Sujalam, suphalam, malayaja shitalam,
Phullakusumita drumadala shobhinim,
Suhasinim, Sumadhura bhashinim,
Sukhadam veradam, Mataram!”
The lines describe the richness, perfection and beauty of our country India —a peninsular country of Asia known for its varied culture and heritage. It is equally famous for its vibrant wildlife.
Social structure of our country where people, forests and animals coexist peacefully knitting the saga of a perfect society is known throughout the world.
This aura of tranquility encircles all the spheres of our country and from its womb came high ideals of Buddism and Jainism where animals and plants are given equal status as humans.
The special status that our society shares with wild life has raised its status from a mere society to cosmos. All the principles and laws of nature are perfect in a wildlife and that is the reason why ancient scholars called forest as the ‘universal teacher’.
Wildlife of India is so diverse and beautiful that it is hard to demarcate it into specific zones. But for the convenience of study we can classify Indian wildlife into three sub-regions:
(a) Himalayan sub-region
(b) Tropical rain forest sub-region
(c) Indian peninsular sub-region
This extends from foothills of the western Himalayas to eastern Himalayas. The species of this region shows similarity to Polar region and tropical region. Himalayan foothills consist of tropical forests and the dominant species is Sal.
It is also characterized by tall grassy meadows, river rain forests of Khair and Sissoo. Some of the animals commonly found in this region are elephant, sambar, cheetal, wild boar, sloth bear, and panther tiger. Some of the rare animals found exclusively in India are great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and wild buffalo.
Western Himalayas have temperate forest. The zone forests, oak, dwarf hill bamboo, followed by alpine pastures up to the snowline. The species in these regions show summer and winter migration. Some of the common animals of high attitude are wild ass, wild goats, sheep and yak.
Eastern Himalayas are unique. There is high rainfall and less snow fall confined to high altitude. Vegetation of the region mainly consists of oak, birches, magnolias, pine fir. The fauna of the region are red pandas, badgers, porcupines. The goats are mainly sorrow goral and takin.
Tropical rain forest sub-region:
it consists of the northern States, West Bengal, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These areas receive heavy rainfall.The vegetation includes evergreen forests, e forest is three storied tall and magnetic trees top and rich environment is capable of providing food and shelter to most animals and birds. Here almost all kinds of animals from ground dwellers as well as tree dwellers are found.
In South Nilgiris, Annamalai, Palani hills have extensive grass land dotted with patches of dense evergreen forests. These grass lands are called “sholas”. These are unique ecosystems. They are the roaming and breeding grounds of elephants gore and other animals. The species diversity is high in the region.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands coming under equatorial belt are diverse and unique. The island vegetation includes tropical rain forests. Most parts of the island are free from human settlements. It is one of the most species rich forests of world. The biodiversity is so high that it contributes to half of our country’s biodiversity.
Some of the important trees are padauk, gurjai, silver gray, etc. Some endemic animal species of the islands are wild pig, hornbill, Nicobar megapode, white bellied sea eagle, Andaman cat and Nicobar legless snake.
The mangrove forest of Sunderbans with the very special sundari trees and tigers are world famous. This fertile delta formed by rivers, the Ganges and Brahmaputra also have rhesus monkey, lizard, pigs, spotted deer and waver ants making nest on trees. The tiger here is most interesting which swims in creeks and have propensity of killing human beings.
Indian peninsular sub-region:
It includes the Great Plains to plateaus spreading from base of Himalayas to Kanyakumari but excludes Malabar Coast. It consists of the hot deserts of Thar in asthan, separated by Aravalli ranges and Indus as west and east Thar. They are connected by It flats of little Rain of Kutch. Tropical deciduous wood finds of peninsular India forms rest of the sub region.
Desert area is marked by xerophytes; dry tropical, dry mixed deciduous, thorn forests, scrub forests and dry savanna forest. The main plant species are succulents, cacti. The animals of the region show desert adaptation. Some of them are Asiatic wild ass, black buck, desert cat, snakes, and lizards.
The wildlife of India also consists of coral reefs of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These are highly sensitive polyps which are destroyed even by the slight change in pressure and temperature of sea water.
The coral reefs of region are among most pristine in the world. The reefs are fringing reefs and these prevent coastal erosion and storm damage temperature of sea water. The coral reefs of region are among most pristine in the world. The reefs are fringing reefs and these prevent coastal erosion and storm damage.
Sages of ancient India believed that forest is the best place to observe the cycles of life. According to ancient scriptures, the life of a human is divided into four ashramas and vanaprastha is the most important among them. It is here that man comes to realise his true self.
Thus Indian culture was always influenced by wildlife and its beings. But modern man and his highly developed and white matter has failed to give the due importance. The failure resulted in the sad stories of tiger aristae, olive riddles of Orissa and rhinoceros of Assam.
Wildlife also plays important role in the maintenance of ecological balance. Once the fragile thread of this balance is broken it’s too hard to rectify it. Wildlife adds aesthetic value to life. Without these wonderful creatures it would be a dull place for man to live.
The forests are reserves of important medicines e.g., quinine to treat malaria obtained from cinchona trees of Peru. The forests and animals are also cultural asset that inspires poets’ artists to compose songs, poems and paintings.
There are only few people who realize the importance of these facts and only a very few are willing to act for it. Our country’s wildlife is depleting rapidly. The warning bells have already rung.
On analysis the reasons for this tremendous rate of depletion the only conclusion we draw is anthropogenic. Natural calamities like earth quake, floods and forest fires destroy rich and vast wildlife. But the rate of anthropogenic causes of wildlife destruction is rapid. Deforestation and hunting are two main reasons for wild life destruction.
It was only in the late sixties that hearing the alarm calls of wild the Government came into action. The earliest remedial measures were taken by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Indian Board for Wildlife (IBWL) was set up to look after country’s wild life since 1955. Wildlife Week is celebrated to educate people. Wildlife Act 1972 was enacted to protect rare and endangered species.
National wildlife action plan of 1983-84 rehabilitated many endangered and threatened species of captive breeding. National Parks were established to protect fauna and flora with no human activities allowed. There 85 National Parks.
Some of the popular ones are guipure (Karnataka), Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) wild life sanctuaries established to protect fauna only where little human activities are allowed. The local tribes of the region play a unique role in protecting these. There are about 448 wildlife sanctuaries.
Chipko Andolan and celebration of Vana Maiiotsava specifically give the heartening message: there is still hope for people to come together against this. India is a country that praises the very broad-minded concept of “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” where man realizes world to be his only home and all creatures as his fellow beings.
Being an integral part of such a diverse tradition it’s the duty of each Indian to protect the country’s beautiful and diverse wildlife.