Snow Leopard, Hangul up for Corporate adoption

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India CSR News Network

SRINAGAR: Want to save Snow leopards  and Hangul?  Then why not adopt them. Cash crunch at Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has led to innovative ideas.

Snow leopards for Rs 35 crore, Hangul for Rs 25 crores, whale sharks for Rs 10 crore and black-necked cranes for Rs 5 crore — these are among 14 endangered species put up for corporate sponsorship by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

A pilot project by the Wildlife Institute of India aims to tap into corporate social responsibility budgets or CSR of PSUs to protect endangered species and give corporates a chance to ‘ compensate for their ecological footprints’.

Sources say eleven  PSUs were approached last August, and in February, MoEF secretary Ashok Lavasa wrote to 19 member companies — including Tata, ITC, Rio Tinto, Sesa Sterlite and Wipro — of the India Business & Biodiversity Initiative (IBBI), launched by the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development.

The response, however, has been lukewarm. Since last August, only four PSUs have shown some initiative. When contacted, officials at ONGC, the PSU apparently keen to adopt the snow leopard, refused to go on record as “nothing has been finalized yet”.

It was Lavasa, claim sources, who expanded the reach of the scheme from PSUs to private companies. “The ministry decides on clearances and the WII is often involved in the evaluation process. So approaching the private sector for funds could be construed as a conflict of interest.

We decided to go through IBBI, a platform we created with the CII”  explained a senior MoEF official who did not wish to be named.The Hangul, considered by many as Kashmirs national animal, is battling for its survival in its last bastion. The antelope are now scattered within 141 km of the Dachigam National Park located on foothills of Zabarwan range on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Known for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, hangul was once distributed widely in the mountains of Kashmir. During the 1940s, their number was believed to be about 3,000-5,000. As per the census in 2008, only around 160 exist.

Same is the case with the Snow leopard. the worlds most mysterious cat is rarely sighted and because it is so elusive, accurate population numbers are hard to come by, although estimates range from 400 to 700 individuals for India. Snow leoprads mystique makes it one of the most sought after animals for poachers. Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.

In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.

WII director Dr V B Mathur says Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has already shown interest.

The move preceded this year’s cut in budgetary allocation for the ministry’s Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat (IDWH) scheme under which the country’s 600-odd national parks and sanctuaries — all except tiger reserves — and 16 endangered species are looked after.

As the ministry’s budget was slashed by 25 per cent to Rs 1,681 crore, the already meager allocation for IDWH dipped to just Rs 61.5 crore.

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