India is spending 100 cr to save 4 critically endangered species

Jun 16, 2017 12:07 PM IST

On World Biodiversity Day a look at what India is doing to save some of its most endangered species.

India is one of the richest countries in terms of biodiversity, and hosts about 8% of all the documented species in the world, harbouring 4 of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots.

There are only around 1500 Gangetic Dolphins left in Indian waterways.(Amit Bhatt)
There are only around 1500 Gangetic Dolphins left in Indian waterways.(Amit Bhatt)

However, in recent years an increasing number of species found in India are identified as threatened, because of changing land use patterns, diversion of forest lands for agricultural purposes.Industrial activities like setting up of dams and mines lead to degradation of habitats for these species.

Some of the most threatened are those that are endemic to India, if they die out here they will become globally extinct. India is spending R. 100 crores over 5 years to bring four species back from the brink of extinction, and no, the list doesn’t include the tiger, rhino or elephant. The endangered animals that made the cut are India’s national aquatic animal the Gangetic Dolphin, The Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the Manipur Deer and the sea cow or Dugong.

Two of these are only found in India, the GIB and Manipur Deer, and their populations are down to their last hundreds. The fight to save these species is not just about them, their disappearance is an indicator that there is a loss of habitat for other species. All four are Schedule I species, which means they are accorded the highest level of protection under India’s wildlife laws.

It is not just animals but people who get impacted when there is biodiversity loss. In India almost 400 million people rely on biodiversity resources and forests. Exports that rely on biodiversity are worth R 9,000 crores.

“The loss of biodiversity is resulting in the loss of livelihoods in the short term and a decline in ecological resilience that will severely impact human health and the economy in the long term. Forest dwelling communities are already at the receiving end of such impacts,“ a draft state of the environment report from the union ministry said.

Almost a third of the money under the species recovery program is going towards the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard, there are only about 200 individuals of the species left in the wild, falling from 785 in 1978. The largest concentration is in the dry scrublands of the Thar. It is recognized as the state bird of Rajasthan. After years of deliberations the environment ministry in April approved the setting up of breeding centres for the bird at two sites in Rajasthan.

The long-snouted Gangetic Dolphin is a local habitant of the Indo-Brahmaputra river system and is only one of four freshwater dolphin species in the world. Recent estimates peg their numbers at around 1500. At one time there were sightings of these graceful creatures in the waters of the Yamuna in Delhi.

Their population declined in recent decades as the Gangetic river system became increasingly polluted. Its range contracted by almost 100 kms as many stretches of the Ganga became inhabitable for them due to mining, developmental work and agricultural run-offs loaded with fertilizers and pesticides. In recent years there are reports of the population rebounding.

“Gangetic river dolphin is an indicator of river quality, not only for the river ecosystem integrity but also for the sustenance of humans,” the World Wildlife Institute report said.

The Dugong is a species of sea cow whose marine habitat extends from the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Gulf of Mannar that lies between India and Sri Lanka. There are only about 200 left in the wild.

The Manipur Deer or the Sangai is the state animal of the northeastern state and is only found in the south western fringe of Loktak Lake in Manipur. It has earned itself the title of dancing deer because it gives the impression of prancing about when it is walking in its wet marshy habitat.

Its population dropped to 14 individuals in 1975, and was almost believed to be extinct. The rebounded a little with about 260 individuals reported in latest estimates.

Great Indian Bustard

Estimated Population Size: 200-300


Total 5 year cost: 33.85 cr

Year 1 allocation: 9.95 cr

Unspent: 8.51 cr

Manipur Deer: 2015-20

Estimated Population Size: 260

Total 5 year cost: 19.95 cr

Year 1: 1.3 cr

Unspent: 73 lakhs

Dolphin 2016-2021

Estimated Population Size: 1500

5 yr cost: 23 cr

Year 1 allocation: 4.6 cr

Unspent: 2.96 cr

Dugong: 2016-2021

Estimated Population Size: 200

5 year: 23,58 cr

Year 1 allocation: 5.17 cr

Unspent: 4.21 cr


    Malavika Vyawahare tells science and environment stories using words, photos and multimedia. She studied environmental journalism at Columbia University and is based in Delhi.

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