THE ECOLOGY OF VERTEBRATES OF THE INDIAN DESERT

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The Indian Desert, situated on the eastern-most boundary of the Saharo-Rajasthan Desert, is of recent origin and offers considerable scope for ecological studies of fundamental and economic importance. RAO (1957) records evidence on the hunting of rhinoceros (which inhabits humid regions) in the Indus Valley by the Mugals as late as in 1519. At present, however, the prevailing climatic as well as the habitat conditions in this desert can only support predominantly xerophile and xerobiont fauna. Inspite of the interesting zoogeographical and evolutionary importance of the Indian Desert, adequate attention has not been paid so far to the zoology of the region. For instance, the Mammal Survey of India, Burma and Ceylon, conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society, did not include the Indian Desert. Realizing this lacuna in our knowledge of the fauna of the Indian desert, Dr. DAYA KRISHNA, formerly Professor of Zoology at the Jaswant College, Jodhpur, moved the UNESCO to finance a project on the ‘Ecological studies of vertebrates of the Indian Desert’. The author had the privilege to be associated with it from 1953 to 1955. These ecological studies were carried out mainly on reptiles and mammals and their findings were incorporated in university dissertations (DAVE, 1961; PRAKASH, 1957).