Centre for Advanced Legal Studies and Research, (CALSAR), Thiruvananthapuram

Need of a field guide in identification of marine species.

C T Joju IFS, Deputy Conservator of Forests

The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 is legislation made to conserve the wildlife on the earth. At present, The law enforcing in the field of Wildlife Protection is limited to a few terrestrial species generally seen in the Forest. But the Act has a wider scope to protect thousands of species seen in the Earth, Air and Water. There are six schedules in the Act by which the animals are grouped according to the importance of protection, ranges from 1 to 6. This compilation is a step towards enlighten the law enforcers. Aquatic Fauna and majority of the Terrestrial and Avian Fauna are not much cared for.  This situation is due to (1) Lack of sufficient Knowledge, Information, and identification skill of the implementing officers about each species, (2) Lack of public awareness, and (3) Lack of sufficient staff in the field especially in the coastal region and in the non-forest area to implement the Act. A field guide for the aquatic animals is also not available now and that is why a field guide with some of the aquatic animals like Mammals, Fishes, Turtles and Tortoises which are listed under the various schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act has been compiled. This field guide consists 43 species of which 12 are Fishes, 22 are Turtles and 9 are Mammals. This field guide has a page named origin of fishes by which readers can have an idea about evolution of fishes. Also another page discloses about the difference between Turtle, Tortoise and Terrapin. Similarly it contains a description regarding Marine Mammals. In India there are 31 species of marine mammals of which 30 are Cetacea and one is Sirenia.

Each species has 2 pages in the field guide. The first page has Scientific name, local names and common name in it. As much local names as possible in various languages has been included. It also contains where the species has been included/listed in the Schedule of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.IUCN red list status of each species has also been included. This status determines the level of threat of each species in terms of its existence. The grouping of species by IUCN on conservation status is like Least Concern, Conservation Dependent, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically endangered, Extinct in wild, and Extinct. The first page also contains Description, Distribution of the species. Some interesting behaviors of each species with some statistics are also included in the page. The second page contains 3 to 6 Photos taken from different angles so as to understand and identify the species from its description. I hope the compilation is highly useful to the implementing officers of Kerala Forest Department.

This field guide is an endeavor to educate the implementing officers of the Kerala Forest Department and similar needy people in protecting the above Fauna by proper implementation of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and there by conserve it. This field guide is prepared with the technical support of the CMFRI, Ernakulam and a certificate of verification to that effect has been given which is included in it. No such field guide is available in India for this purpose and we hope that the same will be of great use for the states sharing coastal areas. This compilation was done by Sri. C T Joju, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Rt.), who had 28 years of service in the Kerala Forest Department.

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