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HISTORY

The hot, dry climate of Rajasthan, its vast sandy areas, hilly tracts and numerous lakes, rivers and waterbodies provide diverse habitat conditions suitable for a number of species of reptiles which include crocodiles, snakes, lizards and turtles. Two species of crocodiles, the marsh crocodile and the gharial inhabit the rivers. The gharial is a fish-eating crocodile and does not attack humans. Once endangered, Rajasthan has contributed substantially in saving the inoffensive gharial  from extinction, with most of its country-wide population hatched from eggs collected from the state’s Chambal river. Of a total of 30 species of snakes found here, 26 are non-poisonous. The four venomous snakes include the Indian cobra (Naja naja), Indian krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Russell’s viper (Vipera russelii) and Pud (Ecbis caeruleus). Unless provoked or stepped upon, these snakes do not attack humans. The common rock python (Python molurus) is the biggest snake found in Rajasthan. Although pythons can be found in a number of wildlife sanctuaries, the best place to spot them during the winter months is at the Keoladeo national park, Bharatpur.

Of the 26 species of lizards found in Rajasthan, two are monitor lizards- the Varanus bengalensis widely spread throughout the state, and the Varanus griseus which is confined to the western part o the state. Sanda or the spiny tailed lizard lives only in the drier, western region of the state. A shy vegetarian, it uses its spiny tail for defense against enemies. Rajasthan has only one specie of land turtle, the star turtle (Geocbelone elegans). Confined to the hilly tracts of the Aravallies, it is threatened because of loss of habitat. The remaining 11 species are acuatic, found in the perennial waterbodies of eastern and southern Rajasthan. The Chambal sanctuary on the eastern boundary of the state provides a suitable habitat for highly endangered, freshwater or Gangetic dolphins, as well as for gharials, crocodiles and a number of species of turtles. The religious, cultural, social and historical traditions of the people of the state have contributed a good deal to saving its natural heritage. The ethics of conservation are a part of the state’s fabric, nurtured by saints, philosophers and religious gurus. Te desert community shards its scarce resources of food and water willingly with wild animals. Food and water is provided for birds and animals in many parts of India. However, there is no parallel to the feeding of Demoiselle cranes in Kheechan village near Phalodi in Jodhpur district. During migration (September-March) thousands of Demoiselle cranes arrive early in the morning and land in the village to be fed by the villagers. Treated like guests and addressed as friends and companions, they have found a place in the state’s folklore and folk songs.

Communities like those of the Bishnois provide protection to all wild animals in their villages because of their religious faith and belief. The blackbuck and abinkara are considered sacred and aggressively protected. Large herds of these graceful antelopes roam freely in the Bishnoi fields in the desert districts of the state. Even the powerful maharajas of pre-independent India refrained from hunting on Bishnoi lands, respecting the sentiments of these conservators. No hunter or poacher is likely to attempt to hunt in these areas for fear of the wrath of the entire community. Because of this, there are more wild animals to b found in the non-forest areas than in the forest area. The rulers of the erstwhile states contributed substantially to the preservation of wildlife. Athough they themselves enjoyed sbikar, at the same time they prevented others from the sport. Most of the state’s wildlife sanctuaries and national parks were once their exclusive shooting reserves.

TOPTOP