One cannot be truly human and civilised unless one looks upon not only fellowmen but all creation with the eyes of a friend, it is sad that in country after country, progress should become synonymous with an assault on the nature. We, who are a part of nature and dependent on her for every need, speak constantly about exploiting nature’, said Edward Thompson – British writer and good friend of India to which remarked Mahatma Gandhi ‘it is decreasing in the jungles but it is increasing in the towns’.
Since the 17th century, 120 species of animals and 150 of birds have become extinct. Uncontrolled hunting of wild life for pleasure, food, fur, skin, horns, tusks, pose a serious threat to the survival of wildlife. The Cheetah has been hunted to extinction in our country. The illegal trade in animal skins has been responsible for the destruction of large number of tigers, leopards, deer and snakes. Elephants have been hunted for ivory while the rhinos killed for their horns on the strength of the superstitious belief that it possesses aphrodisiac qualities.
With a land mass of 329 million hectares and a coastline of 7516 kms with oceans, lakes, rivers, the Himalayas and mountain ranges, the deserts, the plateaus, wetlands and the islands, India is the home to an amazing variety of fauna and flora. There are about 75,000 species of animals of which 340 species are mammals, 1200 birds, 420 reptiles, 140 amphibians, 2000 fishes, 50,000 insects, 4000 molluscs, and many other species of vertebrates. At the present estimate, 81 species of mammals, 38 of birds, 18 of amphibians and reptiles are considered to be endangered in India.
The wildlife census report titled “Status of Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India 2008” submitted by the Wildlife Institute of India estimated there are now1411 tigers in India’s Protected Areas with maximum 1657 or minimum of 1165 tigers. Today there are 25 national parks of tigers in 14 states under project tiger covering an area of 33,875 sq.km. The Asiatic lions once ruled the wild from the Mediterranean to India, today only 300 remain, says the National Geographic. India is the proud steward of these 300 lions which live primarily in a 560 sq.mile sanctuary – Gir forests in Gujarat. Elephants form an integral part of great temples and temple festivals. Krishna temple in Guruvayur, Kerala has its own elephants that carry the idols on seevali round every night. The Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur hosts the great Trichur Pooram whose major highlight is the array of caparisoned elephants. One-horned rhinos were to be found all along the north-eastern border of India and till 1903 Kaziranga was merely known as a game sanctuary. Today it has over 1250 rhinos. The lion-tailed macaque- one of the most endangered primates in India is found in the Niligiri, Annamalai and Cardamom Hills. The regions of the Himalays, Ladakh and Kumaon hills are home to the wild yak. People have domesticated yaks for centuries they supply milk, meat, fur, hair and hide for leather making and are also used as beasts of burden.
We have the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild, Fauna and Flora which came into effect in 1975, both basically aimed at wildlife protection. The Indian Board of Wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, is the apex body overseeing and guiding the wildlife conservation. The centre also provides financial and technical help to the states for development and improved management of national parks, protection of wildlife and control of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife products, eco-development in areas around national parks and sanctuaries. While promoting wildlife conservation awareness among all sections of the public, both the official agencies and the community must realise that they have a stake in preserving the balance of the nature. Any subtle attempt to tilt the balance will only tend to recoil on us.
You can contribute to wildlife conservation in the following ways:
- Do not buy bones, skulls, teeth, trophies or feathers of wild animals as to obtain these products, animals have to be killed and it means encouraging the wildlife trade.
- Do not hunt for sale or trade in wildlife because commercial sale of our animals reduces the tourism potential and regeneration potential of our forests, and is bringing some species close to extinction.
- Do not fish near the shore, especially in the mangroves. The mangroves are critical breeding grounds for most fishes and prawns.
- Do not keep wild animals as pets and birds like mynas, hornbills and parrots. By discouraging the pet trade, you are helping to eliminate the harvest of animals from the wild.
Let every citizen realise that the wildlife conservation and preservation is in his own best interest. There is a saying, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught”.