Rajasthan tourism guide provides information on rich flora and fauna of Rajasthan India, the land of diversity with its immense variety of flora and fauna. Wildlife tourism of Rajasthan facilitates travel to Rajasthan to explore the treasures of Rajasthan flora and fauna and to take up a travel tour to Rajasthan wildlife in Indian.

Bird Population In India
India - Rajasthan - Flora and Flora Rajasthan

Flora & Fauna Rajasthan

¤ The Vegetation

Khejri Vegetation in Rajasthan India The Flora & Fauna in Rajasthan is sparse as expected in the desert land. Most of the forest is of dry deciduous type. It has a small range of slow-growing thorny trees, shrubs and grasses that has adapted itself to the harsh conditions.

Most commonly found tree species are the ubiquitous khejri (Prosopis cineraria) and various types of acacia. Forest cover, just over 9% of the state, has dry teak forest, dry mixed deciduous forest, bamboo brakes and subtropical hill forests. The khejri held sacred by the Bishnoi community of Jodhpur, is extremely drought resistant, due to its deep root system. It is a multipurpose tree – its thorny twigs are used to form barriers between fields to keep animals away from the crops, its leaves are dried and used as fodder, its fruits are eaten ripe and when unripe it is cooked and eaten as sangri. The utility list goes on further, the wood is used for furniture and the branches as fuel.

Another tree that dots the arid desert land is the rohira (Tecoma undulata). Its pods have medicinal value that provides relief to abscesses while its wood is used to make furniture. Several types of grasses include the sewan (Lasiurus sindicus), dhaman (Cenchhrus ciliaris), boor (Cenchrus jwarancusa) and bharut (Cenchrus catharticus). The bharut also serves as food for the poor at times of drought. The shrub Calligonum polygonoides, locally known as phog serves several purposes. It stabilises sand dunes, its wood is used for construction, the branches make camel fodder and its pods known as lasson are eaten as vegetables. Other shrubs like the leafless khair (Capparis decidua), ak (Calotropis procera) and thor (Euphorbia caduca) also have various uses. Khair provides strong and durable wood that is resistant to white ants and lastly also produces a fruit that is edible both fresh and preserved. The other two – ak and thor secretes a juice that is taken as a cough balm while the leaves of thor known as papri is eaten as a vegetable.

¤ Wildlife National Parks

The National Parks of Bharatpur and Ranthambore have nearly 280 and 306 species of plants respectively including herbs that have medicinal values.

Fauna :

FaunaIrrespective of its unfriendly terrain, Rajasthan gives shelter to a variety of animals and birds. Antelopes and gazelles are widely available in the Jodhpur district where they are worshipped by the Bishnoi tribes. They are mainly responsible for the steady population of the chinkara or Indian Gazelle in this desert zone. Chinkaras are slimmer than the blackbuck and can survive without water for very long periods. They live in smaller herds and thrive mainly on wild grasses and various types of shrubs.

The nilgai or the bluebull or bluecow are abundant on the open plains and in the foothills of the Aravalli. The blue cow is actually not a cow it is an antelope, the largest in India. It earns its name through a vague resemblance to the domesticated cow; and although the two species are not related, the nilgai has benefited from the same veneration as the familiar 'sacred cow'. As a result its numbers are increasing and in some areas it is regarded a nuisance, but it is still tolerated because of its name.

The Tiger Attraction :

The Tiger once found along the Aravalli can now be seen only in the Ranthambore and Sariska National Parks while the leopard with its original residence in the rocky crags of the Aravalli can also be found in parts of Jaipur and Jodhpur districts. The jungle cat and the Indian desert cat are widely spread in the Keoladeo Ghana National Park and the Thar Desert respectively. Rajasthan also abounds in jackals, desert foxes, gerbils, bandicoot, langurs, rhesus monkeys, bats, boars, bears, mongoose, jerboa, voles, mice, hares, wide variety of insects and reptiles, seems no one is missing from the animal world.

Aerial Population :

Around 450 species of birds have been identified in Rajasthan, which include the birds of forests, wetlands, grasslands and the desert. The Aravalli Range houses the orioles, hornbills, kingfishers, swallows, mynas, parakeets, robins, warblers, flycatchers, doves, quails, drongos, barbets, peacocks, and woodpeckers among others. Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary is India’s most important bird sanctuary and includes the wetlands of eastern Rajasthan. Migratory species like the spoonbills, herons, cormorants, storks, openbills, ibis and egrets pay a visit in the winter. Waterfowls here include common marbled, falcated and Baikal teal, pintail, gadwall, shoveler, coot, wigeon, bar-headed geese and greylag geese. The Siberian cranes are the winter guests while the sarus are the permanent inhabitants of the park. Resident species of the park are the moorhens, egrets, herons, storks and cormorants. Several types of birds of prey also find their home in the sanctuary. They include the eagles (greater spotted, steppe, imperial, Spanish Imperial, fishing), vultures (white-backed and scavenger), owls (spotted, dusky horned and mottled wood), pallid, sparrowhawk, marsh harrier, goshawk and kestrel.

Famous Bird Sanctuaries :

The Tal Chhapar Sanctuary in Churu, Sorsan near Kota, Sonkalia near Ajmer and the surroundings of the Indira Gandhi Canal abound in birds of the grasslands. They include various species of the lark – short-toed, crested, sky and crowned finch lark. Various types of quails, shrike, mynas, partridges, drongos and migratory birds like the lesser floricans (monsoon only) and houbara bustard (winter) can be spotted in the grassland area quite frequently.
Water holes in the Thar attract flocks of imperial, spotted, pintail and the Indian Sandgrouse in the early mornings. Birds of prey are pretty obvious in this desert region. The eagles (steppe and tawny), buzzards (honey and long-legged), goshawks, peregrine falcons and kestrels have stiff competition among themselves while hunting for food.

The Game of Shikar :

The word shikar, which is more of a royal hobby, stirs up images of a band of macho, rifle bearing Rajputs in hot pursuit of an elusive deer, boar or tiger. A retinue of attendants with dogs straining at the leash followed them while an advance party of drumbeaters led the way to flush out the prey from its den. The tiger was the greatest trophy a hunter could take home and which is why many of Rajasthan’s best miniatures depict tiger hunts.
The princes and chieftains of Rajasthan hunted with fanatic glee and this, not conservation, compelled them to maintain vast wildlife preserves. The sanctuaries of Rajasthan were born from these. Hunting was considered an important portion of a Rajput prince’s upbringing till the first half of the century. They were encouraged to excel in this game of shooting and children as young as 10 years old would participate in this pastime.

¤ Damage Done To The Most Sanctuaries During British Rule

But it was during the British period when the real damage was done. Here’s an evocative paragraph from James Tod’s Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: "With the sovereign and his sons all the chiefs sally forth, each on his best steed, and all animated by the desire to surpass each other in acts of prowess and dexterity. It is very rare that in some pass or recess of the valley the hog is not found; the spot is then surrounded by the hunters, whose vociferations soon start a drove of hogs. Then each cavalier impels his steed, and with lance or sword, regardless of rock, ravine, or tree, presses on the bristly foe. The ground soon reeks with gore, in which not infrequently is mixed that of horse or rider." Elaborate hunting expeditions were organised mainly for the big cats, but almost anything that came into their path was aimed at, be it a wild boar or a spotted deer, but the biggest looser was the tiger.

¤ Massive Hunting of The Most Endangered Species--The Tigers

Over the last few centuries, killing a tiger has been a symbol of manhood for some of those who rule India, and countless important people have roamed the forests trying to prove themselves. Tiger experts Valmik Thapar believes that as many as 20,000 tigers were shot in India between 1860 and 1960.

¤ Postscript

Today hunting is illegal in India, but due to its association with royalty, shikar has come to be considered a worthy pursuit and in spite of the many efforts by the government it continues. As recently as the autumn of 1998, an Indian actor, Salman Khan who featured in People magazine as one of the world’s 50 best-looking men, was accused of hunting chinkaras (Indian Gazelle) in Jodhpur. The case has been taken up enthusiastically in the courts by conservationist and the Bishnois for whom the chinkara is sacred. So far there have been no convictions.

¤ Unique links

Rajasthan offers the most extra ordinary examples of people’s participation in conservation as reflected by the history of the Bishnoi and Vala communities. These communities are the primary reason that desert wildlife still exists on the subcontinent.
The Bishnois follow, with great devotion the tenets of the seer Jambhoji, who laid down twenty-nine bishnaus (commandments). The Bishnois derive their name from bish which means twenty and noi which means nine, and they are possibly the pioneers of the green movement anywhere in the world. Jambhoji was born in 1451 and at the age of 34 he was enlightened by a divine vision; his mission was to transform the desert into a lush, fertile and prosperous land. He started preaching his doctrine in 1485. The 29 points of his message became the pillars of his religion. Two of the 29 commandments prohibit the feeling of green trees and killing of animals. His followers do not cut trees or kill animals; they even stop others from doing so. In the year 1778 a senior officer from Jodhpur State arrived to cut down khejri trees, which were needed for burning lime. The first to challenge him was a woman, Mata Amrit Devi, who hugged one of the trees and was promptly decapitated. Her three daughters followed suit and were also axed. Many others followed them, until 363 Bhishnoi lay dead. This mass slaughter led to a royal order that prohibited the cutting of any tree in Bishnoi village. A temple as later constructed at Khejarli in memory of the 363 dead, and every year thousands of Bishnoi arrive to commemorate the sacrifice of their ancestors. The forest department on 12 September 1978 planted 363 khejri trees in memory of the dead.

¤ Bishnoi Tribe's Love For Wildlife

ChinkaraThe blackbuck is a much revered animal among the Bishnoi tribals who inhabit the area. Many men of the community have died in their efforts to counter armed poaching gangs and women have been known to breast-feed black bucks fawns. There is this unusual tale of compassion and love for wild animals that one hers of. Once a blackbuck fawn was injured by poachers who wanted to make away with it in their jeep. The Bishnois rescued it and the fawn which was only a few days old was brought home by a young man. His wife who had borne him a child only few a days ago felt so moved by the plight of the fawn that she thought, "Maybe Jambhoji has ordained another son in my house". She breast-fed the fawn along with her own son and both of them would sleep with her on the same bed. The fawn grew up and when it was able to fend for itself, they released it in the forest. It kept on visiting its foster mother and the house it grew up in even after attaining adulthood.

The Bishnoi bury chinkara that die and even erect stones to mark their graves. A community store is maintained by the Bishnois to feed the blackbuck. Every month, each family donates a kilogram of bajara (Pennisetum glaucum R. Br.) to this store. In the evening, blackbucks are fed from this store. The bucks roam the plains throughout the day and in the evening they draw nearer to the Bishnoi hamlet for their food. Herds ranging in strength form 50 to 500 may be seen here.

Another example of a community which has taken upon itself the task of conserving the natural world and all its inhabitants are the people of Kheechan village. The BBC book 'The Land of the Tiger' talks of this unusual link between the villagers and their feathered guests. In this small village of Kheechan, right in the centre of the Thar Desert, the people feed thousands of demoiselle cranes between September and March. Here a chugga ghar (feeding home) stores the grain used to feed the cranes. The high-pitched calls of the birds at first light are the signal for one of the village men to scatter grain all over the area. Soon the sky darkens as thousands of cranes arrive to feast, often less than 5 meters from the village folk with whom they have established a bond of trust over decades. Valmik Thapar, a well-known conservationist, has this to say about the scene "When I was in Kheechan the sight that confronted me was startling. The sand dunes around the village had apparently changed colour, covered as they were by hundreds of cranes. Every few minutes flocks of them were either landing or taking off, and the ground around me and the sky above were both so busy that my eyes had a difficult time keeping track of the coming and going. The people of the village were in continuous contact with the cranes, and at times I had to rub my eyes to believe the spectacle of birds, man and village."

The kindness of the villagers has a high price- literally. It costs several thousand pounds a year to provide the hundred tonnes of grain required to feed the birds: a staggering sum if you consider that the average per capita income in this community is less than forty pounds a year. The villagers are also known to take under their care injured and sick birds that are released into the wild after treatment. It is not just at Kheechan that vast number of cranes is seen. In the village of Shikarpur a small expanse of water regularly attracts over two thousand demoiselles, which are zealously protected by the inhabitants. Cranes traditionally symbolize good fortune, and most areas of water in the desert are full of them.

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