Last month Vivek Menon’s book Indian Mammals: A Field Guide was launched. The book isn’t quite the revised edition of his 2003 must have for subcontinental wildlife enthusiasts, A Field Guide to the Indian Mammals, but a new book altogether. If the current rate of poaching and unsustainable development continues, some of these animals may not be around to feature in Vivek’s next book. And today happens to be World Population Day, thus the need to highlight the dwindling strength of our countrymates.
Namdapha Flying Squirrel
Biswamoyopterus biswasi is a nocturnal flying squirrel endemic to North East India. It is listed as a critically endangered species due to habitat loss. In addition it is hunted for food, and skins/fur. Nothing known about population trends. It is known only from a specimen collected in 1981, although informal sightings occurred in 2002 near Halidibari and Deban.
Gavialis gangeticus is a fish eating crocodile native to the Indian subcontinent. It is estimated that there are nearly 200 of alive and are threatened by loss of riverine habitat, depletion of fish resources and use of fishing nets.
Red Headed Vulture
Sarcogyps calvus, also known as Asian King Vulture or Indian Black Vulture, is the most critically endangered species of bird in India. It s mainly found in the Indian subcontinent. The widespread use of the NSAID Diclofenac in veterinary medicine in India has caused its population to collapse in recent years, however. Diclofenac is a compound now known to be extremely poisonous to vultures.
Panthera leo persica is a lion subspecies that exists as a single isolated population in Gujarat. It’s current population stands at ~420. Since they exist as a single subpopulation, and are thus vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, such as an epidemic or large forest fire. There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years. There are reports that organised gangs have switched attention from tigers to these lions. There have also been a number of drowning incidents after lions fell into wells.
Cervus canadensis hanglu is a subspecies of wapiti native to Jammu and Kashmir. It has less than 150 individuals currently surviving. These deer once numbered from about 5,000 animals in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, they were threatened, due to habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching.
Malabar large-spotted Civet
Viverra Civettina is a small mammal endemic to the Western Ghats. Its population is estimated to be less than 250 individuals. It has been seriously threatened by habitat destruction and hunting because they lived outside protected areas. Until a few decades ago, Ayurvedic physicians in Kerala reared Malabar civets to obtain civetone, an extract from the scent gland, which was used in medicine, and as an aromatic.
Porcula salvania is a small wild pig found in Assam. There are only about 150 of their kind. Conservation of the species has been affected by the lack of public support, while Local political unrest in the area has also severely hampered effective conservation efforts.