10 of India’s Most Intriguing Wild Animals

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India is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Its 100+ national parks and 500+ wildlife sanctuaries provide habitats for an astonishing range of mammals, not to mention birds, reptiles, plants, and fungi. If you are planning to a visit to India, consider setting aside at least a day or two to visit one of these parks to encounter wildlife and appreciate the Indian wilderness. Below is a list of 10 incredible animals: some, like macaques, are pretty common and easy to spot, while others, such as the clouded leopard, are rarer and more elusive, but no less fascinating. 
 

 

Asian Elephants

These large, awe-inspiring animals are native throughout mainland Asia, from India and Nepal to Thailand and Vietnam. Though smaller than African elephants, Asian elephants are some of the largest animals in India. They are also intelligent; scientific research on elephant cognition suggests that they display numerous complex behaviors, from expressing grief to communicating and cooperating, and using tools. Many of India’s elephants live in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, though populations are quite widespread. Lucky visitors who catch a glimpse of elephants in the wild (for example, at Periyar National Park) may observe them grazing, bathing, and playing.

 

Bengal Tigers 

A national animal of India, the Bengal Tiger is one of the largest and most impressive great cats. Their striped coats and expressive faces have made them among the most popular and charismatic of animals. Since the 1970s, Project Tiger has been working to ensure that these rare animals continue to survive in viable populations. Sanctuaries and reserves such as Ranthambhore National Park in northern India are home to many tigers. Visitors have the chance to spot Bengal tigers and other wild animals here.

 

Snow Leopards

Like Bengal tigers, Snow leopards are also members of the Panthera genus, but they are significantly smaller, shorter, and lighter-weight. They have thick, spotted, grayish-white fur that keeps them warm in cold and mountainous environments. These wild cats might look cute and fluffy, but they’re actually cunning and ruthless hunters, capable of hunting animals that are more than twice their size. Seeing snow leopards in the wild is very challenging, as they are known to be shy and secretive, in addition to well camouflaged.

 

Asiatic Lions

Many people associate lions with Africa and don’t realize that lions exist in Asia as well! These tawny-colored cats are a truly majestic sight in the wild. Male lions either lead solitary lives or join up with one or two other males to form a small pride. Female lions typically live with several other females and their cubs in larger prides. Although Asiatic lions once roamed across Arabia and Mesopotamia, they now only live in the Gir Forest National Park in the state of Gujarat. Their populations, though small, have been increasing over the past few years thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. The Asiatic lion is related to the Bengal tiger and the snow leopard, as all three big cats belong to the Panthera genus.

 

Dhole (Wild Dogs)

The dhole goes by many names: the mountain wolf, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, and red dog, to name a few. Their striking copper-colored coats makes them instantly recognizable—they almost look like a cross between a red fox and a wolf! These social wild dogs live in relatively large packs of 10+ members and communicate through whistling sounds, growls, screams, and chatters, in addition to body language. Dhole packs live in multiple locations in India, including the Central Indian Highlands and the Western and Eastern Ghats.
 

 

Indian Rhinoceros

The rhinoceros is a famously bizarre-looking creature, with wrinkled gray skin, large heads, and a single horn made of keratin (the same material as human fingernails). An especially large Indian rhinoceros might weigh up to around 8800 pounds. Unfortunately, these unique animals are today vulnerable to habitat loss, and like many other megafauna, their historical range has been severely curtailed. Nevertheless, protected areas in India, especially in the state of Assam, offer a home to around 2000 rhinos. Indian rhinoceroses can be found in Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

Clouded Leopards

Populations of clouded leopards exist in northeastern India at the foothills of the Himalayas, as well as in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, and Southeast Asia. Within India, they’ve been spotted in Manas National Park and the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. These elusive, nocturnal cats generally keep to themselves instead of living in large packs. They are incredibly dexterous tree climbers, capable of scaling vertical tree trunks and maneuvering smoothly between branches. 

 

Macaques

Monkeys are some of the most energetic and amusing animals to observe in the wild! Macaques are no exception. These social animals are very adaptable and live all around the world, from Japan and China to Morocco, Nepal, and of course, India. Many even live in cities and survive by scavenging human food or raiding crops. In the wild, however, they’re more likely to eat natural vegetation: fruits, flowers, young leaves, roots, bark, and so on. Because they sometimes live in proximity to humans, you have a good chance of spotting macaques on your trip to India.

 

Gaur (Indian Bison)

The gaur, or Indian bison, is an extremely large and strong species of cattle with curved horns. Like elephants and rhinos, gaurs are among the largest land mammals on earth, and they are the largest known wild bovine. These impressive animals live in the Western Ghats of India, as well as in neighboring Bhutan and Bangladesh. You can find them in Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Project, and Periyar Tiger Reserve.

 

Indian Sloth Bears

The sloth bear is a fascinating animal native to India. Sloth bears’ shaggy fur and long, curved claws set them apart from other bear species. These bears make superb climbers and fast runners; cubs often hide up in trees to evade other predators such as leopards and tigers. Interestingly, sloth bears don’t really eat meat! Instead, they snack on insects (especially termites), as well as fruit, vegetation, and honey. Their lips and muzzles are perfectly shaped to slurp up insects.  Sloth bears live throughout much of India and can be found in protected areas such as the Shoolpaneshwar and Balaram Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuaries.

If you are planning to a visit to India, consider setting aside at least a day or two to visit one of national parks to encounter wildlife and appreciate the Indian wilderness through one of India Tours!

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