Monday, October 6, 2008

Indian Wildlife

Documentation of Indian Natural history goes back to Vedas. The growth of Indian natural history in modern era is due to the keen interest shown by the British rulers. India with its diverse landscape, fauna and flora caught the eye of the British naturalists many of whom where in administrative service while serving in India.

The Vedas are the earliest record which list the names of 250 species of birds besides notes on various fauna and flora. The Vedas mention brood parasitism in Koel. The method of capture, taming and eventual training of wild elephants in India was documented in text dated 2000 years back.

The fauna and flora of ancient India are represented in clay potteries and tablets excavated from ancient civilizations. The protection of animals and forest conservation was first recorded in the Mauryan period especially during the period when Ashoka became a Buddhist and relinquished royal hunt.

Among Moghul rulers hunting and falconry was regularly practiced and the kings took a keen interest in documentation of nature Jehangir and Babur being the foremost. The notes from hired scribes during Moghul rule indicate widespread range of many animals which are now locally extinct in those areas.

During the British Raj, Indian Civil Services employed British naturalists many of whom studied Indian natural history out of curiosity while other collected wild species for naturalists and museums in Europe and Great Britain. Unfortunately destruction of forests and hunting went on a large scale by Indian princes and British royalties. As a result the lion was reduced to a small pocket in Gujarat and the India Cheetah became extinct. The precarious state of Indian tiger is as a result of indiscriminate poaching and habitat destruction.

During the British rule and post independence period Bombay Natural History Society has done a commendable work on Indian natural history by studying and recording nature and wild animals in India. The society is engaged in productive active of nature conservation as well.

India records around 1300 species of birds including sub species while there are more than 300 mammalian species. The list of reptiles and insects including butterflies is also very impressive. Due to influence of various zoo geographical zones Indian wildlife is unique.

Many wild species in India are threatened with extinction and wildlife itself survives in badly fragmented pockets. The tiger is one such case where in the population has decreased to few thousands from estimated forty thousand during the British Raj.

Most of the flora and fauna in India now survive in tiger reserves, Indian National Parks and sanctuaries scattered all over the country and contiguous forest belts are rare and diminishing. For tourists wildlife safaris at the conservation areas NPs and tiger reserves is the best way to see the tiger and other Indian wild animals.

Most of the National Parks and wildlife resorts have tourism zones for tiger safaris and bird watching. These are popular for tiger sightings, wildlife photography and watching wild animals like deer and lesser carnivore. Most popular reserves in India are Corbett National Park, Ranthambhore, Kaziranga, Manas, Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh also Pench in Central India.

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