OCT 2017  

Defaunation is the loss of animals from ecological communities. The growth of the human population, combined with advances in harvesting technologies, has led to more intense exploitation of the environment. This has resulted in the depletion of large vertebrates from ecological communities. According to the Living Planet Index Global Report 2016, there is decline of 58 per cent of wildlife between 1970 and 2012. The global decline in the population of several wild animal species in the present era is among the most widespread driver of Earth's current biodiversity crisis. Reduction in population numbers of wildlife can also bring about major alterations in the ecosystem.

This month, our cover story highlights that unprecedented hunting or poaching in tropical forests is fast depleting the population of wild animals and birds across the world. Hunting is the single greatest threat to the persistence of our planet's larger mammals and birds as hunting not only directly affects harvested wildlife but also reshapes entire ecosystems and, in some cases, human societies. Our cover story discusses that hunting and/or poaching is carried out for various reasons of which the primary ones are hunting for wild meat, as a sport, and for the commercial trade of wild meat and other priced possessions, such as tusks of elephants and horns of rhinocerous. Hunting is a serious concern and its occurrence in various parts of India has become quite common. Hunting for body parts of wild animals is one of the causes for the drastic decline in the population numbers of these animals. But apart from the lure of big money, the animals and birds are also hunted for their meat. Hunting and consumption of wild meat is also known to transfer diseases, such as Ebola virus to humans and in turn putting the entire race at a risk of contracting deadly diseases.

The special report this month highlights that sustainable fisheries in the developing world have taken a significant step forward with the certification of India's first clam fishery in the Ashtamudi estuary in Kerala. The certification is a landmark in Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in India. An ecolabel for any fishery is the recognition and reward for managing fisheries, in a sustainable manner, ultimately leading to monetary and ecological benefits to fishers. Eco-labelling provides marketbased incentives to improve sustainable fishing practices. Eco-labels can reassure consumers about the sustainability of fishing, allowing them to make informed purchase decisions. The plan being that environmentally conscious consumers will shift their demand towards eco-labelled fish which, in turn, generates a price premium over nonlabelled fish. In this way, producers are rewarded for fishing in a sustainable way.

Ajay Mathur, Director-General, TERI