In situ conservation

  • Faced with the conflict between development and conservation, many nations find it unrealistic and economically not feasible to conserve all their biological wealth.
  • On a global basis, this problem has been addressed by eminent conservationists. They identified for maximum protection certain ‘biodiversity hotspots’ regions with very high levels of species richness and high degree of endemism (that is, species confined to that region and not found anywhere else).
  • Initially 25 biodiversity hotspots were identified but subsequently nine more have been added to the list, bringing the total number of biodiversity hotspots in the world to 34.
  • These hotspots are also regions of accelerated habitat loss. Three of these hotspots – Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, Indo-Burma and Eastern Himalayas cover our country’s exceptionally high biodiversity regions.
  • Although all the biodiversity hotspots put together cover less than 2 percent of the earth’s land area, the number of species they collectively harbour is extremely high and strict protection of these hotspots could reduce the ongoing mass extinctions by almost 30 per cent.
  • In India, ecologically unique and biodiversity-rich regions are legally protected as biosphere reserves, national parks, sanctuaries, reserved forests, protected forests and nature reserves.
  • India now has 14 biosphere reserves, 90 national parks and 448 wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Plantation, cultivation, grazing, felling trees, hunting and poaching are prohibited in biosphere reserves, national parks and sanctuaries.

Protected Area Network in India

  • National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister of India provides for policy framework for wildlife conservation in the country.
  • The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) was adopted in 2002, emphasizing the people’s participation and their support for wildlife conservation.

Reserved & Protected Forests

  • As of present, reserved forests and protected forests differ in one important way:
  1. Rights to all activities like hunting, grazing, etc. in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise.
  2. In protected areas, rights to activities like hunting and grazing are sometimes given to communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products.
  • The first reserve forest in India was Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Typically, reserved forests are often upgraded to the status of wildlife sanctuaries, which in turn may be upgraded to the status of national parks, with each category receiving a higher degree of protection and government funding.

Wildlife Sanctuaries or wildlife refuges

    • Wildlife Sanctuaries or wildlife refuges are home to various endangered species.
    • They are safe from hunting, predation or competition.
    • They are safeguarded from extinction in their natural habitat.
    • Certain rights of people living inside the Sanctuary could be permitted.
    • Grazing, firewood collection by tribals is allowed but strictly regulated.
    • Settlements not allowed (few exceptions: tribal settlements do exist constant; efforts are made to relocate them).
    • A Sanctuary can be promoted to a National Park.
 There are more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries in India.

National Park

  • National parks are areas reserved for wild life where they can freely use the habitats and natural resources.
  • The difference between a Sanctuary and a National Park mainly lies in the vesting of rights of people living inside.
  • Unlike a Sanctuary, where certain rights can be allowed, in a National Park, no rights are allowed.
  • No grazing of any livestock shall also be permitted inside a National Park while in a Sanctuary, the Chief Wildlife Warden may regulate, control or prohibit it.

Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002–2016) of MoEFCC stipulated that state governments should declare land falling within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as eco fragile zones or ESZs under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The purpose of the ESZ was to provide more protection to the parks by acting as a shock absorber or transition zone.
  • Eco-Sensitive Zones would minimise forest depletion and man-animal conflict.
  • The protected areas are based on the core and buffer model of management.
  • The core area has the legal status of being a national park.
  • The buffer area, however, does not have legal status of being a national park and could be a reserved forest, wildlife sanctuary or tiger reserve.

Biosphere Reserve

  • Large areas of protected land for conservation of wild life, plant and animal resources and traditional life of the tribals living in the area.
  • May have one more national parks or wildlife sanctuaries in it.

Core area

  • Comprises a strictly protected ecosystem for conserving ecosystems, species and genetic variation. In core or natural zone human activity is not allowed.

Buffer zone

  • Used for scientific research, monitoring, training and education.

Transition area

  • Ecologically sustainable human settlements and economic activities (tourism) are permitted.
  • With the cooperation of reserve management and local people several human activities like settlements, cropping, recreation, and forestry are carried out without disturbing the environment.

Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB programme)

  • It was first started by UNESCO in 1971.
  • Later introduced in India in 1986.


  1. Studying the effects of human interference and pollution on the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems.
  2. Conservation the ecosystems for the present as well as future.

The main objects of MAB programme are to:

  1. Conserve representative samples of ecosystem.
  2. Provide long term in situ conservation of genetic diversity.
  3. Provide opportunities for education and training.
  4. Provide appropriate sustainable managements of the living resources.
  5. Promote infer national co-operation.

Tiger Reserves

  • Same as sanctuaries. But they are monitored by NTCA under Project tiger.
  • The various tiger reserves were created in the country based on ‘core-buffer’ strategy.

Core area

  • The core areas are freed of all human activities.
  • It has the legal status of a national park or wildlife sanctuary.
  • Collection of minor forest produce, grazing, and other human disturbances are not allowed.

Buffer areas

  • Twin objectives:
  1. providing habitat supplement to spillover population of wild animals from core area.
  2. provide site specific co-developmental inputs to surrounding villages for relieving their impact on core area.
  • Collection of minor forest produce and grazing by tribals is allowed on a sustainable basis.
  • The Forest Rights Act passed by the Indian government in 2006 recognizes the rights of some forest dwelling communities in forest areas.

Conservation Reserves

  • Conservation Reserves can be declared by the State Governments in any area owned by the Government, particularly the areas adjacent to National Parks and Sanctuaries and those areas which link one Protected Area with another.
  • Such declaration should be made after having consultations with the local communities.
  • The rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve are not affected.

Community Reserves

  • Community Reserves can be declared by the State Government in any private or community land, not comprised within a National Park, Sanctuary or a Conservation Reserve, where an individual or a community has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat.
  • As in the case of a Conservation Reserve, the rights of people living inside a Community Reserve are not affected.

Sacred Groves

  • India has a history of religious/cultural traditions that emphasised protection of nature.
  • In many cultures, tracts of forest were set aside, and all the trees and wildlife within were venerated and given total protection.
  • Such sacred groves are found in Khasi and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan, Western Ghat regions of Karnataka and Maharashtra and the Sarguja, Chanda and Bastar areas of Madhya Pradesh.
  • In Meghalaya, the sacred groves are the last refuges for a large number of rare and threatened plants.

Ex situ Conservation

  • In this approach, threatened animals and plants are taken out from their natural habitat and placed in special setting where they can be protected and given special care.
  • Zoological parks, botanical gardens, wildlife safari parks and seed banks serve this purpose.
  • There are many animals that have become extinct in the wild but continue to be maintained in zoological parks.
  • In recent years ex situ conservation has advanced beyond keeping threatened species. Now gametes of threatened species can be preserved in viable and fertile condition for long periods using cryopreservation techniques, eggs can be fertilized in vitro, and plants can be propagated using tissue culture methods.
  • Seeds of different genetic strains of commercially important plants can be kept for long periods in seed banks.
  • The national gene bank at National Bureau Of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Delhi is primarily responsible for conservation of unique accessions on long-term basis, as base collections for posterity, predominantly in the form of seeds.

Botanical garden

  • Botanical garden refers to the scientifically planned collection of living trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers and other plants from various parts of the globe.

Purpose of botanical gardens

  • To study the taxonomy as well as growth of plants.
  • To study the introduction and acclimatization process of exotic plants.
  • It acts as a germplasm collection.
  • It helps development of new hybrids.
  • It augments conserving rare and threatened species.
  • It facilitates training of staff.
  • It acts as a source of recreation.


  • Zoo is an establishment, whether stationary or mobile, where captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public and includes a circus and rescue centers but does not include an establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals.
  • The initial purpose of zoos was entertainment, over the decades, zoos have got transformed into centers for wildlife conservation and environmental education.
  • Apart from saving individual animals, zoos have a role to play in species conservation too (through captive breeding).
  • Zoos provide an opportunity to open up a whole new world, and this could be used in sensitizing visitors regarding the value and need for conservation of wildlife.

Biosphere Reserves in India






Key fauna

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Waynad, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Mudumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Anaimalai Hills Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka Western Ghats Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque
Nanda Devi National Park & Biosphere Reserve Parts of Chamoli District, Pithoragarh District & Bageshwar District Uttarakhand Western Himalayas Snow Leopard , Himalayan Black Bear
Gulf of Mannar Indian part of Gulf of Mannar extending from Rameswaram island in the North to Kanyakumari in the South of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka Tamil Nadu Coasts Dugong or sea cow
Nokrek Part of Garo Hills Meghalaya East Himalayas Red panda
Sundarbans Part of delta of Ganges and Brahmaputra river system West Bengal Gangetic Delta Royal Bengal tiger
Manas Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari,Kamrup and Darrang Districts Assam East Himalayas Golden langur, red panda
Simlipal Part of Mayurbhanj district Odisha Deccan Peninsula Gaur, royal Bengal tiger, elephant
Dihang-Dibang Part of Siang and Dibang Valley Arunachal Pradesh Eastern Himalaya  
Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve Parts of Betul District, Hoshangabad District andChhindwara District Madhya Pradesh Semi-Arid Giant squirrel, flying squirrel
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve Part of Annupur, Dindori and Bilaspur districts Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Maikala Hills Four-horned antelope, Indian wild dog, Sarus crane, White-rumped vulture, Philautus sanctisilvaticus (Sacred grove bush frog)
Great Rann of Kutch Part of Kutch, Rajkot, Surendranagar and Patan Districts Gujarat Desert Indian wild ass
Cold Desert Pin Valley National Park and surroundings;Chandratal and Sarchu & Kibber Wildlife Sancturary Himachal Pradesh Western Himalayas Snow leopard
Khangchendzonga Parts of Kangchenjunga Sikkim East Himalayas Snow leopard, red panda
Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve Neyyar, Peppara and Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary and their adjoining areas Kerala, Tamil Nadu Western Ghats Nilgiri tahr, elephants
Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve Southern most islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Andaman and Nicobar Islands Islands Saltwater crocodile
Dibru-Saikhowa Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts Assam East Himalayas Golden langur
Seshachalam Hills Seshachalam Hill Ranges covering parts of Chittoor and Kadapa districts Andhra Pradesh Eastern Ghats  
Panna Part of Panna District and Chhatarpur District Madhya Pradesh Catchment Area of the Ken River Tiger, chital, chinkara, sambhar and sloth bear