Natural Resources - Survey and Exploration

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) is a premier research organization functioning under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. ZSI has been actively involved since its inception in 1916, in the survey, exploration and research leading to the expansion of our knowledge on the immensely rich faunal diversity of our country. ZSI Headquarters is located in Kolkata and has 16 Regional Centers spread across the country. The primary and secondary objectives are as follows: 

Primary objectives


  •  Taxonomic studies of allfaunal components collected.
  •  Periodic review of the Status of Threatened and Endemic species. 
  • Preparation of Red Data Book,. 
  •  Ecological Studies on selected important communities/species.
  •  Preparation of databases for the recorded species of the country.
  • Maintenance & Development of National Zoological Collections. 
  • Faunal Identification, Advisory services and Library Services.
  • Publication of results including Fauna of India and Fauna of States.
  • Training, Capacity Building and Human Resource Development for the above

Secondary objectives 

 Maintenance and Development of Museum at Headquarters and Regional Centres.

  •  Development of ENVIS and CITES Centers.
  •  Research Fellowship, Associateship and Emeritus Scientist Programmes. 
  • Collaborative research programmes on Biodiversity with other Organizations.  
  • GIS and Remote Sensing studies for animal diversity as well as for selected threatened species. Chromosomal Mapping and DNA finger printing.

Activities undertaken

  • Faunal Surveys: 70 surveys have been completed during the period: 18 surveys were conducted in different Protected Areas; 10 were conducted in States and Union Territories; 27 in different ecosystems; 3 status surveys of endangered species, 8 surveys for Taxonomic studies were undertaken and four x other studies and 4 surveys were undertaken for ecological studies. Species Identification: 6777 species belonging to different faunal groups from Protozoa to Mammalia have been identified.  
  • New Discoveries: 118 new species described comprising 5 new species of Nematoda, 13 Hymenoptera, 4 Coleoptera, 15 Hemiptera, 7 Orthoptera, 18 Lepidoptera, 11 Trichoptera, 5 Collembola, 6 Arachnida, 4 Crustacea, 14 Pisces, 4 Amphibia, 6 Reptiles and one species each under Ephemeroptera, Thysanoptera, Odonata and Echinodermata. 
  •  Publications: 385 publications include 19 Books, 75 papers in SCI journals, 101 chapters in Books and 190 papers in beer reviewed National and International journals.
  •  Four issues of Records ZSI journal with 69 articles were also published.
  •   Digital Sequence Information (DSI) on Indian Fauna: To resolve the taxonomic queries as well as barcoding of the new and RET species, 879 DNA barcodes of 201 species have been submitted on BOLD and GenBank.
  •  It comprises 266 barcodes of Mammals, 2 for Birds, 147 for Reptiles, 135 for Fishes, 2 for Amphibia, 98 for Lepidoptera, 92 for Thysanoptera, 19 for Araneae, 27 for Crustacea and 91 barcodes for Zooplankton. 
  •  Training and Extensions: Outreach activities in the form of workshop training and seminars were provided to more than 200 students and researchers.
  •  Outreach activities continued despite the Covid pandemic and more than 40 webinars were conducted to disseminate knowledge on various topics pertaining to biodiversity conservation.  Identification and advisory services: 3349 specimens were received for providing identification from 79 Institutes /colleges. 
  • They were identified as belonging to 524 species.  
  • Wildlife Forensics and Crime Control: 348 specimens of confiscated wildlife material received from 15 departments have been identified. 
  • Some interesting and significant studies undertaken:  
  • Mapping the biological corridors of threatened vertebrates using Landscape genetics approach.  
  • Metagenomics in conservation of charismatic species.  
  • Pangolin forensics:
  • ZSI has taken initiative and developed methodologies to confirm the species identity, enumerate numbers and assign seizures to their geographical origin to better understand the poaching pressure and threats for the survival of pangolin species across the distribution.  
  • Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 into several mutants and their differential spread: Scientists of ZSI undertook analysis of corona virus genomes and demonstrated
  • the introduction of an early wave of coronavirus into India from Italy, China and Iran. 
  •  Forest fire impacts on fauna: A pilot study is under implementation to document the impacts of forest fire on fauna in North Eastern State of Mizoram


  •  Species Identifications: So far, about 102161 species of animals have been documented. During the reference period a total of 6777 species have been identified by the scientists of ZSI Headquarters and Regional Centers. 
  •  Publications: Altogether 1,550 documents (Books and monographs) and 10,500 scientific papers have been published by ZSI till 2016; of which, over 170 documents and 2300 scientific papers have been published during the last five years. During the reference period, 385 publications have been completed. 
  •  Digital Sequence Information (DSI) of important Taxa: ZSI is enriching the information on DNA barcodes and solving many taxonomic queries and generating 5054 barcodes.

 During the reference period 879 DNA barcodes have been submitted to BOLD/GenBank. 

  • New Discoveries: 5054 new species have been described by the scientists of ZSI since its inception. Another 118 new species have been described during the reference period. Monitoring of Biodiversity Plots: Supporting State Forest & Wildlife Department for conservation and management of PAs – Permanent Monitoring of Biodiversity Plots in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Himalayas, Sundarbans West Bengal.,Gulf of Kutchand Sindhudurg, Maharashtra for the last five years. 
  • International Participation: ZSI scientists have actively participated in several international meetings, symposia etc which includes 13th International Coral Reef Symposium at Honolulu, Regional Joint Preparatory Meetings for CITES and CBD Meetings of COP, IUCN-World Conservation Congress 2016, 17th Conference of Parties to the CITES, COP22-UNCCC, COP-13 & CoP-MoP-2 on CBD, 29th Meeting of the Animals Committee under CITES, Indian Scientific Expedition to Arctic, IPBES expert group meeting, 30th meeting of the Animals Committee (AC30) of the CITES and Arctic Expedition, 8th International Barcode of Life Conference, 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP18) and 2019 International Symposium on Galliformes. 
  • This year’s participation include IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Deep-Sea Red List Workshop at Vancouver, Canada, ICRI/ GCRMN Regional Workshop for South Asia Sea Region (SASR) and 4th Annual Meeting in Conservation Genetics - from Genomes to Application.
  • Training and Extension: Outreach activities in the form of workshop trainings and seminars were provided to more than 200 students and researchers during the reference period. Outreach activities continued despite the Covid pandemic and more than 40 webinars were conducted to disseminate the knowledge on various topics as mentioned below:
  • Workshop Trainings/Seminar Orientation Workshop on Methodology for Collection, Preservation and Curation of Zoological Specimens for Biodiversity Studies
  • National Workshop on Taxonomic Identification of Indian Bees
  •  Hands-on Training Workshop on Animal Taxonomy
  • Bio-Rock using Electricity 
  • Faunal Diversity of Indian Trans Himalayan landscape

Webinars -

  • Beetle (Insecta: Coleoptera) Diversity of India 
  • Ozone for life: 35 years of ozone layer protection 
  • International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem 
  • In perpetual Darkness: The Amazing World of cave Animals 
  • Island Biodiversity, Conservation and Management 
  •  Faunal Diversity of Central India 
  • Taxonomy and its Applications: Learn from the Experts 
  •  Faunal Diversity of Higher vertebrates of Arunachal Pradesh 
  • Aquatic Faunal Diversity of Arunachal Pradesh-An wobbly appraisal 
  • Collection, Preservation and Identification of Marine Fauna 
  • Taxonomy and Biodiversity 
  •  Fauna of Western Ghats: Spiders & Vespid wasps 
  • Faunal Resources of the Great Indian Desert
  • Grassland Ecosystem of Arid Zone of India - A Faunal Diversity Perspective 
  • Freshwater Fish Diversity in India 
  • Aquatic Entomo faunal Diversity in India 
  • Webinar series on Unique Marine Fauna 
  • COVID-19 and its link with Environment and its Biodiversity 
  •  Impact of Climate Change on Pollinators of High Altitudes of North-West Himalaya 
  •  Meet the Expert webinar Series 
  • Different Dimensions of House Sparrow Conservation 
  • Conservation of Cetacean Fauna in India 
  •  Wetlands of Gangetic Plains: Status and Conservation Challenges 
  • Faunal Diversity of India
    Digital ZSI: Achievements include Digital Archive of Publication of ZSI; ZSI Library Repository and ZSI Type Specimens Repository.
  • Identification and advisory services: Identification and advisory services are provided to students, researchers and faculties from time to time. This year, services were provided for 3349 specimens belonging to 524 species to 79 Institutions/ colleges. 
  •  Identification of Confiscated Wildlife Material: Queries related to confiscated wildlife materials of different animals or parts of the body for the benefit of the Court of Law for wildlife crime are attended as and when received. This year 348 animals /animal parts of confiscated Wildlife were received for providing identification from 15 departments and were attended. 
  • Continuing committees/commissions-their work during the year and present position: Research Advisory and Monitoring Committee (RAMC) is the functioning committee to evaluate the progress of ZSI twice a year.
  • Important Conferences organized in India or international conferences. 
  • Orientation Workshop on Methodology for Collection, Preservation and Curation of Zoological Specimens for Biodiversity Studies. 
  • National Workshop on Taxonomic Identification of Indian Bees. 
  •  Hands-on Training Workshop on Animal Taxonomy. 
  • Bio-Rock using Electricity. 
  • Faunal Diversity of Indian Trans Himalayan landscape. MEAs, agreement with countries, international organizations, compliance: The Union Cabinet has approved a Memorandum of Understanding between ZSI and Canada’s not-for-profit organization International Barcode of Life (iBOL) for strengthening of Biodiversity Digital Sequence Information as per CBD. Apart from this, ZSI has also signed MOU with six Universities/ Institutes, namely, 
  • Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Odisha 
  • Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) Dehradun 
  • Kumaun University, Nainital 
  • Himachal Pradesh University, Summer Hill, Shimla 
  • Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu 
  • Entomology Research Institute, Loyola College, Chennai List of major publications brought out-brief purpose of each, wherever necessary 
  • Fauna of Haryana  
  • Fauna of Kerala 
  • Memoirs of the Zoological Survey of India 
  • Hand Book: Thrips of economic Importance in India-An Identification Guide 
  • Handbook on the Grunts and Sweetlips (Family: Haemlidae) of India 
  •  Biodiversity Profile of East Kolkata Wetlands • Skinks of India 
  • Pictorial Guide to Brackish water ornamental fishes of Odisha 
  • Faunal Diversity of Kachchh Biosphere Reserve, Gujarat (Vertebrates) 
  • Fauna of Narmada Tapi Estuaries, Gujarat 
  • Faunal Diversity of Bhoj Wetland Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
  • In addition, 385 publication completed this year including 75 papers in SCI journals, 101 chapters in Books and 190 papers in National and international journals.

Challenges in work due to COVOID-19 Surveys:

  • All the surveys could not be completed due to lockdown and not getting entry permits Laboratory works: Continuity of the Lab work was hampered due to lockdown and maintenance of roster (50% attendance of supporting staff).
  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI) Botanical Survey of India (BSI) established on 13th February 1890, is the apex research organization under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India, carrying out the taxonomic/floristic studies on wild plant resources of the country with an objective to explore the plant resources of the country. Presently, BSI has 11 regional centers with its headquarters at Kolkata and actively engaged in inventorying the floral resources of wide array of ecosystems from coastal sea to high mountain ranges of Himalayas covering all the state and union territories.

Primary objectives 

  •  Survey and Exploration, inventorisation and documentation of phytodiversity; publication of National, State and District Floras. 
  •  Identification of Red list Species and species rich areas needing conservation; ex situ conservation of critically threatened taxa in botanical gardens.
  •  Survey and documentation of traditional knowledge (ethno-botany) associated with plants.  Develop a National Database of Indian plants including herbarium and live specimens, illustrations, botanical paintings, etc.

Secondary objectives 

  • Revisionary / Monographic studies on selected plant groups. 
  •  Qualitative studies of nutritive value of ethno-food plants and other economically useful plants. Capacity building in plant taxonomy through refresher courses and post M.Sc. certificate course.  Environmental Impact Assessment of areas assigned to BSI for study.
  • Develop and maintain Botanical gardens, Musea and Herbaria. 
  •  Preparation of Seed, pollen and Spore Atlas of Indian Plants.


  • Survey, collection, documentation (including the traditional knowledge associated with plants) and ex situ conservation of wild plant diversity. 

Activities undertaken

  • During the reference period, BSI discovered 23 plant species new to science, 10 plant species as new additions to Indian Flora and rediscovered 2 plant species after a century (Appendix I).  
  • As per the prime mandate, BSI undertakes research in plant taxonomy through extensive field Surveys, Exploration and Documentation of Floral resources of the country. BSI documented total number of 20413 taxa of angiosperms belonging to 269 families and 2868 genera; 82 taxa of Gymnosperms, 1307 taxa of Pteridophytes, 15447 taxa of Fungi, 7434 taxa of Algae, 2786 taxa of Bryophytes, 2917 taxa of Lichens towards the complete inventory of floral resources of the country. This also include the entire Himalaya with 10,289 taxa, belonging to 2256 genera and 238 families, endemic vascular plants with 4395 taxa, Islands with 2436 species, north-eastern states with more than 7500 species. Fragile ecosystems such as cold deserts contribute 1615 taxa while hot deserts, 682 taxa. The survey has also documented more than 4425 algal species, 1232 cyanobacteria, 865 macro algae and 2777 diatoms. Besides 1671 legumes, 1256 orchids have also documented from different phyto-geographical regions of India. BSI has documented and published flora of 28 states and 3 UTs in 49 volumes. Floristic survey of 114 protected area including national park and biosphere reserves have also been completed.
  • BSI published 110 research papers and 12 books. 
  •  BSI has digitized 1,68,492 herbarium specimens including 17,874 type specimens. Besides, about 340 publications of BSI have already been digitized. About 15,000 samples of Textile designs, Natural dyes & Botanical illustrations; about 1.2 lakhs of archival documents, manuscripts correspondences and Watt’s Ledger, economic Herbarium Specimens have already been digitized. Besides, about 10,000 records of flowering plants (monocots and dicots) have been completed towards the completion of plant checklist database of India
  • Ethnobotanical and Neutraceutical studies: BSI documented traditional knowledge of tribals of Odisha, parts of Gujarat and Biharstates. With its dedicated group of scientists, BSI targets to complete the documentation of traditional botanical knowledge pertaining to Tharu and Bhoxa tribe of Uttarakhand, India. Besides, BSI has also carried out nutraceutical studies on 40 wild edible plants of northeast India.
  • Ex situ conservation of RET species: BSI maintains a network of Experimental Botanic gardens at its different regional centres actively involved in the conservation of endemic and threatened plants. BSI is also targeting 1,00,000 seedlings of rare, endemic and threatened species, indigenous species etc. through In vitro micro propagation.
  •  DNA barcoding, molecular approach and Scanned Electronic microscopic studies: With the advancement in the field of plant taxonomic research, BSI has also started studies dealing with chromosomal studies of plants. Data on more than 140DNA barcoding have been completed. Similarly, BSI has also studied 7640 scanned electronic microscope (SEM) images belonging to 862 taxa. 
  • Capacity Building Programmes through Training and Extension services: BSI is also actively involved in promoting research in Plant Taxonomy in the country. BSIregularly organises Capacity Building Training Programmes, Green Skill Development Programme (GSDP)AJCBIBG Post-doctoral programme and AICOPTAX Scheme. Continuing committees/commissions-their work during the year and present position: The following committees are functioning in BSI: 
  •  Research Advisory Monitoring Committee (RAMC) 
  •  Scientific Reports Evaluation Committee 
  • Grievance Redressal Committee 
  •  RTI Redressal Committee
  • Sexual Harassment Committee 
  •  SC/ST Reservation Committee 
  • Media and Website Cell Important Conferences organized in India or international conferences- nature of participation, subjects discussed, implementation-action taken.
  • International Symposium and Training courses organised: BSI, on the occasion of its 130th Foundation Day, organised two days International Symposium on Plant Taxonomy & Ethnobotany (ISPTE) from 13-14 February 2020 which witnessed the considerable presence of around 500 researchers from 33 Universities, 15 Institutions and 56 Colleges from various parts of Indiaand 10 subject experts from abroad. In the symposium, a series of lectures on Plant Taxonomy & Ethnobotany were organised and 130 oral presentations and 134 poster presentations were delivered. 
  • On this auspicious occasion, Dr. A.A. Mao, Director, BSI honoured Dr. S.K. Jain, Former Director, BSI with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his immense and valuable contribution in the field of Taxonomy and Ethnobotany. 
  • 4th Botanical Nomenclature Course:BSI organized 4th Botanical Nomenclature Course from 27th - 31st January, 2020 at BSI, Eastern Regional Centre, Shillong, Meghalaya. Dr. K.N. Gandhi, Senior Nomenclatural Registrar and Nomenclature Expert, Harvard University Herbaria, USA served as Resource person in the above. 
  • Botanical Nomenclature Course. The course was attended by 83 participants from across the country. The course was mainly to train the young botanists and taxonomists in the field of plant taxonomy and nomenclature as per the recent ICN code. 
  • BSI in collaboration with the University of Calcuttaorganised an International conference on Algae, Fungi and Plants: Systematics to Applications, held at the University of Calcutta from 18 to 20 January, 2020.
  • BSI in collaboration with the North Orissa University, Baripada, Odissa organised a national seminar from 22 to 23 January, 2020. 

The blog on Natural Resources -Survey and Exploration pertains to UPSC papers GS-3 Biodiversity, Environment security.

Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor