Saving non-charismatic indicator species: tales of success and failures

Saving non-charismatic indicator species: tales of success and failures

Presented by Goutam Narayan

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Ravi Sankaran Memorial Lecture Speaker 2014 in collaboration with the Ravi Sankaran Foundation:

The claim to fame of a blood-sucking parasite, the pygmy hog sucking louse (Haematopinus oliveri), is that it is one of the most threatened species in the world because this host specific pest lives exclusively on the pygmy hog (Porcula salvania), categorised as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN RedList. Both have almost lost the battle as, going by the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest, the pygmy hog is too choosy and has not succeeded in coping with the rapid changes in its habitat, the alluvial grasslands. Despite the fact that no one has gone around shooting or trapping them, they have disappeared from the places where other species of the same habitat still survive or would have survived if someone had not killed them all. The pygmy hog is a classic loser. So is the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) or the greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius). On the other hand, millions of the Gyps vultures of the subcontinent have fallen victim to a drug widely used to treat livestock on whose carcasses the vultures once thrived, bringing them close to extinction. Why should we waste our time and money trying to save them from extinction? Could there be some merit in the argument that these finicky, super-sensitive underdogs may be indicating something grave in the habitat quality that will eventually lead to decimation of its other inhabitants? And finally affect us? Hear more about these stories at the talk.

About the speaker:

Goutam Narayan’s main interest lies in conservation of some critically endangered animals of alluvial grassland such as the Bengal florican and pygmy hog, and their habitat. He began his career in 1980 at Bombay Natural History Society under Dr. Sálim Ali, and after working in various field projects he became the BNHS Conservation Officer in 1991. In 1995, he initiated the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), a collaborative project of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN/SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group, the Assam Forest Department and the central Ministry of Environment and Forest. Currently he is the Project Director of PHCP which is implemented in Assam by EcoSystems-India, a trust for biodiversity conservation. He also advises other projects of EcoSystems-India such as the human-elephant conflict mitigation initiative with the Chester Zoo – the Assam Haathi Project, Greater Adjutant Recovery Programme, and the Eaglenest Biodiversity Project. He has a Ph.D. in field zoology from the University of Bombay, and an M.Sc. from the University of Calcutta.

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