India is a diverse country and this diversity is seen in its flora and fauna as well. It has numerous species of plants, animals, mammals, and reptiles. With this rich diversity, it has 89 national parks, 18 Bio-Reserves, and 400 wildlife sanctuaries. But with an increase in activities like hunting and poaching, the threat of this wildlife getting endangered has increased.
India has 6.5% of the world’s total wildlife species according to a report which was published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that includes 7.6% of all mammals and 12.6% of all bird species.
According to a report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in 2022, 15 species of birds, 10 species of mammals, 5 species of reptiles, and 5 species of fish have joined the critically endangered list.
Why Critically Endangered?
According to IUCN Red List, the critically endangered species are at the highest risk of extinction. There are basically five ways to determine whether a particular species are endangered or not.
1. When the species have a limited geographical range.
2. Very limited or small population of less than 50 adult individuals.
3. Whether the population has decreased or will decrease by more than 80% for the last three generations or 10 years.
4. If the population is less than 250 individuals and is continuously declining at 25% for the last one generation or three years.
5. There is a high possibility of extinction in the wild.
Bengal Tiger, Red Panda, Nilgiri Tahr, One-horned Rhinoceros, Snow Leopard, Asiatic Lion, Black Buck, Red Stag, Indian Biason, Hungul and many more are the most endangered animals in India.
Reasons for Endangerment
1. Loss of habitat is one of the primary reasons for the endangerment of species. Today, human intervention plays a major role in the destruction of the natural landscape. Human activities like the removal of trees that provide both food and shelter for an innumerable number of species, mining, and agriculture.
2. Over hunting and poaching have a very destructive and catastrophic effect on the number of animals and fishes all over the world.
3. Pollution like air pollution, water pollution, and waste pollution, especially in the form of plastic plays a very dominant role in the endangerment of animal species. Pollution not only causes health hazards for humans, but it affects animals also.
4. In a robust and hearty environment there is always an accurate balance between the number of predators and their prey animals. The predators who are natural enemies of their prey animals choose the old and sick preys as they cannot keep up with their group. In this scenario, the relationship between them is totally healthy as the predators only eat these prey animals that are already nearing the end of their life. But the problems become more apparent when the predators wander in such an area where they will get only a few numbers of their prey animals.
5. To save the animals from poaching and hunting they are often kept in a sanctuary and shelter. Though for some animals it has proved to be very much beneficial, there are other animals too who suffer and are in trouble for being endangered. The main two reasons are overcrowding and overgrazing. Usually, there are too many animals that are enclosed in small areas. These animals often eat the same grass and trees in a limited area whereas in natural surroundings the grazing animals keep on changing the landscape while eating and keep on moving for most of the time. But in an enclosed and small area they eat from the same plants repeatedly which finally destroys the plants due to overstress.
Few Ways to Save Endangered Animals
• If pollution can be controlled all across the globe then it can have a major positive impact on animals, fish, and birds all over the world.
• To save the endangered animals from extinction, a number of breeding programmes have been introduced. The government, NGOs, and the other corporate bodies should come forward for this noble cause as this programme involves dedicated and special people and of course a lot of money.
• Reintroducing the endangered animals to the wild once their numbers increase has become successful in some cases though all species have not done well.
• If hunting and poaching can be controlled then there can be a significant change in the numbers of the endangered animals.
Steps Taken by the Government for Wildlife Protection
• All the states, excluding Jammu and Kashmir (it has its own Act), adopted Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972 which prohibits any type of trade for endangered and rare species.
• The Central Government provides every type of financial assistance to the State Governments for the conservation and protection of the endangered species.
• National ban was imposed on tiger hunting in 1970 and Wildlife Protection Act became effective in 1972. According to the latest tiger census (2015), there is an overall increase of 30% in the tiger population. In 2010, there were 1700 tigers left in India according to tiger census which has gone up to 2226 tigers in 2015.
• Innumerable numbers of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Parks, etc have been established by the government.
• In 1992, Central Zoo Authority (CZA) was initiated for the supervision of the management of zoological parks in the country.
• In 1996, the Wildlife Advisory Committee and Wildlife Institute were established for seeking advice on different features of Wildlife conservation and matters related to it.
There are several other initiatives that have been taken up by the government to save the endangered species of India.
India is part of five main International Conventions which are associated with wildlife conservation. They are (i) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), (ii) Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), (iii) International Whaling Commission (IWC), (iv) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – World Heritage Committee (UNESCO – WHC) and (v) the Convention on Migratory Species (CHS).
Numerous positive steps are being taken for saving the endangered species of India. But that is not enough. There is a dire need for more NGOs and the private corporate sectors to come forward for this noble cause.