India, 129 other nations pledge to save 1 million species facing extinction

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The Gandhinagar Declaration of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) also stressed that “ecological connectivity” of migratory species will be key to arresting their decline.

One hundred and thirty countries including India on Saturday endorsed a declaration that one million migratory species were confronting extinction, and many of them may vanish within a few decades, underscoring the urgency to protect and conserve such species.

The Gandhinagar Declaration of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) also stressed that “ecological connectivity” of migratory species will be key to arresting their decline.

The Declaration was released on the concluding day of the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13) in Gandhinagar on Saturday. The parties include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, the Philippines, France, Australia and Argentina. The US and China are not among them.

The urgent need to protect migratory species and importance of ecological connectivity is to be discussed at the negotiations on Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework convening in Rome next week. The Declaration cited the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’s Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services which was released in May last year. IPBES, a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that around 25% of species in the animal and plant groups were under threat, suggesting that around one million species are already confronting extinction.

“Noting with concern that the loss and fragmentation of habitat and overexploitation are the most serious threats to migratory animals with climate change expected to exacerbate these problems,” the Declaration stated, adding that ecological connectivity should be prioiritised in all biodiversity-related policies.

Ten new species were added to CMS Appendices at COP13. Seven species were added to Appendix I The seven were the Asian Elephant, Jaguar, Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican, Little Bustard, Antipodean Albatross and the Oceanic White-tip Shark.

Among significant cross-country agreements made at COP13 were integrating biodiversity and migratory species considerations into national energy and climate policies; strengthening policies to combat illegal killing of wildlife and trade in migratory birds; mitigating the impact of linear infrastructure such as roads and railways; reviewing bycatch levels of sharks and rays, and implementing bycatch mitigation measures for marine mammals in national fishing operations. On illegal killing of and trade in migratory species, CMS executive secretary Amy Fraenkel said: “We want to understand the implications of trade in CMS Appendix 1 species. We will look at the data from countries on which species are being legally traded.”

Inclusion of the Asian Elephant, Great Indian Bustard and Bengal Florican in Appendix I could mean more focus on these species, which have a large habitat in India, experts said. “The best outcome for India is getting these three species protection under Appendix I,” said Dipankar Ghose, director, species and landscape, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

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