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International Biodiversity Day: Delhi zoo chips in for climate awareness

 The capital celebrated International Biodiversity Day in unique ways. While National Zoological Park staff spent the day inside the elephant enclosure highlighting the plight of the pachyderms due to global warming, Aravali Biodiversity Park staff took slum dwellers and other locals of Vasant Vihar on a nature walk to make them aware of the need to protect flora, fauna and the environment. Riaz Khan, curator (education) at the zoo, was accompanied by 30 school students and zoo keepers when he gave the elephants-Rajlakshmi and Hiragaj-a bath. The theme for the day was '350'.

 

This stands for 350 parts per million-the safe ratio of carbon dioxide molecules to other molecules in the atmosphere. The planet crossed 400ppm last year which, according to scientists, is the threshold level after which climate change impacts can become severe. Zoo staff used '350' to communicate about and campaign against global warming. "Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. The atmosphere contains over 400ppm of CO2 and it's increasing every year. We are already experiencing problems due to climate change like melting of ice in the North Pole," Khan said.

 

At Aravali Biodiversity Park, about 50 students, locals and slum dwellers from Kusumpur Pahari and Bhanwar Singh Camp adjacent to the park, were taken on a nature trail walk through the butterfly park, the orchidarium, medicinal plant nursery and other places. "This year's theme for International Biodiversity Day is island biodiversity. Delhi may not be an island but forests or biodiversity parks are like islands in the vast concrete jungle. We want people to understand the relevance of such islands and the species that thrive here.

 

They also act as a carbon sink that cleanses the city's polluted air," M Shah Hussain, scientist in charge at Aravali Biodiversity Park, said. The park has had a number of new sightings recently. These include pheasant-tailed jacana, knob-billed duck, grey heron and the greater spotted eagle. The Indian pitta, a small and colourful bird which is mainly seen in closed-canopy forests, was also spotted after almost 60 years. More than 900 species of plants, 104 species of butterflies, 195 avian species, 26 species of reptiles and four species of amphibians have been documented in the park.

Times of India, Delhi, Friday 23rd May 2014