On Monday, the results of the tiger census report showed that the number of these big cats in India had jumped 33% from 2014 to touch 2,967 in 2018. This is good news for the endangered species, which is the focus of special conversation measures from the government. But tigers are not the only animals in India that need protection.
The Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature categorises 682 animal species in India as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. In addition, more than 1,000 species of mammals, plants, birds, fungi, reptiles, amphibians, fish and molluscs in India are listed as threatened.
Here is a list of five critically endangered species in India.
Great Indian Bustard
This large bird was listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1994 and became listed as critically endangered in 2018. Yet, the population of the Great Indian Bustard continues to decline because of a loss of habitat, often due to encroachment by mining and quarrying activities. The species is found mostly in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The population of this species in 2008 was around 300 birds. This was an 82% drop since the population was last recorded in 1969.
The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change on July 12 said that it had started a breeding programme to build a “captive population” of the species that will later be released in their habitats. The species is also part of the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat started in 2007 to expand conservation efforts.
Gharials are a crocodile species found mostly around the Indo-Gangetic plain. They were first listed as endangered by the IUCN in 1982 and as critically endangered in 2007. The estimated population of this species is between 300 to 900, as per surveys conducted from 2010 to 2017, according to the IUCN.
The population of this species has declined by 82% since 1943 for several reasons: the poaching of gharial eggs for food and medicinal purposes, dam construction that resulted in habitat fragmentation, irrigation that depleted water sources in dry seasons, river interlinking that changed gharial migratory patterns and sand mining that reduced their nesting area, among other reasons.
The IUCN notes that the population trend of gharials is increasing. In January, it was reported that the population of gharials was reviving on the Gandhak, a tributary of the Ganga
that flows through both Nepal and India. This came after the Bihar Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India started a conservation effort in 2014 by rearing 30 captive-born gharials and then releasing them in the Gandhak. They were closely monitored in the wild.
The Malabar Civet or the Malabar Large-Spotted Civet may just be India’s most engendered mammal. The last time it was sighted was in 1987.
The species is native to the Western Ghats and found mostly in southern Indian regions such as Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, Wayanad, Kerala and Coorg, Karnataka. These terrestrial animals prefer lowland forests but such habitats around the Western Ghats are disappearing as they are increasingly been used for agriculture.
The species were recorded as endangered in 1986 by the IUCN and as critically endangered in 2008. As of 2016, the estimated population of the species stood at 249.
The Hangul or Kashmiri deer is native to parts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. It is a sub-species of the European red deer. It was assessed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2016. Their population is estimated to be around 150, with a decreasing population trend.
Their habitats include mountainous areas in summer where food is easily available in the form of shrubs and tree shoots and grasslands in winter to chew on grass and other plants like sedges.
Its decline is the result of illegal hunting. According to the IUCN, the presence of hanguls was not closely monitored in Dachigam National Park in Srinagar because the park had been occupied by both the armed forces and insurgents. This could have increased the poaching of this deer, the IUNC said.
In 2017, it was reported that the Jammu and Kashmir government was attempting to save the deer by relocating a sheep-breeding farm that is located inside the national park and eats into about 100 hectare of the hangul’s habitat. But experts said that the problem was much bigger as the national park was in the vicinity of the Amarnath shrine, a popular pilgrimage site, and a golf course, which was built around the deer’s habitat.
Pygmy hogs were recorded as endangered species in 1986 by the IUCN and later as critically endangered in 1996. They are most found in Assam and Northern parts of West Bengal.
The animals choose dense grasslands as their habitat. They are intrinsic to the health of grasslands. Their population, though declining, ranges from 200 to 500.
Agriculture, human settlements, livestock grazing, commercial forestry and burning of grasslands are some of the threats to their survival. In 2018, it was reported that conservationists in Assam were breeding the hogs as part of their activities to increase the population. This initiative called the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme started in 1996 and became a success as 100 of these elusive creatures were reintroduced into the wild between 2008 and 2016.