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India is made up of many different and diverse habitats, including humid rainforests, dry alpine mountains, vast grasslands and mangrove forests.
These ecosystems support more than 91,000 animal species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. India is home to such a varied group of animals that it’s considered “megadiverse” — one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
Not all of India’s animals species, though, are thriving. The World Wildlife Fund-India pinpoints these four endangered animals as animals that need the most help to keep surviving for generations to come.
The Red Panda
Much of the forests where red pandas live, including the trees they nest in and the bamboo they eat, have been cut down. This has caused the red panda population to get smaller and smaller over the last few generations, according to the IUCN, and their numbers aren’t expected to improve in the coming years.
To help the red pandas bounce back, scientists and environmentalists are introducing local communities to new energy sources, like coal made from agricultural waste and mud, to help protect the trees red pandas need to survive.
The Bengal Tiger
Tigers are at the top of the food chain, and “the presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well-being” of an entire ecosystem, according to WWF-India. Without its apex predator, the Bengal tigers’ environments would collapse.
So how are these hunters endangered? People have moved into and changed their natural habitats and, until about 50 years ago, it was legal to hunt tigers. Some people still kill tigers illegally to sell their fur and other body parts.
WWF-India has programs to restore tiger habitats and to teach locals about the importance of protecting the Bengal tiger — even a program that gives money to farmers if a tiger kills any of their cattle.
The Ganges River Dolphin
These dolphins live in river systems that flow through India, Nepal and Bangladesh. There were once tens of thousands of them but — due to hunting and new dams separating them from each other — WWF-India reports there are less than 2,000 left in India.
To save the freshwater dolphins, which are blind and hunt using ultrasonic sounds, scientists are studying and working to conserve habitats that could be safer for them.
The Asian elephant
Much like the Bengal Tiger, Asian elephants have lost much of their habitat and many of them have been killed by people who want to sell their ivory tusks. These vegetarian animals are especially important because they help maintain India’s grasslands — they eat for as many as 19 hours per day and walk for miles, dropping 220 pounds per day of fertilizing poop.
Conservationists and local communities are working together to reconnect elephants’ habitats and protect the paths they use to migrate, as well as protect their existing habitats.