FLORA AND FAUNA
· Indian Flora
- o Introduction
- o Himalayan Range
- o Indo-Gangetic Plain
- o The Desert Region
- o Rainforest of Southern India
. India Fauna
- o Introduction
- o Mammalian faunas in India
- o Avi-faunas in India
- o Reptiles in India
- o The Himalaya Foothills
- o The High Altitude Region of Western Himalayas (Kashmir & Western Ladakh to Kumaon)
- o The Eastern Himalayan Sub – Zone
- o The Peninsular Indian Sub-Region
· Endangered Plant Species of India
- o Corypha Species
- o Cycas beddomei
- o Decalepis hamiltonii
- o Ilex Khasiana
- o Kingiodendron Pinnatum
- o Madhucca Diplostemon
- o Myristica Species
- o Pterocarpus Santalinus
- o Syzygium Travancoricum
· Endangered Animals of India
- o The Big cats
- o Elephants
- o Rhinoceroses
- o Tibetan Antelope
- o Cetaceans
· Organization working on the Conservation of Flora and Fauna
- o NGOs for Flora Conservation
- o NGOs for Fauna Conservation
Indian flora and fauna occupy most of its bio-diverse area including tropical and temperate forests, highlands, mountains, grassland, plains etc.
One can say that Indian flora and fauna is extremely rich and glorious with tinge of prehistoric element present in them. A wide range of Indian flora embraces coniferous and evergreen forests, tropical and temperate woods. The ethereal foothills of the Himalayas are adorned with deciduous trees, fern, grass, bamboos and shrubs.
Huge cultural and geographical variations can be attributed to India’s diversified flora and fauna as the lavish range of vegetation found here is most unique and not present in any other part of the world. Stretching from western through eastern Himalayas, Indus to Ganga plains, Assam, Deccan, Malabar and the Andaman – there are around 15,000 plant species found and each area has its own distinct vegetation.
Western Himalayas – Chirpine and conifers deodar blue pine, spruce, junipers, and silver fir
Eastern Himalayas – Birch, alder, rhododendrons, laurels, maples, oaks, and dwarf willows
Assam Region – Evergreen forests, plenty of bamboo, huge grasses
Along with their medicinal value, many plants in India are also important for their religious significance. Few plants/trees which bear great religious and cultural significance are as follows –
Neem – There are many legends associated with the Neem tree. It is easily found in almost every part of India and bears great medicinal and scientific value.
Tulsi – It is the most sacred plant in Hindu religion which adorns the head of Lord Vishnu. The medicinal value of this plant is invaluable. Today, its leaves are extensively used for the preparation of herbal tea. There are many legends linked to the Tulsi plant.
Turmeric plant – Turmeric plant generally grows in light black and red soil, in typical rain-fed conditions. It purifies blood and is found in every Indian kitchen as it is one of the prime spices here. Turmeric is also used for improving fertility while its roots signify prosperity and purity.
Other valuable plants/trees extensively found in and around Indian subcontinent are Peepal tree, Banyan tree, Kikar tree, Amla tree, Sal tree, Brahmi etc.
Himalayan Range –
The whole of the Himalayan region is extremely rich in vegetation. If the eastern part is covered with thick tropical forest, the western region is dominated by various coniferous trees like pine. Area wise specification is mentioned as follows –
Higher (snowline) altitude – Evergreen forests, high alpine meadows
Lower altitude – Temperate forests
Northwest Himalayas – Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii), deodar, spruce, junipers, silver fir, and blue pine
Inner Himalayas – Chilgoza (pine nut), ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides), maple, and oak
Eastern Himalayas – Dwarf willows, alder, maples, aks, laurels, rhododendrons and birch
Himalayan Foothills – Deciduous trees, shrubs, fern and grass. Bhabar (richest monsoon forests), tarai (relative drier), and the Siwalik ranges in the South are the three main portions the Foothills of Himalayas are divided into.
Assam Region – Evergreen forests with lots of bamboo and tall grasses, tea plantation, rice fields, and mulberry trees (in the slopes) of Himalayas.
Indo-Gangetic Plain –
This is one of the most intensively farmed zones of the world, stretching from Punjab to Assam, with extremely fertile soil.
Wheat in the west and Rice in the east are the main crops grown here and in many regions they grow in rotation. Other major crops of Indo-Gangetic Plain are Pulses, Sorghum, Sugarcane, Cotton, Maize and Oilseeds. It can be said that the whole Indo-Gangetic Plain is blessed with natural water irrigation facilities by the virtue of Ganga and other Himalayan rivers.
Throughout the summers and monsoons, major farm areas reap best qualities of mango; other famous fruits of this belt are guavas, plums, oranges, pomegranates, lemons and jackfruit.
The Desert Region –
India holds 18th rank as the largest subtropical desert of India. It covers the regions of Barmer, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur located in the north-western state of Rajasthan. Other Indian states with desert area are Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab.
The desert region endures erratic and scanty rainfall; short, underdeveloped and stout trees; leaves mostly reduced to spines. A fine combination of Tropical moist deciduous forests and Tropical dry deciduous trees is a salient feature of the desert region forests. Besides Cacti, various fauna varieties found in Indian deserts are below mentioned –
o Kanju (Holoptelia integrifolia)
o Ak (Calotropis gigantea)
o Khejra (Prosopis spicigera)
o reunjha (Acacia leucophloea)
o Sal (Shorea robusta)
o Semul (Bombax ceiba)
o Khair (Acacia catechu)
o Teak (Tectona grandis)
o Mahua (Madhuca indica)
o Common bamboo
o Amla (Emblica officinalis)
o Common bamboo, laurel and rosewood.
Rainforest of Southern India –
Rainforest region is scattered throughout the southwestern coast, major areas in India where it is found are as follows –
Kerala – Rainforest filled with coconut trees
Karnataka plateau – Dalbergia sissoo, dense sandal, and teak
Telengana plateau (Andhra Pradesh) – Thorny scrub, wild Indian date palm
Rainforests are also scattered in few regions of Andaman Islands and Arunachal Pradesh.
There are innumerable species found in the Indian subcontinent and this can be segregated in the following manner –
o 500 species of mammals,
o 200 species of birds, and
o 30000 species of the reptiles, insects and fishes.
Animals – Indian land is known for its conservation of rare mammals like Bengal tigers, single horned Indian rhinoceros, Indian Bison (wild buffalo) and Asian elephants. However, other popular species found here are barking deer, striped hyenas, big cats like leopard and panthers, smaller cat species, sambars, chitals, buffaloes, jackals, wild pig and goats etc.
Birds – India has a wide conservation of reserved Bird-sanctuaries. The land is specifically famous for colorful peacocks and parrots; a huge stock of migrant water birds is also present here.
Reptiles – Snakes, crocodiles, and lizards are the dominant reptile species, on the other hand, insects like scorpions are found in abundance.
Indian law protects much of its fauna. The nation has setup around 333 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 66 National Parks, and 35 Zoological Gardens.
Mammalian fauna in India –
Indian fauna is famous for a wide range of mammals like White and common lions, Royal Bengal Tigers, wild Bison, elephants, wild goats, cat family, deer, monkeys etc. Indian elephant species that inhabits amid the hilly and sparsely populated areas of Kerala, Karnataka, and Orissa form a major tourist attraction. Varieties of deer and antelope species are found in the confined, protected areas of Wildlife Sanctuaries. Various other species of mammals found in Indian forests are shaggy sloth bears, striped hyenas, Indian foxes, jackals, wild pigs, Indian wild dogs (dhole), wolves, massive Indian bisons (gaurs), and wild buffaloes.
Tigers are mainly found in Brahmaputra valley and Sunderbans. In the wake of saving the Tiger population in India, Indian government during 1973-74 initiated a project on Tiger Conservation for providing them proper environment for their healthy breeding and wellbeing. The project started off in nine reserves spreading a total area of 13,017sq.km.
Rare mammals are also found in –
o Rajasthan – Wild ass,
o The southern hills – Lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri mongoose, Malaber civer, and Nilgiri Langur,
o Deccan Plateau – Cheetahs,
o Gir area of Gujarat – Lions are conserved in and around the rocky hills of the region.
Besides, spotted deer, southern hills, leopards, wolves are some of the mammals which are found in almost all Indian forests.
Avi-fauna in India –
Indian statistics on birds are as follows –
o Around 1250 species and sub-species of birds are found in India.
o At least 141 species are indigenous to this region only.
o In total, around 77 families of birds are recorded.
Rich and colorful birds commonly found in India are peacock, parrot, pigeons, hornbills, cranes, parakeets, mynahs, geese ducks, pheasants and many other immigrant birds.
Indian forests embrace different type of birds including fishing owls, large hornbills, serpent eagles, and the beautiful peacock (Indian National Bird). Indian parks and sanctuaries are filled with different water birds, such as herons, cranes, pelicans, storks, ibises etc.
Reptiles in India –
The reptile life residing in and around Indian sanctuaries is also worth mentioning. Over 450 species of amphibians and reptiles are found here including magnificent monitor lizards, large freshwater tortoises, Kraits, King cobras, crocodiles, pythons.
Alongside, around 10,000 insect species are also found in India like Idiopid spider, locusts, silkworms, praying mantis, Scorpions, bees, and the Lac insect.
The Himalaya Foothills –
In Northern India, the rich monsoon forest area of tarai is also famous for its fauna. Typical big mammals like barking deer, cheetal, hog deer, swamp deer etc. are present here. Again, this forest area is also famous for the jackal, tiger, hyena, black and sloth bears, wild dogs, Panther etc. Porcupine (rodent category) and One horned rhinoceros are also the major attractions here.
The High Altitude Region of Western Himalayas (Kashmir & Western Ladakh to Kumaon) –
Altitudinal zone (1500 mt, to 2500 mt.) and alpine zone are divided by a belt of coniferous-pine forest. This transition zone is extremely famous for its rich fauna belonging to the higher altitude alpine zone. Many species keep shifting from zone to zone in order to adjust themselves with the altering weather conditions.
In extreme cold temperature of Ladakh, Wild Ass (endangered and rare) and Yak of the bovid family can still be found. In Indian Himalayas three species of wild goats are found, namely Thar, Markhor and Ibex. Ibex species is extended over Central Asia from the Himalayas to the Altai region, as far as Europe. High cold Tibetan plateau region and its adjoining areas are also famous for two types of antelopes, the chiru and the Tibetan gazelle. ‘Musk – deer Breeding Project’ launched by the Government of Uttar Pradesh has helped saving the threatened species of Musk deer.
Again, three major species of wild sheep are also found in the Western Himalayas, namely Nayan, Argali, Bhral or blue sheep.
o Nayan – Ladakh to Tibet
o Argali – the Himalayas to Siberia
o Bhral or blue sheep – Western Himalaya spreading across Sikkim and Nepal.
The Eastern Himalayan Sub – Zone –
In comparison to the west, the Himalayas on the eastern zone have higher altitudes and humidity owing to which snowfall is rare. Here, the fauna feature is characterized by the Indo-Chinese fauna. Chief species attractions are crestless porcupines, ferret badgers, hog badgers, and red panda. Three famous types of goat antelopes found here are Scrow, Goral and Takin.
The Peninsular Indian Sub-Region –
The food plains of the Indo-Gangetic basin in the northwards to the Great Thar desert of Rajasthan westwards, this whole peninsula is characterized by the Deccan plateau. Peninsular India and the Drainage Basin of the Ganges are filled with deciduous forests. Major animals residing in these forests are ubiquitous wild boar, the auriferous sambar deer, elephant, and munijak. The four-horned antelope and Indian mouse deer are also found here. In the rain forest of Malaya resides Seladang. Amongst the antelopes: Chinkara gazelle, the Blackbuck, and Nilgai are mainly found here.
Endangered Plant Species of India
India is home to approximately 49,000 plant species — equating to about 12 percent of the known species in the world. At least 20 percent of India’s plant species are threatened or endangered. The main causes of the reduction in the population of plants are destruction of their natural habitats, commercial harvesting and exploitation, and low reproduction rates.
Talipot Palms, Corypha species, are tall palm trees that are endangered. Some species are found only in cultivated locations. The tree grows 50 to 60 years before blooming and then slowly dies. This has led to a decline in its population.
Cycas beddomei, commonly called Peritha or Pireetha, is an evergreen plant that grows 15 to 20 feet tall. It grows on dry open slopes, open woodlands and grasslands in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Its population has been decimated by harvesting for trade and medicinal uses, and is considered critically endangered.
Decalepis hamiltonii is a shrub that grows in deciduous forests of Peninsular India. It is endangered due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation. All parts of the plant contain alkaloids and glycosides that are used in medicines and pesticides. Some common names for Decalepis hamiltonii are Maredugeddalu, Nannari and Sariba.
Another critically endangered shrub is Ilex khasiana. There are only three or four known plants left on Shillong Peak in the Khasi Hills. The plant population has declined due to the plant’s low rate of reproduction.
Malabar Mahogany, Kingiodendron pinnatum, is a large tree that grows in the forested hills of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is endangered due to over exploitation, habitat destruction, and low reproduction rates.
Madhucca diplestomon is a small tree that grows in the forests on Deccan Peninsula. It is endangered due to habit destruction caused by agriculture, clear cutting and human habitations.
Myristica magnifica and M. malabarica are endangered trees that are native to Western Ghats. The swamp lands and lowlands where they normally grow have been drained for agricultural use.
Reds Sandalwood, Pterocarpus santalinus, is a tree that only grows in the dry, deciduous forests of Eastern Ghats. It is endangered due to logging and clear cutting of its habitat, in addition to harvesting for use in medicines and cosmetics.
Syzygium travancoricum is a large shrub or small tree that is critically endangered. There are some populations in Guddrikal and Grove Aickad. The swampy wetlands where it normally grows have been drained for use as paddy fields.
Endangered Animals of India
India is home to a vast range of animal and bird species, making it a good place to view wildlife. However, many of these are now endangered species, some even critically so. The reasons are the same – loss of habitat thanks to man clearing more and more spaces for his use, hunting for various purposes, and ecosystem destabilization.
The Bengal Tiger is perhaps the most widely recognized as endangered, due to the media spotlight on it. However, there are other species that are equally important, and equally at risk. Let’s get to know more about these endangered animals.
The Big cats
The Bengal Tiger is presently endangered, largely because of human activity. The beginning of the 20th century saw as many as 40,000 tigers in Indian forests. This number has dwindled at an alarming rate since then, because of the destruction of their habitat. Also, the skin and certain bones of tigers are thought to have some healing powers according to Chinese medicine.
Apart from the tiger, the Asiatic Lion and the Himalayan Snow Leopard are also among the list of endangered species.
This species is hunted purely for its ivory tusks. The demand for ivory has resulted in elephants being poached. The male of the species bears the tusks, and killing them results in a male-female ratio imbalance which eventually threatens the very existence of the species.
Loss of natural habitat and poaching appear to be the reasons behind the endangerment of this species. The One-Horned Indian Rhinoceroses have declined in numbers ever since agricultural lands began invading the grasslands. Nepal and India remain the last places where they are protected.
The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the smallest of the species that is now critically endangered mainly due to poaching. What is tragic is that this huge animal is killed just for its tiny horn.
The Tibetan Antelope commonly known as the Chiru is popular for the wool it produces. This wool, called shahtoosh, is extremely fine and is the source for some very expensive shawls. Even though a ban on trading of this wool was imposed in order to protect the animal, its numbers continue to decline.
These include the whales and dolphins. The dolphins in the Indus and Ganges as well as the whales in Indian waters, namely the Humpback Whale, Sei Whale, Blue Whale and the Sperm Whale are all on the list of endangered species in India.
These lesser known animals include many species of shrews of which only small numbers exist. Some species of bats for instance the Fruit Bat are also on the list. Critically endangered among the small mammals is the Namdapha Flying Squirrel. It is unfortunate that animal preservation organizations usually do not include these animals in their campaigns.
The Golden Leaf Monkey and the Capped Leaf Monkey are also endangered because of poachers, capture for zoos and the pet trade.
The future for India’s endangered animals seems bleak. Actually, it is quite evident that humans are thinking only about themselves and paying little or no respect towards the multitude in the animal kingdom. The dwindling numbers of certain animals that are now on the brink of extinction is proof enough. The time has come that we change our way of thinking, such that we learn to conserve wildlife, and do our best to protect species from extinction.
Organizations working on the Conservation of Flora and Fauna
NGOs for Fauna Conservation
o Wildlife Trust of India have been very vocal about the Red Jungle fowl and Golden Haired Langur
o Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) collaborate with state governments to monitor illegal wildlife trade
o TRAFFIC India fights wildlife trafficking in India
o Wildlife First works for the conservation of wild life in Karnataka
NGOs for Flora Conservation
o Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)
o Centre for Science & Environment (CSE)
o Greenpeace India
o Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)
o Wildlife Conservation Society -India Program
o Indian Green Guilding Council (IGBC)
o Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG)
o Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
o Manas National Park
o Indian Farm Forestry Development Co-Operative Limited (IFFDC)