Wildlife of India
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India is home to a large number and variety of animals. It is a hot-spot for biodiversity with its various ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the evergreen rain-forest of the south, the desert sands of the west to the marshy mangroves of the east. India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, is home to about 7.6% of all mammalian, 14.7 Tuberculosis6% of avian (bird), 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species. This richness in Indian wildlife has been celebrated since yesteryears: four of India’s national symbols display India’s mammals. As of 2018-19, there are 870 Protected Areas including 104 National Parks, 551 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 88 Conservation Reserves and 127 Community Reserves covering a total of 1,65,088.57 km2 of geographical area which is approximately 5.02% of the country. In addition there are 50 Tiger Reserves, 18 Biosphere Reserves, 32 Elephant Reserves, 7 Natural World Heritage sites and 25 Ramsar Wetland sites in India. It is no wonder that despite incessant encroachment by mankind on the green reserves, India boasts of a vast diversity of both flora and fauna. India Forest lands nurture about 400 species of mammals and 2000+ species of birds. India is located at the junction of three realms namely Afro-tropical, Indo-Malayan and Paleo-Arctic, and therefore, has characteristic elements from each of them, spurring migration of avifauna from these regions. As far as mammals are concerned, India is the only country with both the lion and the tiger and it has the largest deer as well as tiger population. Indigenous to the subcontinent are the unique species such as the Indian Sloth Bear, the Chausinga antelope and the majestic Barasinga. It is home to Bengal and Indochinese tiger, Asiatic lions, Indian and Indochinese leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, various species of Deer, including Chital, Hangul, Barasingha; the Indian Elephant, the Great Indian Rhinoceros, and many others. The region's diverse wildlife is preserved in more than 120 national parks, 18 Bio-reserves and more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries across the country. India has some of the most biodiverse regions of the world and contains four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots – the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, Indo-Burma and Sunda Land. Wildlife management is essential to preserve the rare and endangered endemic species. India is one of the seventeen megadiverse countries. According to one study, India along with the other 16 megadiverse countries is home to about 60-70% of the world's biodiversity.
Many Indian species are descendants of species originating in Gondwana, of which India originally was a part. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic change 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. These include the Asian elephant, the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, Indian rhinoceros, mugger crocodile, and Indian white-rumped vulture, which suffered a near-extinction from ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife. In response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with over 515 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 18 biosphere reserves, 10 of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 26 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
The peepul tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. The wildlife has also been made famous in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous other tales and fables such as the "Panchatantra".
India is home to several well-known large mammals, including the Asian elephants, Bengal and Indochinese Tigers, Asiatic lions, Snow leopards, Clouded leopards, Indian leopards, Indian sloth bear and Indian rhinoceros. Some other well-known large Indian mammals are: ungulates such as the rare wild Asian water buffalo, common domestic Asian water buffalo, gail, gaur, and several species of deer and antelope. Some members of the dog family, such as the Indian wolf, Bengal fox and golden jackal, and the dhole or wild dogs are also widely distributed. However, the dhole, also known as the whistling hunter, is the most endangered top Indian carnivore, and the Himalayan wolf is now a critically endangered species endemic to India. It is also home to the striped hyena, macaques, langur and mongoose species. India is home to 70 percent of the world's total tiger population.
[[File:Valley of flowers uttaranchal full view.JPG|thumb|upright=1.4|The [Valley of Flowers National Park] in Uttarakhand]
There are about 18500 taxa of flowering plants from India. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 helped to improve protection and security of the natural habitat. Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.Cite error: A
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Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies.
The diversity of fungi and their natural beauty occupy a prime place in the biological world and India has been a cradle for such organisms. Only a fraction of the total fungal wealth of India has been subjected to scientific scrutiny and mycologists have to unravel this unexplored and hidden wealth. One-third of fungal diversity of the globe exists in India. The country has an array of 10 diverse biomes including Trans-Himalayan zone, Himalaya, Desert, Semi-Arid zone, Western Ghats, Deccan Peninsula, Gangetic Plain, North-Eastern India, Coasts and Islands where varied dominating regimes manifest. This enables the survival of manifold fungal flora in these regions which include hot spot areas like the Himalayan ranges, Western Ghats, hill stations, mangroves, sea coasts, fresh water bodies etc. Many fungi have been recorded from these regions and from the country in general comprising thermophiles, psychrophiles, mesophiles, aquatic forms, marine forms, plant and animal pathogens, edible fungi and beneficial fungi and so on. The number of fungi recorded in India exceeds 27,000 species, the largest biotic community after insects. The true fungi belong to the Kingdom Fungi which has four phyla, 103 orders, 484 families and 4979 genera. About 205 new genera have been described from India, of which 32% were discovered by C. V. Subramanian of the University of Madras. These features indicate a ten-fold increase in the last 80 years.
The need for conservation of wildlife in India is often questioned because of the apparently incorrect priority in the face of direct poverty of the people. However, Article 48 of the Constitution of India specifies that, "The state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country" and Article 51-A states that "it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures." The committee in the Indian Board for Wildlife, in their report, defines wildlife as "the entire natural uncultivated flora and fauna of the country" while the Wildlife (protection) Act 1972 defines it as "any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacea, fish, moths and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat."
Despite the various environmental issues faced, the country still has a rich and varied wildlife compared to Europe. Large and charismatic mammals are important for wildlife tourism in India, and several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs. Project Tiger, started in 1972, is a major effort to conserve the tiger and its habitats. At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 40,000, yet an Indian tiger census conducted in 2008 revealed the existence of only 1,411 tigers. 2010 tiger census revealed that there are 1700 tigers left in India. As per the latest tiger census (2019), there are around 2967 tigers in India. Various pressures in the later part of the 20th century led to the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. At the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) General Assembly meeting in Delhi in 1969, serious concern was voiced about the threat to several species of wildlife and the shrinkage of wilderness in India. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed, and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. The framework was then set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach. However, there is not much optimism about this framework's ability to save the peacock, which is the national bird of India. George Schaller wrote about conservation of tigers in India
The exploitation of land and forest resources by humans along with capturing and trapping for food and sport has led to the extinction of many species in India in recent times. These species include mammals such as the Asiatic cheetah, wild zebu, Indian Javan rhinoceros, and Northern Sumatran rhinoceros. While some of these large mammal species are confirmed extinct, there have been many smaller animal and plant species whose status is harder to determine. Many species have not been seen since their description. Gir forest in India has the only surviving population of Asiatic lions in the world. In the late 1960s there were only about 180 Asiatic lions. There were 523 Asiatic lions in the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat state which in 2018 increased to more than 600.
Some species of birds have gone extinct in recent times, including the pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) and the Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa). A species of warbler, Acrocephalus orinus, known earlier from a single specimen collected by Allan Octavian Hume from near Rampur in Himachal Pradesh, was rediscovered after 139 years in Thailand.
- National animal: Bengal Tiger
- National heritage animal of India: Indian Elephant
- National aquatic animal: Ganges River Dolphin
- National bird: Indian Peacock
The Indian government has established eighteen biosphere reserves of India which protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more national parks and/or preserves, along buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
The bio-reserves are:
- Dibru Saikhowa
- Dihang Dibang
- Great Nicobar
- Gulf of Mannar
- Nanda Devi
- The Nilgiris
- Cold Desert
- Seshachalam hills
- Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
- Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve
- Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
- Nokrek National Park
- Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
- Simlipal National Park
- Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve
- Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve
- Nicobar Islands
- Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve
Examples of Wildlife
A male Gaur (Asiatic wild ox) at the Nagarahole Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka
Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)
Chinkara (Indian gazelle)
Bengal tiger in a zoo
Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, Visakhapatnam
Indian wild dog (dhole)
Hanuman langur with a newborn. At least seven species of grey langurs are found in India, out of which five are endemic.
Draco dussumieri (southern flying lizard)
- Birding in Chennai
- Birdwatchers' Field Club of Bangalore
- Endemic birds of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- India Nature Watch
- Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education
- List of birds of India
- List of mammals of India
- List of reptiles of South Asia
- Van Vigyan Kendra (VVK)
- Wildlife of Iran
- Wildlife of South Asia
- Wildlife Population of India
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- Official website of: Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests
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