Flora and Fauna
¤ Diverse Variety of Vegetation
India's treasures of flora and fauna are fast dwindling, and if
measures are not taken to check deforestation, it wont be long before
barren stretches replace jungles.
¤ Himalayan Vegetation
The Himalayan belt is a botanists delight. The thick tropical forests
in the eastern region of India are in sharp contrast to the pine and
coniferous woodlands of the western Himalayas.
Natural cover varies with altitude; evergreen forests with mainly
high alpine meadows nearer the snowline have more of temperate forests
in the lower elevations.
The chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) grows throughout the northwest
Himalayas, with the exception of Kashmir. Chilgoza (pine nut), oak,
maple, ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides) grow abundantly in the Inner
The rain-soaked foothills are covered with deciduous trees, shrubs,
fern and grass. The Brahmaputra Valley also wears patches of tea
plantations and fluorescent-green rice fields, while mulberry trees on
which tussar silk worms are bred, abound on the slopes.
¤ Rain Forest of Southern India
The most luxuriant rain forests, however, lie on the southwestern
coast, in Kerala where the lagoons are canopied by coconut trees,
leading to the longest uninterrupted stretch of rain forests in the
country. The andaman Islands and Arunachal Pradesh are other regions
with well preserved rain forests.
Dense sandal, teak and sisoo (Dalbergia sissoo) forests, where
elephants roam wild and free, flourish on the wet Karnataka plateau.
Nudging this is the dry Telengana plateau in Andhra Pradesh, which
offers only thorny scrub and wild Indian date palm.
¤The Desert Region
The Thar Desert presents a very different picture. The trees are
short and stout, stunted by the scorching sun. Apart from cacti, there
are the reunjha (Acacia leucophloea), khejra (Prosopis spicigera),
kanju (Holoptelia integrifolia) and ak (Calotropis gigantea).
Tropical moist deciduous forests that cover most of the heartland are
interspersed with tropical dry deciduous trees. The species include
sal (Shorea robusta), teak (Tectona grandis), semul (Bombax ceiba),
laurel, rosewood, mahua (Madhuca indica), amla (Emblica officinalis),
khair (Acacia catechu), common bamboo, to name just a few.
India's Wildlife Population
The plant kingdom is not the only endangered species. Indias rich
fauna is known the world over, but sadly many species either live in
very restricted habitats, or are on the verge of extinction. The
threats to Indian wildlife are legion.
¤ Diverse Variety of Wildlife
Even though India is known for its tigers, elephants and rhinoceros,
it is home to over 500 mammal species. Antelopes and deer like the
chinkaras (Indian Gazelle), barasinghas (swamp deer), chitals (spotted
deer), muntjacs (barking deer) and sambars (Indias largest deer) can
easily be spotted in forests and wildlife reserves.
Other animals that are easy to spot include buffaloes, massive Indian
bisons (gaurs), striped hyenas, wild pigs, jackals, Indian foxes and
Among the smaller mammals are mongooses and giant squirrels. Big cats
include leopards and panthers, short-tailed jungle cats, and the
beautiful leopard cats. Monkeys are a very common sight, especially
¤ Aerial Population
The country also has about 2000 species and sub-species of birds. The
numerous sanctuaries across the country are not only breeding colonies
for these feathered creatures, but serve as resorts for migratory
birds from higher altitudes, as well.
Add to all this over 500 species of reptiles and amphibians. King
cobras, pythons, crocodiles, large freshwater tortoises and monitor
lizards are only some of them.
There are also some 30,000 insect species, including some very
stunning butterflies. Look around a bit on a bright summer morning,
and youll know what we mean.
¤ Establishment of Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries
Many of the wildlife sanctuaries and a few national parks have been
established in erstwhile private hunting reserves of the British Raj
and Indian aristocracy. often, a park is better known for a particular
animal. Thus Gir (Gujarat) is famous for its Asiatic lions, the Indian
rhinoceros is the pride of Kaziranga (Assam), elephants steal the show
in Periyar (Kerala), and tigers are synonymous with Kanha (Madhya
Pradesh) and Bandavgarh (Madhya Pradesh). The mangrove forests of
Sunderbans are the unique habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
All told, India has about 80 National Parks and 441 sanctuaries.