India is home to an incredible biodiversity. The geography of the country is such that it hosts millions of animal species. A paradise for nature enthusiasts, some of these animals are just too exotic to be true.
Today, on World Wildlife Day, let's have a look at these rare, beautiful and elusive species of animals found in India.
1. Malabar Giant Squirrel
The Malabar Giant Squirrel, also known as Shekru, is a rodent species native to India and comes in vibrant colours - black, cream and purple.
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Even after measuring 3 feet in length, it is not easy to sight these animals amidst the dense forest canopy of Southern India.
As opposed to other squirrels that store their food in the ground, these vibrant and colourful rodents hop from one tree to another and store their food up in the treetops.
They are commonly spotted throughout the Western Ghats up to the Satpura Range. Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu and Silent Valley, Wayanad and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuaries in Kerala offer good opportunities for sighting them.
2. Gee's Golden Langur
Golden Langur is a highly endangered species found in areas lying along the Indo-Bhutan border. In India, these animals are found only in western Assam.
The colour of their fur differs across their bodies with a slightly darker red on the top and sides and a lighter colour underneath. It has been noted that their fur changes colours according to the seasons. In the winter it is dark golden chestnut and in the summer it is more cream coloured.
These gibbons once dominated the Umananda island of Assam, but with the death of the last surviving golden langur on the island recently, they are nearing extinction.
With just about hundreds of animals remaining, these langurs can be found in the buffer areas of the Manas Tiger Reserve and in some villages around the town of Jorhat in Assam.
We all have seen cows on land. But have you ever heard about sea cows? Dugongs are enormous vegetarian mammals found in warm coastal waters of the Indian Ocean.
According to the last survey conducted by the ZSI in 2013, just 250 Dugongs remain in the Indian seas.
They have been accorded the status of protected species in India and occur only in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Gulf of Kutch and Andaman and Nicobar islands.
4. Indian Giant Flying Squirrel
Several species of flying squirrels exist in India, of which, a majority of them are found in the northeastern states. Their flying membrane extends from their wrists to ankles, which enables them to glide from one tree to another.
Not much is known about these rodents and thus they have been classified as Data Deficient by the IUCN.
5. Snow Leopard
One of the world's most elusive cats, Snow Leopards can thrive in the most extreme environments. Sighting them in the frozen areas of Lahual and Spiti districts is out of the world.
Once endangered, the numbers of these animals have increased in India, downgrading them to the vulnerable category. This is good news considering innumerable threats to their existence.
These animals can be seen in the high-altitude protected areas of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.
6. Lion-tailed Macaque
Endemic to the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats in southern India, this species of primates is listed as endangered by the IUCN.
They have a black shiny coat with a striking grey mane around the face and a thin tail with the tuft of hair at the end resembling a lion’s tail.
You can spot them in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Some of the most notable ones are the Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu and Periyar National Park in Kerala.
7. Himalayan Tahr
A sub-species of the wild goats, Himalayan Tahr is widely found in the snow-covered mountain ranges of the Himalayas.
In winters they have dense, reddish to dark brown woolly coat with a thick undercoat, much of which they lose in the spring. IUCN has listed it as 'near threatened' due to widespread habitat loss and poaching.
8. Red Panda
Listed as endangered, these cute little mammals are found in the forests of Sikkim, western Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, and parts of Meghalaya. It is also the state animal of Sikkim.
Bamboo trees are the natural habitat of these animals and rapid deforestation is leading to a decline in their numbers. Also, increase in trekking trails cutting through their habitat, is posing a threat to these animals.
You can spot these endangered species in protected areas like the Neora Valley National Park, Khangchendzonga National Park and Singalila National Park.
You must have seen several species of deer, but this subspecies is native to India and is found only in the valleys of Jammu & Kashmir. Their magnificent antlers make them stand apart from other species of deer.
Classified as critically endangered, Hangul or the Kashmir Stag, receives protection only in the Dachigam National Park in J&K.
10. Indian Flying Fox
These are basically fruit bats, but are called flying foxes due to their resemblance to foxes. If you see them, you'll most probably mistake them for foxes with wings.
They are endemic to South Central Asia and live in tropical forests and swamps.
11. Nilgiri Marten
Found exclusively in the Western Ghats, this small carnivore mammal is known for a lemon yellow coloured patch on its throat. This rare animal hasn't been studied much and scientists estimate that its population is only about 1000 individuals.
The elusive species can be sighted in the Pampadum Shola National Park in the Munnar Wildlife Division.
12. Himalayan Marmot
One of the highest-altitude dwelling mammals, Himalayan Marmots are exposed to extreme temperatures. They are the best example of organisms adapting to oxygen-starved environments.
They hide in burrows as deep as 30 feet for more than six months at a time during the winter. Recently it was seen that tourists have been feeding these marmots causing threat to their lives.
These animals can be sighted in Ladakh.
13. Himalayan Brown Bear
Already extinct in Bhutan, India and Pakistan could possibly be the only countries where the last population of the Himalayan Brown Bears remain.
These huge animals can be spotted at the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh and even in the south and western Ladakh.
14. Indian Chevrotain (Mouse Deer)
It is very difficult to spot this animal as it is nocturnal in its habits. The mottled markings on their body provide them excellent camouflage. Unlike other species of deer, they lack antlers and are known to lead a solitary life.
The endangered species can be found in semi-evergreen and deciduous forests of Karnataka, Telangana and Chhattisgarh.
15. Honey Badger
Honey Badgers are one of the most fierce animals found in the jungles of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. These ferocious animals are known for their exceptional defensive abilities.
They are silver grey on their back, head and tail and black elsewhere. They have been accorded special protection under the Wildlife Protection Act.
These animals can be spotted in Male Mahadeshwara Hills, Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and North Cauvery River Sanctuary in Karnataka.
A near threatened species whose underfur is used for making the famous Shahtoosh shawls, Chiru goat has been granted special protection status in India.
Native to Tibet, this antelope is found in the Ladakh region of India.
We are blessed to have been endowed with such magnificent and beautiful wildlife. Many of these animals are threatened due to human activities and are nearing extinction. It's time we mend our ways before we lose them forever.