In a unique initiative, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has published a book containing a consolidated documentation and listing of all the scheduled or protected species of mammals found in India.
“It is important to note that India is home to 428 species of mammals out of which more than 60 per cent — about 251 species — are under protected or Scheduled categories of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 “ Gaurav Sharma, scientist of ZSI, and one of the authors of the publication told The Hindu .
The book, An Identification Manual for Scheduled Mammals of India , provides detailed information on scheduled mammals, their status as per IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list of Threatened Species.
Mr. Sharma also added that the 428 species of mammals in India contribute to about 8 per cent of the total mammal species found in the World. “About 50 per cent of mammalian fauna of India have shrunk in their distributional range due to various anthropogenic pressures,” he said. Already four mammal species — Cheetah, Banteng, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Javan Rhinoceros — are extinct in India.
The publication assumed greater significance particularly in view of the fact that the country was celebrating World Environment Day on June 5, Director of ZSI K. Ventakaraman told The Hindu , emphasising that except a few flagship species there was very little known about many mammals.
Out of the 251 Schedule mammals species listed under the India Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and documented in the publication, about 180 fall under the “lesser-known” category, and very little information is available about their habitat, behaviour, and population.
Around 78 species of mammals are included in Schedule I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, implying that highest priority is placed on the conservation of these animals in the country. While the Schedule I mammals constitute well known species like tiger, elephant and Indian rhinoceros, “lesser known” species such as clouded leopard, snow leopard, gaur, desert cat, Niligiri tahr, swamp deer, sloth bear and Tibetan, sand fox are also included in the list.
The book also lists the mammals that fall in the “Critically Endangered” category of the IUCN. These animals are: pygmy hog, Malabar civet, large rock rat and kondana rat. As per the IUCN status 29 mammals (such as, Chinese Pangolin, fishing cat, Gangetic dolphin, golden langur, hispid hare etc.) in the country come under the “endangered” category.