“The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials”

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)

In recent times humans have released thousands of synthetic chemicals and pollutants into the environment, creating conditions that wildlife species had never experienced before. Due to this wildlife populations have suffered severe losses or even faced extinction. Diclofenac a common veterinary drug nearly caused the extinction of Gyps vultures. Gyps vulture feeding on dead cattle that were treated with diclofenac die due to gout and kidney failure. The timely ban on the drug by the Government has stemmed further decline of vultures now slowly recovering. Other synthetic chemicals like DDT biomagnified due to their fat soluble nature and reached high concentrations in species on top of the food chain. By altering calcium metabolism, resulting in egg shell thinning in apex predators like, the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and brown pelican population were severely threatened. Ingestion of heavy metals like lead shot from hunted deer carcasses nearly caused the extinction of Californium Condor.

Animals inhabiting agricultural, aquatic and wetland systems are especially vulnerable to these kinds of pollutants. Keeping this in mind, the project will address ecotoxicological aspects for the species recovery programs. Great Indian Bustard uses agricultural landscape which is contaminated by the increasing use of pesticides and can be a source of concern for Great Indian Bustard recovery. Agricultural pesticides and industrial wastes often pollute the river and wetland systems and finally reach the ocean. These habitats are home to the River Dolphin, Sangai and Dugong. By the process of bio-magnification, certain pollutant levels increases in the trophic pyramid. High concentrations of organochlorines could be accumulated in these species and potentially affecting their reproduction, altering their behaviour, and causing mortality.

This study will attempt to identify these potential threats to the target species, and their habitats, so that efficient and effective conservation action can be formulated. For this, the project aims to collect the samples from species and habitats, including water, soil, feeding materials, biota and fecal samples and detect presence and concentration of potentially toxic pollutants with the help of advanced ultra-sensitive instruments and techniques like Gas chromatography (GCMS/GC-ECD), Liquid chromatography (LC-MS) and Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS). The study will identify potential threats and subsequently suggest measures for mitigation.