Spanning an area of about 3,42,000 sq
km, located in north-west India, Rajasthan is among the largest
of the country’s states and is remarkably rich in wildlife, its vast
size and latitudinal variations (sea level to over 1,700 m)
have provided it with varied vegetation- from the semi-evergreen
forests of Mt Abu to the almost barren or dry scrub grasslands of
the desert and from the dry deciduous thorn forests of the
Aravalli hills to the wet marshes of Bharatpur.
The climate of the state may be described as tropical monsoon, but
varies considerably from area to area, its extremes of temperature
ranging from frost cold winters to scorching hot, dry summers.
The average annual rainfall varies from 100-1,500 mm.
Rajasthan can be divided into four regions, each distinctive—the
desert in the north and west, the Aravalli hills in the middle, the
alluvial Indo-Gangetic plains in the east, and the Vindhyan hills
and the Deccan trap in the south and south-eastern parts of the
state-with ecosystems that support a variety of wildlife. Till a
hundred years ago the Asiatic lion, now confined to the Gir
forests of Gujarat, and the cheetah, now extinct in India, were
found in many parts of the state. Sightings of herds of over a
thousand antelopes was not unusual. The range and number of these
antelopes has declined with the increase in human population and the
ploughing of marginal lands-yet, large herds can still be spotted in
the state’s non-forest areas. Tigers and their prey animals,
deer and wild bqar, are essentially forest animals and are,
therefore, confined to the Aravalli and Vindhyan hills. Two
protected regions have been included under Project Tiger.
Although the tiger is an elusive animal, yet the chances of seeing
one in the dry deciduous forests of Rajasthan is better than in most
other tiger reserves.
The leopard, also called panther in India, an adaptable animal, is
usually found in the forest areas as well as in the open, degraded
forest areas with rocky outcrops adjoining towns and villages. The
cunning predator finds it easy to prey on unguarded village dogs,
goats, donkeys, calves and poultry.
Besides the two big cats, five lesser cats-caracal, jungle cat,
fishing cat, desert cat and rusty spotted cat-inhabit the state. The
caracal, found in both the forest and the desert, is a graceful
feline with a sandy coloration and black tufted ears. Once trained
for hunting doves, pigeons, partridges and other birds by the
cheetah-trainers of Jaipur, this agile hunter has now become rate,
occasionally sighted in Ranthambhore and Sariska.
There have been recent reports of sightings of the rusty spotted cat
for the first time in Sariska. It is possible that it is also
present in other, similar areas though no such reports are
available. The jungle cat is common in most protected areas as well
as in the wastelands. The distribution of the desert cat is confined
to the arid parts of the state, whereas the best place to spot a
fishing cat is the Keoladeo Ghana national park, Bharatpur.