Three iconic species endemic to India gone extinct due to desertification: Researchers

It was discussed at the convention, which started earlier this week, that soil aridity was a problem the world is battling.

The Indian Cheetah, pink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustard — three of the most iconic species of wildlife in India, have gone extinct over the last century. Wildlife researchers revealed the finding at the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14) in Greater Noida this week in a study about the impacts of desertification in the country.

"We have a database of more than 5.6 million specimens, collected from all over India and also from the neighbouring countries before independence. They give a lot of information about how things have changed in over 100 years. If you see their distribution in geo-special platforms, you'll realise how much changes have occurred because of the impact of deforestation and desertification," Kailash Chandra, Director of the Zoological Survey of India, told ANI.

Three iconic species endemic to India gone extinct due to desertification: Researchers

(Left to right) The Indian Cheetah, Great Indian Bustard, and Pink-headed duck. Images:
Wikimedia Commons

A minumum of three to four species endemic to India have been wiped out, including the Indian Cheetah, pink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustard, Chandra declared. Several more species are on the verge of becoming extinct, falling into the category of "critically-endangered" species.

"These specimens have reduced to less than 150," the researchers stressed. "This is a matter of great concern," he noted further.

Chandra stressed that desertification was a result of insecticide and pesticide overuse, conversion to agricultural land, industries and chemicals, and indiscriminate development, but everything had to be regulated so their impact can be minimised and it could be possible to "reverse" this process. Desertification doesn't impact animals alone, but the biodiversity at large, from microscopic life to human beings.

"The entire food chain is affected due to this (desertification)," Chandra said.

Also discussed at the COP14 forum was the growing crisis of land degradation India is faced with, since over 30 percent of land area in India has been degraded from a combination of deforestation, overcultivation, soil erosion and depleting wetlands.