‘Unless we act now and counter deforestation, these five animal species will go extinct’ says an environmental expert

"Unless we act now and counter deforestation, these five animal species will go extinct," says environmental expert

Pradip Shah of Grow-Trees.com explains why Flying Squirrels, Hanguls, Tigers, Lion-Tailed Macaque, and Asian Elephants are facing an existential crisis.

This year, ‘The Elephant Whisperers,’ a  documentary directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film and highlighted the importance of indigenous wisdom and sensitivity in wildlife conservation. This message is particularly pertinent when India has reportedly seen the highest rise in deforestation in the last 30 years, according to a new report by Utility Bidder, a UK-based comparison site for energy and utility costs. This is indicative of massive habitat loss that will in turn, endanger India’s wildlife.

Pradip Shah, environmental expert and co-founder of Grow-Trees.com, believes afforestation is critical to repairing wildlife habitats and says, “It is also important to initiate wildlife conservation in synergy with local communities. We are engaging with indigenous and tribal communities across India wherever wildlife habitats are under threat and working with them to provide green cover and sustenance to animals.”

He believes it will take concerted efforts from multiple stakeholders to ensure the protection of our biodiversity. He lists some of the animal species that are facing existential risks in India due to habitat loss

Flying Squirrels:

South Asia is known for its flying squirrel density, but deforestation, logging, shifting cultivation, expansion of human settlements, and forest fires threaten their existence in India. Deforestation diminishes their habitats, creates food scarcity, hinders mating, curbs genetic diversity, and increases exposure to predators.

To counter habitat degradation, fragmentation, encroachment, anthropogenic pressure, and poaching, Grow-Trees.com has initiated a project named ‘Trees for Indian Giant Flying Squirrels’ in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan.

The plantation activity focused on mahua trees, which are the primary source of feeding for the flying squirrels, will also provide livelihood opportunities to local communities and turn them into willing stakeholders in the preservation of the flying squirrels.    

"Unless we act now and counter deforestation, these five animal species will go extinct," says environmental expert

Hangul/Kashmir Stag

 In the early 1900s, Hanguls, the majestic Kashmir Stags, thrived with a population of over 5,000. By 1970, their numbers dwindled to just 150 due to overgrazing, poaching, fuel and fire collecting, grass cutting, and habitat disturbances caused by human activities in the areas.

Although recent monitoring shows 289 Hanguls in the Dachigam National Park and 14 in Shikargarh, they still face significant threats.  Grow-Trees.com’s initiative, ‘Trees for Hanguls,’  aims to rehabilitate the endangered Kashmir Stag by focusing on reforestation and combating habitat loss and fragmentation. It also includes community awareness campaigns to educate locals about the Hangul’s significance.


Tigers suffer when forests disappear because their hunting grounds shrink, making it harder for them to find food. With fewer trees, they struggle with hunger and have trouble reproducing. Smaller habitats also lead to interspecies and human-animal conflicts, leading to avoidable tiger killings.

Trees and green canopies enable habitat continuation and unthreatened movement and prevent isolation.  Tigers have been categorized as endangered in the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list, and even though national parks across the country have been working to stabilize the tiger population,  worries continue to linger. Grow-Trees .com is doing its bit via a ‘Trees for Tigers’ project in Ramtek Maharashtra and Sundarban, West Bengal.

The plantation project, which aims to counter the alarming loss of mangrove cover in the area, is being implemented between Satjeli Bazar to Mitrabari Khey Ghat and in the zone between Sukumari Kheya Ghat to Anpur Village at the periphery of Sundarbans National Park.  

The lion-tailed macaque:

The lion-tailed macaque is a majestic monkey with black fur and a grey or silver mane that frames their face. It is, however, their long and tufted tail that gives them their name. The species depends on rainforests, feeds on fruits, flowers, seeds, insects, snails, and small vertebrate animals, and needs rich biodiversity and unobstructed space to forage. 

However, habitat loss and fragmentation due to deforestation, extreme weather events, and intrusive human settlements have endangered them, depleted their food resources, and exposed them to predators, accidents, and electrocution. 

Grow-Trees.com’s project in Balukhand Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha, is meant not just to reforest the region post the onset of Cyclone Fani but also to protect the habitat of its wild inhabitants, including the lion-tailed macaque.

Asian Elephants

Depleting forest cover is extremely dangerous for the survival of the Asian elephant, as this species does not subsist just on grasslands but also on forests. Their diet includes leaves, soft shoots, and fruits from tree species such as Mahua, Mango, Bael, and Ber.  They also need tree-sheltered, unfragmented corridors for unrestricted and safe movement.

 ‘Trees for elephants’ is a project undertaken by Grow-Trees.com in Singhbum, Jharkhand, to improve elephants’ food sources and reduce human-elephant conflicts, expand forest corridors, and repair elephant migration routes. The plantation project has been implemented in the foothills of Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary in Mahulbana and Oriya Gram Panchayats, East Singhbhum district in Jharkhand.

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