ZSI plans pan-India network of taxonomists to identify new species

  • Joydeep Thakur, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Dec 28, 2014 13:34 IST

Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is planning to set up a pan-India network of scientists who would be engaged in discovering and classifying new species of animals of which science has no knowledge till date.

An estimate prepared by scientists is enough to shed light on why such a network is needed at the earliest. There are about 1.7 million living species, which scientists know of, across the world. But scientists are yet to uncover another 15 million species that are estimated to live in the world - leave aside the question of whether these could be of any benefit to man.

“Similarly in India till date nearly 96,000 species of animals have been described starting from the single celled amoeba to an elephant, the largest animal that roam in our forests. But the number of animals that are yet to be discovered is much more. Many of these species are either vanishing every year or are standing on the brink of extinction,” said K Venkataraman, ZSI director.

Every year ZSI scientists discover a few hundred new species. But scientists estimate that between 150 and 200 species of life become extinct every 24 hours. Thus it becomes imperative to discover new species, as many of these could prove beneficial to man.

In a bid to discover and identify these unidentified animals and classify them properly the ZSI now plans to rope in taxonomists who are working in the country but have not formed a full-fledged network.

“We hope to launch this project in February 2015 - the year when this premier organisation celebrates its centenary year. Taxonomists from across India are being invited. Once the networking is established the work of discovery and scientific documentation of animals would gather pace,” said Venkataraman.

He said ZSI is also planning a series of programmes starting from July 2015 to mark its centenary year. These would continue till July 2016.

It may be recalled that the ZSI had recently come under the flak of the CAG for “poorly executing” the mandate given to it. The report said ZSI lagged behind in the targets set for the survey and publication of animal accounts.

“We have to identify the gaps which exist and also build our capacity by engaging all the stake holders which include local community so that we get to identify and classify what we have and what we might lose in the future,” he added.

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