Trees for Indian Giant Flying Squirrels

Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India

25,000 Trees Adopted by DCB BANK for the FY 2019-20

Project purpose
Trees for benefit of Indian Giant Flying Squirrels 

Location
Plantation of trees in the community lands of the villages of Samplipathar and Borankheda, Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan.

Aim

  • Restore the surrounding areas of the Sanctuary to develop the habitat for the Giant Flying Squirrels.
  • Mitigate the anthropogenic pressure in the core-areas by developing the buffer area at the periphery.
  • Provide forest products to the community to provide steady means of income. 
  • Conserve the soil and water resources in the villages.

Why trees? 
With changing land use and developmental activities, biodiversity in the low-lying areas faces a genuine threat. Habitat degradation, fragmentation, encroachment, anthropogenic pressure and occasional poaching are major issues of the area. Poaching and habitat loss have been mentioned as the prime threats to the Giant Squirrel, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is due to the habitat fragmentation due to loss of trees, that has made locomotion difficult for the species and resulted in the loss shelter, thus making them vulnerable to poaching. The plantation at the periphery will provide livelihood opportunities to the people preventing them from venturing into the forest and protect the animals and their habitats. The Food and Agricultural Organisation mentions the importance of Non-Timber Forest Products in the subsistence livelihoods practised by the local forest communities.

Flora 
Trees like mahua (Madhuca longifolia), teak (Tectona grandis), dhao(Dracontomelon dao), bamboo(Bambusa vulgaris), ber(Ziziphus mauritiana), sadad(Terminalia arjuna) grow here in addition to the Ground Orchids(Spathoglottis plicata) which form a distinct species of the region.

Fauna

The popular mammal species is the Indian giant flying squirrel and animal species at this location include chausingha, chital, nilgai, jungle cat, jackal, leopard, fox, hyena.
The bird species found here include the red turtle dove, parakeet, golden oriole, paradise flycatcher, blue-cheeked bee-eater, white-necked stork, red-vented bulbul, gray heron, white breasted kingfisher. 

Indian Giant Flying Squirrels
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, some Indian Giant Flying Squirrels of tropical India and south-eastern Asia weigh 1 to 2.5 kg (2.2 to 5.5 pounds) and have a body length of about 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches) and a tail 35 to 64 cm long. Although these rodents do not fly, they glide up to 450 meters (almost 1,500 feet). The Indian Giant Flying Squirrel is a mammal that lives in tree cavities and tree canopies. The IUCN in 2008 described its population as "decreasing"; scientists have advocated planting trees to protect the species. Habitat loss and degradation resulting from logging, shifting cultivation, expansion of human settlements and forest fires are considered to be threats for this species. We have therefore initiated this project for planting in areas adjacent to the Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, which has a population of such squirrels. As of now, the IUCN in 2016 describes its population as "least concerned".

According to B.K.Sharma, Faunal Heritage of Rajasthan, India (2013): 563-572, January 01,2013, “Elliot’s Giant Flying Squirrel has been recorded from dense forests of Phulwari, Sitamata, and Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuaries and avoids agricultural fields, grasslands, and human settlements. It is the next giant rodent after Porcupine in the state which was initially believed to be confined to Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary. Protection of old Mahuwa (Madhuca indica) groves and planting of new Mahuwa trees in the distribution range of flying squirrel and awareness programs in tribal zones have been suggested to protect this species.” 

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology in Animal Diversity web says that the average home range for an adult is 4 hectares and for the female 2.2 hectares; daily range distances average 255 to 640 metres, with longer distances in summer. Their diet consists mainly of, but not limited to, fruits and leaves of ficus trees. They do not eat insects, but besides leaves and fruits, also eat bark and flowers. Since more light at the edge of forest results in more leaves, feeding is more common at the edge of a forest. The flying squirrels are found to be selective in their diet in Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary consuming 13 plant species and 8 plant parts in their summer diets. Pith, the central part of a stem or twig, rich in water, formed 58.59% of their diet. Mahua trees are the primary source in their feeding. Large owls and arboreal snakes are their most common predators. - Chhaya Bhatnagar, Vijay Kumar Koli and Satish Kumar Sharma, JOURNAL OF BOMBAY NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY107(3), Sep-Dec 2010 (food habit in Sitamata).
Tree Species planted here include Amla (Emblica officinalis), Khair (Acacia catechu), Churail (Holoptelea integrifolia), Siris (Albizia lebbeck) Karanj (Pongamia pinnata),Sitaphal (Annona squamosa) Baheda (Terminalia bellirica), Bel (Aegle Marmelos)

Social Impact
The arboreal and nocturnal species, listed in the IUCN Red list has been marked under concerned species and their conservation is important to conserve the diverse fauna of the country that contributes to the gene pool. The trees will provide proper habitat to the species, like food, shelter and the means of locomotion thereby helping in their conservation. 
Creating rural jobs, in remote areas where jobs are rare, in the nursery, planting and post-planting activity, amongst the tribal people, especially women. The 25,000 trees to be planted will create approximately 2046 workdays of jobs in the nursery and planting activities alone. This will prevent the community to indulge in activities like poaching. Also, the involvement of the community during the plantation process will make them aware about the importance of conservation of the natural habitat of the area.   These trees will provide flowers, fruit, fodder and fuel to rural communities and living creatures, improve water catchment, generate oxygen, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, fight climate change and benefit the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, a species decreasing in numbers.

Adoption Summary:

Name of the Company Number of Trees Adopted Year
Pepsico 10,000 trees FY 2018-19
DHL Group 25,000 trees FY 2017-18
Target Completed


Planters

DHL Logistics Private Limited has GIFTED A Bountiful Tree
DHL Logistics Private Limited has GIFTED A Bountiful Tree
DHL Logistics Private Limited has GIFTED A Bountiful Tree
Audit Excerpt for Rajasthan, India

Total saplings planted were 25,000 in five villages in 2017-18. A Non-Trespassable fencing covering the plantation area was made to limit grazing by the animals. Contours were also prepared in order to stop the soil erosion and increase the vegetation cover. This strategy ensured the Survival Rate of 92%.

Various local native species were selected by the village institutions for planting on common land for eco-restoration. Every household participated in the planting or seeding activity. Members of the community institutions entrusted with the planting and supervising of operations played their role effectively in ensuring good quality of work. 

The planting has been carried out as per the plan and the approximate number of saplings physically verified is in agreement with the number of saplings planted (as per the report of Grow-Trees.com’s planting partner). We are of the opinion that looking to the steps taken i.e. location of the site, encouragement to planting and positive response from the village to save the planting, the result of the activity will be affirmative.

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