India is home to a rich diversity of wildlife supplemented by an equally rich variety of flora and fauna. The sight and sounds of a majestic elephant, a peacock’s dance, the stride of a camel, the roar of a tiger are unparalleled experiences in themselves. Watching birds and animals in their natural habitats is an experience in itself.
India has some of the world’s most biodiverse regions. The political boundaries of India encompass a wide range of ecozones—desert, high mountains, highlands, tropical and temperate forests, swamplands, plains, grasslands, areas surrounding rivers, as well as island archipelago. It hosts three biodiversity hotspots: the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, and the hilly ranges that straddle the India-Myanmar border. These hotspots have numerous endemic species.
The country offers immense opportunities for wildlife tourism. The immense heritage of wildlife in India comprises of more than 70 national parks and about 400 wildlife sanctuaries including the bird sanctuaries.
The flora and fauna of India have been studied and recorded from early times in folk traditions and later by researchers following more formal scientific. A little under 5% of this total area is formally classified under protected areas.
India is home to several well-known large mammals including the Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Leopard and Indian Rhinoceros. Some of these animals are engrained in culture, often being associated with deities. These large mammals are important for wildlife tourism in India and several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs. The popularity of these charismatic animals has helped greatly in conservation efforts in India. The tiger has been particularly important and Project Tiger started in 1972 was a major effort to conserve the tiger and its habitats. Project Elephant, though less known, started in 1992 and works for elephant protection. Most of India’s rhinos today survive in the Kaziranga National Park. Other well-known large Indian mammals include ungulates such as the Water Buffalo, Nilgai, Gaur and several species of deer and antelope. Some members of the dog family such as the Indian Wolf, Bengal Fox, Golden Jackal and the Dhole or Wild Dogs are also widely distributed. It is also home to the Striped Hyaena. Many smaller animals such as the Macaques, Langurs and Mongoose species are especially well known due to their ability to live close to or inside urban areas.
A paradise for the nature lovers, these forest areas are also crucial for the conversation of the endangered species like the Leopard, Lion, Asiatic Elephant, the Bengal tiger and Siberian Crane. Spread across the length and breadth of India, these reserves and forest areas, right from the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan to the Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary in Bihar, from the foothills of Himalayas, the Jim Corbett National Park to six national parks in India has its fair share of Tiger Reserves. India’s National Animal, the tiger happens to be a symbol of strength and speed. India boasts of two-dozen Tiger Reserves. The fastest mammal on Earth, the tiger happens to be the joy and pride of India. The Royal Bengal tiger is amongst the most majestic species of the tiger. Sixty percent of the total population of the wild tigers in the world resides in India. Amongst the best-known tiger reserves in India is the Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. It is often referred to as the crown in the wildlife heritage of India. Tourists at Bandhavgarh can spot Royal Bengal Tigers, cheetals, leopard, gaur, sambhar, and many more faunal species. The highly successful Project Tiger has shown once again that man can only undo in small ways the loss and destruction of natural habitat due to continuous growth and expansion of the population.
Indian wildlife has its share of native birds along with the migratory birds. Several hundred species of birds can be spotted across India. The Himalayan region is well known to be the natural habitat for the Pheasant, griffon vulture and ravens. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park popularly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in the Indian state of Rajasthan, in close proximity of Delhi, is home to indigenous water birds, waterside birds, migratory water birds, land migratory birds, and domestic land species. Tourists from far and wide are attracted to the Bird Sanctuary. At the Dudhwa wildlife reserve migratory birds like Egrets, herons, storks and cormorants share space with the ducks, geese and teals.