Although it is home to some of the most exotic flora and fauna, India's list of endangered species is a sad long one! On World Wildlife Week — October 1 to 7 — we look at some of these threatened species.

Look out of your window. Do you see something missing? The house sparrow which was a rather common sight is hardly spotted these days, thanks to human encroachment and urban lifestyles that do not give these feathered friends a chance .

If this is the fate of a species that co-existed with humans, imagine the chance of the ones that need their own habitat. We humans threaten this with our growing population and urbanisation. Home to some of the exotic flora and fauna that our government has been flaunting to attract tourists, the reality of India's rich wildlife reads like this: According to the Government of India, there are 91, 307 species in the animal kingdom (7.46 per cent of the global total), 1232 species of birds out of the global total of 9026, 99 national parks, 513 wildlife sanctuaries, 3 community reserves and 43 conservation reserves in India and yet the list of endangered species is quite a long one.

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red-list, 413 species of animals and 246 species of plants are listed in various degrees of the “endangered” category. (Check the IUCN's site for more information)

The critically endangered ones being: Jenkin's Shrew (Endemic to India), Malabar Large Spotted Civet, Namdapha Flying Squirrel (Endemic to India), Pygmy Hog, Salim Ali's Fruit Bat (Endemic to India), Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Wroughton's Free-tailed Bat (Endemic to India).

The reasons for the decline in their numbers are many and humans are responsible for most; the main being, loss of habitat due to human encroachment or imbalance in the ecosystem. Poaching is another grave threat that resulted in putting many a species like the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asian Elephant species in the ‘endangered' category. While the former was hunted for its skin and supposed medicinal properties, the latter was targeted for its tusks. Meanwhile, the horns of the rhinoceros have high commercial value and hence these animals are heartlessly hunted.

Another reason is the extinction of one species leads to the endangerment of a dependent species. Dr. Manimozhi, the Zoo biologist at Vandalur, quotes the example of the Dodo in Madagascar, the disappearance of which leads to the subsequent extinction of the Calvaria tree species as it depended on these birds to germinate its seeds.

And if you thought that we humans are safe, well you are wrong. “Every organism is inter-dependent,” says Dr. Manimozhi. “Thus with the extinction of one species after the other, the ecological balance will be upset leading to calamities like earthquakes and other environmental problems. Of course, it will take time, but in due course it will become a reality.”

“The government is doing its bit in terms of forest protection, wildlife regulations and in situ conservation. We have to understand that this is everybody's problem. We need to co-operate with the government and do our bit — co-existing with nature, promoting sustainable development and not over-exploiting resources.”

Make sure you spread awareness about the plight of these species and do whatever you can to help; else it won't be long before the zoos have nothing to show us.

(With inputs from Samir Sinha, IFS, head of TRAFFIC-India.)

Project tiger

Initiated in 1972, this national project was launched exclusively to ‘ ensure a viable population of tiger in India', according to the project's website. The project officially got rolling with the setting up of the Corbett National Park in 1973. The success of the project could be seen in the increase in numbers of the tiger which was at 268 when the project started. Unfortunately, a 2008 census by our government declared that the tiger population had dropped to 1,411, prompting action from our government and the public alike. ‘Save Our Tigers' campaign launched recently by a corporate is one such.

What you can do:

Always obey the rules and regulations laid down by a sanctuary while visiting one.

Never pollute the environment.

Join a wildlife conservation organisation in your neighbourhood or city to do your bit.

Start with animals and birds in your locality. Plant trees and build a bird feeder in your backyard.

Recycle stuff and avoid use of non-biodegradable material.

Never buy animal products; it will only further promote hunting.

Act

Government of India enacted a comprehensive legislation “Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972” to control poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. It was amended in 2003 and thus the punishment and penalty for offences have been made stricter. It applies to the entire country except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The State of J&K has enacted Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978, by virtue of which National Parks, Sanctuaries, Game Reserves and Wetlands have been setup to afford protection to its diverse flora and fauna of the State.

Endangered:

Andaman Shrew (Crocidura andamanensis). (Endemic to India.)

Andaman Spiny Shrew (Crocidura hispida). (Endemic to India.)

Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus).

Banteng (Bos javanicus).

Blue Whale

Capped Leaf Monkey

Chiru (Tibetan Antelope)

Fin Whale

Ganges River Dolphin

Golden Leaf Monkey

Hispid Hare

Hoolock Gibbon

Indian Rhinoceros

Indus River Dolphin

Kondana Soft-furred Rat (Endemic to India)

Lion-tailed Macaque (Endemic to India)

Markhor

Marsh Mongoose (Endemic to India)

Nicobar Shrew (Endemic to India)

Nicobar Tree Shrew (Endemic to India)

Nilgiri Tahr (Endemic to India.)

Particolored Flying Squirrel

Peters' Tube-nosed Bat (Endemic to India)

Red Panda

Royal Bengal Tiger

Sei Whale

Servant Mouse (Endemic to India)

Snow Leopard

Wild Water Buffalo

Woolly Flying Squirrel

Extinct animals of India

Cistecephalus

Discoceras

Exaeretodon

Hyperodapedon

Paradapedon

Pink-headed Duck