Wildlife of India is a great natural heritage. It is estimated that about 4-5 % of all known plant and animal species on the earth are found in India. There are certain species that are at the brink of extinction.
Some estimates suggest that at least 10 % of India’s recorded wild flora and 20% of its mammals are on the threatened list.
Let us now understand the different categories of existing plants and animal species. Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), it can be classified as follows :
Normal Species: Species whose population levels are considered to be normal for their survival, such as cattle, sal, pine, rodents, etc.
Endangered Species: These are species which are in danger of extinction. The survival of such species is difficult if the negative factors that have led to a decline in their population continue to operate. The examples of such species are black buck, crocodile, Indian rhino, lion tailed macaque, sangai deer (brow antlered deer in Manipur), etc.
Vulnerable Species: These are species whose population has declined to levels from where it is likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the negative factors continue to operate. The examples of such species are blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin etc.
Rare Species: Species with small population may move into the endangered for vulnerable category if the negative factors affecting them continue to operate. The examples of such species are the Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox and hornbill, etc.
Endemic Species: These are species which are only found in some particular areas usually isolated by natural or geographical barriers. Examples of such species are the Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, mithun in Arunachal Pradesh.
Extinct Species: These are species which are not found after searches of known or likely areas where they may occur. A species may be extinct from a local area, region, country, continent or the entire earth. Examples of such species are the Asiatic cheetah, pink head duck.
Forest & Wildlife Protection Programmes by Government
The protection of wildlife has a long tradition in India. Many stories of Panchtantra and Jungle Books, have stood as a testament of time for the love of wildlife. These stories have had a profound impact on young minds.
In 1972, a comprehensive Wildlife Act was enacted, which provides the main legal framework for conservation and protection of wildlife in India.
The two main objectives of the Act are :
- to provide protection to the endangered species listed in the schedule of the Act and
- to provide legal support to the conservation areas of the country classified as National parks, sanctuaries and closed areas.
This Act has been comprehensively amended in 1991, making punishments more stringent and has also made provisions for the protection of specified plant species and conservation of endangered species of wild animals.
For the purpose of effective conservation of flora and fauna, special steps have been initiated by the Government of India in collaboration with UNESCO’s ‘Man and Biosphere Programme’.
There are 92 National parks and 492 wildlife sanctuaries covering an area of 15.67 million hectares in the country.
The difference between national park and wildlife sanctuary are :
- Relatively large area consisting of one or more ecosystems, operates at National Level
- No human activity or settlement allowed i.e. human interference is totally prohibited
- Villagers cannot graze their animals + Extremely strict rules about jungle produce collection for ex. Honey
To know further about national parks in India, refer to our video on : Top 10 National Park in India
- Regulated human activities are allowed →Grazing of animals, Firewood collection, Tourism
- can be created for a particular specie which is not the case with national; operates at State Level
- A sanctuary can be upgraded to a National park but not vice versa
To know further about Wildlife sanctuary in India, refer to our video on : Top 10 Wildlife Sanctuaries in India UPSC | Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks Series – 3
Special schemes like Project Tiger (1973) and Project Elephant (1992) have been launched to conserve these species and their habitat in a sustainable manner.
1) Project Tiger :
- There are 50 tiger reserves in India which are governed by Project Tiger which is administrated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA).
- India is home to 70 percent of tigers in the world. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers which increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.The total number of wild tigers has risen to 3,891 in 2016 according to World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum.
2) Project Elephant
- Project Elephant (PE) is initiated for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
- It also seeks to address the issues of human-elephant conflict and welfare of domesticated elephants. The Project is being implemented in 13 States / Union Territories.
- Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants ( MIKE )
3) Project Snow Leopard
- Project Snow Leopard aims To safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high altitude wildlife populations and their habitats.
- Snow Leopard is globally endangered species as well as the most important flagship species of the mountain region.
4) Sea Turtle Project
- With the objective of conservation of olive ridley turtles and other endangered marine turtles, MoEF initiated the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in collaboration of UNDP in 1999 with Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradunas the Implementing Agency.
- The project is being implemented in 10 coastal States of the country with special emphasis in State of Orissa.
These are the few important wildlife conservation projects among the others
A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The Biosphere Reserve aims at achieving the three objective as depicted
Core zone : Central area that has to be kept undisturbed of all activities except research (which don’t disturb wildlife)
Buffer zone : Some light activities like tourism, fishing, grazing etc. are allowed which don’t disturb the core zone. Research activities are encouraged here
Transition zone: Outmost part & not delimited but activities have to be harmonious with the biosphere reserve
- Can be declared by the State Governments in any area owned by the government
- Particularly the areas adjacent to National Parks and Sanctuaries and those areas which link one Protected Area with another
- Such declaration should be made after having consultations with the local communities
- Can be declared by the State Government in any private or community land, not comprised within a National Park, Sanctuary or a Conservation Reserve
- Mainly where an individual or a community has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat
The following is the list of biosphere reserves in India :
- Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
- Nanda Devi National Park & Biosphere Reserve
- Gulf of Mannar
- Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
- Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve
- Great Rann of Kutch
- Cold Desert
- Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve
- Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
- Seshachalam Hills
- Top of Form
To know further about biosphere reserves in India, refer to our video on : Top 10 Biosphere Reserves in India UNDESCO list | Biosphere Reserves in a nutshell