Geography: Forest & Wild Life

Posted by WBCSguru -

Flora and Fauna in India: The term flora is used to denote plants of a particular region or period. Similarly, the species of animals are referred to as fauna.Over 81,000 species of fauna and 47,000 species of flora are found in this country so far? Of the estimated 47,000 plant species, about 15,000 flowering species are endemic (indigenous) to India.

Forests: The forest cover in the country is estimated at 637,293 sq km, which is 19.39 per cent of the total geographical area. (dense forest 11.48 per cent; open forest 7.76 per cent; and mangrove 0.15 per cent).

Let us now understand the different categories of existing plants and animal species. Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), we can classify as follows –
Normal Species: Species whose population levels are considered to be normal for their survival, such as cattle, sal, pine, rodents, etc.
Endangered Species: These are species which are in danger of extinction. The survival of such species is difficult if the negative factors that have led to a decline in their population continue to operate. The examples of such species are black buck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, lion tailed macaque, sangai (brow anter deer in Manipur), etc.
Vulnerable Species: These are species whose population has declined to levels from where it is likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the negative factors continue to operate. The examples of such species are blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin, etc.
Rare Species: Species with small population may move into the endangered or vulnerable category if the negative factors affecting them continue to operate. The examples of such species are the Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox and hornbill, etc.
Endemic Species: These are species which are only found in some particular areas usually isolated by natural or geographical barriers. Examples of such species are the Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, mithun in Arunchal Pradesh.
Extinct Species: These are species which are not found after searches of known or likely areas where they may occur. A species may be extinct from a local area, region, country, continent or the entire earth. Examples of such species are the Asiatic cheetah, pink head duck.

Conservation of Forest and Wildlife in India: The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act was implemented in 1972, with various provisions for protecting habitats. “Project Tiger”, one of the wellpublicised wildlife campaigns in the world, was launched in 1973. Initially, it showed success as the tiger population went up to 4,002 in 1985 and 4,334 in 1989. But in 1993, the population of the tiger had dropped to 3,600. There are 27 tiger reserves in India covering an area of
37,761 sq km Tiger conservation has been viewed not only as an effort to save an endangered species, but with equal importance as a means of preserving biotypes of sizeable magnitude. Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal, Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal, Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan, Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala are some of the tiger reserves of India.

Types and Distribution of Forest and Wildlife Resources:
(i) Reserved Forests: More than half of the total forest land has been declared reserved forests. Reserved forests are regarded as the most valuable as far as the conservation of forest and wildlife resources are concerned.
(ii) Protected Forests: Almost one-third of the total forest area is protected forest, as declared by the Forest Department. This forest land are protected from any further depletion.
(iii) Unclassed Forests: These are other forests and wastelands belonging to both government and private individuals and communities.

Reserved and protected forests are also referred to as permanent forest estates maintained for the purpose of producing timber and other forest produce, and for protective reasons. Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under permanent forests, constituting 75 per cent of its total forest area. Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have large percentages of reserved forests of its total forest area whereas Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan have a bulk of it under protected forests. All North-eastern states and parts of Gujarat have a very high percentage of their forests as un-classed forests managed by local communities.

The following major types of vegetation may be identified in our country
(i) Tropical Rain Forests
(ii) Tropical Deciduous Forests
(iii) Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs
(iv) Montane Forests
(v) Mangrove Forests

Tropical Rain Forests: These forests are restricted to heavy rainfall areas of the Western Ghats and the island groups of Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar, upper parts of Assam and Tamil Nadu coast. They are at their best in areas having more than 200 cm of rainfall with a short dry season. The trees reach great heights up to 60 metres or even above. Since the region is warm and wet throughout the year, it has a luxuriant vegetation of all kinds – trees, shrubs, and creepers giving it a multilayered structure. There is no definite time for trees to shed their leaves. As such, these forests appear green all the year round. Some of the commercially important trees of this forest are ebony, mahogany, rosewood, rubber and cinchona. The common animals found in these forests are elephants, monkey, lemur and deer. The one horned rhinoceros are found in the jungles of Assam and West Bengal. Besides these animals plenty of birds, bats, sloth, scorpions and snails are also found in these jungles.

Tropical Deciduous Forests: These are the most widespread forests of India. They are also called the monsoon forests and spread over the region receiving rainfall between 200 cm and 70 cm. Trees of this forest-type shed their leaves for about six to eight weeks in dry summer. On the basis of the availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous. The former is found in areas receiving rainfall between 200 and 100 cm. These forests exist, therefore, mostly in the eastern part of the country – northeastern states, along the foothills of the Himalayas, Jharkhand, West Orissa and Chhattisgarh, and on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. Teak is the most dominant species of this forest. Bamboos, sal, shisham, sandalwood, khair, kusum, arjun, mulberry are other commercially important species. The dry deciduous forests are found in areas having rainfall between 100 cm and 70 cm. These forests are found in the rainier parts of the peninsular plateau and the plains of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There are open stretches in which Teak, Sal, Peepal, Neem grow. A large part of this region has been cleared for cultivation and some parts are used for grazing. In these forests, the common animals found are lion, tiger, pig, deer and elephant. A huge variety of birds, lizards, snakes, and tortoises are also found here.

The Thorn Forests and Scrubs: In regions with less than 70 cm of rainfall, the natural vegetation consists of thorny trees and bushes. This type of vegetation is found in the north-western part of the country including semi-arid areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Acacias, palms, euphorbias and cacti are the main plant species. Trees are scattered and have long roots penetrating deep into the soil in order to get moisture. The stems are succulent to conserve water. Leaves are mostly thick and small to minimize evaporation. These forests give way to thorn forests and scrubs in arid areas.In these forests, the common animals are rats, mice, rabbits, fox, wolf, tiger, lion, wild ass, horses and camels.

Montane Forests: In mountainous areas, the decrease in temperature with increasing altitude leads to the corresponding change in natural vegetation. As such, there is a succession of natural vegetation belts in the same order as we see from the tropical to the tundra region The wet temperate type of forests are found between a height of 1000 and 2000 metres. Evergreen broad-leaf trees such as oaks and chestnuts predominate. Between 1500 and 3000 metres, temperate forests containing coniferous trees like pine, deodar, silver fir, spruce and cedar, are found. These forests cover mostly the southern slopes of the Himalayas, places having high altitude in southern and north-east India. At higher elevations, temperate grasslands are common. At high altitudes, generally more than 3,600 metres above sea-level, temperate forests and grasslands give way to the Alpine vegetation. Silver fir, junipers, pines and birches are the common trees of these forests. However, they get progressively stunted as they approach the snow-line. Ultimately through shrubs and scrubs, they merge into the Alpine grasslands. These are used extensively for grazing by nomadic tribes like the Gujjars and the Bakarwals. At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of tundra vegetation. The common animals found in these forests are Kashmir stag, spotted dear, wild sheep, jack rabbit, Tibetan antelope, yak, snow leopard, squirrels, Shaggy horn wild ibex, bear and rare red panda, sheep and goats with thick hair.

Mangrove Forests: The mangrove tidal forests are found in the areas of coasts influenced by tides. Mud and silt get accumutated on such coasts. Dense mangroves are the common varieties with roots of the plants submerged under water. The deltas of the Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Krishana, the Godavari and the Kaveri are covered by such vegetation. In the Ganga-Brahamaputra delta, sundari trees are found, which provide durable hard timber. Palm, coconut, keora, agar, also grow in some parts of the delta. Royal Bengal Tiger is the famous animal in these forests. Turtles, crocodiles, gharials and snakes are also found in these forests.

India is also rich in its fauna. It has more than 89,000 of animal species. The country has more than 1200 species of birds. They constitute 13% of the world’s total. There are 2500 species of fish, which account for nearly 12% of the world’s stock. It also shares between 5 and 8 per cent of the world’s amphibians, reptiles and mammals. The elephants are the most majestic animals among the mammals. They are found in the hot wet forests of Assam, Karnataka and Kerala. One-horned rhinoceroses are the other animals, which live in swampy and marshy lands of Assam and West Bengal. Arid areas of the Rann of Kachchh and the Thar Desert are the habitat for wild ass and camels respectively. Indian bison, nilgai (blue bull), chousingha (four horned antelope), gazel and different species of deer are some other animals found in India. It also has several species of monkeys.

India is the only country in the world that has both tigers and lions. The natural habitat of the Indian lion is the Gir forest in Gujarat. Tigers are found in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, the Sundarbans of West Bengal and the Himalayan region. Ladhak’s freezing high altitudes are a home to yak, the shaggy horned wild ox weighing around one tonne, the Tibetan antelope, the bharal (blue sheep), wild sheep, and the kiang (Tibetan wild ass). Furhtermore, the ibex, bear, snow-leopard and very rare red panda are found in certain pockets.

To protect the flora and fauna of the county, the government has taken many steps.
  1. Fourteen biosphere reserves have been set up in the country to protect flora and fauna. Four out of these, the Sunderbans in the West Bengal, Nanda Devi in Uttaranchal, the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu and the Nilgiris (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) have been included in the world network of Biosphese reserves.
  2. 89 National Parks, 49 Wildlife sanctuaries and Zoological gardens are set up to take care of Natural heritage.

  • Forest Cover (areawise Km2):
    1. Madhya Pradesh- 1,31,195
    2. Arunachal Pradesh- 68,602
    3. 0rissa- 46,941

  • Forest Cover (% of the total area):
    1. Mizoram- 89.06
    2. Nagaland- 85.78
    3. Arunachal Pradesh- 81.92
  • Kaziranga in Assam is famous for one horn Rhinocerous
  • Periyar in Kerala is famous for Elephants
  • Sunderbans are well known for Bengal Tigers
  • Rann of Kuchchh in Gujarat is the habitat for Wild Ass Asiatic Lions are found in Gir forests
  • Siberian Cranes migrate to some of the wetlands in Northern India including those like Keoladeo Ghana in Rajasthan and other in U.P and Bihar
  • Hemis High Altitude is the largest national park in India
  • Madhya Pradesh is also known as Tiger state
  • Corbett was the first national park in India
  • Some important conventions and conferences for the conservation and protection of organisms have been held since 1970. Some are:
    1. Man and Biosphere convention (UNESCO) 1970
    2. Ramsar (Iran) convention for wet lands and waterfowl habitat 1971
    3. FAO for genetic resource material 1983
    4. Rio convention by UNCED 1992
    5. In India the Wild Life Protection Act came into force in 1972.
    6. Some other projects to protect different species are Project tiger (1.4.1973) Girjion project (1972) Crocodile breeding project (1.4.1975)
    7. Rhinoceros project (1987) Snow leopard project (1988) Project elephant (1988) The Central Directorate of WildLife Preservation and the WildLife Institute of India, Dehradun are the nodal agencies initiating and monitoring the programs and projects concerning wildlife.

Famous wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks of India:





Tamil Nadu

Bird sancuary


Sunderbans, West Bengal

Royal Bengal Tiger, crocodile , deer, wild boar

Shivpuri National Park

Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh

Tiger,leopards, jackals, wild boar, sloth bears,four-horned antelopes


River cauvery, Karnataka



Idduki, Kerala

Elephants, sambhars, gaurs and wild boar


Warangal, Andhra Pradesh

Tigers, Panthers, nilgais and chitals


Daltenganj, Bihar

Tiger reserve

Namdapha National Park

Tirap, Arunachal Pradesh

Elephants and tigers

Mudumalai W.S

Nilgiris,Tamil Nadu

Elephants, deer and pig


Barpeta, Assam

one-horned Rhinoceros, wild buffalo,tiger, elephant

Kanha National Park

Madhya Pradesh

Panther, tiger, sambhars, nilgai, antelope

Kaziranga National Park

Jorhat, Assam

Indian one-horned Rhinoceros, wild buffalo,tiger, sambhars


West Bengal

Indian Rhinoceros

Hazaribagh N.P

Hazaribagh, Bihar

Leopards, tigers,sambhars, chitals

Ghana bird sanctuary

Bharatpur, Rajasthan

Water birds, Siberian cranes, storks, herons

Gir National Park

Junagarh, Gujrat

Asiatic Lion, Panthers, nilgais, sambhars, crocodile

Dudhwa National Park

Lakshmipur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh

Tiger, nilgai, sambhars, panther

Corbet National Park

Nainital, Uttar Pradesh

Tigers, elephants, chitals, sabhars,nilgais, sloth bear

Bandipur National Park

Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border

Tigers, elephants , sambhars,bears, panthers ,deers


Garo hills, Meghalaya

Tigers, Elephants, Bisons


Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Asiatic Lion, Tigers, Panthers, Indian gazelle, sloth bear

Wild Ass Sancutary

Little Rann of Kutch, Gujrat

Wild Ass, wolf, nilgai, chinkara


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raziv ranzan said...


WBCSguru said...

Thank you.

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