India is endowed by some of nature’s best gifts. It is a land of rich biodiversity which is unmatched to other regions of world. It is blessed with a tropical rain forest to dry deciduous forests and snowy Himalayas which are embellished with rare wildlife species of world. India has a wide range of mammal species, amphibians, reptiles and birds.
These natural treasures of our country are gradually declining in population. They are at an immediate risk of extinction due to deforestation, urbanization, habitat destruction, paucity of prey, poaching and changing environmental scenario. In the year 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has classified the wildlife species of India under four main categories such as the Critically Endangered animals (CR), Endangered animals (EN), Vulnerable (VU) and Threatened.
Endangered animals can be defined as those which are less in number and are on the verge of extinction. Such species need special protection for their survival.
Some of the endangered animals of India are as follows:
Asiatic lions are famously called as the “Lord of Beasts”. Asiatic lion(Panthera leo persica) is one of the seven sub- species of Lion. Their sole habitat in India is the Gir national park of Gujrat. They are slightly smaller in size from their African cousin. Their population has drastically reduced mainly due to excessive hunting, scarcity of prey, pollution of water at their natural habitat.
Royal Bengal Tiger:
The Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris ) is the second largest sub-species of Tiger. It is the national animal of India. According to the Government of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, India has a population of 1,411 Royal tigers. Their main habitat are grasslands, subtropical and tropical rain forests, scrub forests, wet and dry deciduous forests,and mangrove forest. They are mostly found in the Sunderban national park of West Bengal. They are under the constant threat of extinction due to reduction of natural habitat, paucity of prey and poaching for their beautiful skin.
Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros:
The tall grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas are the main abode of the Indian One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) . They are mostly found in the Kaziranga, having a population not more than 1200 , Manas and Orang national park of Assam. Even in two reserve forests of Assam such as Pobitora reserve forest (having the highest Indian rhino density in the world) and Laokhowa reserve forest. The One horned rhinoceros are hunted mostly for their horn.
The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) are one of the subspecies of the Asiatic elephant. Indian Elephants looks like the African elephants but have short tusk and ears. They are considered as an endangered species and their total strength in India ranges from 20,000 to 25, 000. They live in or near scrub-forested areas in the terai region of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Karnataka. Although they have a tendency to change their habitat because they are nomadic in nature. They are in danger due to excessive poaching for the ivory of their tusks, loss of habitat and loss of genetic diversity.
The snow leopards (Uncea uncea) are found in areas with an altitude of above 3200 m (10,500 feet) in the Himalayan regions of North India such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and the North Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. These animals are hunted for their beautiful fur and its bones are used in oriental medicines. They are also killed as they are considered as the predators of the live stocks.
Wild Water Buffalo:
The wild water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a bovine animal. These are one of the endangered species of India and their total strength is assumed to be only 4000. They are mainly found in Assam’s Kaziranga national park and Chattisgarh. At time, you could also locate them at some of the sites of Meghalaya and Maharashtra. They are in danger due to cross breeding with the domestic buffaloes and the destruction of their natural habitat.
Hoolock gibbon ( Bunopithecus hoolock) are the only ape found in India. They are also called as the White Browed Gibbon because of their white brows. Their main habitats includes tropical evergreen forest, semi and sub tropical forests and mountain forests. They are mostly found in the Kaziranga National Park, Assam and Manas wildlife sanctuaries and the Borajan reserve forest and in the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland. They are under threat due to hunting for their flesh, jhum ( shifting and burning) cultivation, and timber cutting.
Ganges River Dolphin:
In India, the river dolphins (Platanista gangetica) are found in the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. It is an aquatic mammal. In Ganges region they are commonly known as “Susu” whereas in Brahmaputra region they are called as “Hihu”. These are also an endangered species with only 2000 river dolphins estimated in India. The major reasons behind their decrease in population are fishing (gillnetting), poaching, damming (Farakka barrage) in Ganges and other dams, sand mining (in Kulsi river of Assam) deforestation and oil extraction. ( Their oil are used as medicine for rheumatism and for the preparation of bait for the catfishes, Clupisoma garua).