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Extinction is now outpacing evolution; humans are ‘cutting down the tree of life’, warn scientists

From The Guardian: Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife is cutting down the tree of life, according to a stark new analysis. More than 300 different mammal species have been eradicated by human activities. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5 billion years.

Half-Earth: A biologist’s manifesto for preserving life on Earth

Here is the ambitious (and controversial) proposal by E.O. Wilson —arguably the world’s most lauded living evolutionary biologist— to save life on Earth by setting aside around half the planet in various types of nature reserves. Also included is a research paper exploring the viability of Wilson’s proposal, along with a sharp critique of it.

A tribute to Romulus Whitaker, the ‘Snake man of India’

A tribute to Romulus Whitaker, recently awarded the Padma Shri, among India’s highest civilian honours. Here, the acclaimed herpetologist talks about his decades of work with reptiles which led to setting up of six pioneering institutions including the famous Madras Crocodile Bank, apart from giving snakes and reptiles a positive place in the Indian public’s mind.

Will India lose one of its last patches of Jurassic forest?

From Down to Earth: Kathalekan, in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, is a relic forest with Myristica swamp ecosystem. It has remained unchanged for over 100 million years. It’s spread across an area of 25 square kilometres. Today this ancient forest is under severe threat from  human interventions in the region, including a proposed highway.

The lady who saved the falcon

From Live Mint: In October 2012, Bano Haralu led a small group of conservationists to Nagaland’s Doyang reservoir to check on large-scale falcon hunting. What they witnessed that balmy October day shook them to the core. Nagaland was and still is infamous for hunting, but this was something even the conservationists had not bargained for.

We’ll never see these animals again

From Mother Jones: Most scientists now agree that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction, but unlike before, humans are responsible for this one. Here are some of the highlights from the Red List, the most comprehensive roster of threatened species available, including three that went extinct last year and others to watch out for in 2017.

At the heart of India’s raging tribal insurgency is a simple thing: respect

Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.

Report: How Big Conservation funds the destruction of tribal people

A new report details widespread human rights abuses in the Congo Basin, by wildlife guards funded and equipped by the World Wildlife Fund and other big conservation organisations. It lists more than 200 instances of abuse since 1989, which are likely just a tiny fraction of systematic and ongoing violence, beatings, torture and even death.

An Atlas for the End of the World

The Atlas for the End of the World chronicles the archipelago of protected areas into which the world’s genetic biodiversity is now huddled. It is not about the end of the world per se; but the end of the world as a God-given and unlimited resource for human exploitation and its concomitant myths of progress.

Rooted Truth: On India’s only private wildlife sanctuary

From Infinite Windows/Eartha Mag: 23 years ago, the passionate conservationist couple Pamela and Anil Malhotra bought 55 acres of land in Coorg, which they have since converted into a beautiful forest of over 300 acres. This is the story of how SAI Sanctuary came to host animals like the Bengal Tiger, Sambhar and Asian Elephants.

A birder gives wings to three centuries of South Asian ornithology

From The Hindu: Aasheesh Pittie has single-handedly indexed a monumental bibliographic database of everything that has been published on the birds of South Asia in the printed or electronic form since the mid-eighteenth century, searchable with keywords. This little-known labour of love by Pittie, founding editor of the bi-monthly Indian BIRDS, is available at www.southasiaornith.in.

How a holy hill got its groves back

From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.

Tribute: A mountain and a movement: the Save Western Ghats March

From The Hindu:  Straddling six states, the 1600-odd kilometre-long Western Ghats is home to an astonishing diversity of life and supports innumerable communities and cultures. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the remarkable 100-day ‘Save Western Ghats March’, a landmark event in Indian environmental activism, which became the model for numerous campaigns to follow.

India’s top predator may just be the dog. And we’re to blame

From Hindustan Times: Man’s best friend has become a growing threat to India’s wildlife. As canine numbers rise in cities, towns and villages, entire ecosystems are being affected.They’ve attacked endangered stags in Kashmir and preyed on livestock in the Himalayas. Wild ass, gazelle, nilgai, blackbuck and deer have died of dog attacks in our sanctuaries.

India’s first urban biodiversity heritage site – A ray of hope

From EarthaMag: India recently conferred biodiversity heritage status on the Ameenpur Lake on the fringes of Hyderabad. Other sites across the country also received this distinction. But what sets Ameenpur Lake apart is that the tag is the first of its kind in the country for a water body, and the first in an urban environment.

Study: The world is facing a ‘biological annihilation’ of species, researchers warn

From The Independent: Scientists warn in a new study that Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that’s “more severe than perceived.” Not only that, human activity —including pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, poaching, warming oceans and extreme weather events tied to climate change— is to blame for this massive loss in biodiversity, according to the analysis.

A teenage philatelist explains what butterflies can teach us about the ecosystem – and human spirit

From Scroll.in: Thirteen-year-old Ramprasad Mahurkar, part of a long tradition of artists, writers and scientists obsessed with butterflies, says:  “I love butterflies because they are beautiful and inspiring. A large proportion of the earth’s food crops are pollinated by butterflies, plus they’ve been studied to understand the phenomena of evolution and the role of genetics.”

In memory of Prashanth Ettaboina: A passionate life cut short

Anuja Mital writes: A year ago, on this day, a young 23-year-old wildlife researcher and my classmate, Prashanth Ettaboina, passed away. Ever the optimist, and crazy about tigers like no one else, the news of his suicide shocked us all –although till date there has been no satisfying inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Winners of the Whitley Awards for nature conservation 2017

From The Guardian: Indian winners of this year’s prestigious ‘green Oscars’ are Purnima Barman, who has been inspiring women to protect Assam’s greater adjutant stork and its habitat, and Sanjay Gubbi, who has been working on reducing deforestation in Karnataka’s tiger corridors. Whitley Awards are donated by the Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor Shears.

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