*NEWS*BATTLE TO SAVE HIMALAYAN PLANTS
*NEWS*BATTLE TO SAVE HIMALAYAN PLANTS
2005-11-15 at 11:30:00 am #13277
Battle to save Himalayan plants
trying to save critically endangered plants in the eastern Himalayas
for more than two decades say tissue cultures have finally brought them
success in reviving some species.
The eastern Himalayas, covering
India’s north-eastern states and some of Burma, Bhutan and Sikkim, have
been identified as one of the world’s 25 bio-diversity hotspots.
India has around 49,000 plant species – around 12% of the world’s known species.
percent of these are under threat of extinction. Nearly 70 of them
listed as critically endangered by the Botanical Survey of India are
found in the country’s north-east.
“More than two decades ago, we
set out to save these plant species which were on the verge of
extinction. Only a few plants of these species were left,” says Pramod
Tandon, now vice-chancellor of the North-eastern Hill University and
one of the country’s leading botanists.
“We struggled to save them and then multiply them through tissue culture and now we can say we have saved many.”
Species Recovery Programme in north-east India has slowly expanded to
cover most endangered plant species in the Eastern Himalayas.
is a story of mixed success. We have successfully developed protocols
for more than 20 critically endangered plants, mostly orchid varieties,
and transferred them from lab to land in sufficient numbers to ensure
assured multiplication,” says Mr Tandon.
He is particularly pleased to have saved the “dancing girl” in the north-east state of Mizoram.
we started to save this one, we could locate only five to seven plants.
Just one of them was in good shape,” Mr Tandon told the BBC.
“Now we have developed nearly 1,000 of these orchids and successfully reintroduced them in their natural habitat in Mizoram.”
flower is considered so important by the Mizos that I got calls from
the state’s governor to do something to save it from extinction. Now we
can say with some certainty that there will be enough dancing girls,”
says Mr Tandon.
But he is quick to point out the relative lack of
success in saving the Nepenthes khasiana, a pitcher plant, and Nymphaea
tetragona, a lotus variety which is now almost extinct.
variety is a hydrophyte, a water flower infested with microbes and it
is so difficult to multiply them through tissue culture,” says AA Mao
of the Botanical Survey of India.
Germination of the pitcher plant is also very difficult.
Many of these plants have medicinal properties.
Mantisia spathulata is used by locals for curing broken bones and
dysentery. Another plant, ‘Naga guerrillas’, was used to treat a finger
that this correspondent fractured on the way to a rebel base in 1987.
north-east’s leading cardiac surgeon, Dhaniram Baruah, says he has
developed miracle compounds from two such plants he says can free
arterial blockages within a few weeks and render bypass surgeries
CR Deb of Nagaland University’s botany department says
that while researchers are increasingly using bio-technological
techniques they also favour more traditional conservation methods.
Botanical Survey’s Dr Mao says: “These traditional methods involve
protection of genetic resources in the natural environment through
protection of the environment itself.
It is an ideal and dynamic
approach that allows the plants to interact and co-evolve with other
components of the ecosystem including insects, animals and microbes.”
destruction of their natural habitats, the pressure of commercial
exploitation and specific reproductive problems that some plant species
suffer have been identified as the main causes for these plants being
driven to the verge of extinction.
“We are doing their DNA finger-printing and molecular characterisation,” says Mr Tandon.
botanists say that some of these “saved” plants will be multiplied for
commercial purposes and that could augment incomes of poor villages in
remote areas of India’s troubled north-east.
“But their habitats must be properly managed and random exploitation should not be allowed,” says Mr Tandon.