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| Last Updated:: 02/12/2013

Endangered Species

 (Source: Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats. Ministry of Environment & Forests, New Delhi, 2009)


(Photo: G.S. Rawat)
The snow leopard is perhaps the most endangered of the large cats, with an estimated population of only 400 to 700 individuals in five Himalayan states in India. This species suffers from intense conflicts with rural communities, habitat degradation and depletion of natural prey base, poaching for its exquisite fur and valuable bones (used in traditional Chinese medicine). The state of Jammu & Kashmir has the distinction of harbouring a major portion of existing snow leopard population in India.

(Photo: I.P. Bopanna)
The Bustards are an extremely endangered group of birds dependent on grassland ecosystems. Once upon a time, they used to occur in the arid, semi-arid and moist grasslands across the country. There are four species of Bustards in India Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, Bengal Florican and Houbara Bustard. They are among the most threatened of the 22 Bustards found in the world. The Great Indian Bustard is now locally extinct from almost 90 per cent of its former range. The present population is estimated to be less than 1000 only. Similarly, perhaps, only less than 2500 Lesser Floricans survive in the whole world. The total global population of Bengal Florican could be between 400 to 500 individuals. The status of Houbara Bustard is also no more encouraging. These species have depleted, mainly due to the degradation of grasslands.

(Photo: Sandeep Behera)
The Gangetic or River Dolphin is one of the most endangered species found in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. They are the symbols of the ecological health of our major river systems. The emphasis on crocodiles, as the flagship species of the river systems has helped this species to some extent, but the waning of focused efforts of conservation have again resulted in their decline.

(Photo: Lalit Kumar Sharma)
Kashmir Stag or Hangul is one of the most critically endangered species found in the temperate grasslands of western Himalayas. Dachigam National Park in Kashmir represents one such grassland habitat that supports Hangul, a highly threatened and the only subspecies of the Red deer (Cervus elaphus) to be found in India, which is now confined only to the Kashmir Valley.

(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)
Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat, is the highly threatened flagship species occur on the crest lines and ridge forests of the southern Western Ghats. The ideal habitat of this species is the rocky outcrops adjacent to the shola-grasslands and other ridge forests. Only less than 2000 individuals of this species is remaining in the wild in the whole world with the major population confined to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala and Grizzled Giant Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.

(Photo: Reefwatch)
Dugong (Dugong dugon) is the only herbivorous mammal that is strictly marine and the only member of the Order Sirenia found in India. Dugongs are restricted to coastal shallow marine habitats and grazes on the sea grass meadows in coastal waters and are therefore called as “Sea Cows”. In India, it is one of the most seriously endangered species of large mammals. Dugongs are vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures as they are solely dependent on sea grasses in coastal areas, which now have been seriously damaged by mining, trawling etc. Dugongs have also been hunted for their meat, oil, hides, bones and teeth.

(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)
The Asian wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) has been designated as endangered by the IUCN and included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The wild buffalo was once widely distributed over the tracts of tall grasslands and riverine forests in India and Nepal. The present population of wild buffalo in its entire range is estimated to be lower than 2,000 individuals.

(Photo: S.A. Hussain)
The Manipur brow-antlered deer, (Cervus eldi eldi McClelland 1842), popularly called 'Sangai' is a unique animal found only in Manipur in the whole world. The Sangai or the Manipur race of the Elds deer is the only deer which has adapted itself to the swampy habitat. The Sangai population dwindled rapidly in the beginning of 20 century under heavy hunting pressure and the continuous habitat destruction. In fact, the deer was considered almost extinct during 1950s.

(Photo: Pushp K. Jain)
Nine species of vultures are recorded from India of which five belong to the genus Gyps. Three Gyps vultures, namely the Oriental Rumped Vulture (OWRV) Gyps bengalensis, Long-billed Vulture (LBV) Gyps indicus and Slender-billed Vulture (SBV) Gyps tenuirostris are residents, and the remaining two, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis are largely wintering species. OWRV and LBV were abundant across India until the 1990s. Vultures are nature's most efficient scavengers. The Gyps vultures are specialized to feed on the soft tissue of the large ungulate carcasses. They play a vital role in the ecosystem by cleaning up the rotten carcasses left in the open. The population of Gyps vultures in the Indian subcontinent has crashed since 1990s onwards. The populations of OWRV, SBV and LBV had declined by around 97% during the last two decades. Veterinary use of the non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug 'diclofenac' is the main cause attributed for this drastic population decline.

(Photo: Helmut Diles/ WWF-India)
The Malabar large spotted civet (Viverra civettina Blyth, 1862) was once a common species in the coastal districts of Malabar and Travancore in southwest India in the low elevation moist forests of the Western Ghats. By the late 1950s it was reported to be almost 'extinct'. None were seen for a long period of time until 1987, when it was rediscovered about 60 km east of Calicut in Kerala. Extensive deforestation has reduced the Malabar civet's.

(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)
The great one-horned or Indian rhinoceros once existed across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, and including parts of Nepal and Bhutan. The species now exists only in a few small population units generally situated in the north-eastern India and in Nepal. The latest population estimation of the species shows that only less than 2,700 animals remain in the wild.

(Photo: Mohd. Zahir)
The GIR forest, a dry deciduous forest ecosystem in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is the abode of the last surviving population of the free ranging Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica). The total distribution range of lion in this region is estimated to be around 9000 in three districts, i.e. Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar, of which GIR National Park, GIR Wildlife Sanctuary, Paniya Wildlife Sanctuary and Mitiyal Wildlife Sanctuary account for about 1,193 The conservation initiatives taken so far have resulted in arresting the trend of population decline of lions. As per the 2005 Census, the total population of Lion is 359+ 10, which includes 89 male, 124 female, 72 sub adult and 74 cubs.

(Photo: Joseph Vattakaven)
The Swamp deer or Barasingha (Cervus duvauceli) were once abundant throughout the tall wet grasslands of the North Indian Terai region, the Brahamaputra flood plains, and the Central Indian grasslands bordering sal (Shorea robusta) forests. Currently, the swamp deer populations are confined to the States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh (duvauceli), Assam (ranjitsinhii) and Madhya Pradesh (branderi) in India. At present, the population estimates for the northwestern subspecies of swamp deer in India is about 1800-2400 individuals; for the northeastern subspecies is about 400-500 individuals; and the central subspecies is about 300 - 350 individuals.  The Swamp deer has declined over the years, as a result of loss of habitat and biotic pressures over much of its former range. The Swamp deer habitats are threatened due to change in river dynamics and human developmental activities, increase in siltation, weed invasion, and reduced flow of water during critical periods of summer.  Swamp deer is also threatened due to poaching for its meat, particularly the populations that occur outside PAs.