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| Last Updated:: 10/05/2023

Species Recovery Programme

What is Species Recovery Programme ?
The country's flagship and charismatic species face a variety of threats, ranging from habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade to reduction in forest cover outside protected areas. Significant populations of these species exist outside Protected Areas moving for dispersal from their natal habitats or for seasonal migrations.

The erstwhile Ministry of Environment and Forest scheme of 'Assistance for the Development of National Parks and Sanctuaries' was reformulated and renamed as 'Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)' during the 11th Plan period (2007-2012). The MoEF, in consultation with Wildlife Institute of India and other scientific institutions/ organizations, identified 16 terrestrial and 6 aquatic species with the objective of saving critically endangered species/ecosystems that to ensure their protection outside Protected Areas, across the wider landscape/seascape.

Species Recovery Plans were prepared for several of these species. The Lion (Panthera leo persica) and Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) populations are showing an increasing trend, and the Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) and Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) populations are stable; but the populations of the Great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) and the Nicobar megapode (Megapodius nicobariensis) have recorded declines. Vulture populations, in particular Gyps bengalensis, that had declined substantially in recent times have registered a small upward trend, indicating that conservation measures taken for the species are showing a positive outcome. Efforts are underway for developing protocols for monitoring the status and trends of the remaining IDWH species.

Species under IDWH Scheme:
(Click on species name for more information)

1. Asian Wild Buffalo
2. Asiatic Lion
3. Brow-Antlered Deer or Sangai
4. Dugong
5. Edible Nest Swiftlet
6. Gangetic River Dolphin
7. Great Indian Bustard
8. Hangul
9. Indian Rhino or Great One-horned Rhinoceros
10. Jerdon’s Courser
11. Malabar Civet
12. Marine Turtles*
13. Nicobar Megapode
14. Nilgiri Tahr
15. Snow Leopard
16. Swamp Deer
17. Vultures*

18. Northern River Terrapin
19. Clouded Leopard
20. Arabian Sea Humpback Whale
21. Red Panda
22. Caracal

*entire group of species found in India


(Source: MoEFCC)


1. Asian Wild Buffalo

(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)

Distribution Map of Asian Wild Buffalo

The Asian wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) has been designated as endangered by the IUCN and included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The wild buffalo was once widely distributed over the tracts of tall grasslands and riverine forests in India and Nepal. The present population of wild buffalo in its entire range is estimated to be lower than 2,000 individuals.

2. Asiatic Lion

(Photo: Mohd. Zahir)
Distribution Map of Asiatic Lion


The GIR forest, a dry deciduous forest ecosystem in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is the abode of the last surviving population of the free ranging Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica). The total distribution range of lion in this region is estimated to be around 9000 in three districts, i.e. Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar, of which GIR National Park, GIR Wildlife Sanctuary, Paniya Wildlife Sanctuary and Mitiyal Wildlife Sanctuary account for about 1,193 The conservation initiatives taken so far have resulted in arresting the trend of population decline of lions. As per the 2005 Census, the total population of Lion is 359+ 10, which includes 89 male, 124 female, 72 sub adult and 74 cubs.

3. Brow-Antlered Deer or Sangai
(Photo: S.A. Hussain)
Distribution Map of Brown-Antlered Deer of Sangai

The Manipur brow-antlered deer, (Cervus eldi eldi McClelland 1842), popularly called 'Sangai' is a unique animal found only in Manipur in the whole world. The Sangai or the Manipur race of the Elds deer is the only deer which has adapted itself to the swampy habitat. The Sangai population dwindled rapidly in the beginning of 20 century under heavy hunting pressure and the continuous habitat destruction. In fact, the deer was considered almost extinct during 1950s.

4. Dugong
(Photo: Reefwatch)

Dugong (Dugong dugon) is the only herbivorous mammal that is strictly marine and the only member of the Order Sirenia found in India. Dugongs are restricted to coastal shallow marine habitats and grazes on the sea grass meadows in coastal waters and are therefore called as “Sea Cows”. In India, it is one of the most seriously endangered species of large mammals. Dugongs are vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures as they are solely dependent on sea grasses in coastal areas, which now have been seriously damaged by mining, trawling etc. Dugongs have also been hunted for their meat, oil, hides, bones and teeth.


Poster on Recovery of Dugongs and their habitats in India: an integrated participatory approach (Download pdf)

Media News on Dugong


A&N’s State Animal ‘Dugong’ Estimated to Be Mere 20-25 in Number (Source:

Port Blair, July 21: As per current estimates the population of dugongs (the state animal of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands) is somewhere between 20-25. The Wildlife Institute of India and CAMPA in collaboration with the Forest Department have launched a new project to survey, map and conserve the dwindling population of dugongs left in the islands. Swapnali Gole, a marine biologist who will be working on the project spoke at length to Andaman Chronicle and said that the Tsunami greatly depleted the population of dugongs in the Islands.

“Dugongs are marine herbivores. A large part of their diet consists of sea grass. All plants need sunlight for photosynthesis and so sea grass only grows at very shallow depths. The 2004 Tsunami adversely affected the growth of sea grass which in turn lead to the decline of dugong populations.”

Accidental entanglement in a fishermen’s net is another major cause of dugong deaths. According to Gole “dugongs are mammals just like whales or dolphins. They need to re-surface every five or six minutes to take a breath. A dugong that gets entangled even for a shot while can suffocate and die. Moreover dugongs give birth only after a gap of 3-7 years. For the first one or two years of its life, a baby dugong is dependent on its mother for parental care. Thus if a mother dugong dies it seriously endangers the baby. In fact my co-peer on this project, Mr. Himanshu Das had visited Onges in Hut Bay in 1996 and observed that even though they hunted dugongs they observed certain conservation ethics. They would never hunt an adult dugong if it was accompanied by its baby because they knew that the baby relied on its mother for protection.”

Gole also emphasized that the project was one of many firsts for India. “This project which will last four years has been allocated a budget of Rs.23 crores. In most Western countries, aerial surveys are a must but aerial surveys are expensive. For the first time in India, with this project we plan to do aerial surveys for a marine animal with the assistance of the Coast Guard and Indian Navy.”

So far researchers in India have relied only on boat surveys and interviews with local informants such as fishermen to estimate the numbers of any marine animal. But there are several constraints on boat surveys conducted in any place and more so in Andaman and Nicobar. Boats cannot be taken out during rough weather. Major dugong population sites here are Mayabunder, Diglipur, Havelock, Neill Island, Hut Bay and Central Nicobar. Because many dugong sites have crocodiles it becomes difficult or even impossible for divers or boat surveyors to go there. Aerial surveys also have a much larger field of vision than boats. Thus through aerial surveys, Swapnili and her colleagues will be able to count the numbers of many other marine animals though the project’s core focus will be on dugongs.

There are many aspects of the dugong’s life that are right now a complete mystery to us. Gole reckons that the new project may go a long way in answering some of the questions that have so far not been answered.

“Although through the works of Elrika D’Souza we know that dugongs have feeding sites they return to, we do not yet know if they migrate and if so what their migration patterns are like. This is because individual researchers have only intermittently studied dugongs. So in the current literature there is sometimes a gap of two to three years. By doing a continuous survey for four years we hope to find out more about the movement and habitation of dugongs. We also plan to do acoustic surveys and find out how dugongs communicate. Acoustic surveys have been commonly used by researchers from many countries to study animals like dolphins, whales etc. but so far not many acoustic surveys have been done in India and no such study of dugongs has ever been done.”

Because the project is so generously endowed and because the participation of fishermen who live off of the habitat dugongs inhabit is so crucial to the success of the project, a portion of the Rs. 23 crore budget will also be used to fund fifty scholarships for children of fishermen from two senior secondary schools – one in Neill Island and one in Havelock. The dropout rate among the children of fishermen is extremely high in Andaman and Nicobar and so it is hoped that the scholarship amount of Rs.500 per month per student will also be an added incentive for the children of fishermen to attend school regularly.

But as Gole explained, another implicit objective of the scholarship was to aid dugong conservation. “As an outsider if we go and talk to fishermen there might not be as much of an impact. So in a novel approach we have tied up with two schools where we are conducting workshops and events to educate the students about the wildlife surrounding them. The students learnt not only about dugongs but also about dolphins, corals and many other aspects of Neil and Havelock’s marine habitats in these workshops. Our hope is that these children who learn about the dugong and other creatures will go home and tell their parents or relatives who are fishermen so that next time when a dugong gets entangled, a fisherman aware of the dugong and its problems will be motivated to act fast.” more...


5. Edible Nest Swiftlet

Swiftlet builds a nest that is not only edible for humans but is considered a rare delicacy. The nest, which is built out of the bird’s saliva solidifies into a 6cm long 1.5cm deep dish-like structure which eventually holds two eggs. Each pair of Swiftlets spit about 10gm of saliva to build the nest. The salivary glands enlarge during the nest-building process. When exposed to sunlight, the white nest gets a golden hue.

Distribution Map of Edible Nest Swiftlet


6. Gangetic River Dolphin

(Photo: Sandeep Behera)

Distribution Map of Gangetic River Dolphin

The Gangetic or River Dolphin is one of the most endangered species found in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. They are the symbols of the ecological health of our major river systems. The emphasis on crocodiles, as the flagship species of the river systems has helped this species to some extent, but the waning of focused efforts of conservation have again resulted in their decline.


Other reading material:



7. Great Indian Bustard
(Photo: I.P. Bopanna)
Distribution Map of Great Indian Bustard

The Bustards are an extremely endangered group of birds dependent on grassland ecosystems. Once upon a time, they used to occur in the arid, semi-arid and moist grasslands across the country. There are four species of Bustards in India Great Indian Bustard, Lesser Florican, Bengal Florican and Houbara Bustard. They are among the most threatened of the 22 Bustards found in the world. The Great Indian Bustard is now locally extinct from almost 90 per cent of its former range. The present population is estimated to be less than 1000 only. Similarly, perhaps, only less than 2500 Lesser Floricans survive in the whole world. The total global population of Bengal Florican could be between 400 to 500 individuals. The status of Houbara Bustard is also no more encouraging. These species have depleted, mainly due to the degradation of grasslands.


Poster on Habitat improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard: An Integrated Approach (download pdf)

8. Hangul
(Photo: Lalit Kumar Sharma)
Distribution Map of Hangul

Kashmir Stag or Hangul is one of the most critically endangered species found in the temperate grasslands of western Himalayas. Dachigam National Park in Kashmir represents one such grassland habitat that supports Hangul, a highly threatened and the only subspecies of the Red deer (Cervus elaphus) to be found in India, which is now confined only to the Kashmir Valley.

9. Indian Rhino or Great One-horned Rhinoceros

(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)

Distribution Map of Rihno or Great One-horned Rhinoceros

The great one-horned or Indian rhinoceros once existed across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, and including parts of Nepal and Bhutan. The species now exists only in a few small population units generally situated in the north-eastern India and in Nepal. The latest population estimation of the species shows that only less than 2,700 animals remain in the wild.

10. Jerdon’s Courser

Jerdon's courser is a nocturnal bird belonging to the pratincole and courser family Glareolidae endemic to India. This courser is a restricted-range endemic found locally in India in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. It is currently known only from the Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary, where it inhabits sparse scrub forest with patches of bare ground.

Distribution Map ofJerdon's Courser


11. Malabar Civet 
(Photo: Helmut Diles/ WWF-India)

Distribution Map of Malabar Civet

The Malabar large spotted civet (Viverra civettina Blyth, 1862) was once a common species in the coastal districts of Malabar and Travancore in southwest India in the low elevation moist forests of the Western Ghats. By the late 1950s it was reported to be almost 'extinct'. None were seen for a long period of time until 1987, when it was rediscovered about 60 km east of Calicut in Kerala. Extensive deforestation has reduced the Malabar civet's.

12. Marine Turtles* 





Leatherback turtle  (Dermochelys coriacea) is one of the most charismatic creatures inhabiting the tropical and temperate waters from Pacific to North Atlantic and throughout the Indian Ocean (Shanker 2003). It is the largest extant marine turtle in the world and follows the longest migratory route known for turtles.  The species is currently listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN red list and has been given the highest level of protection under Schedule I (Part II) of the Indian Wildlife protection Act, 1972.


In India, Leatherback nesting is specific only to the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago (Namboothri et. al 2010). Pioneering work done by ANET/MCBT, IISc (CES) and Forest department in the past three decades has highlighted Little Andaman and Southernmost Great Nicobar Islands as the potential nesting sites.


Our understanding on Leatherback nesting behavior and ecology is very scanty, which is the major loophole to understand how changing habitat dynamics is affecting this species. The Indian Ocean Tsunami in the year 2004 resulted in considerable drop in Leatherback nestings, as majority of the nesting beaches in Andaman were up heaved while those in Nicobar were submerged (Namboothri et. al 2010). This calls for a comprehensive habitat assessment and initiation of long-term ecological studies on this species.


Tsunami impact assessments state that the beaches are recovering (Shanker and Namboothri 2012) but quantification is still required to understand the extent of the recovery. Little Andaman has received maximum attention post Tsunami as compared to Great Nicobar which has been neglected due to the inaccessibility of the nesting sites. Intensive surveys by ANET/CES show considerable Leatherback nestings in Little Andaman, where advancements in Satellite tagging and Telemetry has been given a start (Namboothri et. al 2012), an approach which needs to be taken further. Recent studies have observed nesting activity on the once abandoned Galathea beach in Great Nicobar (Jadeja et. al 2016) which clearly indicates need of more extensive monitoring to understand the changing habitat use pattern throughout the archipelago.


According to SWOT report (2015-2016), the archipelago’s Leatherback subpopulation is data deficient due to several research gaps. Andaman and Nicobar archipelago not just support Leatherback population from India but it is also a potential nesting region in the Northeast Indian Ocean. Proper monitoring and management plans are of urgent priority to fill these gaps and enhance our knowledge on the species.




(Text and Photo: Swapnali Gole)


13. Nicobar Megapode

The Nicobar megapode or Nicobar scrubfowl is a megapode found in some of the Nicobar Islands. Like other megapode relatives, it builds a large mound nest with soil and vegetation, with the eggs hatched by the heat produced by decomposition.

Distribution Map of Nicobar Megapode


14. Nilgiri Tahr
(Photo: Bitapi C. Sinha)
Distribution Map of Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat, is the highly threatened flagship species occur on the crest lines and ridge forests of the southern Western Ghats. The ideal habitat of this species is the rocky outcrops adjacent to the shola-grasslands and other ridge forests. Only less than 2000 individuals of this species is remaining in the wild in the whole world with the major population confined to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala and Grizzled Giant Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.

15. Snow Leopard 
(Photo: G.S. Rawat)
Distribution Map of Snow Leoard

The snow leopard is perhaps the most endangered of the large cats, with an estimated population of only 400 to 700 individuals in five Himalayan states in India. This species suffers from intense conflicts with rural communities, habitat degradation and depletion of natural prey base, poaching for its exquisite fur and valuable bones (used in traditional Chinese medicine). The state of Jammu & Kashmir has the distinction of harbouring a major portion of existing snow leopard population in India.

16. Swamp Deer
(Photo: Joseph Vattakaven)

Distribution Map of Swamp Deer

The Swamp deer or Barasingha (Cervus duvauceli) were once abundant throughout the tall wet grasslands of the North Indian Terai region, the Brahamaputra flood plains, and the Central Indian grasslands bordering sal (Shorea robusta) forests. Currently, the swamp deer populations are confined to the States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh (duvauceli), Assam (ranjitsinhii) and Madhya Pradesh (branderi) in India. At present, the population estimates for the northwestern subspecies of swamp deer in India is about 1800-2400 individuals; for the northeastern subspecies is about 400-500 individuals; and the central subspecies is about 300 - 350 individuals.  The Swamp deer has declined over the years, as a result of loss of habitat and biotic pressures over much of its former range. The Swamp deer habitats are threatened due to change in river dynamics and human developmental activities, increase in siltation, weed invasion, and reduced flow of water during critical periods of summer.  Swamp deer is also threatened due to poaching for its meat, particularly the populations that occur outside PAs.

17. Vultures 
(Photo: Pushp K. Jain)

Distribution Map of Vulture
Vultures are scavenging birds of prey. They have been divided into New World vultures, which include the Californian and Andean condors, and the Old World vultures, which include the White-rumped and Red-headed vultures. New World vultures are found in North and South America; Old World vultures are found in Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are no vultures in Australia and Antarctica.Distinguishing characteristics of most vultures includes a bald head, devoid of normal feathers and feathery neck. The bare head is supposedly to maintain hygiene while feeding on carcass and also for thermoregulation.

Nine species of vultures exist in India of which five belong to the genus Gyps. Three Gyps vultures, namely the White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus and Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris are residents, and the remaining two, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis are largely wintering species.

Vultures are nature's most efficient scavengers. The Gyps vultures are specialized to feed on the soft tissue of the large ungulate carcasses. They play a vital role in the ecosystem by cleaning up the rotten carcasses left in the open. The population of Gyps vultures in the Indian subcontinent has crashed since 1990s onwards. The populations of  White-rumped Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture had declined by around 97% during the last two decades. Veterinary use of the non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug 'diclofenac' is the main cause attributed for this drastic population decline. Government of India has banned the use of diclofenac in veterinary medicine, has initiated Vulture Breeding Programme for  ex situ conservation and also enhanced in situ protection of the remaining populations.


(Source: MoEFCC and Wikipedia)


Vultures species of India

S. No.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Conservation Status


White-rumped Vulture

Gyps bengalensis

Critically Endangered 


Red-headed Vulture

Sarcogyps calvus

Critically Endangered 


Slender-billed Vulture

Gyps tenuirostris

Critically Endangered


Indian Vulture

Gyps indicus

Critically Endangered 


Egyptian Vulture

Neophron percnopterus



Cinereous Vulture

Aegypius monachus

Near Threatened 


Lammergeyer/ Bearded Vulture

Gypaetus barbatus

Near Threatened 


Himalayan Griffon

Gyps himalayensis

Near Threatened 


Eurasian Griffon

 Gyps fulvus

Least Concern 




South Asia Vulture Recovery Programme


18. Northern River Terrapin

A brackish water species, the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) is one of the largest turtles to be found in Southeast Asia. It is one of the world’s most endangered turtles – classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. It can be found in India and Bangladesh (Sundarbans), Myanmar, Malaysia (peninsular), Indonesia (Sumatra), Thailand, and Cambodia. Habitat degradation  is another factor that has pushed them almost to the brink of extinction. The Northern River Terrapin lives in coastal mangrove estuaries and creeks, but ventures far upstream during the breeding season. These terrapins prefer to nest in tidal areas of estuaries and the river mouths of mangrove forests – fragile ecosystems that are especially vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and climate change. The species comes under Schedule I of WPA 1972 and Appendix I of CITES.


19. Clouded Leopard

The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is found across Southeast Asia and the Himalayas in the following countries: southern China, Bhutan, Nepal, northeast India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Bangladesh. The coat is brown or yellowish-gray and covered with irregular dark stripes, spots and blotches. Their chief prey are gibbons, macaques, slow loris, small deer and wild boars, which they ambush from the trees or stalk from the ground. Deforestation in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and commercial poaching for the wildlife trade is the most serious threat to the clouded leopard. The clouded leopard is listed in CITES Appendix I and is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. The average life span of the clouded leopard is 12 to 15 years, though they may live up to 17 years in human care


20. Arabian Sea Humpback Whale

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. The humpback whale population in the Arabian Sea (northern Indian Ocean) is the smallest and most endangered humpback whale population in the world. As of 2018, the IUCN Red List lists the humpback whale as least-concern, with a worldwide population of around 135,000 whales, of which around 84,000 are mature individuals, and an increasing population trend. Humpback whales have a near cosmopolitan distribution, absent only from some enclosed seas and parts of the High Arctic. They are "gulp feeders", taking in a single mouthful of food at a time, rather than the continuous filter-feeding of right whales and bowhead whales.  The dorsal or upper-side of the animal is generally black; the ventral or underside is black, white, and mottled in pigmentation. Humpback whales typically migrate up to 16,000 km (9,900 mi) each year. It is threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution.


21. Red Panda

Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are endangered mammal species belonging to the Indian subcontinent ranging from Nepal, Bhutan, India, and China to Myanmar having a disjunct population. An indicator species of Eastern Himalayas, red pandas are mainly Bamboo feeder but occasional feeds on fruits and small mammals. They inhabit montane forests with a thick bamboo understory, generally found at elevations between 2500 to 4800 meters. The red panda has two subspecies; Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani but recent genetic studies showed that they could be two different species, the debate is still on. Threats to the species include human intervention such as growing population, construction of buildings and roads, tourism and recreational activities etc, habitat loss, logging and wood/bamboo harvesting, livestock grazing, hunting for trade, lack of law enforcement and natural disaster. The species is protected under Schedule – I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972. To support the wild population International red panda conservation breeding programme was established in the early 1990s.  


22. Caracal

Caracals (Caracal caracal) are the heaviest, fastest in small cats and are the largest of the small cats in Africa. They ranges across Africa and the Middle East to India and is keenly adapted to the potentially harsh environments of savanna, semi-desert, dry woodland, arid hilly steppe, and dry mountains. Its coat is uniformly reddish tan or sandy, while the ventral parts are lighter with small reddish markings. It reaches 40–50 cm (16–20 in) at the shoulder and weighs 8–19 kg (18–42 lb). The caracal is typically nocturnal (active at night), though some activity may be observed during the day as well. The caracal is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as it is widely distributed in over 50 range countries, where the threats to caracal populations vary in extent. African caracal populations are listed under CITES Appendix II, while Asian populations come under CITES Appendix I.