Hunting, poaching, pollution and overpopulation are all taking a heavy toll on wild animals. This Wildlife Week, teach your child about endangered species and inspire her to protect them.
By Aarthi Arun
"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." — Mahatma Gandhi.
Today, rapid urbanisation, deforestation, diminishing food and other factors have led to a swift decline in the population of certain species. And when we talk about endangered species, one of the first animals that come to mind is the tiger. But, apart from the famed Bengal Tiger, there are myriad animals that call Indian forests their home. For various reasons, both natural and man-made, many of them are on the endangered list. They need our support to survive in a rapidly changing world.
But, talking to your child about the need for wildlife to flourish is one thing. Getting him to experience the wonder of the natural and animal world, is something else. Your child is likely to feel more involved in wildlife conversation if you make a trip to India's awe-inspiring sanctuaries and National Parks.
So, pack your bags and head to the lush jungles across India to create awareness in your child and, celebrate the Wildlife Week in style.
Here is a list of endangered animals and the places where you can spot them:
Lion-tailed macaque monkeys are black in colour, with white manes. They have a distinctive, thin tail with tuft of hair at the end. These monkeys can be found in troops under the thick canopy of the Western Ghats. Due to overpopulation and habitat loss, their numbers are now dwindling. Also, as their skin and meat are prized for supposed medicinal properties, hunting is another reason for their shrinking numbers.
Where to spot: Silent Valley National Park, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Eravikulam National Park, Periyar Tiger Reserve.
As its name suggests, the Nilgiri Tahr roams the rich grasslands of the Nilgiris. Hunting and poaching have reduced their numbers to a mere 3000. They look like goats but are larger and have distinctive curved horns. Also called Ibis, the Tahr can weigh up to 100kgs.
Where to spot: Eravikulam National Park, Anamalai Hills, Palani Hills, Periyar National Park
Known to the locals as Hangul, this magnificent deer is the state animal of Kashmir. Thanks to a reddish-brown coat, these are also known as Red Deer. The grassy slopes of Jammu and Kashmir are where you can find these large deer. However, poaching and overgrazing of their natural habitat by domestic cattle has driven this deer to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Critically Endangered List.
Where to spot: Dachigam National Park
Prefers the tall grasslands and wetlands in the foothills of the Himalayas. They are hunted for their horns that can weigh up to 3kgs. The horns can regrow once broken. Since these rhino prefer fertile lands, they often come into conflict with humans. They are great swimmers and can dive underwater to feed on aquatic plants. They may look heavy and bulky, but can actually run quite fast.
Where to spot: Kaziranga National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara National Park, Orang National Park, Manas National Park
At almost the size of a domestic cat, this cute mammal with a fluffy tail dwells in North-Eastern states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Red pandas spend most of their time on treetops and use their plush tails as blankets to keep them warm. Unfortunately, villagers who share the forest with the red pandas, cut down trees for firewood. This has led to deforestation and also, pushed the red panda towards extinction.
Where to spot: Singalila National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Namdapha National Park, Khangchendzonga National Park, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Found only in the rivers Ganges and the Brahmaputra, these famed river dolphins are threatened by extreme pollution and overfishing. Rapid industrialisation and dam-building has shrunk their numbers to only about 2,000 in the wild. Ganges dolphins are known as 'blind dolphins' because they do not have a lens in their eye. The dolphins make a distinguishable sound when breathing through their blowholes, which has given them a popular name, Susu.
Where to spot: Vikramashila Dolphin Gangetic Sanctuary, National Chambal Sanctuary, Dibru Saikhowa National Park
These wild dogs are social animals that live in groups (called packs) of twelve or more. They communicate with each other through various sounds like growls, whistles and screams. In the tropical rainforests of India, they face competition for prey from bigger cats like the tiger and the leopard. They also encounter diseases transmitted from domestic dogs.
Where to spot: Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, Tadoba National Park, Kanha National Park
The scaly anteaters are secretive, nocturnal animals that feed mostly on insects like ants, termites, cockroaches and worms. Indian Pangolins are covered with large overlapping scales. They are extensively hunted and trafficked around the world for their meat and scales, which are believed to have medicinal properties. Pangolins are the only scaly mammals in the world. In times of danger, pangolins curl into a ball, exposing their sharp scales to protect themselves.
Where to spot: Corbett National Park, Nandankanan Zoological Park (where pangolins are bred in captivity)
If you cannot head to a National Park right away, don't fret. There is wildlife everywhere, even in your backyard. You can encourage your child to explore the creatures in your neighbourhood, in local gardens and parks. Instilling a love for nature and the natural world in your child will prompt her to care about animals and conserving their habitat.
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