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World Endangered Species Day 18th May 2018

Today marks the annual day dedicated to endangered species. This day provokes a necessary conversation on how we, as humans, are able to counter the imbalance and decline of a lot of our most favoured species. The IUCN Red List, a catalogue of all species that are threatened with extinction, currently claims the list hold over 41,000 species, covering all classes of vertebrates and invertebrates, fungi and flora and even certain single celled organisms. This day is dedicated to each of these wonderful organisms and species.

SUJÁN is lucky enough to have camps where you are able to observe such species in a manner which allows each to behave their natural wild way.

The area around SUJÁN JAWAI has stood the test of time as the local human population have for centuries defied normality and lived among the Indian leopard. These locals, being mostly agricultural or pastoral farmers, do not just tolerate these rosetted cats but revere them, perceiving them as the guardians of the hill temples which dot the Jawai landscape. The area has become an epitome for a mature understanding between man and animal. So much so, that a female mother occupies a hill range at the bottom of which Sena village sits with the population of around 1400.

Leopards in the Jawai area are considered guardians of the hill temples. These temples, most being dedicated to the goddess Mata Ji, will have depictions of big cats. Photograph by Shantharam Pai

The Tx2 campaign has played a large role in creating a rise in tiger population for the first time in 100 years. Photograph by William Asquith

Tiger numbers have drastically dropped to 3200 in 2010 from a believed 100,000 at the start of the 20th century. However, within the eight years, the momentum is starting to shift with initiatives such as the Tx2 campaign. Aimed to double the number of tigers by 2022, this commitment has seen a combined effort of thirteen countries in Asia to reach the 6000 mark. This was a pivotal agreement in tiger conservation as 2016 saw for the first time a stop in the ever-decreasing tiger numbers in 100 years. Although the total population has increased a number to just below 4000, in conservation, however, it is still not enough.

Allocating more land exclusively for wildlife habitat will benefit tigers such as this adolescent male, close to independence and soon looking for a territory of his own. Photograph by Katya Ignatiev

Human effort, like tiger numbers, needs to blossom. Although it remains a primary concern, it is no longer acceptable to protect the currently alive tigers or leopards and believe that alone will suffice in boosting population numbers. Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, writing for The Spectator put out a target to reach 10,000 tigers in the wild by the end of 2050 (https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/04/we-need-10000-tigers-in-the-wild/). In this day and age, the responsibility of conservation no longer falls solely on the lap of NGOs, safari camps and wildlife enthusiasts, but also extends to countries’ governments such as banning trade on items such as tiger parts and ivory or providing more land exclusively for wildlife habitat. Rajasthan Forest Department have been very active in creating these new areas for wildlife. Kela Devi being one example of an extended corridor from Ranthambhore National Park to Kuno Wildlife Santuary in Madhya Pradesh where you are able to see wolves, sloth bears, leopards and tigers all in the same area. On top of this Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve had been given the status of a tiger reserve in 2013 and this year saw it’s first tiger inhabiting it’s core area.

This day also extends an awareness to the other lesser-known endangered species. The Desert National Park, Jaisalmer is one of the very few habitats for the Great Indian Bustard. In 2015, a census counted there to be a mere 11 of these winged wonders in the Thar Region. Now there are believed to be nearly three times that number (31). Huge praise must go to the team at the Desert National Park for being able to reach such a growth in three years and it is something that SUJÁN The Serai will try to become much more involved in by raising awareness of and assisting in any way the National Park in protecting these magnificent birds.

Today is a day to encourage everyone around the world to remove the familiarity of passive support and to take on the principled probity of participation.

Although protecting the already existing tigers from poaching is a primary concern, it is no longer enough to believe that this alone is sufficient to boost the tiger population. Photograph by William Asquith

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