Wildlife is one of the most gracious gifts of nature to this land, which is as rich in its variety and colours as its number.
The majestic lion, the grateful yet fearsome tiger, unproductive leopard, powerful elephant, the nimble deer, attractive antelope, the picturesque peafowl, the gorgeous pelican, the beautiful parakeets, wood-pecker and the elegant flamingo are some of these of which any country might be proud.
There are 312 species of mammals, 1175 species of birds, 399 species of reptiles, 60000 species of insects and 181 species of amphibians and 46610 species of plants. Over the past 2000 years about 106 species of animals and about 140 species of birds have become extinct because of climate and geographic changes and also by over hunting by man for food, medicine, fur and many other reasons. According to ecologist more than 600 species of animals and birds are expected to be extinct if not protected by wildlife management.
Wildlife Management is an ancient phenomenon. Vedas contain hymns in praise of animals. Sanatana Dharma has linked some animals with the specific God or Goddess as the best way of conservation of wildlife.
For example, python has been associated with God Vishnu, snake with God Shiva, swan with Goddess Saraswati, and lion with Goddess Durga rendering the animal pious and protected. In Mahabharata, Rishis and Munis have been indicated to conserve wildlife fauna such as deer and birds around ashrams. In Arthashastra, Chanakya had imposed severe penalties for killing, entrapping and molesting birds, fishes and deer, etc. in protected areas.
About 250 species of animals and birds have become extinct due to several factors including the human population, which has reached the pinnacle of progress and prosperity ignoring the other forms of life.
Human activities pose the biggest threat to wildlife because expanding human population results in expanding needs of man. With scientific progress and technological development man has started utilizing natural resources at a much larger scale. Continuous increase in population caused an increasing demand for resources.
Wildlife is considered a renewable resource and hence its conservation is essential if we desire sustainable yields. Nature has endowed India with such abundant and varied flora that it compares favorably with that of any country in the world whether it is developed, developing or underdeveloped.
India has large geographical size and variety of climate and habitat, wild animals constitute great national resources. These wild animals form important resources because they provide food (meat), skin, etc. which are used in research as experimental animals and for education.
They are also used for recreational purposes. The niche requirement of these animals is different. Their scientific and rational explanation is not being answered. Conservationists are often expected to justify their concern about the extinction of species. Preservation and protection of wildlife is important from the ecological point of view.
The role of individual species in ecosystem (for example in food chain) cannot be undermined. Today amphibians are under a threat their population has declined. This is cause of ecological concern because some habitats and biomass of amphibians can exceed all other large animals combined.
Their role in food chain is crucial; they eat both plants and small animals like insects including mosquitoes and amphibians themselves constitute food for birds, mammals, man, reptiles and fishes.
Wildlife, besides its crucial role in preventing ecological degradation has other values like serving as a genetic pool for livestock improvement, for pharmaceutical industry and other commercial value like providing furs and wools.
Taking example of amphibians again, it has been discovered that many species of these animals have been found containing compounds that are being used in pain killing medicines and for treatment of burns. It is documented fact that tribal in Ecuador have been using secretions from the skin of frogs for killing pains. A pharmaceutical company is engaged in research to developing a drug from a secretion of frog.
There are many management plans to conserve wild life such as:
1. The Indian Board of Wild life was set up in 1952, to ensure protection and scientific management of the diminishing wildlife in the country.
2. Countrywide uniform legislation in the form of the Wild life (Protection) Act was enacted in 1972 with object of ensuring stricter protection to wildlife and its better management.
3. The ‘Project tiger’ was launched in 1973 in the Corbett National Park today; there is 28 per cent tiger reserve in all over the country, covering an area 1.5 per cent of the total area of country.
4. The Forest (Conservation) Act was passed 1980, to impose a severe restriction, on the diversion of forestland to non-forest use.
5. In order to preserve the inviolate, 7fragile ecosystem on hilly and mountainous areas, a ban has been imposed since 1983 on the felling of trees at an elevation of 1000 m and above.
6. As against 19 national parks and 205 wildlife sanctuaries in 1980, now their number is 95 national parks and 500 wildlife sanctuaries.
7. With the launching of the crocodile project, three endangered species of crocodilians have been saved.
8. A wildlife institute at the national level has been set up in 1982, to provide scientific training in wildlife management.
9. A national wildlife action plan was launched by the then Prime Minister in Novem 1983, to impart tempo, scientific direction and completeness to wildlife manage~ and administration.
10. New scheme has been formulated for captive breeding and for rehabilitation endangered species.