Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sustainable Harvesting of Medicinal Plants

Protected Areas in the Himalayas that are home to pheasants and other wildlife, also harbour a rich diversity of flora, and many of them are valuable as medicinal plants. The medicinal plants (MAP or medicinal and aromatic plants) are used in traditional medicines, and also have a high economic value in the international market.

Excessive harvesting of these wild plants has lead to some of them becomming rare and endangered. In the Himalayas, the collection season also coincides with the spring breeding season of the pheasants, and the disturbance causes nesting failure, among other problems. Therefore, now efforts are on to encourage cultivation of these plants rather than their collection from the wild. Several State and Central R & D Institutions in India have formulated nursery, harvesting, drying and extraction techniques for the MAPs.

An international standard for the sustainable harvesting of MAP was prepared by the IUCN Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, called the ISSC-MAP Ver 1.0 in 2007. This was revised and combined with the FairWild certification and labelling standard in 2010.

Section 1 of this standard, FairWild Principles and Criteria for Collection Operations, states :

Principle 2. Preventing Negative Environmental Impacts
Negative impacts caused by collection activities on other wild species, the collection area and
neighbouring areas shall be prevented.
2.1 Sensitive taxa and habitats
Rare, threatened and endangered species and habitats that are likely to be affected by collection and management of the target species are identified and protected.
2.2 Habitat (landscape level) management
Management activities supporting wild collection of target species do not adversely affect ecosystem diversity, processes and functions.

An update:
Thousands of tonnes of medicinal plants are harvested and exported from the state of Himachal Pradesh alone. Not only does this endanger the population of the medicinal plants, but also affects the animals (insects, birds, mammals) that feed on the flowers and roots of these plants. Another aspect of the cultivation of medicinal plants is that, when cultivated in ex situ conditions, they lose their viability and potency in a few generations. So, the stock has to be constantly replinshed from the wild population. This makes conservation of wild plants and thier habitat even more urgent. A news article about the threats to medicinal plants in Himachal Pradesh, India -

Although the state government is taking steps for the purchase and marketing of the medicinal plants directly from the village harvesters so that they get a good price, it is clear that the government urgently needs to set a limit for the quantity exported out of the state (and check the smuggling of MAPs) in order to prevent their extiction in the wild.

Documents related to medicinal plants from the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal, India -

The Himalayan pastures and forests are also used by graziers (Gaddis) in the summer season for herds of sheep and goats. This causes further depletion of the medicinal herbs. A study conducted in 1999, recommends the following measures -

'As the reckless extraction of minor forest produce particularly the herbs, has resulted in sparser distribution and continuously decreasing regeneration of variety of species, urgent steps to conserve and increase its regeneration are required. The herbs collection must be, more vigorously regulated in terms of both quantity to be extracted as well as checking unauthorised encrochers/collectors. If possible co-operatives of collectors should be formed to safeguard the interests of the poor from the middle men. Illegal timber felling and poaching should be checked; for this purpose more vigilance posts should be established, particularly on the major outlets of forest produce. A number of thatches/pastures have been subjected to heavy destruction by migratory cattles/livestock. If possible they may either be diverted or settled elsewhere. Moreover the rotational closure of pastures is strongly recommended.'

(From - )

Some more links -

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dam submerging a Portion of Cheer Sanctuary

While the wildlife officials are busy looking for new reintroduction sites for the Cheer Pheasants, a portion of the Majathal Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh is slated to be submerged by the construction of a hydro-electric project - the Kol dam. About 9 sq. kms. of the sanctuary are going to be submerged when the dam, being constructed on Satluj river in Bilaspur district by NTPC, starts functioning in 2013.

A portion of the adjoining Darlaghat Sanctuary was denotified in 2006 to permit limestone mining for a cement factory.

Wildlife department officials are quoted to state that the department will be monitarily compensated for the loss of sanctuary land, which will be used for the Cheer conservation project.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You can help by talking about WED

Official website of World Environment Day -

Photo of the endangered Javan Trogon (Harpactes reinwardtii) taken at Gunong Gede, Java, Indonesia, by Lip Kee Yap on Wikipedia -

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

World Environment Day - June 5

Some of the Hidden Gifts from Nature

Adopt a minimalistic green lifestyle for a healthier you and a greener world.

Photo of Cloud forest, Mount Kinabalu, Borneo - by NepGrower on Wikipedia -

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2011 is the International Year of Forests

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conservation of Snow Leopard Habitat

A Snow Leopard Research Center is going to be constructed in Kibber in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himacal Pradesh, India. The Snow Leopard population in the Western Himalayas are distributed in the Greater Himalayas and the Trans Himalayas (rainshadow area beyond the Greater Himalayas consisting of rugged mountains and steppe treeless desert landscape), with most of its population distributed in the latter.

Snow leopards, and its associated prey species share their habitat with pheasants in the moist temperate forests of Greater Himalayas.

See the following video on You Tube-

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Plight of the Himalayan Black Bear

A Himalayan Black Bear resting in the Kufri Nature Park, Simla, H.P. (India). Photo by Anita Chauhan at

Four species of bear are found in India - including, Himalayan Brown Bear, Himalayan Black Bear, and Sloth Bear. Listed as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List, the Himalayan Black Bear is hunted for its bile, which is supposed to have medicinal qualities and fetches a good sum for the poachers.

Arranging alternative employment for the poachers (most of whom are from the villages in or around the National park) will help in bringing down the incidents of poaching. For example, cultivation of high value medicinal plants, handicrafts, village museums, home-stays etc.
The bear-bile trade route has to be plugged. Also, building more anti-poaching patrol huts has shown to increase the efficiency of monitoring in remote inhospitable terrain.
Read about the plight of a bear in GHNP at -
Plight of the Himalayan Black Bear

IUCN Bear Specialist Group -

More about the bear bile problem -

An update:

The bear bile trade in Asia, TRAFFIC report


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pheasants in the World of Stamps

The 'World Philatelic Exhibition' in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi (12-18 Feb.) is drawing large crowds, young and old with an interest in collecting stamps and postal history. I didn't know there were so many 'stamp enthusiasts' in Delhi!

A stamp sheet from China.

I spent the sunday at the exhibition, where I had gone hoping to see some stamps on wildlife, particularly birds. The collection from all over the world is huge. The wildlife stamps are not arranged in a catogory at one place and are scattered, but the collection is very impressive. The stamps are accompanied by a brief note on its history and the animals' ecology etc. There are also stalls from various countries, selling stamps and stamp albums. To see more stamps, you can follow me on Flickr -
More about the exhibition at :

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Historical Perspective

Birds are a delightful and useful part of people's everyday lives. They are extensively represented in all the cultures of the world. References to birds are found in paintings, sculpture, weaves, literature, dance and music.

In India, birds have been mentioned in the ancient texts of Hindu and Muslim literature. The modern scientific ornithological documentation in India was done at the time of the British rule, most prominently by the British civil servants and army officers in the Indian government. Some of them are : Edward Blyth, T.C. Jerdon, Baker, Oates and Hume. Several books and journal articles were contributed by them that formed the basis of the Indian ornithological studies. Later, Americans William Beebe and Delacour contributed towards studies on the pheasants.

Mr. A.O. Hume :
Most school-going children in India know that A. O. Hume was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, a political party formed during the last part of the British rule in India, which was instrumental in the Indian struggle for independence.

Mr. Hume was a British civil servant in the Indian government. Most people don't know that Hume was also a keen ornithologist and an avid hunter. During his various postings in India, he used to go out on hunts in the then abundant forests found adjacent to the towns. He had collected about 80,000 specimens of birds (some of which he described for the first time). These stuffed specimens were housed in his summer retreat in Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) called Rothney Castle. This collection was later donated by him to the British Museum in England.
Hume also founded an ornithological journal called 'Stray Feathers', and employed reporters from all over India to contribute articles to the journal. He is known as the 'Father of Indian Ornithology', a title earlier given to Edward Blyth.

Hume also wrote several books on Indian birds. In his book titled 'The Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon' (Part 1 and 2, coauthor CHT Marshall), Mr. Hume gives an account of the habitat and the game birds that he collected on his hunting expeditions. In present day India ofcourse, hunting of any kind of wildlife is prohibited by law.
The book talks about 20 species of pheasants, the classification of which was later revised by Baker. The nomenclature of some species too was later revised (eg. the genus Tragopan was earlier called Ceriornis). The book, published in 1879, is available in an online and a PDF format at the following website :
An excerpt from the book (quoting Hume's unhappiness over the inaccuracy of the colour plates the making of which was entrusted to Marshall, and his admiration of the female Tragopan satyra) :
" ................... the depth and richness of the tints of the female's plumge, which is a perfect poem without words, are lost in the harsh staring chromo."
A beautiful observation indeed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011