At least 30 species of animals and plants in Jammu and Kashmir are on the verge of extinction, according to a latest notification issued by Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF).
The species—10 animals and 20 plants—have been categorised on the basis of recommendations of the state government. Officials said the notification will make the Centre legally bound to fund projects for protection of these species.
The 10 animal species are Hangul, Markhor, Tibetan Wild Dog, Kashmir Musk Deer, Chiru, Tibetan Gazelle, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Tahr, White backed vulture and Western Tragopan.
Hangul, the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir has been categorised as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species in 1996.
The endangered 20 plants species of J&K are Aconitum chasmanthum, Aconitum deinorrhizum, Aconitum heterophyllum, Aconitum kasmiricum, Aconitum violaceum, Eremostachyssuperba, Gentianaornata ,Gentianakurro, Lagotiscashmeriana, Meconopsislatifolia, Meconopsis aculeate, Saussureacostus, Saussurea medusa, Saussureasimpsoniana, Sophoramoorcroftiana, Podophyllumhexandrum, Dactylorhizahatagirea, Picrorrhizakurroa, Betulautilis and Taxuswallichiana.
The notification states that collection of the species of these plants and animals shall be prohibited, except with the approval of the Jammu and Kashmir State Biodiversity Board only for the purposes of scientific research, herbarium and museum of scientific and academic institutions, propagation and any other scientific investigation.
It states that the Jammu and Kashmir State Biodiversity Board shall undertake studies on all aspects of the notified species for holistic understanding, propagation of the notified species for the purpose of conservation and rehabilitation.
The board has also been entrusted to organise awareness programmes and provide educational materials on notified species for forest department personnel, biodiversity management committees, ecotourism programmes, and forest dwellers and tribals.
BM Sharma, former director State Forest Research Institute (SFRI), who was instrumental in formation of the list of endangered animals and plants, said the notification will make it legally binding for the Government of India to fund projects for protection of endangered animal and plant species.
He said based on advice of experts, the state government has to make recommendations regarding endangered species and animals to the Government of India.
"However, the matter was pending in J&K since 2008 while 20 other states have long ago completed the process," Sharma said.
The list of 10 endangered animals and 21 plant species was prepared by an expert committee under the chairmanship of principal chief conservator of forests/chief wildlife warden in 2017.
The Botanical Survey of India had advised it to exclude four species considering their present status. The Zoological Survey of India had agreed to only seven species out of 10 species of animals.
"After threadbare discussion, the expert committee finalized 20 plant and 10 animal species which are threatened and needed to be notified under section 38 of the Biological Diversity Act 2002," said Sharma who also served as a member secretary of State Biodiversity Board.
Director SFRI, NP Singh, said research will be conducted to increase production of endangered species of plants. "There are natural and other factors responsible for decline of several plant species in Jammu and Kashmir. We will take scientific measures to prevent these from extinction," he said.
Wildlife experts termed the notification as a good move to protect the endangered animals. "The notification will give protection to endangered animals from legal perspective. If there was any violation, earlier, we could not defend it in court of law in absence of placement of endangered animals in particular schedule," said a retired wildlife officer.
DrAnzar A Khuroo, senior assistant professor Centre for Biodiversity and Taxonomy, Kashmir University, said several endangered plant species including Trillium govanianum, Rheum emodi, Fritillariaroylei and Aconitum chasmanthum and many others have been left out of the list.
"As preparing lists of threatened species is a dynamic process, government should in future undertake broad-based scientific consultation before coming out with such lists of threatened species because such decisions have huge conservation and socio-economic implications," he said.