India is home to a wide variety of unique animal, bird, and fish species. According to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country boasts of 6.5% of the world’s wildlife species. This includes 12.6% of all bird species and 7.6% of all mammals.
However, illicit trade in wildlife products means some animals are close to extinction. Another report published by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) shows that poaching, unauthorized logging of trees, and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources are some of the factors that have contributed to the rise of endangered species in India. Some of the animals in danger of extinction include:
1. Indian Elephant
Unlike the African elephant, the Indian elephant is of average height of between seven and 12 feet. It can weigh anywhere from 3,600 kg to 5,000 kg with the skin color varying from grey to brown. You can find this elephant in wild and forested areas such as Bandipur, Manas, Mudumalai, Corbett, Palamu, Nagarhole, and Periyar.
These gentle giants mostly feed on grass, roots, twigs, forest fruits, leaves, and even cultivated crops. In a single day, an Indian elephant can easily clear 300 pounds of food. Currently, there are about 38,000 to 51,000 elephants in the subcontinent.
2. Bengal Tiger
According to the Web Journal of Endangered Species of India, tigers once roamed all over the Asia. However, human population growth over the last 100 years has reduced the tiger’s natural habitat by up to 93%. Some of the areas where you can find tigers include Corbett national Park in northern India and Madhya Pradesh in central India.To stop further decline in Bengal tiger numbers, the Indian government launched Project Tiger in 1973.
3. Indian Rhino
Indian rhinos also form part of endangered animals. These animals range in height from 1.6 m to 1.8 m tall and weigh anywhere from 1,600 kg to 2,200 kg. Unlike other animals, they do not have hair on their body and the average lifespan is about 47 years. You can find these rhinos in the Himalayan hills and northeastern parts of India.
4. Indian Lion
Just like their African counterparts, Indian lions are carnivorous and feed on wild pigs, Chital, Sambar, and Nigel. An adult lion weighs about 200 kg to 250 kg and stands 2.5 to 2.9 feet tall. You can find Indian lions on the open grasslands and areas with deciduous forests such as Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat.
Gaurs closely resemble bison and buffaloes and weigh about 700 to 1,500 kg with males significantly larger than females. You can find this endemic species in forested areas such as Assam, West Bengal, and Karnataka. They prefer to feed on grass, leaves, herbs, bamboo, and green plants.
6. Lion Tailed Macaque
Figures published by the Web Journal on Endangered Species of India show there are less than 2,500 adult Lion Tailed Macaque’s in India. Illegal poaching and destruction of the Macaque’s natural habitat are some of the factors that have contributed to a sharp decline in numbers. Some of the areas where you can find these animals include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and some parts of southwestern India.
7. Tibetan Antelope
Commonly known as the “Chiru,” these animals, which are in danger of extinction, have very soft furs. Figures from UNODC show that shawls made from this fur can fetch up to $16,000. This has fueled illegal poaching leading to the slaughter of more than 20,000 Tibetan Antelopes every year. Although a ban is in place, illegal hunting is still taking place.
It is very important to save the animals that are close to extinction in India such as the Bengal tiger, Indian elephant, Tibetan antelope, Indian rhino, and Indian lion. The government of India has set up a Special Tiger Protection Force as well as an anti-poaching act to deter illegal wildlife hunters. You too can play a part by supporting campaigns against illegal poaching such as Tiger Watch.