For years, Asiatic cheetahs and wolves would roam the Indian plains.
But the cheetahs are now gone and so are the vast herds of antelope that they fed on.
With only 3,100 wolves remaining in India, they could be the next to disappear.
The Indian grey wolves are one of the oldest wolf lineages in the world. They are smaller and leaner compared to their European and American counterparts. The Indian wolf is highly adapted to the hot, arid plains of the subcontinent.
In India, wolves are in the same category of endangerment as tigers.
Habitat loss is a primary threat to the survival of this species. Wolves’ native habitat is barren wastelands that are now actively prioritised for development activities.
But on the other hand, there is also no wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of Indian wolves. A recent study shows that less than 5% of open natural ecosystems in the country are protected. Wolves are under threat from another unlikely source: dogs. Wolves and dogs have an uneasy love-hate relationship.
If a wolf is unable to find a partner, then it may mate with a dog, resulting in wolf-dog hybrids. This genetic dilution of wild genes may eventually result in an evolutionary disadvantage for the wolf. It could be robbed of its ability to hunt prey. In turn, dogs may also pass on deadly diseases to wolves.
The survival of the Indian wolf depends on nomadic pastoralist communities. Experts say that wolves can be saved by protecting their natural habitat and by recognising the connection between humans and these animals.