India, known for its exceptional biodiversity, encompasses four of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots. It is among the seventeen mega diverse countries worldwide. Despite covering only 2.4% of the Earth’s landmass, India harbors 7-8% of the world’s biodiversity. The country boasts approximately 90,000 animal species, including 500 mammal species, over 2,000 bird species, and a wide variety of fish in its freshwater and marine ecosystems. However, India’s biodiversity faces significant threats in recent times, primarily caused by human activities.


Biodiversity hotspots:

  • Biodiversity hotspots refer to biogeographic regions characterized by substantial biodiversity levels at risk due to human habitation.
  • The term was coined by Norman Myers.
  • Two qualifying criteria define a biodiversity hotspot:
    o The region must contain a minimum of 0.5% or 1,500 species of endemic vascular plants.
    o The region must have lost at least 75% of its primary vegetation.

India as a biodiversity hotspot for wildlife:

  • India possesses seven Natural World Heritage sites, eleven Biosphere Reserves (within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves), and thirty-seven Ramsar Wetlands.
  • The four biodiversity hotspots in India are the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, Sundaland, and the Indo-Burma hotspot.
  • Endemic species in India account for 12.6% of mammals, 4.5% of birds, 45.8% of reptiles, and 55.8% of amphibians.
  • India is also home to 2.9% (172 species) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designated threatened species.

Threat to wildlife across India:

1. Indo-Burma region:

  • Deforestation caused by logging, mining, firewood collection, and coal production leads to habitat loss.
  • Construction of dams and reservoirs negatively impacts nesting birds and turtle species.
  • Intense fishing on mudflats and the conversion of mangroves to aquaculture result in the loss of feeding habitat for migratory birds and species.
  • Over-harvesting and habitat loss threaten turtles.
  • Wildlife trade in China’s markets contributes to the threat faced by turtles, snakes, and tigers.

2. Eastern Himalayas:

  • Poaching poses a significant problem, targeting tigers and rhinos for their body parts and use in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Snow leopards and red pandas, prized for their pelts, are endangered.
  •  Extensive logging, mining, forest and grassland clearance, road construction, and dam projects contribute to habitat destruction.

3. Western Ghats:

  • The encroachment of human settlements on the fringes of the Western Ghats leads to increased human-animal conflicts, such as crop raids by elephants and livestock predation by leopards.
  • Wildlife is often trapped and killed to protect crops, livestock, and human lives.
  •  Forest fires and unregulated tourism further threaten wildlife biodiversity.

4. Sundaland:

  • The wildlife trade poses a significant threat, impacting species such as tigers, rhinos, turtles, geckos, monkeys, and bears.
  •  Orangutans are traded as pets, and caged birds are also in demand.
  •  Deforestation and habitat loss further exacerbate the threats faced by wildlife in the region.

5. Sunderban Mangroves and mangroves of alluvial deltas:

  • Siltation from soil erosion, agricultural runoff, aquaculture, fuelwood extraction, and indiscriminate construction negatively affect fish, shellfish, crustaceans, birds, and the Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sunderban mangroves.

6. Corals of Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

  • Habitat destruction due to sewage and industrial effluents, as well as their use in cement factories and jewelry making, poses a threat to the approximately 179 coral species in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

7. Threats to river ecosystems:

  • Water pollution, heavy metals, toxic effluents, hot water from industries, organic wastes, and agricultural runoff have a detrimental effect on fish, dolphins, and other marine life.
  • River Ganga pollution results in hypoxia, making it challenging for marine animals to survive.


Way ahead:

  • Strict enforcement of existing wildlife protection acts and biodiversity conservation regulations, such as the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Wetland Conservation and Management Rules 2010.
  • Financial and technical support for wildlife research initiatives and centrally sponsored schemes like the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats, Project Rhino, Project Great Indian Bustard, Project Tiger, and Project Elephant.
  • Establishment of stringent rules and actions against illegal wildlife trading and poaching by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
  • Protection of natural wildlife habitats through clear demarcation and prevention of encroachment, illegal construction, and occupation.
  • Creation of protected areas, such as national parks, conservation reserves, and sanctuaries, to ensure the preservation of threatened species within their natural habitats.
  • Ban on veterinary drugs harmful to wildlife and promotion of wildlife conservation breeding programs to safeguard endangered species.
  • Identification and support for the recovery of endangered species through initiatives like the “Recovery of Endangered Species” under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.


India’s wildlife faces numerous threats due to human activities, including deforestation, pollution, overexploitation, habitat loss, and illegal trading. The severity of these threats varies across different biodiversity hotspot regions in India.

To mitigate these challenges, it is crucial to implement stringent policies, protect natural habitats, support research and conservation efforts, and take strict actions against offenders. By doing so, India can preserve its rich wildlife and ensure a sustainable future for biodiversity.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish January 9, 2024