Diversion of pasture and readily accessible forestlands to agriculture and to a host of other purposes and the consequent movement of cattle to the interior forests for grazing has not only wrested a large part of its habitat from wildlife, but has also caused a deterioration in the carrying capacity of the remaining habitat. Improved communications network in the forests, versatile vehicles, slackening of fire-arms further exposed the wildlife to serious hazards. Infirm statutory provisions aggravated the situation.
Faced with a shrinking habitat, competition from cattle, and poaching hazards, the prospects for wildlife are grim. The wild herbivore populations, which not very long ago were teeming and displayed wide variety in most parts of the country, have become greatly impoverished. Many species have become locally extinct, their habitat having shrunk to a small fraction and even there the number has gone precariously low.
Thus of the two sub-species of barasinga, that in the Sub-Himalayan tarai region stands grossly depleted while the once teeming Central Indian hardground sub-species is being helped to fight a last-ditch battle against extinction in the Kanha National Park of Madhya Pradesh fortunately an upward trend is now reported. The distribution of black buck, gaur and arna has now become local and scanty.
Of the mountain game, the markhor, the Himalayan and the Nilgiri thars have become scarce. Several species of birds such as the Great Indian Bustard, white-winged wood-duck and the pink-headed duck face extinction.
With the base of prey animals largely depleted, the carnivore populations have greatly suffered too. The cheetah or the Indian hunting leopard is now extinct, while the lion is confined only to the Gir national park in Gujarat.
Even the tiger has entered a phase calling for intensive conservation efforts to save it from heading towards extinction. Against an estimated population of 40,000 tigers in India at the end of the nineteenth century, less than 2,000 are now left. The panther population has also been decimated.
It has been noticed that more than 39 species of mammals, 72 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians, 2 species of fish and a large number of butterflies, moths and beetles have reached the level of extinction and now considered as endangered species.