News Excerpt
Recently, Madhya Pradesh’s Panna National Park has been declared as ‘UNESCO Biosphere Reserve’. In addition to that Scientists have also started a project of radio-tagging of vultures in Panna Tiger Reserve.

Project Tiger
•    India hosts more than 70% of total Tigers in the world and in order to conserve 'Project Tiger' was launched in 1973. Panna got the status of a Project Tiger Reserve in 1981.
•    This initiative is funded by the Union Govt. of India and administrated under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is the immediate supervising agency.

Biosphere Reserve
    It is a protected area of land meant for the in-situ conservation of wildlife, biodiversity and the traditional practices of the tribal people living in that area.
    The purpose of the formation of the biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality, so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in natural ecosystems.
    Every year UNESCO appoints new biosphere reserves and removes others to promote the conservation of biodiversity, resolve the man-animal conflict at that site and allow sustainable use of natural resources.

    Last year Panna tiger reserve witnessed a remarkable turnaround in tiger population by increasing the number of big cats to 50 from zero estimated a decade ago.
    The AllIndia Tiger Estimation reported that Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tigers. The state has a total of 526 tigers according to the 2018 census.

o    This addition to the UNESCO list will help in exploring new measures towards the conservation of wildlife in Panna Tiger Reserve.
o    By declaring Panna as a UNESCO heritage site it will draw international attention to the need for the preservation and conservation of the site.
o    Panna Tiger Reserve is likely to receive additional funds (from UNESCO) for restoration, preservation, and training which can facilitate partnerships between government, the private sector, and NGOs to achieve conservation goals.

Panna Tiger Reserve and Vulture Conservation
    The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has taken up the research project in association with the Panna Tiger Reserve, under which 25 vultures are to be radio-tagged.
    There were about 650 vultures of seven species reported in the tiger reserve in the year 2018. Of these four are resident species while three are migratory.
    Vultures are radio-tagged for research purposes, their movement and habitat choice. Moreover, radio tagging can also establish ‘habitual changes’ due to climate change and various other factors.   
    The movement and habits of vultures and especially their capacity to travel accurately on a route and find suitable climatic conditions for roosting has been a matter of deep interest and to model that radio tagging is being used. So that future predictions can also initiated.
    The data generated out of radio-tagging – like how far the birds travel, how much time do they stay in a place for feeding or other activities, the difference in habits, if any, between males and females, reproductive period habits – will help considerably for management plan when correlated with other available data on the preying birds.
    The utility of vultures as a natural scavenger cannot be understated, though the bird species has been long under threat due to many reasons, especially the use of painkiller drugs in cattle on the carcass of which they normally feed. Radio Tagging is likely to help in such cases as well.

     India has achieved success to conserve the flora and fauna, and declaring as a biosphere reserve is a realization of serious efforts of India, the next step conservation will be facilitated by Global initiatives like this. Along with this a new wildlife conservation practices are likely to deliver better outcomes.
     Vultures, are well known as nature's cleanup crew, do the dirty work of cleaning up after death, helping to keep ecosystems healthy as they act as natural carcass recyclers. They provide critically important ecosystem services and socioeconomic benefits. Furthermore, conserving vultures means aiding other wildlife.