To most people, Africa is what comes to mind when one mentions wildlife. In marked contrast, India's varied landscapes may not offer the great spectacles one can see on the African savannah. But that's how Indian wildlife is, it requires you to make some effort to experience the magic.
The first week of October is now celebrated as Wildlife Week. To most of us, wildlife includes animals like tigers, elephants, lions and other big game. But wildlife also includes all other forms of life, from insects to birds and reptiles. All this is our 'biodiversity', the term we must actually use more regularly instead of the more familiar and popular 'wildlife'.
Our actions are making it more and more difficult for Earth's biodiversity to survive. This is particularly disturbing for it concerns your future. The purpose of Wildlife Week is not just to educate and inform young people like you but also to provide answers to problems facing our wildlife, to ensure that all necessary development takes care of the environment and all major habitats and ecosystems receive protection so that their biodiversity can continue to survive well.
India is a biodiversity hot-spot, one of the world's most important regions for wild species. The country holds under 3% of the worldʼs land area but is home to 8% of the world's mammal diversity, 13% of birds, 6% of flowering plants, butterflies, and so much else. It is also home to 15% of Earth's human beings!
HOW DOES BIODIVERSITY HELP?
- It helps control and regulate climatic variations
- It helps in recycling of nutrients
- It helps primary production of all food
- It helps maintain and restore natural habitats
- It is crucial for clean air and water
- It helps decompose organic matter
- It influences the formation and quality control of our soils
- It is an insurance against the problems of disease and pests and is our most secure gene-bank
- It provides all our food, medicines and every other need
- It has immense aesthetic and recreational value
India has over 580 protected areas. But such are the pressures from human numbers that most of these are tiny sites, many just a few square kilometres in extent.
PROBLEMS FACING OUR WILDLIFE
- Habitat loss due to rising human demands
- Conversion of vast areas of wilderness to agriculture and development (industry, housing, infrastructure)
- Collection from sanctuaries and national parks
- Pressures from livestock (cattle, sheep, goats)
by Sunjoy Monga