Due to its unique geographical position, India is rich in wildlife. Wildlife of India is a great natural heritage. It is estimated that about 80 percent of all known plant and animal species on the earth are found in India. Many plants synthesise substances that are useful to the maintenance of health in humans and other animals.

In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India’s wildlife. In response to this, the system of National parks, Wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas, first established in 1935, has substantially expanded through wildlife protection Act 1972. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve biological diversity of the country under various programs.

India has preserved vast tracts of natural habitats, birds and plants in its 551 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 96 National Parks, 25 Wetlands and 15 Biosphere Reserves spread almost in all the states of India. Besides this, there are 33 Botanical Gardens, 275 Zoological Parks, Deer Parks, Safari Parks, Aquaria, etc. to make people aware conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife species in their respective areas.

In India, for the purpose of effective conservation of natural habitat of wildlife, special schemes like Project Tiger 1973 and Project Elephant 1992 have been launched. These are very important as many species are at the brink of extinction.

1. Wildlife Sanctuaries

The main objective of the wildlife sanctuaries is to ensure maintenance of viable population of wildlife and their desired habitat. The wildlife sanctuaries in India are home to around 2000 different species of birds, 3500 species of mammals, nearly 30000 different kinds of insects and more than 15000 varieties of plants.

These sanctuaries and forest reserves are home to several endangered species of animals and birds like the Asiatic Elephant, the Royal Bengal tiger, the Snow Leopard and the Siberian Crane. Many of the forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries of India are famous for particular species of animals. For instance, the Kaziranga in Assam is known for the Indian Rhinoceros, Periyar in Kerala is famous for its elephants.

India is also home to several migratory animals and birds like Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, Siberians Cranes and Flamingos.

2. National Parks

The purpose of establishing national parks is to conserve the natural and historic objects and the wild life and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. By 1970, India only had five national parks. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act to safeguard the habitats of conservation reliant species. The two main objectives of the Act are - to provide protection to the endangered species listed in the Act and to provide support to the conservation area of the country classified as national park.

Rare Species of Animals Found in National Parks

  1. Dachigram (J&K) - Hangul, Musk deer
  2. Corbett (Uttrakhand) - Tiger, Elephant, Panther, Deer
  3. Dudhwa (U.P.) - Elephants and Tiger
  4. Kanha (M.P.) - Tiger, Barasingha
  5. Badipur (Karnataka) - Tiger and Barasingha
  6. Periyar (Kerala) - Elephants
  7. Bharatpur (Rajasthan) - Different types of water birds
  8. Deset Park (Rajasthan) - Desert wolf, Fox
  9. Gir (Gujarat) - Lion, Panther, Chital
  10. Kaziranga (Assam) - Rhino, Wild Buffalo
  11. Manas (Assam) - Elephant, Rhino, Wild Buffalo
  12. Nam Dafa (Arunachal Pradesh) - Tiger, Gaur, Wild buffalo
  13. Sundarbans (West Bengal) - Royal Bengal Tiger

3. Wetlands

A wetland is an area of land where soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally. Such areas may also be covered partially or completely by shallow pools of water. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, and bogs, among others. The water found in wetlands can be saltwater, freshwater, and brackish. Most importantly wetlands also serve as natural wastewater purification systems.

Wetlands are considered as biologically the most diverse of all ecosystems. Plant life found in wetlands includes mangrove, water lilies, cattails, sedges, tamarack, black spruce, cypress, gum, and many others. Animal life includes many different amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals.

Wetlands perform two important functions in relation to climate change. They have mitigation effects through their ability to sink carbon, and adaptation effects through their ability to store and regulate water. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), is an international treaty designed to address global concerns regarding wetland loss and degradation. 

The primary purpose of the treaty is to list wetlands of international importance and to promote their wise use with the ultimate goal of preserving the world’s wetlands. Methods include restricting access to the majority portion of wetland areas, as well as educating the public to combat the misconception that wetlands are wastelands.

Wetlands in India

  1. Ashtamudi, Kerala
  2. Bhitarkanika Mangroves, Odisha
  3. Chilika Lake, Odisha
  4. East Calcutta Wetlands, West Bengal
  5. Kolleru Lake, Andhra Pradesh
  6. Loktak Lake, Manipur
  7. Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu
  8. Pong Dam Lake, Himachal Pradesh
  9. Sambhar lake, Rajasthan
  10. Tsomoriri, Jammu and Kashmir
  11. Upper Ganga canal, Uttar Pradesh
  12. Vembanad-Kol Wetland, Kerala
  13. Wular Lake, Jammu and Kashmir
  14. Harike Lake, Punjab
  15. Bhoj Wetland, Madhya Pradesh

4. Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere Reserves are multipurpose protected areas to preserve the genetic diversity in representative ecosystems. The Indian government has established 15 Biosphere Reserves, which protect larger areas of natural habitat (than a National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary), and often include one or more National Parks 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. The main objectives to establish them are:

  • to conserve diversity and integrity of the life of plants, animals and microorganisms
  • to promote eco-friendly sustainable life in the areas
  • to promote ecological conservation, research, education, awareness and training in the life of such areas

Biosphere Reserves

  1. Nilgiri - Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
  2. Gulf of Mannar - Tamil Nadu
  3. Sundarbans - West Bengal
  4. Nanda Devi - Uttarakhand
  5. Dihang-Dibang - Arunachal Pradesh
  6. Pachmarhi - Madhya Pradesh
  7. Simlipal - Odisha
  8. Achanakmar Amarkantak - Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
  9. Manas - Assam
  10. Kanchenjunga - Sikkim
  11. Agasthyamala - Kerala
  12. Great Nicobar - Andaman & Nicobar Islands
  13. Nokrek - Meghalaya
  14. Dibru-Saikhowa - Assam
  15. Rann of Kachchh - Gujarat