Indian Flora And Fauna In Future
The Future What is to be made of the above-cited indications of faunal retreat? At least two factors are responsible for the phenomenon. The first is the trend toward climatic desiccation over the major part of the Indian region. Today's large desert regions in Rajasthan supported forest and woodland in former times. Secondly and probably more important now, man's activities have altered the natural environment and have directly affected wild animal populations. India's large animal fauna has seriously suffered from hunting, forest destruction and urbanisation over the past 150 years or more.
The hippopotamus flourished in southern India and Sri Lanka in historical times (Deraniyagala 1941). It is now gone from the Indian fauna, probably a victim of over-hunting. Demand for rhino horn is the major cause for decline (and extinction) of populations in the Indian region. The last cheetah record for India was of three males shot in Bastar in 1948 (Prater 1980).
Today the single factor of human over population may spell doom for many of India's undisturbed environments and their local faunas. Demand for pasturage for domestic animals, firewood for cooking, and fertile land for gardens increase yearly. A wild elephant herd needs a large tract in which to range and forage. Will there be adequate space for them in another fifty years? Many splendid wilderness tracts have been designed Indian National Parks. But with drought and increases growth in rural populations, will Park boundaries be respected by the hungry, land-poor populace? The rich forests of Arunachal Pradesh are among the most spectacular in Asia. Will they fall to the timberman's saw in the next decades?
India's enlightened leadership has made a commitment to protect the environment. We can only hope that such conviction can be maintained, and that solutions can be found for the problem of man-induced depauperation of natural environments of this diverse region. The efforts that have succeeded in bringing tiger populations back from the brink need to be repeated for other threatened populations and in other endangered habitats.