Herd of camels in Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
India is a land rich in natural abundance. The varied topography and climate means a greater diversity of habitats for an increased array of plants and animals. Its people generally encourage a love and respect for the natural resources of the country, focusing on the preservation of endangered fauna and flora. However, due to greed, money and environmental dangers, there are various species that are currently under threat of extinction.
In response, India has established many sanctuaries and parks in which animals are protected from outside threats. In fact, there are well over 400 sanctuaries and almost 100 national parks in the subcontinent, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers from around the world. Some of the best known parks include:
1. The Great Himalayan National Park – this is situated in Himachal Pradesh and is particularly beautiful for its variety of
dense forests, lush valleys and towering mountains. Common sights include the Black Bear, Golden Eagle, leopard and Red Tragopan.
2. Dudhwa National Park – Dudhwa is a park for wildlife and a sanctuary for tigers. Located in Uttar Pradesh, it is characterised by vast savannahs as well as swamps. These are perfect conditions for the Indian Rhinoceros, Sloth Bear, and the Great Indian Horned Owl.
3. Kaziranga National Park – this beautiful retreat is perched along the banks of the Brahmaputra River. It is the largest sanctuary in the world for the Indian Rhinoceros, and is also home to elephants, buffaloes, wild boards and native eagles.
4. Namdapha National Park – this park is situated in Arunachal Pradesh and is also a tiger sanctuary. In addition, it is home to the Red Panda, Hoolock Gibbon, Assamese Macaque and the exquisite Snow Leopard.
While there is a rich plethora of animals living on the subcontinent, there are a few species that are extra special:
The Snow Leopard is, as its name implies, a white or light gray colour with black markings typical of the more common variety of leopard. These animals have special adaptations to allow them to move quickly and quietly through the snow and to breathe at high mountain altitudes. They can be found in rocky areas and are endangered as a result of being hunted for their stunning pelts and because of a dire loss of habitat. There are only about 5000 of these animals alive in the wild today.
The Indian Rhinoceros has even lower population numbers, at about 3000 individuals in the wild. They only have one horn, for which they have been hunted to ghastly degrees. Indian Rhinos are herbivores and prefer a solitary existence. They can live up to about 35 years of age.
The Bengal Tiger is a rusty brown colour and is found throughout Asia. It is the national animal of India and Bangladesh. These tigers can grow to up to an impressive nine metres in length and are usually found in forests, mangroves and grasslands. They are carnivores, preying on medium-sized and large animals like antelope, buffalo, juvenile elephants and rhinos and wild boar. Their hunting abilities are enhanced by the fact that they are superior tree climbers and swimmers, so prey cannot easily escape. Poaching and habitat loss led to a major decline in the number of Bengal Tigers alive today and their population currently stands at about 4500 individuals.