India is home to a large variety of wildlife. It is a biodiversity hotspot with various ecosystems ranging from the Himalayas in the north to the evergreen rainforests in the south, the sands of the west to the marshy mangroves of the east. India lies within the Indomalayan realm and is home to about 7.6% of mammal, 14.7% of amphibian, 6% of bird, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.2% of flowering plant species.[1] India's forests contain about 500 species of mammals and more than 1300 bird species.[citation needed]

India is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world and includes three of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots – the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, and the Indo-Burma hotspot.[2][3] It is one of the 17 megadiverse countries. The country has 12 biosphere reserves and 75 Ramsar sites.

In response to a decrease in the numbers of wild animals, human encroachment and poaching activities, the Government of India established a system of national parks and protected areas in 1935, which subsequently expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat. Further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s.

India has about 2,714 endemic lichen species. In 2020, the Lichen Park in India was developed by the Uttarakhand Forest Department in Munsiyari.[4]

Geographic origins

Many Indian species are descendants of species originating in Gondwana, of which India originally was a part. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism in the Deccan Traps and climatic change 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms.[5] Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalayas.[6] As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians[1] Notable endemics are the Nilgiri langur and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India harbours 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species.[7] India is located at the junction of three biogeographic realms: the Afrotropical, Indomalayan and Palearctic, and therefore, has characteristic elements from each of them, spurring migration of avifauna from these regions.


Main article: Fauna of India

A Bengal tigress in Pench Tiger Reserve
A gharial in Chambal River
Nicobar pigeon, Nicobar Islands

India is home to several well-known large animals, including the Indian elephant,[8] Indian rhinoceros,[9] Bengal tiger,[10] Asiatic lion,[11] Indian leopard,[12] snow leopard,[13] and clouded leopard.[14] Bears include sloth bear, sun bear, the Himalayan black bear, the Himalayan brown bear, and deer and antelopes include the chausinga antelope, the blackbuck, chinkara gazelle, chital, sambar, sangai, nilgai, Tibetan antelope, goa, Kashmir stag, musk deer, Indian muntjac, Indian hog deer, and the barasinga.

It is home to big cats like Bengal tiger, Asiatic lion, Indian leopard, snow leopard, caracal, Eurasian lynx and clouded leopard. Various species of caprines, including Bhutan and Mishmi takin, Himalayan and red goral, Himalayan serow, red serow, Himalayan tahr, Siberian ibex, markhor, and Nilgiri tahr, as well as the kiang and Indian wild ass. Wild sheep include blue sheep and argali. Gaur, wild water buffalo, wild yak, zebu, and gayal are also found. Small mammals include Indian crested porcupine, Indian boar, pygmy hog, Nilgiri marten, palm civet,[specify] red panda, binturong, and hog badger. Canidae include Tibetan and Bengal fox, Himalayan and Indian wolf, Ussuri dhole and Indian jackal. It is also home to the striped hyena.

Aquatic mammals include Ganges river dolphin and finless porpoise.

Reptiles include king cobra, Indian cobra, bamboo pit viper, Sri Lankan green vine snake, common krait, Indian rock python, Burmese python, reticulated python, mugger crocodile, gharial, saltwater crocodile and Indian golden gecko. Notable amphibians include the purple frog, Indian tree frog and Himalayan newt.

Birds include Indian peacock, great Indian hornbill, great Indian bustard, ruddy shelduck, Himalayan monal, Himalayan quail, painted stork, greater and lesser flamingo, and Eurasian spoonbill.[15][16]


Main article: Flora of India

Lotus, the national flower of India

There are about 18,500 species of flowering plants in India. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 helped to improve the protection and security of the natural habitat. Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.[17] Forests range from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalayas. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India, and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[6] Mangrove forests such as the Sundarbans are on the coasts of West Bengal and Odisha. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. Bamboo gardens are extremely common in jungles as well as villages. States like Sikkim and West Bengal have orchids. The national flower of India, the lotus, is common in lakes and ponds.

Impatiens sulcata in the Valley of Flowers


One-third of the fungal diversity of the globe exists in India. Only a fraction of the fungi of India have been subjected to scientific scrutiny. Over 27,000 species have been recorded in India, making it the largest biotic community after insects. About 205 genera have been described from India, of which 32% were discovered by C. V. Subramanian of the University of Madras.[18][19]


Main article: Conservation in India

The Denison barb is endemic to only three rivers in the Western Ghats

Article 48 of the Constitution of India says, "The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country" and Article 51-A states that "it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures."[20] The committee in the Indian Board for Wildlife, in their report, defines wildlife as "the entire natural uncultivated flora and fauna of the country" while the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 defines it as "any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacea, fish, moths and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat."[21]

Despite the various environmental issues, the country still has rich and varied wildlife.[21]

As of 2020, there are 981 protected areas including 106 national parks, 566 wildlife sanctuaries, 97 conservation reserves and 214 community reserves. In addition, there are 51 tiger reserves, 18 biosphere reserves and 32 elephant reserves.[citation needed] Hundreds of India's bird species are in serious decline, according to a study spanning over 25 years.[22] In 2020 the Indian government created the world's first sea cucumber reserve in Lakshadweep – Dr KK Mohammed Koya Sea Cucumber Conservation Reserve, the largest marine conservation reserve – Attakoya Thangal Marine Reserve and the first protected area for marine birds in India – PM Sayeed Marine Birds Conservation Reserve.[23]

Gir forest in India has the only surviving population of Asiatic lions in the world. In the late 1960s, there were only about 180 Asiatic lions. There were more than 600 Asiatic lions in Gir National Park in 2018.[24]

Extinctions in recent times

Some bird species have gone extinct in recent times, including the pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) and the Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa). The large-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus), known from a single specimen collected by Allan Octavian Hume from near Rampur in Himachal Pradesh, was rediscovered in Thailand after 139 years.[25][26]

The Asiatic cheetah became extinct in India in the 1950s. India's last recorded cheetah in the wild was said to have been shot in the Rewa area of Madhya Pradesh in the late 1940s.

Cultural influence

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The Brahminy kite is considered as the contemporary representation of Garuda, the sacred bird of Vishnu

The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's culture. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous tales and fables such as the Panchatantra and the Jataka Tales. Notions of the wildlife of India were introduced in the West and made famous in the late 1800s by Rudyard Kipling, especially through The Jungle Book.

National animals

Indian peacock

Biosphere reserves

The Indian government has established 18 biosphere reserves, which protect larger areas of natural habitat and often include one or more national parks or reserves, along with buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.[citation needed]

The protected areas are:

Eleven of the eighteen biosphere reserves are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) list.[28]

See also


  1. ^ a b Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre (IGCMC), New Delhi and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK. 2001. Biodiversity profile for India
  2. ^ Stephen, A.; Suresh, R. & Livingstone, C. (2015). "Indian Biodiversity: Past, Present and Future". International Journal of Environment and Natural Sciences. 7: 13–28.
  3. ^ " - The Biodiversity Hotspots". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  4. ^ Timesnow news (28 June 2020). "India's 'first' lichen park in Uttarakhand to conserve Jurassic era plant". Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  5. ^ K. Praveen Karach. (2006). Out-of-India Gondwanan origin of some tropical Asian biota
  6. ^ a b Tritsch, M.E. 2001. Wildlife of India Harper Collins, London. 192 pages. ISBN 0-00-711062-6
  7. ^ Groombridge, B. (ed). 1993. The 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, England, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. lvi + 286 pp.
  8. ^ Baskaran, N. & Desai, A. A. (1996). "Ranging behaviour of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, South India" (PDF). SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group. 15: 41–57.
  9. ^ Choudhury, A. U. (1985). "Distribution of Indian one-horned rhinoceros". Tiger Paper. 12 (2): 25–30.
  10. ^ Jhala, Y. V.; Qureshi, Q.; Nayak, A. K. (2019). Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India 2018. Summary Report. TR No./2019/05. New Delhi, Dehradun: National Tiger Conservation Authority & Wildlife Institute of India.
  11. ^ Singh, H. S. & Gibson, L. (2011). "A conservation success story in the otherwise dire megafauna extinction crisis: The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) of Gir forest" (PDF). Biological Conservation. 144 (5): 1753–1757. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.02.009.
  12. ^ Mondal, K.; Gupta, S.; Bhattacharjee, S.; Qureshi, Q. & K. Sankar (2012). "Prey selection, food habits and dietary overlap between leopard Panthera pardus (Mammalia: Carnivora) and re-introduced tiger Panthera tigris (Mammalia: Carnivora) in a semi-arid forest of Sariska Tiger Reserve, Western India". Italian Journal of Zoology. 79 (4): 607–616. doi:10.1080/11250003.2012.687402.
  13. ^ Mishra, C. (1997). "Livestock depredation by large carnivores in the Indian trans-Himalaya: conflict perceptions and conservation prospects" (PDF). Environmental Conservation. 24 (4): 338–343. doi:10.1017/S0376892997000441.
  14. ^ Choudhury, A. U. (1992). "The Clouded Leopard in Assam". Oryx. 27 (1): 51–53. doi:10.1017/s0030605300023966.
  15. ^ "7 Rare and Exotic Wildlife Species that can be found in India". 19 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Animals in Indian Sub-Continent". Archived from the original on 2 March 2022.
  17. ^ Botanical Survey of India. 1983
  18. ^ Manoharachary, C.; Sridhar, K.; Singh, R.; Adholeya, A.; Suryanarayanan, T. S.; Rawat, S. & Johri, B.N. (2005). "Fungal biodiversity: Distribution, conservation and prospecting of fungi from India" (PDF). Current Science. 89 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 August 2017.
  19. ^ Fungi of India 1989-2001 "Fungal biodiversity: Distribution, conservation and prospecting of fungi from India".
  20. ^ Krausman, P. R. & Johnson, A. T. (1990) Conservation and wildlife education in India. Wild. Soc. Bull. 18: 342–347
  21. ^ a b Singh, M. P.; Singh, J. K.; Mohanka, R. (2007). Forest Environment and Biodiversity. Daya Publishing House. pp. 116–118. ISBN 9788170354215.
  22. ^ "India's bird populations 'declining sharply', research shows". 18 February 2020.
  23. ^ Badri Chatterjee (29 February 2020). "World's first sea cucumber conservation area in Lakshadweep". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  24. ^ "India's endangered lion population increases to 600". Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  25. ^ Threatened birds of Asia [1] Archived 13 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine Accessed October 2006
  26. ^ The Nation, 6 March 2007
  27. ^ "Dolphin becomes India's national aquatic animal". Archived from the original on 8 October 2009.
  28. ^ UNESCO, Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list

Further reading