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How do cyclones like Biporjoy affect wildlife that couldn't be evacuated?

As Cyclone Biporjoy approaches the port of Jakhau in Kutch, Gujarat, the potential impact on wildlife species, Great Indian Bustards (GIBs)

By Ground report
New Update
How do cyclones like Biporjoy affect wildlife that couldn't be evacuated?

As Cyclone Biporjoy approaches the port of Jakhau in Kutch, Gujarat, the potential impact on wildlife species, Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) and Asiatic lions have raised concerns among conservationists and authorities.

Cyclone Biparjoy affect wildlife

As Cyclone Biparjoy approaches, around 200,000 animals have been relocated from Kachchh to safer locations. The evacuation process is underway to ensure the safety of the human and animal populations as the cyclone is expected to pass through the region on Thursday.

The Gir Forest, nestled in Gujarat, has a population of nearly 700 Asiatic lions, making it a critical region for conservation. However, conservationists have long expressed concern about the risks associated with concentrating the entire lion population in one area. Events such as the 2018 babesiosis outbreak and the devastating cyclone Tauktae in 2019 have highlighted the potential threats that epidemics and natural disasters pose to the survival of these magnificent creatures.

The Naliya region of the Gujarat grasslands is currently home to only four remaining great Indian bustards, a critically endangered species. Being birds, they possess greater mobility and the ability to sense danger, allowing them to fly far out of the path of the cyclone. The impact on their habitat as a result of heavy rains and subsequent flooding remains a major concern.

Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, the authorities have taken proactive steps to ensure the safety of wildlife during Cyclone Biporjoy. Licenses were cancelled, rescue teams were deployed and hospitals were equipped to provide medical assistance to injured animals. These concerted efforts aim to minimize potential harm to vulnerable species and safeguard their populations.

Concerns for Gir Lions and Naliya GIBs

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department, has expressed specific concern about the Gir forest, which is home to almost 700 Asiatic lions. This region represents the last stronghold of the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo leo) in the world.

Ravi Chellam, CEO of the Bengaluru-based Metastring Foundation and coordinator of the Biodiversity Collaborative, raised concerns about the violation of the 2013 Supreme Court of India order on the translocation of Asiatic lions from the Gir forest to KNP. The Gujarat government had opposed the translocation, citing the lions as a source of pride for the state.

Similar concerns exist for the four remaining great Indian bustards in the Naliya grasslands, all of which are female and represent the last IGIB population in Gujarat.

Experts told Down To Earth (DTE) that lions, as a forest species, face greater risks compared to GIBs, which are birds that inhabit grassland areas. Birds have the ability to sense impending cyclones and can fly long distances to find safer locations. While grasslands can be flooded from heavy rains, they typically do not experience significant structural damage like that seen in forests. However, birds exhibit greater mobility compared to mammals.

Previous cyclones that caused significant damage to wildlife

Cyclone Year Region affected Impact on wildlife
Cyclone Aila 2009 West Bengal Extensive damage to Sundarbans mangroves and wildlife
Cyclone Hudhud 2014 Andhra Pradesh, Odisha Damage to forests and coastal ecosystems, affecting wildlife habitats and nesting sites of Olive Ridley sea turtles
Cyclone Fani 2019 Odisha Loss of trees, vegetation, and damage to wildlife habitats, affecting various wildlife species
Cyclone Amphan 2020 West Bengal Extensive damage to Sundarbans mangroves and wildlife habitats, impacting species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, estuarine crocodile, and various bird species
Cyclone Tauktae 2021 Gujarat, Maharashtra Impact on lion population concentrated in Gir Forest, highlighting vulnerability to natural disasters
Biporjoy wildlife

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