¤ India - A Hub of Diverse
Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries
India has a wealth of about 80 National Parks and 441 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.These are literally a living museum of nature's
creations with a variety of animals, plants, landscapes and rock
Though the Indian subcontinent has a great variety of wildlife, but
the thick and dense forests account for poor visibility. The
spotting of wild animals depends greatly on their habit and distinct
daily and seasonal patterns of activity. The frequency of wildlife
sightings in national parks and sanctuaries varies depending on the
time of the year.
India has a mind-boggling diversity of vegetation and wildlife. As
many as 16 forest types are found in India, with over 15,000 species
of plants. However, the impressive statistics are fast dwindling, and
if measures are not taken to check deforestation, it wont be
long before barren stretches replace jungles.
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 Himalayas. 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
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 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.
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.
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 wild
dogs. 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
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.