Sosamma Iype was awarded the 2016 India Biodiversity Award For Recognizing Champions of Biodiversity Conservation on May 22nd 2016, International Biodiversity Day. The Award was instituted by United Nations Development Programme, Ministry of Forest, Environment, and Climate Change and National Biodiversity Authority of India. The award ceremony took place at the YR Chavan Auditorium at Mumbai.
This award was presented to Sosamma Iype for her work in saving the endangered Vechur Cattle from extinction using an ex-situ breeding programme and distribution to farmers allowing for in-situ conservation of the Vechur cattle. The major area was Conservation of Threatened Species resulting in significant reduction in the threat level. International Biodiversity Day and the associated award ceremony serve as an incentive for the effective implementation of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
Sosamma Iype has been working in the area of conservation for the last 28 years. Her efforts to save the almost extinct Vechur cattle started while she was in the Kerala Agricultural University as a Professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics and continued after her retirement from the University in 2001 through the Vechur Conservation Trust, an NGO formed for the conservation of domestic animals and birds of Kerala.
Around the same time of the inception of the Vechur cattle project, Sosamma Iype became involved in conservation of a group of cattle in the Kasargod area. She named the cattle after the location they could be found and started conservation and research of this breed as well.
The case of Vechur Conservation is unique because it was started at a time when Government policy was totally against the native cattle. Sosamma Iype and her colleagues were met with skepticism from a number of groups due to the unfounded notion that they were trying to reintroduce an unproductive species. However, Sosamma Iype and her colleagues proved that the Vechur cow packs an incredible punch for such a small animal, requiring considerably smaller amounts of feed than its larger counterparts to produce even larger amounts of milk. This discovery brought about a change in the whole concept of animal husbandry, resulting from the success of the project and its popularity through sustainability and integration with agriculture, as well as acceptance from farmers. Vechur Conservation also played a role in substituting poisonous pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Following the success of this movement, the government has changed its policy now to support Native cattle.
This success was due to developing methods of sustainability. The popularity of the Vechur cow among the farmers in Kerala and outside is mostly due to its heat tolerance, disease resistance, and adaptability. It is also due to the medicinal value attributed to the Vechur cow milk.
This had been the pioneer work on conserving a threatened breed of cattle in India and Sosamma Iype says that this was made possible due to the cooperation from her team of students.
The celebrations of the Biodiversity Day were held at Yashwant Rao Chavan Auditorium in Mumbai with the enthusiastic participation of numerous stakeholders and participants. Organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India, through the National Biodiversity Authority with support from the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board, in partnership with United Nations Development Programme and others, the event had the Honorable Governor of Maharashtra, Shri. CH. Vidyasagar Rao, as the Chief Guest. Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change presided over the event.
Others present on the occasion were Chairperson and National Biodiversity Authority Dr. B. Meenakumari, representatives of UNDP and the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India, Chairman of the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board Dr. Vilas Bardekar, and representatives of ICAR institutes, State Forest Department, Bombay National History Society, Civil Society Organizations, academic institutions, as well as students and biodiversity enthusiasts.
More information about the UNDP celebration can be found at http://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2....
More information about the work of Sosamma Iype and her colleagues in the conservation of various domestic breeds native to Kerala can be found at http://vechur.org/