India is a diverse country. With second largest population of humans of divergent culture and races and simultaneously a home to world’s 8% wildlife species. Since ancient times, India has been considered as a biodiversity rich nation. But because of illicit poaching and ignorance towards the wild animals, many of the wild species became extinct and many other were near extinction. It was then realized by Government of India to prepare a set of rules to conserve wildlife population.
In 1948, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was created by many private and governmental organisations in order to compile status of wild animals around the globe and accordingly to conserve them. IUCN created RED LIST with many categories, that are indicative of conservation status of wildlife. ‘Critically endangered’ is the highest risk category which indicates that an organism has critically low population and is near extinction if not conserved.
So, here is a list of 10 Critically Endangered Species of India, that were commonly found in the past few decades or centuries but are now at a risk of extinction.
1. Himalayan Quail : Ophrysia superciliosa
The Himalayan Quail is a shy bird that mostly dwells in bushy terrains of Western Himalayas. After a survey in 1876, the bird was considered as extinct. But in 2003, it was again spotted in Nainital area of Uttarakhand. Though it was rediscovered yet the population of the bird was very low. So, Himalayan Quail was put into the category of Critically Endangered Species by Zoological Survey of India. The bird was threatened by explicit hunting by locals for food. Moreover, their habitats were slowly transformed into agricultural lands and urban settlements.
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2. The Great Indian Bustard : Ardeotis nigriceps
The Great Indian Bustard has been recently added to the list of critically endangered bird species of India and only 200 individuals are alive throughout the globe. It is endemic species of India. The bird resides in arid and semi-arid regions of Western India and can be observed in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh. It like to live in low grassland areas with an open and plain terrain. The Great Indian Bustard is threatened by excessive hunting and poaching for their meat. Also, the declining habitat poses a threat over the bird’s population.
3. Gharial : Gairalis gangeticus
Gharial is a uniquely evolved species of crocodile with a peculiar long snout. It dwells in fresh river waters (especially the Ganges) and feeds on fishes. Gharial is put under the category of critically endangered species in India, and is completely extinct from Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan. In India, the animal is conserved in National Chambal Sanctuary covering areas within the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh. The major threat to the species are from destruction of their habitats from construction of dams and receding water levels.
4. Indian Vulture : Gyps indicus
Also called as Long-billed Vulture, the Indian Vulture is one of the most important bird species of India. It scavenges the dead corpses of wild and domestic animals and help in cleaning the surroundings from the unwanted foul odour and diseases linked to dead bodies, which makes it an important part of the food chain. They are found almost everywhere throughout India. During the earlier times, the bird was threatened by DDT pesticide, which was later banned throughout the globe. Recently, a new threat has been identified which is Diclofenac, fed to cattles as a painkiller, which get transferred to the scavenging bird. The accumulation of the painkiller, which is non digestible in the bird’s system, result in gout like protudence in their necks, finally resulting in their death. This has drastically reduced the population of the bird, hence it is categorized into the Critically Endangered Bird of India.
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5. Hawksbill Turtle : Eretmochelys imbricata
The Hawksbill Turtle stays in water for most part of their lives and comes to sandy beaches only for breeding and laying eggs. In India, the turtle lay eggs on the sandy beaches of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The Hawksbill Turtle alongwith Leatherback Turtle and Red Crowned Roofed Turtle have been categorized under critically endangered species in India because of their drastically declining population. The major reason being poaching of the turtles for their shells, meat and eggs. Moreover, the oil spillage from ships and petroleum refineries and destruction of their habitats have posed a great threat for their survival.
6. Forest Owlet : Heteroglaux blewitti
A small owlet residing in the dry deciduous forests in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra was considered to be extinct since year 1884. But after 113 years, in 1997, the species was rediscovered in the deciduous forest. Ever since, it has been declared as one of the Critically Endangered Species that demanded immediate conservation. The major threat to the bird population is from deforestation.
7. The Ganges Shark : Glyphis gangeticus
The Ganges Shark as the name indicates is a freshwater fish eating shark resident of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. It lives in shallow turbid waters with very less visibility, hence has very small eyes. It is categorized under critically endangered species by Government of India. It is threatened by overfishing for its meat and trade of its jaws. Also, water pollution has reduced the population of the shark to a large extent. Another threat has emerged from construction of dams and reservoirs that has adversely affected their habitats.
8. Bengal Florican : Houbaropsis bengalensis
This critically endangered bird is an endemic species of grassland plains of India, especially peculiar to Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The male is famous for its peculiar jumping dance to attract females in the breeding season. It is one of the critically endangered species of birds of India. Agricultural transformations and urbanisation in this case too proved out be a great threat for survival of the Bengal Florican.
9. Fire Coral : Millepora boschmai
Fire Corals are observed in shallow sea waters near the tropical regions in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and other coastal regions of India. They are yellow to green in colour and have tiny pores on their surfaces. They are not true corals but closely resembles hydra and jellyfish. They possess poisonous stings on their bodies like jellyfish. They were poached to be used for jewellery and decorative purposes since ancient times. Because of which their population declined drastically. Moreover, due to coral bleaching by increase in carbon dioxide emissions and global warming effect, the fire corals along with other coral species suffer a lot. This is the reason that now the species is conserved under the critically endangered one.
10. Sumatran Rhinoceros : Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the smallest in size among all other rhino species. The rhino is a resident of the North-East Himalayas. It is also known by the name two-horned Rhinoceros and is said to be extinct from wild in India. The major threat to the rhino is from poachers who kill the animal for its prized horns. Also, its habitats were extensively cleared for agricultural and urban expansions. Even less than 100 individuals of the Sumatran Rhino are alive in the world, from which many are in captivity.
So, this was my list of 10 Critically Endangered Species of India. I hope this post was thoughtful and informative.
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