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Malayan Giant Squirrel could fall by 90% in India by 2050 ; ZSI’s 1st of its kind Survey

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numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel could decline by 90 per centAccording to a First-of-its-kind survey conducted by Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Malayan Giant Squirrel or Black Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could fall by 90% in India by 2050 due to shrinking of its original habitat zone.

i.At Present only 43.38% of the Original habitat in  India is favourable for its living. The favourable zone of its habitat may decline to 2.94% by 2050.

ii.This would mean that, by 2050 the habitat of the squirrels will be restricted only to Southern Sikkim and North Bengal.

iii.The squirrel is considered to be an indicator of forest health, the decline in squirrel’s population reflects declining Forest area.

Main causes of shrinking of Habitat:

The study has stated that Deforestation, fragmentation of forests, crop cultivation and over-harvesting of food, illegal trade in wildlife, hunting for consumption, and slash-and-burn jhum cultivation taking place in Northeast is contributing to its shrinking habitat.

i.In India the population of the squirrel has declined by 30% in the last 20 years.

ii.It is mainly due to the decline of Forest area in North East (NE) States. The NE states recorded an increase in Forest area of 7, 172 sq kms from 1987-2013, but lost 628 sq km of forests over the next two years.

Malayan Giant Squirrel:

Malayan Giant Squirrel is one of the World’s Largest Squirrel species and also one of the 3 Giant Squirrels species found in India. The other two species are – Indian Giant Squirrel and Grizzled Giant Squirrel (both are found in peninsular India).

i.The Malayan Giant Squirrel distinctly bicoloured with dark upperparts and pale underparts and has a long, bushy tail and is found in parts of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland.

ii.Usually they live in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and are found from plains to hills at elevations of 50 m to 1, 500 m above sea level.

iii.In India, 20% of the squirrel’s population is found at elevations between 1, 500 m and 2, 700 m, and the rest live in plains and up to 1, 500 m.

iv.The squirrel’s range in Asia is approximately 1.84 Lakh Square Kms of which 8.5% (15, 635 sq kms) is in India.

v.They are also found in Southern China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra, and Java.

Characteristics:

They are diurnal (active during daytime) & arboreal (tree-dwelling) and herbivores.

Conservation Status:

i.It is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) 2016 list.

ii.It is a protected species under Schedule II of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Recent Related News:

i.On 17th May 2020, The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) updated the checklist of Indian amphibians, a list of 20 species as critically endangered and 35 species as endangered.

ii.In order to raise awareness about endangered species and wildlife in India, National Endangered Species Day is celebrated every year on the 3rd Friday of May.

About Zoological Survey of India (ZSI):
Director  – Dr. Kailash Chandra  (Scientists G)
Headquarters – Kolkata, West Bengal

About Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC):
Union Minister – Prakash Javadekar
Minister of State – Babul Supriyo