“We don’t own the planet earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.”

—Steve Irwin

India is unique in having immense natural beauty and a rich and diverse wildlife. It is such a diverse country comprising creatures from the smallest ant to the biggest like the elephant. It is very interesting that India is the only country in the world where tigers and  lions both are found. It is a matter of pride for us that 75% of the world’s tiger population is in India that is why it is called our National Animal. The highest snow leopard density in the world is in India. It has been estimated that there are more than 400 species of mammals, 1200 species of birds, more than 350 species of reptiles and more than 29,70,000 species of insects in India.

Wildlife is defined as free living animals or animals living in the wilderness without human intervention. This is the reason why poaching and hunting is illegal whereas to protect our wildlife some Acts have been made for preservation of animal species which are on the verge of extinction. Recently on July 29, 2019 on the occasion of International Tiger Day, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi released the All India Tiger Estimation Report, 2018 showing increased numbers from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018 which is a huge victory for the nation. India has always remained the best in every field, whether it is the Space or Earth, humans or animals. With the great diversity in Flora and Fauna, India has always been serving at its best. 

How many wildlife sanctuaries are there in India? The wildlife network of India includes 537 wildlife  sanctuaries. Network also includes 103 national parks, 67 conservation reserves and 26 community reserves. It covers a total area of 1,55,980 sq.km. The Bengal tiger is the second largest species of wild cat after the Siberian tiger. Panthera tigris tigris is listed as endangered mammal.

The Indian landmass is home to a large variety of flora and fauna. India has an amazingly wide variety of wildlife animals and birds that live in the diverse terrain of the country. From ferocious Royal Bengal tigers to Asiatic Elephants, India houses huge varieties of animals in its national parks, Bio-Reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

The Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas and Indo-Burma region are the three of the 34 most biodiversity rich spots in the world. According to a study, India is one of the 17 countries that host about 60 to 70% of the world’s biodiversity.

However, irresponsible interference of humans with the ecosystem has resulted in the loss and extinction of many species. Due to man’s interference with nature and the threats that have arisen out of this, conservation of these biodiversity rich spots and their wildlife in India has become important.

Due to this, national parks and wildlife reserves have come up in different parts of the country where a healthy interaction of humans and wildlife is encouraged. India, today, has as many as 15 biosphere reserves for the conservation of endemic and endangered species, out of which four are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

The Nilgiris leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome’s toad of the Western Ghats are endemic to India. India contains 172 threatened species. These include the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, and the Indian white-romped vulture, which nearly became extinct after eating the carrion of didofenac-treated cattle.

India has many large mammals like the Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Leopard, Sloth Bear and Indian Rhinoceros. Others include ungulates such as the rare Wild Asian Water Buffalo, common Domestic Asian Water Buffalo, Nilgai, Gaur and several species of deer and antelope.

Some members of the dog family such as the Indian Wolf, Bengal Fox, Golden Jackal and the Dhole or Wild Dogs are also found in many parts of India. The country is also home to the Striped Hyena, Macaques, Langur and Mongoose species. The world’s rarest monkey, the golden langur, is a typical example of the precarious survival of much of India’s fauna.

Some people question the need for conservation of wildlife in India saying that tackling poverty deserves
higher priority. Such people do not seem to be aware that animals are a part of the food chain and therefore our survival too depends on them. The presence of large and charismatic mammals is good for wildlife tourism. Therefore many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs.

As early as 1969, serious concern had been expressed about the threat to several wildlife species and the shrinking of wilderness in India. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 ,the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. Project Tiger has become one of the most successful conservation ventures in modern history.

The project involves specially constituted ‘tiger reserves’ for maintaining a viable tiger population in its natural environment. Today, there are 50 Project Tiger wildlife reserves in India. Project Elephant was started in 1992 and it works for elephant protection in India.

Exploitation of land and forest resources by humans, hunting and trapping for food and sport, etc. have caused the extinction of many species in India in recent times. These species include mammals such as the Indian/Asiatic Cheetah, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros. Most of India’s rhinos can be seen in the Kaziranga National Park. The National Animal of India is the Royal Bengal Tiger and the National Bird is the Indian Peafowl.

The management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to the present generation and to maintain its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations is called conservation. It is the scientific management of wildlife to maintain it at its optimum level. The conservation of wildlife is directly related to healthy and better forests. Wildlife conservation includes protection, preservation and perpetuation of rare species of plants and animals in their natural habitats.

Conservation of living resources has three specific objectives:

1.  To maintain essential ecological processes and life supporting systems.

2.  To preserve diversity of species.

3.  Sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems which support rural communities and major industries.

National Wildlife Action Plan of 1983-84 rehabilitated many endangered and threatened species by captive breeding. National Parks were established to protect fauna and flora with no human activities allowed.

Some of the popular ones are Guipure (Karnataka), Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) wild life sanctuaries established to protect fauna where little human activities are allowed. The local tribes of the region play a unique role in protecting these. There are about 448 wildlife sanctuaries.

Chipko Andolan and celebration of Vana Mahotsava specifically give the heartening message: There is still hope for people to come together against this. India is a country that praises the very broad-minded concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” where man realises that world is his only home and all creatures are his fellow beings. Being an integral part of such a glorious tradition, it is the duty of each Indian to protect the country’s beautiful and diverse wildlife.

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