What is the issue in Masai Mara National Park?

Contiguous with the Serengeti National Park along the Kenya-Tanzania border, the Maasai Mara National Reserve in south-western Kenya is one of the best-known and most-visited in the African continent Sprawling across more than 1,500 sq. km, and lying in the Rift Valley, the regions's vegetation is varied from rolling grasslands and riverine forests to woodlands, swamps, and scrub. Teeming with wildlife, the Reserve is most noted for the Big Five - lion, cheetah, wild buffalo, rhinoceros, and wild elephant and for hosting the world's most spectacular show in the wild- the annual wildebeest migration. In a circuitous journey, more than a million wildebeest, along with thousands of zebras and gazelles cross the crocodile-filled Mara river and brave several other predators such as lions during the journey between Serengeti and this Reserve.

Wildlife

The birds of the Reserve are ostriches, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, bitterns, storks, ibises, spoonbills, ducks, geese, secretary birds. vultures, eagles, kites, harriers, hawks, falcons, kestrels, quails, buttonquails, francolins, guineafowls, rails, crakes, moorhens, cranes, bustards, jacanas, stilts, thickknees, coursers, plovers, lapwings, painted snipes, sandpipers, terns, pigeons, doves, parrots, cuckoos, coucals, owls, nightjars, swifts, mousebirds, trogons, kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, hoopoes, hornbills, barbets, tinkerbirds. honeyguides, woodpeckers, wrynecks, larks, swallows, and martins. Impalas, wildebeest, antelopes, gazelles, rhinoceroses, zebras, elephants, buffaloes, pangolins, mongooses, hyenas, leopards, lions, cheetahs, foxes, jackals, wild dogs, honey badgers, monkeys, baboons, fruit bats, hares, squirrels, porcupines, hippopotamuses, warthogs, and giraffes are the mammals one can spot here, in addition to a whole lot of reptiles and amphibians such as tortoises, terrapins, snakes, lizards, toads, and frogs.

Threats

Among the Reserve's threats and concerns are poaching for ivory and meat, encroachment, land used for agriculture, human-wildlife conflict, and forest fires. More importantly, tourism impacts the region in several ways. Tourism is an important part of the Reserve for the revenue it brings directly and indirectly. Tourists from developed nations visit the place and are keen to view wildlife as closely as possible. So tourist van operators drive very close to this animals causing them great distress. And continuous driving on these lands could affect the natural vegetation of the region the animals may be dependent on. However, that's not the only way in which tourism affects the region.

Before 2004, not even 10 tourist lodges existed in and around the Reserve, because there was a ban on new construction. However, that was removed in 2004, and gradually over the last 1.5 decades, around 200 such lodges have come up. As it is fencing and agriculture had affected the movement of animals, even interfering with the migration route of a few animals. With increasing numbers of lodges, and therefore humans, the movement of wild animals could be severely hindered.

The pandemic effect

Before last March, tourism was of great concern due to the sheer number of visitors to the Reserve and how it affected the place and its inhabitants. But the pandemic brought with it a peculiar problem- the lack of tourists. As mentioned earlier, tourists bring revenue to the region directly through safari visits and indirectly by buying products - such as handmade jewellery - from the villagers around the region. Without tourists, these people's livelihoods have been greatly affected. The larger fear is that without the earlier financial stability, gradually they "may stop protecting wildlife, resort to poaching to get by, or sell land".

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What is Sagarmatha National Park famous for?

Set up in 1976 as one of the earliest protected areas in Nepal, the Sagarmatha National Park (also known as Mount Everest National Park) is spread across an area of more than 1,100 sq km. Marked by majestic mountains, dramatic peaks, deep valleys, and pristine glaciers, the park is noted for its stunning natural beauty. And, one of those majestic mountains is Mount Everest, itself a major attraction of the park. The region is equally popular for its wide variety of flora and fauna. While birch, juniper, pine, fir, bamboo, and rhododendron are the flora predominantly covering the region, rare animal species such as snow leopards have made this place their home. The park was declared a UNESCO Heritage World Site in 1979 for its "Outstanding Universal Value". The sherpas-ethnic people native to the mountains of the region - have a vital role to play in the conservation of the area, by restricting hunting, etc. Equally helpful are indigenous natural resource management practices that are in place. However, degradation of the ecosystem due to firewood extraction, tourism, and development projects are causes of concern.

Wildlife

The national park is a suitable habitat for rare species such as snow leopards, red pandas, Himalayan tahrs, and musk deer in addition to black bears, monkeys, hares, foxes, and martens. Over 100 species of birds are said to be found in the region, and they include the Himalayan monal, blood pheasant, laughing thrush, sunbirds, and redstarts. Apart from these, the park is said to nurture several species of butterflies and other insects too.

Threats

According to the International Union for Conservation of Natures latest assessment cycle (2020), the conservation outlook for Sagarmatha is significant concern". It says the property is suffering from a suite of long-standing and growing threats related to tourism impact (uncontrolled development, pollution, waste management, energy demand, introduction of donkeys for transport and intrusive aircrafts) deforestation, unsustainable resource extraction, poaching and disruption to Sherpa social structures. Climate change has had its impact too, for instance, glacier melting. In addition, it is likely that rivers and other water sources in the region could be contaminated by effluent discharge, human waste, and garbage dumping Further, aspects such as quarrying and forest fire risks put pressure on an already fragile ecosystem.

Two results from the pandemic...

According to a paper published in June 2021, the lockdown in Nepal between March and July 2020 due to the corona virus pandemic had both positive and negative results. In many of the country's national parks, including Sagarmatha, it meant more freedom of movement for wildlife. But that came with a price - since lockdown also meant reduced patrolling, illegal injuring or killing of wildlife due to poaching spiked. The study also discovered "incidents of hunting, trespassing, unauthorized collection of non-timber forest products (NTFP), fishing, and collection of fuelwood “inside the protected areas spiked. The study also discovered "incidents of hunting, trespassing, unauthorized collection of non-timber forest products (NTFP), fishing, and collection of fuelwood” inside the protected areas.

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Why is Manas National Park famous for?

Creating a transnational conservation area, the Royal Manas National Park in southwestern Bhutan abuts the Manas National Park of the neighbouring Indian State of Assam. It was accorded wildlife sanctuary status way back in 1966, making it the oldest protected area in the country. As many as 27 years later, it was declared a National Park. Covering an area of more than 1,000 sq.km., the Park had been out of bounds to public for a long while. The region is fed by the Manas river, and is indicative of Bhutan's tropical and subtropical ecosystems. The Park hosts a stunning variety of plant and animal species, and this includes several that are threatened or endangered. In addition to a few hundred bird species, it is said to support more than 900 types of plants, including many with medicinal value.

Wildlife

The animals that one can spot in the region include Royal Bengal tiger. Asian elephant, greater one-horned rhinoceros, clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, Gangetic dolphin, pangolin, and the endangered and rare golden langur. Among the birds that roam the area are ducks, geese, shelducks, pochards, teals, partridges, tragopans, pheasants, quails, grebes, pigeons, cranes, bitterns, doves, nighjars, swifts, doves, eagles, hornbills, babblers, thrushes, cuckoos, herons, egret cormorants, thickknees, stilts, plovers, lapwings, sandpipers, gulls, terns, vultures, owls, woodpeckers, beeeaters, kingfishers, parakeets, orioles, drongos, shrikes, flowerpeckers, weavers, munias, sparrows, finches, tits, buntings, prinias, warblers, bulbuls, flycatchers, and robins.

Threats

In 2017, Bhutan became the first (and the only) carbon-negative country in the world. The carbon dioxide produced by the country is less than what the tree / forest cover there can absorb. The country has been determined to ensure that the forest cover does not drop below 60 % at any given time. While this is great news for the wildlife in the region, the country and the park in are not without concerns. For instance, human activity such as selective logging, deforestation, hunting, and tourism have been increasing challenges for the place. Being a small country, it has managed to keep several threats at bay so far. However, as a country develops, human activity could only increase, leading to alteration of places that wildlife call home. There are also concerns that species such as the threatened clouded leopard could be affected in the long run due to such activity.

Good news

News reports published in 2018 said that the number of tigers at the Park grew from just 10 in 2010 to more than double- an impressive 22-within a decade. This is attributed to the conscious effort not just at Royal Manas but also at Manas National Park in neighbouring India. In fact, both the Parks registered increase in tiger numbers, and this is attributed to transboundary conservation.

While the tiger usually gets all the attention for being a top predator, it is also important to record other species in a region. Less than a decade ago, efforts were taken up to record the different types of cats present in Royal Manas National Park. The study "recorded six species of wild felids of which five are listed on the IUCN Red List". They are tiger, golden cat, marbled cat, leopard cat, clouded leopard, and common leopard. It was conducted over an area of 74 sq.km., and the sightings of felid species confirmed the region "as a biodiversity hot spot for this group".

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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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