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Due to diverse physical and climatic condi­tions India has varied wildlife. Out of the world’s total of about 15 lakh species of animals, India is said to have 6.7 per cent (81,251 species). The Indian fauna consists of invertebrates as well as chodata.

This includes about 6,500 invertebrates, 5,000 mollusca, 2,546 species of fishes, 1,228 species of birds, 458 species of mammals, 204 species of am­phibians, 446 species of reptiles, 4 species of panthera and 60,000 species of insects.

According to S.H. Prater (1934) India can be divided into 6 zoo geo­graphical regions. These include: (1) Himalayan region (a) Ladakh and cold dry zone, (b) Forest covered lower Himalayan zone, (c) Upper Himalayan zone above tree line; (2) Northern Plains; (3) Rajasthan desert; (4) Peninsular plateau; (5) Malabar coast; and (6) Nilgiri.

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Due to shrinking forest cover, continuous hunting of wildlife for games and illegal poaching the number of wildlife is decreasing day by day. So much so that certain species are at the verge of extinction. These include Asiatic lion, clouded leop­ard, tiger, musk deer, rhinoceros, great Indian bustard, Nilgiri langur, python etc.

The question that as­sumes importance here is whether there is any fun­damental conflict between man and the animal. Although man is undoubtedly responsible for the modification of animal habitat, yet, in the long run there cannot be any reason for conflict of interests. After all, tribals and primitive communities have lived with animals since time immemorial.

They did indulge in hunting but the extent was inconsequen­tial. What is alarming now is the demand for animal products abroad. There is an extensive overt trade in the furs of big cats in Nepal to cater to the needs of the European tourists. Tiger bones, rhino horns and deer-musk are used in many medicines and aromatic substances. In Vietnam a government agency openly handles trade in tiger products. This leads to poach­ing of rhino for their horn, elephants for ivory, musk deer for musk and tiger for skin and bones.

To combat this worldwide problem several conventions and conferences for the conservation and protection of various organisms have been held since 1970, when UNESCO held the first Man and Biosphere Convention. Some other major ones are Ramsar (1971) for wetlands and waterfowl habitat, CITES (1973) for endangered species, FAO (1983) for genetic resource material, the Rio convention by UNCED (1992) etc. In India the Wildlife Protection Act came into force in 1972. Large areas in various parts of the country covering 87,835 sq. km. (2.7% of the total and about 12% of the forested area of the country) were declared as national parks and sanctu­aries. According to the National Wildlife Action Plan of 1983 the protected area under national parks and sanctuaries has been increased to cover 4.5 per cent of the geographical area of the country (1, 48,700 sq. km.). Consequently at present the number of national parks and sanctuaries has gone up to 83 and 447 respectively.

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To increase the number of endan­gered species Project tiger (1.4.1973), Gir lion project (1972), Crocodile breeding project (1.4.1975), Rhi noceros project (1987), Snow leopard project, and Project elephant (1988) have been launched.

Following the standard criteria set by UNESC 12 Biosphere Reserves, representing 9 out of 12 bio- geographic regions of India have been identified which will act complementary to existing national parks. These include : (1) Nilgiri (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala), (2) Namdhapa (Arunach Pradesh), (3) Nandadevi (Uttaranchal), (4) UttaraJ khand (Uttaranchal), (5) North Island of Andama (Andaman and Nicobar), (6) Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu), (7) Kaziranga (Assam), (8) Sunderbans (West Bengal), (9) Thar (Rajasthan), (10) Manas (Assam), (11) Kanha (Madhya Pradesh), and (12) Nokrek (Meghalaya). Biosphere reserves are multi-purpose protected areas to preserve the genetic diversity in representtive eco-systems.

The major objectives of biosphere reserves are: (i) to conserve diversity and integrity of plants, animals and micro-organisms, (ii) to promote research on ecological conservation and other environmental aspects; and (iii) to provide facilities for education, awareness and training. Non­governmental organisations have also been involved in the biosphere reserve programme for creation of public awareness.

The Central Directorate of Wildlife Preserva­tion and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun are the nodal agencies initiating and monitoring the programmes and projects concerning wildlife. The notable steps so far taken include: (a) survey of national parks, sancturaies and other areas deserving protection status, (b) guidelines for the preparation of management plans of wildlife reserves, (c) review and revision of the national forest policy, (d) amend­ments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and (e) captive breeding and rehabilitation programme for endangered species.

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