as the vegetation itself. In addition to more than 400 species of birds, the area is said to support over 75 mammal species and countless varieties of invertebrates. Among the mammals that can be spotted here are iguanas, tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots (cat species), and jaguars. It's also a spot to see caimans (crocodiles). The birds found in and around the area include swifts, swallows, parrots, herons, toucans, flycatchers, trogons, owls, falcons, kites, nighthawks, thrushes, shrikes, kingfishers, quails, and the near-threatened harpy eagles.

Threats

Changing landscapes due to a variety of reasons such as deforestation and development, tourism, agricultural encroachment, and poaching are among the threats in the region. But dominated as it is by water, the threats on this resource is of particular concern.

Water management: There are dams outside the parks that feed the waterfalls. However, the water flow to the waterfalls is controlled depending on the electricity requirement. For instance, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the water flow during weekends could be lower than ususal due to lower demand for electricity. This fluctuation could affect flora and fauna of the region.

Farmland run-off: On one side of the Iguacu National Park is the beginning of land parcels used for intense agriculture. The practices here involve the use of pollutants such as pesticide. The streams that run through these areas and flowing into the falls carry with them polluted sediments. In the long run, this could affect the plants and animals of the region.

And some good news!

As recently as 2008, only eight jaguars roamed the Brazil's Iguacu National Park.

That's quite a dramatic fall from about 400 in the 1990s near Brazil's border. The cats were pushed to the brink of extinction due to hunting and intense deforestation, resulting in the loss of the animal's habitat. And gradually after 2010, their numbers began increasing, thanks to steps such as setting up of camera traps initiated to tackle poaching. By 2018, the place was home to 28 cats, and the numbers are said to have increased by 2020. But there's a proposal to build a road that will cut the park in two. If this project is implemented, the road will pose a severe threat to the region's biodiversity, and will be a setback to the conservation efforts of the cat.

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What is special about Serengeti National Park?

Located on the border between the African countries of Kenya and Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania's Serengeti plain spans an area of nearly 15,000 sq.km. The grassland and woodland savannah of the region, interspersed with rivers, is home to several species of animals such as cheetah, wildebeest, and zebra, and the threatened black rhinoceros. Set up in 1951, the Park attracts tourists from across the globe throughout the year for not just its diverse wildlife but also for hosting one of the most significant land animal migrations. It is one of the largest and the most diverse places in the world to witness the coming together of a large number of predator and prey. The Serengeti National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site of "outstanding universal value in 1981.

Wildlife

In addition to carnivores such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and crocodiles, and herbivores such as wildebeest, gazelles and zebras, one can spot wild dogs, topis, warthogs, antelopes, elephants, giraffes, African buffaloes, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and baboons within the periphery of the Park. The Park also nurtures a few hundred species of both resident and visiting birds. They include ostriches, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, darters, bitterns, herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills, flamingoes, teals, ducks, geese, shovelers, pochards, vultures, harriers, eagles, hawks, kites, kestrels, falcons, quails, francolins, crakes, coots, moorhens, bustards, jacanas, snipes, sandpipers, plovers, terns, gulls, sandgrouses, doves, turacos, nightjars, swifts, kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes, hornbills, barbets, woodpeckers, larks, swallows, martins, orioles, babblers, shrikes, robins, wheatears, warblers, flycatchers, pipits, weavers, starlings, and sunbirds.

Did you know?

  • Every year, more than 10 lakh wildebeest, along with thousands of other herbivores and ungulates such as zebra and gazelle, go on a 1,000-km circuitous journey between the Park in Tanzania and Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve. The migration sees the animals moving to greener pastures in Kenya during the dry season in Serengeti. Throughout the migration, several adults and newborns perish to predators such as crocodiles, lions, and cheetah, but much more survive to keep the world's most astounding spectacle alive.
  • The Park faces threats due to natural causes such as wildfires, and human-related issues such as excessive tourism, water management, poaching, etc. For instance, a recent study that had studied the region over a long period of time found that due to increasing human activity on the boundary, animals congregate increasingly in the core of the protected area. And this is not good news because such a concentration could lead to depletion of natural resources such as plant and water, and even lead to extreme drought.
  • While the large numbers of animals migrating to the region is fantastic news, monitoring something of this magnitude requires a lot of time and labour. Recently, a “research team testing the capacity of both citizen scientists and machine learning algorithms to help survey the annual wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania found that both methods could produce accurate animal counts, a boon for park managers”.
  • African wild dogs disappeared from the Park around 1991-1992, and several reasons-from rabies and canine distemper diseases to encroachment of farming activity into their habitats have been attributed to the disappearance. Around 2012, a few packs were re-introduced to the region, and some of them even gave birth to young ones.

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