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Wildlife Conservation Efforts in India

The Indian subcontinent boasts of serving as the natural habitat of a large and varied wildlife. The sub-continent with its varied geographical spread from the Himalayas in the north to the Cauvery basin in the south and the Kutch region in the west to the plains of Assam in East present a diverse range of environmental conditions for some of the most magnificent as well as the rarest wildlife species of the world in India to exist. The beauty and variety we see in the jungles of India is difficult to be expressed in words and I bring together the breadth through pictures in this project . However, the past few decades have seen the greed and negligence of human beings working to the detriment of this rich wildlife. Large-scale poaching, habitat destruction and conflict with humans have resulted in a rapid decline in the population of most of the wild animals and birds. Some animals like the Indian cheetah due to this are now extinct. Conservation of Indian wildlife was not given the requisite importance for a long time. However, the government as well as the people slowly and gradually understood their responsibility in this context. Today, efforts are being made towards wildlife conservation in India, to preserve this natural wealth. Numerous wildlife conservation projects have been undertaken in India, both at the government as well as the individual level, to protect the rich wildlife of the subcontinent. The private sector has also started stepping in as part of their corporate social responsibility to bring about this change and increase peoples awareness. The Save the Tiger campaign by Aircelwhich is discussed here. I am a wildlife fan and have been to a fair number of national parks around the country. In this project I analyze the threat to wildlife in India and then extensively report the efforts of the government, societies, groups and individuals.

Importance of wildlife conservation

Due to the growing impact of deforestation, continuous efforts are being made by some anxious animal lovers to protect the endangered species of wildlife as well as those that are on the verge of extinction and thus save the world from running out its green heritage. Wildlife is important for four main reasons:

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Beauty: Wild life provides aesthetic value to man. By their unique way of existence, wild creatures exaggerate the natural beauty of the earth. Economic value: The financial value of wild species is important to the economies of several nations, as it provides many valuable substances like wood and other plant products, fibers, meat and other foods, and skins and furs. Many wild plants provide useful substances like timber, paper, gums etc. And they also have wide applications in Ayurveda and other branches of medicine. Scientific value: Most important contribution of wild life for human progress is availability of large genepool for the scientists to carry breeding programmes in agriculture, animal husbandry and fishery.By studying wildlife, scientists have gained valuable knowledge about various life processes and discovered important medical products Survival value: To maintain ecological 'balance of nature' and maintain food chain and nature cycles.Wildlife helps in maintaining the balanced living systems of earth, which consequently ensures survival of life. Wild life of a country is its cultural asset.

National Parks of India

The topography of Indian subcontinent is so varied that it supports a wide variety of wildlife. There is a huge population of animals as well as birds living in the wild regions of the country. However, the threat of poaching, along with habitat loss, has led to a rapid decline in the population of wild animals. To reverse this trend, numerous national parks as well as wildlife sanctuaries have been set up in India. These parks and sanctuaries are serving as the natural abode of the majority of wildlife and helping in the augmentation of their population. In the following lines, I have covered some of the famous Indian national park and wildlife sanctuary in India and provided a list at the bottom of the others covering most of them :

Bandhavgarh National Park Bandhavgarh National Park is spread across the Vindhya hills of Madhya Pradesh, over a coverage area of approximately 437 sq km. The topography of the park is characterized by sharp ridges, surging forests and open meadows. Bandipur National Park Bandipur National Park is situated at the confluence of Deccan Plateau and Western Ghat Mountains. The wildlife park falls under the Chamarajanagar district of the SouthIndian state of Karnataka. Jim Corbett National Park Jim Corbett National Park is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and comes under the state of Uttaranchal. The park was established in the year 1936 and at that point of time, it was known as the Hailey National Park.

Desert National Park is located in the Jaisalmer city of Rajasthan. Stretching in the Thar Desert, over an area of 3150 sq km, the park serves as the perfect example of its ecosystem.

Gir National Park Gir National Park, established in the Junagarh district of Gujarat, is spread over an area of 1412 sq km. The park holds the distinction of being the only natural habitat of Asiatic Lions in the whole world.

Manas National Park of India boasts of amazing wildlife as well as picturesque beauty. The park is situated in the Kamrup district of the northeastern state of Assam.

Periyar National Park lies nestled in the Western Ghats, falling in the Idukki district of Kerala. The lake that constitutes a major portion of the park came into existence after a dam was constructed on the Periyar River, in the year 1895. Sariska National Park lies nestled in the Aravali Hill ranges of Rajasthan. Sariska was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1958. Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary Sultanpur National Park falls under the Gurgaon district of Haryana. It is situated on the Gurgaon-Farukh Nagar Road, at a distance of 15 km from Gurgaon. Sundarbans National Park Sundarbans National Park forms a part of the largest delta created by the Ganga and Brahmaputra Rivers. Its core area is made up of the largest mangrove forest in the world.

Threats to Wildlife
The major threats being faced by the wildlife in India are:

The problem of overcrowding is one of the major reasons for the depleting population of wild animals in India. The wildlife sanctuaries of India have become overcrowded and their capacity has decreased to quite an extent. Tourism in the national parks of the country is increasing day by day. One of the reasons for this is a rise in the popularity of eco-tourism and adventure tourism. This has led to a growth in vehicle pollution and wildlife road fatalities, apart from leading to a damage of the natural habitat of birds and animals. With the increase in tourism, the parks have witnessed an increase in wildfires also. Innocent campfires started by visitors have, more often than not, led to menacing wildfires. These fires not only kill animals, but also destroy their natural habitat. The wildlife of coastal areas is constantly disturbed by personal watercrafts, like jet skis or wave runners. These personal watercrafts enter shallow waters and expel nesting birds from their roosts. Such activities are disturbing the mating pattern of birds. Releasing of chemicals and other toxic effluents into the water bodies has led to poisoning of the water. The animals and birds drinking such water face a fatal threat. Even the population of fish, living in such water bodies, is declining at a fast pace. The climate changes taking place in the world today, are affecting not only humans, but also the wildlife. The natural habitat as well as migration patterns of the animals and birds is experiencing disturb patterns. Last but not the least, the threat of poaching has been haunting the wildlife of India since ages. Even after the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, the threat of poaching has not been totally eliminated.

Wildlife conservation projects and programs

To promote wildlife awareness among the people, the Indian government has started various natural projects and programs such as Project Tiger, Nature Camps and Jungle Lodges. These projects not only help to preserve our natural heritage, but encourage eco-tourism as well. Project Tiger was formed in 1972 and launched on the 1st April 1973 at Corbett National Park. Till date, the project has been the most successful one in preserving the tiger population at Tiger Reserves in Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Pench, Ranthambhore, Kanha, Bandipur, Panna, Dudhwa, Sunderbans, Manas and Sariska. All these reserves act as Conservation Centers for tigers in India. Besides, there is the Gir National Park, the only habitat for Asiatic lions in India. The Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary is Assam is renowned for protecting the endangered onehorned Rhinoceros. There's also Dachigam National Park, which conserves the Hangul or Kashmiri Stag. Project Elephant, a centrally sponsored scheme, was launched in February 1992 to provide financial and technical support to major elephant bearing states in India for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors. The Project, involving 25 Elephant Reserves across the country, is being implemented in 13 States and Union Territories in India, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The NGOs There are also various NGOs working on wildlife conservation in India such as Wildlife Society of Orissa (Orissa), Rhino Foundation for Nature (Assam), Friends of Forests (Maharashtra), North Eastern Society for Preservation of Nature and Wildlife (West Bengal), Nature's Beckon (Assam), Nature Conservation Society Amravati (Maharashtra), The Friends of the Doon (Uttaranchal) and Bali Nature and Wild Life Conservation Society (West Bengal).

Summarization of the Wildlife Conservation work done by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI)
WPSI collaborates with state governments to monitor the illegal wildlife trade and provide them with hands-on training and support to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

They conduct Wildlife Law Enforcement Workshops for enforcement agencies. More than 4000 forest and police officers have received training in more than 63 workshops which have been held in 16 states across India. They have also given specialist presentations to the National Police Academy, the Indian Institute of Criminology, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Customs and Excise, the Wildlife Institute of India, tiger reserve authorities, and enforcement training centres. TheWildlife Crime Databasebuilt by them has details of over 19,100 wildlife cases and is continuously updated with inputs from their countrywide network of investigators. This information plays a critical role in the development of new strategies to protect Indian wildlife. o WPSI was the first organisation to expose the workings of the shahtoosh trade and its links with the trade in tiger parts.They uncovered this trade in the mid-1990s, while investigating the smuggling of tiger bones, and produced a path-breaking report on the subject in 1997 - Fashioned for Extinction: An Expose of the Shahtoosh Trade. Over the years, they have assisted in the arrests of over 375 wildlife criminals and seizures of massive amounts of illegal wildlife products, particularly tiger parts. TheirLegal Programmesupported the prosecution of over 151 wildlife court cases in 13 Indian states. These include poaching and trade cases that involve tiger and other endangered species. They also file petitions on important wildlife conservation issues, including encroachments in protected areas. They support Conservation Projects for species as varied as the tiger, otter and sea turtle in the States of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. They have now broadened the scope of their activities to deal with other critical issues such as human-animal conflict involving tigers, leopards and elephants.

They also support research projects on issues as diverse as tiger census techniques, the ecological impact of forest resource extraction, and the plight of the snow leopard. y The most important aspect of the job now is in constantly liaising with policy makers and international conservation agencies, particularly on issues concerning poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. WPSI has been in the forefront of media campaigns to highlight the importance of wildlife protection. In 2005 and 2006, WPSI and the UK- based Environmental Protection Agency (EIA) carried out a joint investigation into the tiger and leopard skin trade in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other provinces in China. Their findings revealed a hitherto unknown scale of trade in Asian big cat skins that were being traded and worn as status symbols in Tibet. Our investigations were compiled in a report Skinning the Cat: Crime and Politics of the Big Cat Skin Trade, published in 2006. The results of the investigation and condemnation of the trade by the Dalai Lama have since sparked a massive movement by Tibetans to end the use of wild animal skins


Sampling of the wildlife of India

Indian subcontinent has a rich and varied biodiversity to boast of. Infact, the country is home to some of the most rare and magnificent wild animals. Most of the wild animals of India are being protected from poaching as well as habitat loss through the numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Indian culture preaches respect for each and every form of life, including wildlife. Still, greedy individuals as well as the everincreasing population are putting pressure on the peaceful existence of Indian wild animals. There are also a large number of resident birds in India, some native and some introduced. However, all of them today beautifully reflect the rich natural life of the country. One can also find some of the rarest wild bird species in the subcontinent. Numerous bird sanctuaries have been set up in the country to provide the birds with a natural habitat and augment their population. Of the 1,228 species of birds found in India, approximately 82 species have been listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (IUCN 2006). In this section, I have provided information on some of the wild animals and birds from India: Indian Asiatic Lion Asiatic Lions once used to roam around the area, stretching from northern Greece, across Southwest Asia, to central India. However, today the natural habitat of the majestic animal has been reduced to the Gir forests of India only, making the Asiatic Lion almost synonymous with the Indian Lion. Bengal Tiger Bengal tiger is a subspecies of tiger, which is found in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. One of the most common tiger subspecies, it is also found in a number of other Asian countries, like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet, etc. Indian Black Buck Indian black buck is also known by a number of other names like Kala Hiran, Sasin, IralaiMaan and Krishna Jinka. The scientific name of the black buck antelope is Antilopecervicapra and it natural habitat is the Indian subcontinent. Indian Clouded Leopard Clouded leopards belong to the Neofelis genus and have the scientific name of Neofelisnebulosa. The average lifespan of a clouded leopard is 11 years in the wild. However, in cases of captivity, it may go upto 17 years. Indian Elephant Indian elephant, known with the scientific name of 'Elephasmaximusindicus', is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant. It is mainly found in the Indian subcontinent, that to in the scrub forested areas.

Indian Leopard Indian leopard is one of the 8-9 valid leopard subspecies found throughout the world. Known by the scientific name of Pantherapardus, it is the fourth largest of the four 'big cats' of the Panthera genus.

Indian Rhinoceros Indian Rhinoceros holds the distinction of being the fourth largest animal, after the three elephant species. Known by the scientific name of Rhinoceros unicornis, the animal is found in only two places in the world, Assam (India) and Nepal. Indian Snow Leopard Snow leopard is a native animal of mountain ranges of central and southern Asia, including India. It is also known as Ounce and has a scientific name of "Pantherauncia". Snow leopards can live for a maximum of 18 years in then wild.

Peacock Blue peacock is regarded as one of the most beautiful birds throughout the world. It is also the National Bird of the Indian subcontinent. Peacock is the name given to a male peafowl, while the female is known as Peahen. Scientifically known as Pavocristatus (Linnaeus), the Peafowl of India is a swan-sized bird, with a long and slender neck.

Crested Serpent Eagle Indian Crested Serpent Eagle, a member of Accipitridae family, is scientifically known as Spilornischeela. It is a specialist reptile eater, which mainly hunts snakes and lizards.

Greylag Goose Greylag goose, Anseranser, is one of the Old World species of birds and was known in the pre-Linnean times as Wild Goose. It has ancestral relations with the domesticated geese of Europe and North America. Gray Lag Goose is a very frequent winter visitor to the north regions of the Indian subcontinent. Great Indian Hornbill Greater Indian Hornbill is considered to be the largest member of the hornbill family. Scientifically known as Bucerosbicornis, it is usually found inhabiting the forests of Indian subcontinent, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, Indonesia. The average lifespan of the Great Pied Hornbill of India exceeds 35 years and may go upto 50 years in captivity. Heron

Indian heron belongs is a member of the large wading bird family, known as Ardeidae. It is found mostly inhabiting the tropical and sub tropical areas. However, Indian herons can also be seen in temperate areas. There is one major characteristic that distinguishes herons from the other birds.

Jungle Bush Quail Jungle bush quail bird is one of the species of quails found in South Asia. The bird is usually seen in small coveys and is quite shy by nature. One can get a glimpse of the Jungle bush quails of India mainly when they burst out into flight from under the vegetation. Stork Indian stork is one of the 17 different species of storks found throughout the world. The only continent where storks are not found is that of Antarctica. The natural habitat of the storks comprises of Indian fields, savannas and marshes.

Listing of the balance national parks in the country :

Dachigam National Park is situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Dudhwa National Park falls under the Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated along the India-Nepal border, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Kanha National Park is one of the most famous habitats of the tiger in the whole world, situated in the valleys of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Keoladeo Ghana National Park, situated in the Bharatpur city of Rajasthan, is one of the major attractions of India. Nagarhole National Park is situated at the southern tip of Karnataka. Sharing its boundary with Bandipur National Park, the park covers an area of approximately 643 km. Nanda Devi National Park is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttaranchal. Rajaji National Park is situated in the state of Uttaranchal, now known as Uttarakhand. Ranthambore National Park forms a part of the SawaiMadhopur District of Rajasthan. The park is nestled on the intersection of the Aravalli hill range and the Vindhya hill range. Valley of Flowers National Park is nestled in the Himalayan ranges of Uttaranchal. Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Gujarat. Mudumalai National Park is situated in the state of Tamil Nadu, stretching over the forest belt between the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Mountains. Mukurthi National Park is situated in the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the South-Indian state of Kerala.