With mountains ranges, valleys, deserts, tropical belts, fertile plains, dry plateaus and coastal areas abounding, India has always fascinated people with its amazingly rich biodiversity. We take you on a discovery of India's amazing fauna and flora through commemorative stamps issued by the Indian Postal Department
India hosts two important hotspots of biodiversity. The first one is the moist deciduous forests and rainforests of the Western Ghats and the second one is in the Eastern Himalayas and encompasses Sikkim, Tripura and other northeastern states. These hotspots are characterised by numerous endemic species (species unique to a region and found nowhere else in the world).
THE RIVER DOLPHIN
Date of Issue: March 3, 1991
Denomination: Rs 4
Series Name: Endangered Marine Animals - River Dolphin
About the Stamp: The postal authorities were persuaded by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) Kochi to bring out a commemorative stamp for the protection of the Ganges River Dolphin. Subsequently, the stamp was released by K Sukumaran, a judge of the Kerala High Court, at a function held at CMFRI Kochi.
About the Ganges River Dolphin: - Platanista gangetica is a rare river dolphin. These dolphins are mammals belonging to a group of animals called Cetacea. There are only four species of river dolphins in the world. These are the Amazon River Dolphin, the Yangtze River Dolphin (believed to be extinct), the Indus River Dolphin and the Ganges River Dolphin.
- The Ganges River Dolphin is found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
- The most striking characteristic of the river dolphin is its long snout or beak that exposes pointed conical teeth arranged in rows. The dolphin has no dorsal fin, but instead has a short, triangular hump. The animal is also blind and relies on sophisticated echolocation techniques to find its prey and navigate.
- The Ganges River Dolphin is an endangered species. Only 2,000 of them now survive in the wild.
- Dams and barrages pose a major threat to the Ganges River Dolphin as they divide dolphin populations into many small unviable populations with narrowed gene pools. The animals are also victims of accidental killings through entanglement in fishing nets, poaching, pollution and destruction of habitat.
THE ASIATIC LION (PANTHERA LEO PERSICA)
Date of Issue: October 4, 1999
Denomination: Three stamps of Rs 3 and one of Rs 15
Series Name: Endangered Species - Asiatic Lion
About the Stamp: This set of four postage stamps on the Asiatic Lion were issued by the Department of Posts and released by the Vice President of India, Shri Krishan Kant. The set of stamps was part of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservation stamp collection.
About the Asiatic Lion: - The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies that split from the African lion (Panthera leo krugeri) 100 million years ago when India and Africa, once part of the same continent, drifted apart.
- Asiatic lions are slightly smaller than African lions. They have a shorter mane, thicker elbow tufts, a long fold of skin on their undersides and a longer tail tuft.
- Till 150 years ago, the Asiatic lion roamed throughout the plains of Northern India. However, the 19th Century saw the indiscriminate slaughter of lions for trophy hunting till there were only 12 left in the Gir forest. It was the Nawab of Junagadh who enforced a strict ban on hunting and thus saved the Asiatic lion from extinction.
- Today, the lion of Gir, with a population of 370 big cats, remains the most endangered large carnivore in the world.
THE SILENT VALLEY
Date of Issue: November 15, 2009
Denomination: Rs 5
Series Name: The Silent Valley
About the Stamp: Silent Valley was declared as a National Park on November 15, 1984 by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. This stamp was released on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration of declaring Silent Valley as a national park. The stamp was issued as a mark of respect to Indira Gandhi, who took the crucial decision of protecting the valley.
About Silent Valley: - Silent Valley is a 90sq km national park of lush rainforests located in the folds of the Nilgiri Hills in Kerala. The park is an important biodiversity hotspot and one of the last undisturbed tracts of pristine evergreen rainforests in the Western Ghats.
- In 1973, the Kerala State Electricity Board decided to implement the Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project (SVHEP) across the Kunthipuzha River. The resulting reservoir would have flooded several kilometres of the unspoiled rainforest. The Save Silent Valley movement was launched to protect and save this area from the after-effects of a hydroelectric project. The area was declared a national park and conservation efforts were undertaken to preserve the threatened biodiversity of the valley.
- Silent Valley is home to rare endangered mammals like the Lion-tailed Macaque, the Nilgiri Langur, the Travancore Flying Squirrel and the Mouse Deer. In 2006, a new bird of prey named the Long-Legged Buzzard was discovered.
RARE FAUNA OF THE NORTH EAST
Date of Issue: October 1, 2009
Denomination: Three stamps of Rs 5
Series Name: Rare Fauna of the North East
About the Stamp: This set of stamps was released in Shillong by Chief Postmaster General (CPMG), North East Circle.
About the Rare Fauna of the North East: - The tropical climate of the region, heavy precipitation and a unique biogeographical position at the confluence of India, China and Burma are responsible for the rich biodiversity in this area. The North East occupies 7.7% of India’s geographical area but supports about 25% of the country's total forest areas. Nearly 64% of the total geographical area of North East India has forest cover.
- The rainforests are home to a range of significant species including Asian Elephants, Indian Rhinoceros, Hoolock Gibbons and Malayan Giant Squirrels.
- The Marbled Cat is the size of a domestic cat. It has large spots all over its body. Most characteristic is its bushy tail that indicates arboreal (living in trees) activity. The cat spends most of its time in the canopy of the forest where it hunts for birds and squirrels. This cat inhabits the rainforests all the way from North East India to Indonesia.
- The Barbe's Leaf Monkey is popularly known as the Spectacled Monkey because of the white rings around its eyes that look like spectacles. It is an endangered monkey of Tripura.
- The Red Panda is related to the Giant Panda found in China but is much smaller, fox-like in shape and with deep red fur. It is found in the Himalayan regions above 5,000ft. In high altitude forests, the Red Panda uses its ringed tail as a wraparound blanket to keep warm. It is a shy and solitary animal that spends most of its time in trees. Like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda is fond of bamboo. It is an endangered animal as a result of deforestation and loss of habitat.
THE INDIAN BREEDS OF HORSES
Date of Issue: November 9, 2009
Denomination: Four stamps of Rs 5
Series Name: Indigenous Horses of India: Marwari, Kathiawari, Zanskari, Manipuri
About the Stamp: Thanks to the persistent efforts of the Indigenous Horse Society of India, the Post and Telegraph department came out with stamps depicting the indigenous horses of India. The stamps were released by Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, secretary general of the Indigenous Horse Society of India, in Jhunjhunu district during the national endurance horse racing championship.
About Indian Breeds of Horses: - Indian horses have come from Kabul and Arabia and this explains the similarity of Indian breeds to the ones from the Middle East.
- The Marwari (from the Marwar region of Rajasthan) is considered to be India’s best breed of horse and is a cross between native Indian ponies and Arabian horses. The most famous of them is Maharana Pratap’s Chetak. The Marwari horse is known for its endurance and has been used throughout history as a cavalry horse. The breed is recognisable from its inward-turning ear tips.
- The Kathiawari (from Saurashtra in Gujarat) is a strong and sturdy horse with Arabian blood. The Kathiawari’s most distinguishing characteristic is its large curving ears that touch at the tips. Kathiawaris are used in India’s police force.
- The Manipuri breed of ponies is one of the purest breeds of India. It is believed to be the oldest polo pony. It is a strong and hardy breed of tremendous endurance as it can adapt to extreme climatic conditions. Only a few hundred of these horses now remain.
- Zanskari horses are bred in the high altitude Zanskar region of Ladakh in eastern Jammu and Kashmir. They are used as work horses to carry loads at high altitudes. Only a few hundred Zanskari horses are left in the valleys of Ladakh.
TREES OF INDIA
Date of Issue: November 19, 1987
Denomination: One stamp of Rs 5, one stamp of Rs 1.5, one stamp of Rs 6.5 and one stamp of Rs 6
Series Name: Trees of India: Chinar, Pipal, Sal, Banyan
About the Stamp: The stamps have been designed by Ravindran, Ashwin Mehta, Thakur Dalip Singh and Sudha Chowdhary.
About Indian Trees: - In India, trees have always been associated with sacred acts. The Chinar, Banyan, Pipal and Sal are some of the most respected trees of India.
- The Chinar (Platanus orientalis) is a large deciduous tree with a spreading crown. The tree is an integral part of Kashmiri culture and every village has at least one tree either near a Hindu holy place or historical Muslim garden. In recent years, the number of Chinar trees has decreased due to illegal felling.
- The Pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) is one of the most venerated trees of India. Buddhists call it the Bodhi tree or Tree of Enlightenment as Buddha received enlightenment under it in Bodh Gaya.
- The Sal tree (Shorea robusta) is a tall straight tree that grows up to 35mts in height and provides for good quality timber. Adivasis of Central and East India worship this tree. Their most important festival, Sarhul (Sal Blossoms Festival) revolves around the Sal tree.
- The Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is the national tree of India. The tree symbolises immortality as it keeps turning its branches into trunks thus creating a cycle that never ends.
MANGROVES OF INDIA
Date of Issue: October 30, 2002
Denomination: Four stamps of Rs 5
Series Name: Mangroves of India: Nypa fructicans, Rhizophora mucronata, Brugueria gymnorrhiza, Sonneratia alba
About the Stamp: This series was released to commemorate the Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
About Mangroves: - Mangroves are tropical trees and shrubs that inhabit tidal marshes and coastal habitats. The largest mangrove forest in the world is the Sunderbans situated in the Bay of Bengal.
- Mangroves have adapted to swampy environments by developing roots like breathing tubes, called pneumatophores or respiratory roots, that protrude upward like picks from horizontal mangrove roots.
- The Sundarbans are one of the biodiversity hotspots of our planet. They have been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Mangroves play an important role in providing protection against the fury of cyclonic storms, hurricanes and tsunamis. With the disappearance of mangrove belts, there is likely to be an increase in the number and intensity of weather-related catastrophes.