INDIA.Mumbai: A storekeeper was taken into custody and his “Sauravs Exotic And Aquatic Pet Store” located on College Road, in Nashik in North Maharashtra was sealed by officers of the Nashik forest division on charges of selling endangered and protected Indian giant squirrel (IGS) on Saturday.
Acting on the tip-off, the forest officers raided the store and noticed that the owner Saurav Ramesh Golait (23) had displayed the Indian giant squirrel for sale. He was taken into custody and was booked under provisions of the Maharashtra Wildlife Protection Rules 2014 (Schedule I) and Bombay Wild Animals and Wild Birds Protection Act, 1951.
The Indian giant squirrel, sometimes called the Malabar giant squirrel, is a large species of tree squirrel endemic to India. The state animal of the Indian state of Maharashtra is called ‘shekru’ in the native Marathi language. It is a protected species and its sale is banned. The illegal sale of IGS is a non-bailable offence and attracts imprisonment for seven years.
The accused was earlier arrested for the illegal sale of hatchlings of a crocodile. However, he was let off on bail. He is suspected to be part of the illegal wildlife trade racket.
The Indian giant squirrel lives in the moist tropical forests of Peninsular India at elevations of 180-2,300 m, above sea level. Its range is across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Madhya Pradesh. Its colour varies from brown to dark red. The undersides have white fur and there is a white spot found between the ears.
Severe deforestation across its habitat owing to developing agro-economic advancements is a serious threat to Indian giant squirrel populations. As such Maharashtra Government has set up the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Pune district to protect the Indian giant squirrels’ habitat.
Big Butterfly Month
In the meanwhile the ‘Big Butterfly Month 2021’ is being held in Nashik, as part of a drive organized with the theme “habitat development”, by the Nature Conservation Society, to count butterflies across the country, till September end.
As butterflies lay eggs on their host plants and caterpillars feed on the leaves of these plants, people are being educated to plant host plants at home. Many organizations working in the field have joined the drive. During the census, all participants are required to upload their butterfly records on various websites. Apart from this, workshops on butterflies, their photography, writing, quizzes, studies on the life cycle of butterflies, and other competitions have been organized.
Butterflies: important link of Nature
Butterflies have a special significance in nature and the biological chain. The butterfly is also the food of many animals. These include spiders, bees, quadrupeds as well as various species of squirrels. In addition, they also play a role in pollination to some extent. Normally a butterfly replants at least ten flowers and plants. Therefore, the conservation of these little creatures is essential.
“Butterflies are being counted across the country. In this, the species of Nashik is also being studied along with counting the number. Each practitioner will travel individually. So there will be no team activities. Through this, a bank of important information will be created for the conservation of butterflies”, Pratiksha Kothule, Project Coordinator and Wildlife Biologist at Nature Conservation Society, Nashik said. Butterflies are an integral part of everyone’s life, and this month they are being counted along with wildlife and plants. These sensitive creatures are struggling for survival, so as a measure these beautiful creatures will be counted to identify them and strengthen the conservation movement, she added.