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Dam threatens India's Silent Valley
WWF-China committee launches campaign to save the panda
Logging halted in Sri Lanka forest

Dam threatens India's Silent Valley

The Silent Valley, a picturesque mountainous region in the Palghat district of the Kerala State of India contains the last remaining virgin tropical rain forest of the country. The Valley is the home of such Indian rarities as the lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri tahr, tiger, leopard, elephant and great Indian horn-bill.

The 8 952 hectares of the Silent Valley contain mountains clothed with thick forest and capped with grasslands. The highest peak rises to 2 300 m; the others are between 120 and 880 m. The Kunthi-puzha river divides the mountains, and the ravines are almost impenetrably covered with profuse vegetation, which harbours half of the world's population of the liontailed macaque (Macaca silenus), one of the most threatened Indian species.

The Silent Valley also harbours the rare Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylogrius), a dying species with a cousin-the Himalayan tahr-living in the far-off Himalayas. The Nilgiri tahr is a beautiful mountain goat, with adult males developing a characteristic white colour on the back.

The Silent Valley is part of the Western Ghats (also known as the Sahyadris). a narrow strip of high mountain range on the west shore of peninsular India that traps the southwest monsoon, resulting in heavy rainfall. Hence, plant growth is luxurious.

The Kerala State Government plans to build a hydro-electric project here, on the Kunthi-puzha river. The double curvature parabolic dam, 131 metres high and 430 metres long at the top, will submerge 670 hectares of the heart of the forest. Another :300 hectares will be cleared for a staff colony, roads, powerhouses, etc. About 8 000 workers with families will be settled for five years during the construction work. As experience in other places shows, the remaining forest of the Silent Valley has very little chance of survival.

As the Silent Valley is perhaps the only extant virgin tropical rain forest in India, it: has great significance for conservationists. Individual agitation against the hydro-electric project has now grown into a popular clamour to save the unique valley. The Bombay Natural History Society, the World Wildlife Fund-India, and even the Government's own Department of Science and Technology (DST) have objected on ecological grounds.

The General Assembly of the IUCN at Ashkhabad, USSR, in 1978 passed a resolution of request addressed to the Indian Government to protect the Silent Valley and protests against the dam project continue. Many naturalists want the Silent Valley to be included in the Unesco's Biosphere Reserve Program to preserve it for perpetuity.

ASAD RAFT RAHMANI Department of Zoology, Aligarh Muslim University

WWF-China committee launches campaign to save the panda

A World Wildlife Fund delegation returned from an official visit to China has announced an agreement with the Chinese Government for a combined international fund-raising and conservation plan to guarantee the future of the giant panda.

The panda, which is found only in three Chinese provinces, is one of the world's rarest and most loved animals. In Tokyo recently thousands of people took to the streets in mourning following the death of one of the two pandas in the Tokyo Zoo.

The Chinese Government until now has turned down all outside offers for assistance in the conservation of the remaining panda population, estimated to total less than 1000 and possibly as few as 400, following a recent loss of their bamboo food supply that killed al least 140 over a short period.

Dr. George Schaller, a wildlife scientist and author with the New York Zoological Society, has been chosen by WWF to head the conservation side of Panda Project and will fly to China next month for preliminary studies and discussions with his Chinese counterparts.

WWF's Director of Conservation and Special Scientific Advisor, Dr. Lee Talbot, described the Panda Project as among the most significant to be undertaken by WWF.

"To save the panda we will have to protect and study wide areas of its habitat and all of the thousands of life forms contained in those forests. On this level, it is even more significant than Project Tiger, which we launched with the Indian Government in the early 1970s and through which we have managed to bring the tiger back from the brink on the Indian sub-continent and, in the process, to maintain large areas of threatened Indian habitat.

"We believe from our talks in Beijing that after many years of isolation China is about to become a world leader in conservation. This is the most encouraging development I can remember in over 25 years' experience in international conservation."

Logging halted in Sri Lanka forest

Logging in Sri Lanka's Sinharaja Forest has been. completely stopped, reports the Journal of the Fauna Preservation Society, London. The logging halt preserves 4 856 ha of virgin rain forest.

The Ceylon Wildlife and Nature Protection Society has pointed out that the Sinharaja Forest had never been studied systematically and described it as the country's richest natural ecosystem.

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