(Article) Wildlife Conservation in India : Aiming to Sustainable Growth and Development

Wildlife Conservation in India

Aiming to Sustainable Growth and Development

By: Sangeeta Gupta
Author is an expert of various competitive examination.

Wildlife includes all non-domesticated plants, animals, and other organisms. Domesticating wild plant and animal species for human benefit has occurred many times all over the planet, and has a major impact on the environment, both positive and negative. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems, Deserts, rain forests, plains, and other areas including the most developed urban sites all have distinct forms of wildlife. While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by human factors, most scientists agree that wildlife around the world is impacted by human activities.

Indian wildlife:-
The wildlife of India is a mix of species of diverse origins. The region's rich and diverse wildlife is preserved in numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country. Since India is home to a number of rare and threatened animal species, wildlife management in the country is essential to preserve these species. According to one study, India is home to about 60-70% of the world's biodiversity. India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, is home to about 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of avian, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species.

Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic. India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded the Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.

Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, to which India originally belonged. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 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 Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, and the 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 500 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 14 biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 25 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention. The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. Common name for wilderness in India is Jungle which was adopted by the British colonialists to the English language. The word has been also 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 and the Jataka tales.

The gradual emergence of the human beings as the most dominant species among all other species of animals and the attempt of the human beings to set themselves apart from other species is the main underlying cause of the contemporary environmental disaster. The main reason behind a threat to the wildlife and the ecosystem is the constantly growing deforestation, poaching and negligence towards animals and nature. The Indian Government has started nature projects like, Project Tiger, Nature Camps, Jungle Lodges, etc. to encourage wildlife awareness among the common people. Besides preserving the natural heritage, these projects also promote eco-tourism.

Various Projects:-
Gir National Park in Gujarat is the only existent habitation for the nearly extinct Asiatic Lions in India. The Kaziranga Sanctuary in Assam is a major example of good effort to save the endangered Rhinoceros. Similarly, Periyar in Kerala is doing a great job to preserve the wild Elephants and Dachigam National Park is progressing rapidly to save Kashmiri Stag.

Wildlife Conservation in India occupies a total area of about 3.29 million sq. km. that contains floral and faunal species, mammals, reptiles, insects and birds. The Wildlife Conservation in India has become the most popular holiday destinations because of its diverseness. In India there are 571 sanctuaries and reserve parks that are protected by the Indian Government, mainly meant for the protection of the extinct species of animals and birds. Predators, Carnivores and Herbivores, - all are equally important to maintain the vital ecological processes as nutrient and water cycling. India has over 500 animal sanctuaries, referred to as Wildlife Sanctuaries (IUCN Category IV Protected Area). Among these, the 28 Tiger Reserves are governed by Project Tiger, and are of special significance in the conservation of the tiger. Some wildlife sanctuaries are specifically named Bird Sanctuary, eg. Keoladeo National Park before attained National Park status.

Many National Parks were initially Wildlife Sanctuaries. Wildlife sanctuaries of national importance to conservation, usually due to some flagship faunal species, are named National Wildlife Sanctuary, like national chambal (gharial) Wildlife Sanctuary for conserving the Gharial (1978).

Some of the important wildlife sanctuaries in India are:-
• Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh
• Corbett National Park in Uttar Pradesh
• Gir National Park & Sanctuary in Gujarat
• Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh
• Kaziranga National Park in Assam
• Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala
• Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan
• Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal
• Dachigam National Park in Jammu & Kashmir
• Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam

National Parks of India:-
India's first national park (an IUCN category II protected area) was established in 1935 as Hailey National Park, now known as Jim Corbett National Park. By 1970, India only had five national parks. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard the habitats of conservation reliant species. Further federal legislation strengthening protections for wildlife was introduced in the 1980s. As of April 2007, there are 96 national parks. All national park lands encompass a combined 38,029.18 km², 1.16% of India's total surface area. A total of 166 national parks have been authorized. Plans are underway to establish the remaining scheduled parks.

Biosphere Reserves:-
The term ‘Biosphere Reserve' should denote an area:
• Which is, set aside for the conservation of the resources of the biosphere and for the improvement of the relationship between man and the environment;
• Which is, to serve as sites for long term scientific research as well as education all over the world.

List of National Parks:-

• Dibru-Saikhowa National Park-Assam
• Desert National Park-Rajasthan
• Dachigam National Park-Jammu and Kashmir
• Corbett National Park-Uttarakhand
• Chandoli National Park-Maharashtra
• Campbell Bay National Park-Andaman and Nicobar
• Anshi National Park-Karnataka
• Balphakram National Park-Meghalaya
• Bandhavgarh National Park-Madhya Pradesh
• Bandipur National Park-Karnataka
• Bannerghatta National Park-Karnataka
• Vansda National Park-Gujarat
• Betla National Park-Jharkhand
• Bhitarkanika National Park-Orissa
• Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar-Gujarat
• Buxa Tiger Reserve-West Bengal
• Fossil National Park-Madhya Pradesh
• Great Himalayan National Park-Himachal Pradesh
• Indira Gandhi National Park (Annamalai National Park)- Tamil Nadu
• Dudhwa National Park-Uttar Pradesh
• Intanki National Park-Nagaland
• Guindy National Park-Tamil Nadu
• Govind Pashu Vihar-Uttarakhand
• Kaziranga National Park-Assam
• Khangchendzonga National Park-Sikkim
• Kishtwar National Park-Jammu and Kashmir
• Van Vihar National Park-Madhya Pradesh
• Kanha National Park-Madhya Pradesh
• Mollem National Park-Goa
• Mount Harriet National Park-Andaman and Nicobar

The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated under the 'Man & Biosphere' (MAB) programme by UNESCO in 1971. Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by National Governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere Reserves serve in some ways as 'living laboratories' for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity (CES., UNESCO, 2005., IUCN, 1979).

List of Biosphere Reserves
• Achanakmar-Amarkanta- Madhya Pradesh & Chhattishgarh
• Agasthyamalai- Kerala
• Dehang-Debang- Arunachal Pradesh
• Dibru-Saikhowa- Assam
• Great Nicobar- Andaman and Nicobar
• Gulf of Mannar - Tamil Nadu
• Khangchenjunga – Sikkim
• Manas- Assam
• Nanda Devi-Uttaranchal
• Nilgiri -Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka
• Nokrek-Meghalaya
• Pachmarhi -Madhya Pradesh
• Simlipal-Orissa
• Sunderbans-West Bengal


The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is an international organization dedicated to natural resource conservation.Founded in 1948, its headquarters is located in the Lake Geneva area in Gland, Switzerland.

The IUCN brings together 83 states, 108 government agencies, 766 Non-governmental organizations and 81 international organizations and about 10,000 experts and scientists from countries around the world. IUCN's mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

Biosphere Reserve Objectives:-
Each Biosphere Reserve is intended to fulfill three basic functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:
•  A conservation function - to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation;

•  A development function - to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable;

•  A logistic function - to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development (UNESCO, 2005).

The Indian government has established 15 Biosphere Reserves of India, (categories roughly corresponding to IUCN Category V Protected areas), which protect larger areas of natural habitat (than a National Park or Animal Sanctuary), 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. Four of the fifteen biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list.

• Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
• Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve
• Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve
• Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve

Conservation of wildlife in India:-
The need for conservation of wildlife in India is often questioned because of the apparently incorrect priority in the face of dire poverty of the people. However Article 48 of the Constitution of India specifies that "the state shall endeavour 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."

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 1972 revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. 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 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 the 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.

Project Tiger which was launched on April 1, 1973, has become one of the most successful conservation ventures in modern history. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted 'tiger reserves' which are representative of various bio-geographical regions falling within India. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in their natural environment. Today, there are 27 Project Tiger wildlife reserves in India covering an area of 37,761 km².Project Elephant, though less known, started in 1992 and works for elephant protection in India. Most of India's rhinos today survive in the Kaziranga National Park. The wildlife institute of India (WII) is a government institution run by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education which trains wildlife managers and wildlife researchers.

Trained personnel from WII have contributed in studying and protecting wildlife in India. WII has also popularized wildlife studies and careers. The institute is based in Dehradun, India. It is located in Chandrabani, which is close to the southern forests of Dehradun. The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education also runs the Forest Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Forest Management

Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 :-
In 1972 by the Government of India. Prior to 1972, India only had five designated national parks. Among other reforms, the Act established schedules of protected plant and animal species; hunting or otherwise harvesting these species was largely outlawed.

The Act provides for the protection of Wild animals, birds and plants and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. It extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own wildlife act. It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection, with absolute protection being provided under Schedule I and part II of schedule II with the highest penalties prescribed for offences under these schedules and Species listed in the Sch. IV are also protected but the penalties are much lower, with the enforcement authorities having the power to compound offences (as in they impose fines on the offenders).