India is a home of wide variety of wildlife species of about 7.6% of mammals, 14.7% of amphibians, 6% of birds, 6.2% of reptilian and 6% of flowering plant species. There are more than 490 species of mammals and more than 1,950 species of birds. Considered as the most biodiverse region of the world, India contains 3 most important biodiversity hotspots i.e. The Eastern Himalayas, The Western Ghats and the Indo- Burma hotspots. India is a home of very well known large animals like Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, blackbuck, Asiatic lion etc. India has about 980 protected areas including, 566 wildlife sanctuaries, 103 national parks, 97 conservation reserves, and 214 community reserves. Beside these, the country has 51 tiger reserves, 32 elephant reserves and 18 biosphere reserves.
Jammu and Kashmir has a rich biodiversity with beautiful and amazing wildlife reserves. Wildlife sanctuaries of Jammu and Kashmir are known for the rarest and endangered species of wild animals like Hangul, wild cats, leopard, Himalayan black bear, musk deer etc. The UT has 14 wildlife sanctuaries, 5 national parks and 35 wildlife conservation reserves spread over an area of more than 16,000 sq km. There are many more attractive and elegant forms of life in many national parks and sanctuaries that exist in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Famous National parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir which are famous all around the world are:
- 1. Dachigam National Park: This park is located about 20kms from Srinagar. This park encompasses meadows, alpine pastures and waterfalls. Some of the animals which are found in the Dachigam national park are: musk deer, brown bear, leopards, Hangul, etc. This Park is a home of various birds like black bulbuls, colorful pheasants, cinnamon sparrows, Kashmiri flycatcher and Himalayan monal.
- 2. Kishtwar high altitude national park: This Park is located in kishtwsar district of Jammu region. This Park is known as high altitude park because it is located on high altitude that ranges from 1700 to 4800 meters. The animals found in this park are Indian muntjac, Himalayan Tahr, Hangul and snow leopard. May to September are considered to be the best months for visiting this place. Many local and foreign tourists visit here to see the different species of birds that are found in this park which include; white cheeked bulbul, griffon vulture, and paradise flycatcher
- 3. Kazinag National Park: This Park is located 70 kms from Srinagar. It is home to more than 120 species of mammals, and almost 20 species of birds. There are different kinds of species of mammals and animals that are found in this park like Himalayan marmot, musk deer, common leopard, markhor and the Kashmiri flying squirrel.
- 4. Overa Aru Wildlife sanctuary: River Lidder flows through this sanctuary. Famously known for some rare and endangered animals, some of the prominently animals that exist in this sanctuary are: Hangul, musk deer, Himalayan mouse hare. Some bird species that live here are: blue rock pigeon, Indian myna, and Kashmiri roller.
- Achabal wildlife sanctuary: It is located 65kms from Srinagar. It is a very beautiful wildlife sanctuary and many tourists visit here to see the animals that are found in this sanctuary. The animals that are found here are: The Kashmiri Stag, flying squirrel, snow leopard, deer, jackal etc.
- 5. Hirpora wildlife sanctuary: This sanctuary of UT of J&K is known for incredibly rich fauna and vegetation. More than 130 species of birds and many animals are found in this sanctuary. This area encompasses alpine scrub forests, alpine pastures and coniferous forests. The animals found in this sanctuary are: Himalayan griffon, Himalayan civet, Himalayan black bear, brown bear and Tibetan wolf.
Important wild life species of J&K are:
- 1. Kashmiri Stag: famously known as Hangul in Kashmir. This animal is commonly found in Dachigam national park. If we look at the status of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this animal is put under the category of critically endangered species.
- 2. Musk deer: This deer is commonly found in Overa Aru wildlife sanctuary, kishtwar national park, Salim ali national park. Looking at the current status of IUCN, this animal is put under the category of endangered species.
- 3. Markhor: Globally this animal is known as the largest mountain goat. It is found in the Lachipora wildlife sanctuary. IUCN status shows that this animal has been put under the category of endangered species.
- 4. Himalayan brown bear: this bear is known as the world’s largest omnivore. It is commonly found in Kishtwar national park and city forest national park.
- 5. Snow leopard: This animal is generally seen in Hemis national park in Ladakh. Known as snow leopard, this animal lives under the harsh winter condition and is mostly seen in winter season. If we look at the current status of IUCN this animal is put under the category of endangered species.