Conservation and sustainable use of biological resources based on local knowledge systems and practices is ingrained in Indian ethos and way of life. Initiation of policies and programmes for conservation and sustainable utilisation of biological resources date back to several decades. As a result, India has a strong network of institutions mapping biodiversity and undertaking taxonomic studies. The Botanical Survey of India (established in 1890) and the Zoological Survey of India (established in 1916) are primarily responsible for survey of flora and fauna. The National Institute of Oceanography and several other specialised institutions and universities further strengthen the taxonomic data base. Based on the survey of 70% of the total geographical area of the country, 46,000 species of plants and 81,000 species of animals have been recorded so far. These life forms are actually and potentially important for developments in the fields of food, medicine, textiles, energy, recreation and tourism. The areas not yet surveyed include the inaccessible Himalayan area, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Exclusive Economic Zone. These areas are expected to be rich repositories of endemic and other species.
Approximately 4.2% of the total geographical area of the country has been earmarked for extensive in-situ conservation of habitats and ecosystems through protected area network of 85 National Parks and 448 Wildlife Sanctuaries. The results of this network have been significant in restoring viable populations of large mammals such as tiger, lion, rhinoceros, crocodiles, elephants etc.
To conserve the representative ecosystems, a Biosphere Reserve Programme is being implemented. Ten biodiversity rich areas of the country have been designated as Biosphere Reserves.
Programmes have also been launched for scientific management and wise use of fragile ecosystems. Specific programmes for management and conservation of wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs systems are being implemented. National and sub-national level committees oversee and guide these programmes to ensure strong policy and strategic support.
Attention has been paid to ex-situ conservation measures also as they complement the in-situ conservation and are even otherwise important. There are about 70 Botanic Gardens including 33 University Botanic Gardens. Also, there are 275 centres of ex-situ wildlife preservation in the form of zoos, deer parks, safari, parks, aquaria etc. A Central Zoo Authority supports, oversees, monitors and coordinates the management and the development of zoos in the country. A scheme entitled Assistance to Botanic Gardens provides one-time assistance to botanic gardens to strengthen and institute measures for ex-situ conservation of cultivated plants and domesticated animals. While zoological parks have been looked upon essentially as centres of education and recreation, they have played an important role in the conservation of species such as Manipur Thamin Deer and the White-Winged Wood Duck.