Endangered Species & Conservation in India

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson you'll be learning about the endangered and recently extinct species in India. You'll also learn about conservation efforts like creating national parks, reserves and sanctuaries as well as the Project Tiger efforts.

What Are Endangered Species

Picture one of your favorite wild environments. Many people envision the tropical rainforests of Brazil or the mountains of India. These areas teem with biodiversity, or a wide variety of species, From tiny bugs to enormous elephants. However, you might be surprised to know that many of these species are endangered, or in danger of going extinct. Today, we're going to be looking at examples of some endangered species in India as well as conservation efforts and species that recently are extinct.

Endangered Species in India

India is a country of overwhelming sensations. In bustling cities like New Dehli, women dressed in traditional saris flock to the Ganges for spiritual rituals. Monkeys attempt to steal food from patrons on the street. But, the wildlife only gets richer as you move from India's overflowing metropolis into the wild. India has an incredibly diverse climate, from the hostile Himalayas to the lush, tropical Western Ghats. However, all environments have endangered species that are at risk from habitat destruction and hunting as Indian cities expand.

Snow Leopard

Imagine hiking in a snowstorm. High wind and icy snow pelts your face. Your boots sink right through the deep snow and progress is nearly impossible. Although you would surely struggle in this environment, some animals make their home in these conditions high in the Himalayan mountains of India. One example is the endangered snow leopard. These beautiful cats have thick fur to protect them from the elements. Their paws are large like snowshoes, allowing them to gracefully walk through the snow. Unfortunately, these graceful creatures are hunted for their fur and by farmers when snow leopards prey on their livestock.

Snow leopard are an endangered species
snow leopard

Bengal Tiger

Although the snow leopard is on the small side, weighing only about 120 pounds, not all big cats in India are that small. The Bengal Tiger weighs up to 500 pounds. Bengal tigers are aggressive, with large territories they will vigorously defend. They are found in tropical rainforests, grasslands and swamps of Southern India. These beautiful cats are fierce, eating up to 60 pounds of meat in one sitting from large game. Bengal tigers are under attack from humans for their pelts, habitat destruction and human fear of attack. Although most Bengal tigers will leave humans alone, some sick tigers become man-eaters, stalking local villagers instead of wildlife.

Hunting and habitat destruction has made the Bengal tiger an endangered species
Bengal tiger

Ganges River Dolphin

The large cats of India are a common image when talking about endangered species. However, aquatic species are at risk as well. The Ganges river dolphin is a rare freshwater dolphin living only in the Ganges river of Western India. Growing up to about 9 feet in length and about 370 pounds, this large dolphin eats turtles, fish and birds native to the Ganges. Unfortunately due to hunting, accidental death in fishing nets and the high levels of pollution in the Ganges, this dolphin is endangered.

Conservation Efforts in India

Although many species are becoming endangered, India is taking measures to preserve them. India is creating large areas of land that are reserved for wildlife, called biosphere reserves. These areas encompass a large space of one type of biosphere, such as the tropical rainforest, and can support organisms from all parts of the food web, from plants to top predators. In the center of the biosphere reserve is the core zone. This area is typically a national park or sanctuary that is off limits to humans. There should be no human impact at all in the core zone.

As you travel out from the core zone, you enter the buffer zone. This area is still protected, but incorporates parts of human-wildlife interactions that are controlled. For example, in this area, humans may visit for hiking, fishing, and other forms of limited tourism.

On the outer edge of the biosphere reserve is the transition zone. This is where human meets wildlife. Villages may subside here, with small areas for crops, managed forests for economic purposes and heavy recreational use. Although humans live in this area, this zone is closely managed by wildlife conservationists.

To understand a biosphere reserve, imagine going on a safari in India. Although you're a bit nervous, your guide picks you up at your hotel in Corbett National Park, a designated national park for tiger preservation.

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