One of the most pressing environmental issues today is the conservation of biodiversity. Many factors threaten the world's biological heritage. The challenge is for nations, government agencies, organisations and individuals to protect and enhance biological diversity, while continuing to meet people's needs for natural resources.
This challenge exists from local to global scales. If not met, future generations will live in a biologically impoverished world and perhaps one that is less capable of producing desired resources as well.
Conserving biological diversity involves restoring, protecting, conserving or enhancing the variety of life in an area so that the abundance and distribution of species and communities provide for continued existence and normal ecological functioning, including adaptation and extinction. Today our biosphere is in danger of extinction for a variety of reasons like lack of conservation in ecological planning; and destruction of natural habitats as space is given over to either alternative uses or is over-exploited and polluted. It is reported that during the next 20to30 years, the world would lose more than a million species of plants and animals-primarily because of environmental changes brought about by human beings. This demands an urgent attention for the conservation of biosphere.
The Global biodiversity assessment warns, "Unless actions are taken to protect biodiversity, we will lose forever the opportunity of reaping its full potential benefit to humankind." Effective and implementable methods of stopping further genetic erosion and fostering the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems in mega biodiversity regions are the need of the hour. Efforts have been initiated to save biodiversity both by ex-situ and in-situ conservation.
This type of conservation includes conservation of plant and animals in their native ecosystems or in manmade ecosystem where they naturally occur.
This type of conservation applies only to wild fauna and flora and not to the domesticated animals and plants because conservation is possible by protection of population in nature.
In-situ conservation includes a system of protected areas of different categories, e.g., National Park, Sanctuaries, Biosphere Reserves, Cultural Landscapes, and National Monument etc. According to the World Conservation Union, protected area is defined as: "An area of land and/or sea specially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and associated cultural resources and managed through legal or other effective mean."
Ex-situ conservation means conservation of species (sample of genetic diversity), particularly of endangered species away from their natural habitat. It is done through establishment of 'gene banks', which include genetic resource centres, botanical gardens, cultural collection and zoos etc.
Wild Life Conservation in India
The shocking death of many tigers and lions due to a mysterious disease in our sanctuaries has brought wildlife conservation policies and their implementation into public focus. India has a wide variety of wildlife, many of them endangered, ranging from the snow leopard in the Himalayas to the giant Malabar squirrel in the rain forests of Kerala. Wildlife conservation has been very much in forefront of government policy and India is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Enforcement of wildlife protection is done under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Indian Board for Wildlife (IBWL) is the apex advisory body in the field of wildlife conservation in the country and is headed by the Prime Minister.
Indian wildlife is protected in 107 zoos, 49 deer parks, 16 safari parks, 6 snake parks, 24 breeding centres and 6 aquariums, besides of course 95 national parks and 500 sanctuaries. Forest staff looks after anti-poaching activities, habitat management and improvement. Besides, there are also projects for the flagship species like Project Tiger and Project Elephant where the habitats are maintained according to the requirements of the flagships species like tiger or elephant.