What is Wildlife, Meaning, Classification of species, Importance of Wildlife

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Wildlife refers to undomesticated animal species. It also includes those organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Like forests, wildlife is also a national resource, which not only helps in maintaining the ecological balance but is also beneficial from economic, recreational and aesthetic point of view. There was a time when human needs were minimum and there was hardly any interference in the wildlife. However, due to unprecedented proportions of threat caused by urbanisation, pollution and other anthropogenic interventions, biodiversity is shrinking.

India is home to a large variety of animals. India has an amazingly wide variety of wild animals and birds that live in the diverse terrain of the country. From ferocious Royal Bengal tigers to Asiatic elephants, India houses this huge variety of animals in its 101 national parks, 18 biosphere reserves and 553 wildlife sanctuaries. Out of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots, India is home to three such biodiversity hotspots namely-The Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas and the Indo-Burma region.

However, due to irresponsible interference of humans with the ecosystem has resulted in the loss and extinction of many species. Due to man’s interference with nature and the threats that have risen out of this, conservation of these biodiversity rich spots and their wildlife in India have become important.

Classification of Species

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has compiled a list called “Red Data Book’ for wildlife species. “Red’ is symbolic of the danger that these species presently experience. IUCN classifies the species under various categories. These include

(i) Extinct Species

These are the species whose last member has died, therefore leaving no surviving individual to reproduce.

(ii) Critically Endangered

It is the highest risk category assigned for wild species. It means that the number of species have decreased or will decrease by 80% within three generations.

(iii) Endangered Species

It is the population of organisms which are at a risk of becoming extinct because either they are very few in numler or are threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters.

(iv) Vulnerable Species

These are the species which are likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

(v) Extinct in the Wild

These are the species known only by living member kept in captivity or as a naturalised population outside its historic range due to massive habitat loss.

(vi) Near Threatened Species

These are species that may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future.

(vii) Least Concerned Species

These are the ones which are evaluated but not qualify for any other category to bring attention to them.

(viii) Data Deficient Species

These are species which indicate that there is inadequate information to make a direct or indirect assessment of extinct species based on its distribution and/or population status.

(ix) Not Evaluated (NE) Not yet having been assessed by IUCN.

List of Threatened Species of India

India has many threatened species. Some of these are as follows Critically Endangered Great Indian Bustard, White-ramped vulture, Indian vulture, Gharial, Kashmir stag, Sumatran Rhino, Pygmy Hog etc.

Endangered Species Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Great Indian one-horned Rhinoceros, Green Turtle, Red Panda, Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Ganges river dolphin, Indian elephant etc. .

• Vulnerable Species Black Buck, Gaur, Yak, Snow Leopard, Indian Rhinoceros, Sarus crane etc.

Causes of Extinction of Wildlife

India has about 6.49% of all fauna species in the world. Following are the factors which leads to the extinction of wildlife in India.

• Degradation of Ecosystem

There are different types of living beings in the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Cattle, insects, plants, trees grow in the terrestrial ecosystem whereas fish, small plants etc. grow in aquatic ecosystem. The terrestrial ecosystem is degraded due to forest fire, destruction of forests, use of insecticides, pesticides etc., whereas aquatic ecosystem is degraded due to water pollution, construction works etc.

• Loss of Habitat

Natural habitat is ruined because of human activities like construction work, the extension of agricultural work, destruction of forest etc., which results in bad effect on animal’s habitat, food cycle, climate and reproduction process.

• Loss of Mobility

The deterioration of the natural environment causes the loss of mobility of birds and mammals. Hence, the animals and birds have limited space for roaming. This, disrupts their living and reproductive cycle.

• International Trade

The trade of some items of wild origin such as animals’ fur, bones, tusks, musk resulted in the decline of wild animals. Maximum use of items such as decorative souvenirs, perfumes, cosmetics etc. has increased the loss of wild animals in India.

Besides these, hunting, poaching, shifting cultivation, increase in number of predators etc. are also responsible for extinction of wildlife.

Government Initiatives to Protect the Wildlife

The governrient has taken many steps in order to protect Indian wildlife. Some of nem are given below

The Indian Wildlife Act was passed by the government in 1972 for the protection of plants and animal species. The Act banned poaching and hunting of animals and provided legal protection to their habitats.

• In the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Government of India created protected areas
like National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves.

• In 1973, ‘Project Tiger’ was launched to save the tigers. At present, there are 50 tiger reserves in our country which are governed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

•Besides Project Tiger’, Government of India runs various projects like Project Elephant; Project Hangul; Indian Crocodile Conservation Project; Protected Areas Networks, Action Plan for Vulture Conservation in India and inany others.

• Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 have been drafted to protect wetlands in India. The Central Government has also initiated the scheme, National Plan for conservation of Aquatic Eco-system. To protect the Dolphins which are found in Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna region, the National Government has declared it as ‘National aquatic animal.

• In order to curb the illegal trade of wildlife and that of endangered species, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has been established.

•Special Organisation like Wildlife Institute of India, Bombay Natural History Society and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History are formed to conduct research on conservation of wildlife.

• To check the dwindling population of Gyps Vultures in India, Government of India has banned the veterinary use of diclofenac drug.

• E-surveillance has been started in Kaziranga National Park in Assam and borders of Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh,

• There are some more legislations like Coastal Regulation Zone; Animal Welfare Board of India; Central Zoo Authority; Wildlife Crime Control Bureau; National Ganga River Basin Authority to protect wildlife in India.

Importance of Wildlife

Tildlife plays an important role in balancing the environment. It provides stability different processes of nature. The following are importances of wildlife for India.

Ecological Balance

Wildlife helps in maintaining natural balance. Killing of carnivores leads to an increase in number of herbivores which in turn affects forest vegetation. If this equilibrium and stability is disturbed it disbalances nature and ecology. Thus, it is essential for balancing earth’s ecological systems.

Economic Importance

Wildlife has great economic importance in terms of plant products such as food, medicine, fibre, timber and wild animals provide medicines, hide (animal skin), ivory, silk etc. Wildlife species are obtained from forests and altered to be domesticated which provides commercial and subsistence resources for farmers and industrialists. Wildlife species are also helpful in improving agriculture.

• Research

wild organisms are used for the purpose of research and development such as testing the effects of medicine and vaccines. Monkeys, chimpanzees, rats are used to administer vaccine doses and support scientific experimentation.

• Conserving Biodiversity

By conserving wildlife, biodiversity can be conserved. An ecosystem with more diversity is more stable as compared to a less diverse ecosystem. Conservation of a few important species helps in preserving the entire ecosystein.


It is high time to protect wildlife for their future existence. Therefore, several efforts should be made both at the national and the international level to protect wildlife with community and government participation. Alongwith the government efforts , awareness and cooperation of people are needed for the conservation of wildlife in India. Wildlife is an integral part of our natural heritage. Thus, we should protect wildlife for our future generation.

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