Wildlife and Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife in India

Wildlife of India is a great natural heritage. It is estimated that about 4-5 percent of all known plant and animal species on the earth are found in India. The main reason for this remarkable diversity of life forms is the great diversity of the ecosystem which this country has preserved and supported through the ages.

Decline in Wildlife

Over the years, their habitat has been disturbed by human activities and as a result, their numbers have dwindled significantly. There are certain species that are at the brink of extinction.

Some of the important reasons of the declining of wildlifeare as follows:
  1. Industrial and technological advancement brought about a rapid increase in the exploitation of forest resources.
  2. More and more lands were cleared for agriculture, human settlement, roads, mining, reservoirs, etc.
  3. Pressure on forests mounted due to lopping for fodder and fuelwood and removal of small timber by the local people.
  4. Grazing by domestic cattle caused an adverse effect on wildlife and its habitat.
  5. Hunting was taken up as a sport by the elite and hundreds of wild animals were killed in a single hunt. Now commercial poaching is rampant.
  6. Incidence of forest fire.

It is being felt that conservation of wildlife is of great significance to the national as well as the world heritage along with the promotion of ecotourism.

Wildlife Conservation in India

The protection of wildlife has a long tradition in India. Many stories of Panchtantra and Jungle Books, etc. have stood the test of time relating to the love for wildlife. These have a profound impact on young minds.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 provides the main legal framework for conservation and protection of wildlife in India. The two main objectives of the Act are:

  1. to provide protection to the endangered species listed in the schedule of the Act
  2. 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.

Conservation Projects

Project Name Details of the Project
Project Tiger

Project Tiger has been implemented since 1973. The main objective of the scheme is to ensure maintenance of viable population of tigers in India for scientific, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values, and to preserve areas of biological importance as natural heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people. 

Initially, the Project Tiger was launched in 9 tiger reserves, which has increased to 50 by the year 2016. India is home to 80 percent of tigers in the world. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers which increased to 2967 in 2018.

Project Elephant Project Elephant was launched in 1992 to assist states having free ranging population of wild elephants. It was aimed at ensuring long term survival of identified viable population of elephants in their natural habitat. The project is being implemented in 17 states.
Sea Turtle Project With an objective to conserve the Olive Ridley Turtles, the UNDP Sea Turtle Project was initiated by Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun as the Implementing Agency in November 1999. The project is for 10 coastal state in India especially Odisha where it has contributed towards the preparation of a map of breeding sites of Sea Turtles; identification of breeding places and habitats along the coast line, and migratory routes taken by Sea Turtles.
Project Hangul These deer once numbered from about 5,000 animals in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, they were threatened, due to habitat destruction, overgrazing by domestic livestock, and poaching. This dwindled to as low as 150 animals by 1970. However, the state of Jammu & Kashmir, along with the IUCN and the WWF prepared a project for the protection of these animals. It became known as Project Hangul. This brought great results and the population increased to over 340 by 1980. As per the census in 2008, only around 160 exist. There are plans to breed them in captivity to increase their chances of survival.
Project Gharials

The gharial (a fish-eating crocodile with a long snout), native to South Asia, is one of the most endangered freshwater crocodile species. The World Wide Fund for Nature believes it is extinct in its former habitats of Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar. Now, it is reported only from India and Nepal.

The government set up protected areas in 1979 along the Chambal to prevent poaching of their skin for high-grade crocodile leather, and it raises eggs in captivity to protect them from predators.
Project Vultures

The report of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries made a shocking revelation on the population of vultures that has decimated in the entire region of South Asia. One of the major causes of decimation of the population of vultures is the pharmaceutical drug, diclofenac, which is toxic to the bird even at relatively low dosage.

In May 2006, the Government of India initiated preventive actions to curb further decline in the population of vultures which also includes banning the diclofenac in veterinary sector.

Biosphere Reserves

A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognised within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. 

The Biosphere Reserve aims at achieving the three objectives:

  1. Conservation: Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem 
  2. Development: Association of environment with development 
  3. Logistics: International network for research and monitoring

11 of the 18 biosphere reserves in India are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

World Network of Biosphere Reserves
Name of the Biosphere Reserve Details
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

The first of the biosphere reserves of India, was established in September 1986. It embraces the sanctuary complex of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai, the entire forested hill slopes of Nilambur, the Upper Nilgiri plateau, Silent Valley and the Siruvani hills. 

It has vegetation types with several dry scrubs, dry and moist deciduous, semi-evergreen and wet evergreen forests, evergreen sholas, grasslands and swamps.

It includes the largest known population of two endangered animal species, namely the Nilgiri Tahr and the Lion-tailed macaque. The largest south Indian population of elephant, tiger, gaur, sambar and chital as well as a good number of endemic and endangered plants are also found in this reserve.

Area included: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve

Covers an expense on the southeast coast of India, it is one of the richest regions from a marine biodiversity perspective. It comprises 21 islands with estuaries, beaches, forests of the nearshore environment, sea grasses, coral reefs, salt marshes and mangroves.

Among the Gulf’s plant and animal species is the globally endangered sea cow (Dugong dugon).

Area included: Tamil Nadu
Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve

It is located in the swampy delta of the river Ganga in West Bengal. It consists of mangrove forests, swamps and forested islands. Sunderbans is the home of Royal Bengal tigers. Adapting itself to the saline and fresh water environment, the tigers at the park are good swimmers, and they hunt scarce preys such as chital deer, barking deer, wild pig and even macaques.

The tangled mass of roots of mangrove trees provide safe homes for a large number of species, from fish to shrimp. The mangrove forests are characterised by Heritiera fomes, a species valued for its timber.

Area included: West Bengal
Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve

It includes parts of Chamoli, Almora, Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts. The major forest types of the reserve are temperate. A few important species are silver weed and orchids like latifolia and rhododendron. The biosphere reserve has a rich fauna, for example the snow leopard, black bear, brown bear, musk deer, snowcock, golden eagle and black eagle.

Area included: Uttarakhand
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve Area included: Meghalaya
Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve Area included: Madhya Pradesh
Similipal Biosphere Reserve Area included: Odisha
Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve Area included: Great Nicobar
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve Area included: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve Area included: Kerala and Tamil Nadu
Khangchendzonga National Park Area included: Sikkim