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Chinese elephant herd travelling more than 300 miles makes scientists curious

Chinese elephant herd travelling more than 300 miles makes scientists curious


  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Animal Diversity

Why in news?

  • Since March 2020, a family of wild elephants in southwest China has trekked more than 300 miles, traveling north through fields, highways, villages, and towns.
  • The herd has been labeled “The Northbound Wild Elephant Eating and Walking Tour.

Details of the move

  • It is common for Asian elephants to migrate, but in the past, that has mostly been to look for food within their habitats.
  • Chinese researchers, describing migration as “unprecedented” in China.
  • Elephants may be on a quest for food and territory as a result of their shrinking habitat in the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan.

Migration of animals

  • The movement of organisms in large numbers from one place to another place is termed migration.
  • The term migration is mainly used to define regular and periodic movements of the population away from or back to their place of origin.
  • Animals usually travel in groups along well-known routes or may travel in separate gatherings for breeding.

What are migratory species?

  • Migratory species are animals that migrate from one habitat to another during the year due to a variety of reasons such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, and so on.
  • For some migratory birds and mammals, the distance between habitats might be thousands of miles or kilometers. A migratory route may include nesting, as well as habitat availability before and after each movement.

Species face numerous threats like

  • Habitat Degradation
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Climate change.
  • Habitat Destruction: Humans directly harm habitat by filling in wetlands, dredging rivers, mowing fields, and cutting down trees. Many eco-sensitive zones have been devastated as a result of commercial operations such as mining and quarrying. Iron ore mining in India’s the Western Ghats, for example.
  • Habitat fragmentation: Roads and development have shattered most of the remaining terrestrial wildlife habitat. Dams and water diversions have fractured the habitats of aquatic creatures. These habitat pieces could not be large or contiguous enough to support animals that require a broad region to find mates and food.
    • Furthermore, habitat degradation and fragmentation make it difficult for migratory animals to find rest and feeding spots along their migration paths.
    • Pollution, invasive species, and disruption of ecosystem processes (such as changing the intensity of fires in an environment) are some of the ways habitats can be degraded to the point that local wildlife can no longer thrive.
  • Climate Change
    • Climate change affects plant and animal life by altering temperature and weather patterns. As temperatures rise, scientists expect the quantity and diversity of species, which characterize biodiversity, to fall dramatically.
    • Along with deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels for energy and animal agriculture are two of the most significant causes of global warming.
    • People consume more meat and dairy products as their income levels rise.
    • Industrialized countries’ people consume twice as much meat as undeveloped countries’ populations. Over the last four decades, global meat output has tripled, with a 20% growth in the last ten years.
  • Invasive alien species (IAS)
    • Invasive alien species (IAS) are animals, plants, or other organisms that are introduced into places outside their natural range, negatively impacting native biodiversity, ecosystem services, or human well-being.
    • IAS is one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss and species extinctions and is also a global threat to food security and livelihoods.
    • IAS is compounded by climate change. Climate change facilitates the spread and establishment of many alien species and creates new opportunities for them to become invasive.
    • IAS can reduce the resilience of natural habitats, agricultural systems, and urban areas to climate change. Conversely, climate change reduces the resilience of habitats to biological invasions.

Conference of the Parties

  • The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the principal decision-making body of the Convention as set out in Article VII of the CMS text.
  • It meets once every three yearsand sets the budget and priorities of the following three years
  • It also analyses reports from the Parties, the Scientific Council, and the Agreements created under the Convention, as well as amending the Appendices.
  • It also has the responsibility of advising Parties on whether or not they should enter into new regional agreements for the conservation of certain species or groupings of species.

India and COP

  • India assumed the Presidency for the following three years, till 2023, during the opening session.
  • CMS is a United Nations Environment Programme-sponsored environmental pact that establishes a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their ecosystems.

COP -13

  • The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the CMS (COP13), as well as accompanying Standing Committee sessions, was held in Gandhinagar from February 15 to 22, 2020.
  • The theme was “Migratory species connect the world, and we welcome them home together,”.
  • Mascot
    • The mascotfor CMS COP-13 is ‘Gibi – The Great Indian Bustard’. It is a critically endangered species (according to the IUCN) and has been accorded the highest protection status (listed in Schedule I) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • The COP 13 logo was inspired by ‘Kolam,’ a traditional art form from Southern India that depicts important migratory animals such as the Amur Falcon and Marine Turtles.
  • The connection concept has been prioritized by CMS for inclusion in the new Global Biodiversity Framework (which will be adopted in 2021 in China).
  • Countries might also consider biodiversity and migratory species when making national energy and climate policy decisions.
  • Three species from India
    • COP 13, proposes to include ten new species for protection under CMS.
    • Three Indian Species: Asian Elephant, Bengal Florican, Great Indian Bustard.
  • Other 7 from around the world
    • Jaguar(proposed by Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay), Whitetip shark (Brazil), Little Bustard (EU Nations), Urial (Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan), Antipodean Albatross (New Zealand, Australia, Chile), Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Brazil), and Tope Shark (EU Nations).

Bonn Convention

  • To protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Bonn Convention is the name of an international pact on the conservation of migratory wild animal species that was signed in Bonn, Germany, in 1979. It was enacted in 1983.
    • It provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States.
    • It lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
  • Enforcement Year:The Convention came into force on November 1, 1983. The Secretariat that administers the Convention was established in 1984.
  • Parties: There are 130 Parties to the Convention– 129 countries plus the European Union. The Maldives is the latest country to join it.
  • Species Covered:Convention has two Appendices
    • Appendix I lists migratory species that are endangered or threatened with extinction.
    • Appendix II lists migratory species which have unfavorable conservation status and which require international agreements for their conservation and management.

Mains model question

  • Not All Animals Migrate by Choice. Discuss