India Post has always attempted to honour the uniqueness of India on its stamps. Along with its peculiar melange of cultures and traditions, India has a wide spectrum of flora and fauna too. Being the seventh largest country in the world, India has a variety of geographical zones with at least three major biodiversity hotspots. It is also one of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world. On October 1st, 1976, India Post issued a set of four stamps commemorating the untamed wildlife of India. Out of the four, two are depicted beside.
Lion King of India: One of the five majestic cats of India, the Asiatic Lion or the Indian lion is different from the African lion with its less developed mane, larger tail tuft, a distinctive fold of skin on the belly and is smaller in size. The historical range of the Indian Lions extended from Turkey, Persia, and Mesopotamia in the west to Indus River, to Bengal, and to the Narmada River in Central India. But sadly today their population is limited mainly to Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat. The Asiatic Lion is listed as Endangered on The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List because of its small population size of an odd 523 individuals in total. By the turn of 20th century the existing Indian Lion population of Gir, the only Asiatic lion population in India, was protected by the Nawab of Junagarh in his private hunting grounds! This helped conserve and protect these Asiatic lions from being extinct. They are now bred in captivity in zoos from across the world.
Indian Leopard: Yet another big cat from the Indian sub-continent. The species of Panthera pardus fusca, the Indian leopard has larger rosettes than the other subspecies, with a paler coat in desert habitats, greyer in colder climates and more ochre in rainforest habitats. These solitary predators have a pattern of rosettes that is unique to each individual and can be used to tell them apart. Being good climbers, the Indian Leopards are mostly found in forests. As they find a perfect camouflage at night, leopards are nocturnal by nature and have a very board diet of medium-sized herbivores. The population has been severely affected by poaching for the illegal trade of skins and body parts, loss of natural habitat and ecosystem decay. The IUCN Red List has declared the Indian leopard as Vulnerable and a new threat to them is their conflicts with the humans in areas located closer to human settlements. This exotic big cat of India featured in Rudyard Kipling's 1894 novel “The Jungle Book” as a black Indian leopard named Bagheera.
Image Courtesy: Mintage World