India's 59 national parks and 254 sanctuaries, which occupy an insignificant 4 percent of the country's geographical area, have proved insufficient to protect the country's wildlife. The animals have been driven away from their natural habitats and are being ruthlessly poached. The so-called 'sheltered sanctuaries' too, have not been able to provide total security to these animals. There is constant conflict between the wildlife and the people.
The farmer's plough and the poacher's gun are responsible for the extinction of several species. Take the snow leopard, for example. With its grey, soft coat and rosette-shaped black dots, it ruled over the Himalayas. This beautiful cat was targeted for its beautiful fur coat which now adorns several beautiful women. As of now, there are less than 300 snow leopards. Their numbers are decreasing rapidly.
The musk deer, which haunts the lower Himalayas, was wildly hunted for its musk gland, which is widely used in the perfume industry. The 'barasingha' with its magnificent antlers can now be seen only in the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
The Indian leopard has now become a highly endangered species. The Nilgiri tahr in South India is killed for its meat. The Nilgiri langur is being hunted for the oil from its fat, which is sold as balm for pains and aches. Its flesh is relished by poachers. The skin of the Indian python is the cause for its merciless killing. This is not the end of the story.
Ecologists claim that the Indian wolf, the sloth bear and the Hoolock Gibbon are rapidly being depleted in number due to habitat loss!
So far, Project Tiger has been the only successful and sincere effort of the government to protect the Indian Tiger. But the one blunder that the government is making is that while taking protective measures to prevent the killing of wild animals and encroachment into wildlife sanctuaries, it has not been able to provide alternative sources of cattle fodder and fuel to the villagers.
Poaching still continues. Quite often, the people who indulge in these inhuman acts are responsible, educated citizens. Every individual should feel responsible and protect the country's wildlife resources.