June 18, 2013
We generally try to relate our articles on nature conservation during a significant occurrence or celebration of environmental activities to help youngsters connect more deeply towards nature. The world has just celebrated World environment day on June 5th. World Environment day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action, involving everyone from all corners of the globe. The World Environment day was instituted in 1972 by the United Nations Environment Programme to stimulate world awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action.
Schools and colleges have just reopened and all concerned; parents, students, teachers and professors are full of enthusiasm and new found energy. We hope this new academic year will instill a new sense of collective responsibility and inspire each of us to be guardians of nature in our own humble way.
This article helps you reflect on two key issues. First; conservation and the second regarding the wastage of food.
This year's (2013) theme for World Environment Day celebrations stands out as "THINK, EAT, SAVE". The theme highlights on various aspects of anti food waste and food loss that encourages each one to reduce their food print. It is time to act now, because the enormous imbalance in life styles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment is causing irreparable loss to many critical ecosystems, across the globe, especially in the Third World and developing countries. In the coming years, lack of food and water security will result in social unrest. FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.
During the wedding season, spread across India, we have noticed that on a given day in a small city like Mangalore, there are at least half a dozen weddings and at least 25 % of the invitees are common resulting in enormous food wastages. Can we bring out an innovative approach to stop this wastage?
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same produced in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts. If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 liter of milk and about 16,000 liters goes into a cow’s food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.
In fact, the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.
The Amazing Leaf Insect
The second part of the article pertains to the rare leaf insect found inside the Western Ghats forest range.
The pictures of the leaf insect that you are about to view is a result of our work spread over two decades in mapping the biodiversity of the western Ghats. If you observe closely, one can find small yet significant differences among the 4 different leaf insects pictured at different time intervals.
Coming to the Amazing Leaf insect....It is one of the best masters of disguise in terms of camouflage. The entire insect resembles a leaf and it is very difficult to spot the insect foraging on leaves. When the insect walks, it gently sways its whole body from side to side giving the appearance of a leaf blowing in the wind. The leaf insect when young has also developed mechanisms capable of regeneration where in it can cast off parts of its legs when a predator threatens it. The part of the leg then grows back to normal. However, once it has reached its adulthood, it can no more replace the lost limb.
Physical Characteristics: Leaf insects commonly referred to as "Walking Leaf" are flat green insects, with leaf like appearance and are herbivorous in nature. The leaf like forms usually bear a striking resemblance to foliage, exhibiting leaf veins, mildew spots and even apparent insect feeding damage. Color and form provide protection by allowing these insects blend with their environment Leaf insects are green and have extremely flattened, irregularly shaped bodies, wings, and legs; they are usually about 4 in. (10 cm) long. Their wings often have venation similar to that of the leaves on which they live. Females are flightless and so the hind wings have no function. The eggs of leaf insects are scattered on the ground. The young resemble the adults except for their smaller size and reddish color; shortly after they begin feeding on leaves they turn green. Leaf insects are tropical in distribution and range from India to the Fiji Islands. Scientists studying these insects have stated that these creatures have not significantly changed for the last 50 million years ever since they first evolved.
Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats including tropical forests dry forest and grasslands.
Size: Species of leaf insect range from 28mm to 113mm
Conservation status: IUCN Red List: Unknown for many species
Threats: Birds, amphibians and reptiles. Some species imported in great numbers for the pet trade
Diet: Variety of leaves
Interesting fact: Males are very rarely seen. Females are able to reproduce through parthenogenesis, where they can lay fertile eggs without a male. Their camouflage is one of the best systems in nature – not only does their body have leaf “veins”, some of them develop brown edges that mimic a damaged real leaf.
These herbivorous and nocturnal leaf insects live not only in dense forests but are also found to thrive well in fringe forests close to human habitation. However, if one browses through the world wide web, one can find very little information regarding the occurrence, behavior and over all ecology of the Indian leaf insect. They are known to thrive in the Western Ghats and it is in our hands to make a pledge during World environment day to protect its habitat. It is a fact that the vast expanses of tropical forest have become increasingly threatened in the last one decade, as large commercial companies back clearance schemes for commercial activity. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves if man himself has become too efficient a Predator?
Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira - Archives
- The Pied Kingfisher
- The Lord of the Jungle...King Cobra
- Eurasian Spoonbill
- Birds...Through the Lens of a Seven-year-old
- Pioneering Innovative, Energy Efficient Sprinkler Systems
- Birds of Prey - How Many Can You Identify?
- Spectacled Indian Cobra
- Conservation of Forests - a Guide to Carbon Credits
- The Value of Forests
- The World of Pelicans
- Impact of Climate Change on Wildlife
- The Winged Wonders...
- Rare Leopard Cat
- Mushrooms and Health...
- Bird Biodiversity
- A Walk Through the Wilderness
- Coffee Forests - a Gateway to Wild Life
- Bird Paradise of Western Ghats
- Amazing Slender Loris..
- Coffee - The Amazing Elixir for Young and Old
- Butterflies - The Flying Jewels of the Western Ghats
- The Fascinating World of Mushrooms
- Rare Aquatic Bird Species of Western Ghats
- Human - Elephant Conflict
- Snakes - Nature's Most Misunderstood Creatures