The Bombay Natural History Society aided the Museum Trust in creating the natural history section. The museum’s natural history section makes use of habitat group cases and dioramas, along with diagrams and charts, to illustrate Indian wildlife, including flamingoes, great hornbills, Indian bison, and tigers.
Fauna of Indian Subcontinent
The collection displayed in the Natural History section of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of western India), Mumbai was given to the Museum by the Bombay Natural Historical Society (BNHS). The collection was given to the Museum in order to create awareness about the natural flora and fauna of the Indian Subcontinent. The Museum has an interesting collection of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes like the White Tiger, Indian Rhinoceros, Great Indian Bustard, Kashmir Stag, Lammergeyer and Large tooth sawfish.. These specimens were collected either through individual effort of the members or during special expeditions. Most of the birds and mammals were collected by the well known ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali and mammalogist Dr. S H. Prater during their survey of India. Many species displayed in the Museum are in the rare and endangered list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and may be on the verge of extinction. This makes the Natural History gallery of CSMVS a very important centre for research as well as public awareness space.
Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
The white tiger is a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), which is reported in the wild from time to time in the Indian states. The white Bengal tigers are distinctive due to the color of their fur. The white fur caused by lack of the pigment pheomelanin, which is found in Bengal tigers with orange color fur. When compared to Bengal tigers, the white Bengal tigers tend to grow faster and heavier than the orange Bengal tiger.
Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)
The Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica). The population was recovered from the brink of extinction to 411 individuals in 2010. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN due to its small population.
Severe hunting by Indian royalties and colonial personnel led to a steady and marked decline of lion numbers in the country. By 1880 only about a dozen lions were left in the Junagadh district. By the turn of the century, they were confined to the Gir Forest and protected by the Nawab of Junagadh in his private hunting grounds. In 2015, the lion population was estimated at 523 individuals.
Dhole/ Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus)
The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog and Indian wild dog.
The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans up to 12 individuals without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females. It is a diurnal pack hunter which preferentially targets medium and large sized ungulates. In tropical forests, the dhole competes with tigers and leopards, targeting somewhat different prey species.
It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, as populations are decreasing and estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults. Factors contributing to this decline include habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution, and disease transfer from domestic dogs.
Nilgiri Marten (Martes gwatkinsii)
The Nilgiri marten is the only species of marten found in southern India. It occurs in the hills of the Nilgiris and parts of the Western Ghats. It is diurnal, and though arboreal, descends to the ground occasionally. It is reported to prey on birds, small mammals and insects such as cicadas.
Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata)
The Indian pangolin, thick-tailed pangolin, or scaly anteater (Manis crassicaudata) is a pangolin found in the plains and hills of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. It is not common anywhere in its range. It has large, overlapping scales on its body which act as armor. It can also curl itself into a ball as self-defense against predators such as the tiger, lion and leopard. It is an insectivore that feeds on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws, which are as long as it’s fore limbs. It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day. The Indian pangolin is endangered by hunting for its meat and for various body parts used in traditional medicine.
Indian Hedgehog (Paraechinus micropus)
The Indian hedgehog is a species of hedgehog native to India and Pakistan. It mainly lives in sandy desert areas but can be found in other environments.
Indian Hedgehog has a very diverse diet consuming insects, frogs, toads, bird eggs, snakes, and scorpions. When danger presents itself, the Indian Hedgehog rolls up into a ball. The upper side of the body has spines to protect from predators.
Grey Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerionus)
The grey slender loris is a species of primate in the family Loridae. It is found in India and Sri Lanka. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.
Like other lorises, they are nocturnal and emerge from their roost cavities only at dusk. They are mainly insectivorous. In southern India, the dominate race is often found in acacia and tamarind dominated forests or scrubs near cultivations. Males hold larger home ranges than females.
Nicobar Treeshrew (Tupia nicobarica)
The Nicobar treeshrew (Tupaia nicobarica) is endemic to the Nicobar Islands where it inhabits the islands’ rain forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.
Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called lesser panda, red bear-cat and red cat-bear, is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day.
Indian Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica dealbata)
The Indian giant squirrel, (Ratufa indica dealbata) is a subspecies of Ratufa indica considered extinct from its range of tropical moist deciduous forests of the Surat Dangs.
The Indian giant squirrel is an upper-canopy dwelling species, which rarely leaves the trees, and requires “tall profusely branched trees for the construction of nests.” It travels from tree to tree with jumps up to 6 m (20 ft). Its main predators are the birds of prey and the leopard. The Giant Squirrel is mostly active in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, resting in the midday.
The Indian Giant Squirrel lives alone or in pairs. They build large globular nests of twigs and leaves, placing them on thinner branches where large predators can’t get to them. An individual may build several nests in a small area of forest which are used as sleeping quarters, with one being used as a nursery.
Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista philippensis)
The Indian giant flying squirrel, alternatively referred to as the large brown flying squirrel or the common giant flying squirrel, is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is found in China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand.
A membrane in front of forelimb and hind limb is developed for gliding through trees. Nocturnal and arboreal squirrel occurs in dry deciduous and evergreen forests. In addition to natural forests, the animal is recorded from plantations. It is found to occupy tree canopies and holes. These squirrels are roost in tree hollows lined with barks, fur, moss, and leaves. Mainly frugivorous, they also eat bark, tree resins, shoots, leaves, insects, and larvae.
Nilgiri Langur (Trachypithecus johnii)
The Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii) is a type of Old World monkey found in the Nilgiri Hills of the Western Ghats in South India. Females are differentiated from male with white patch of fur on the inner thigh. It typically lives in troops of nine to ten monkeys. The animal is often seen encroaching into agricultural lands. Its diet consists of fruits, shoots and leaves. The species is endangered due to deforestation and poaching for its fur and flesh, the latter believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)
The Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) is a primate and found in Assam, Mizoram, Bangladesh and in Myanmar, west of the Chindwin River.
Threats include habitat encroachment by humans, forest clearance for tea cultivation, the practice of jhuming (slash-and-burn cultivation), hunting for food and “medicine”, capture for trade, and forest degradation.
Mishmi Takin (Budorcas taxicolor taxicolor)
The Mishmi takin (Budorcas taxicolor taxicolor) is an endangered goat-antelope native to India, Myanmar and the People’s Republic of China. It is a subspecies of takin.
The Mishmi takin eats bamboo and willow shoots. It has an oily coat to protect it from the fog.
Sind Ibex (Capra aegagrus blythi)
The wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is a widespread species of goat, with a distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to central Asia and the Middle East. It is the ancestor of the domestic goat. In the wild, goats live in herds of up to 500 individuals; males are solitary. During the rut old males drive younger males from the maternal herds.
Hangul (Cervus canadensis hanglu)
The Kashmir stag (Cervus canadensis hanglu), also called hangul is a subspecies of elk native to India. It is found in dense riverine forests in the high valleys and mountains of the Kashmir Valley and northern Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. In Kashmir, it’s found in the Dachigam National Park where it receives protection but elsewhere it is more at risk. The Kashmir stag is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN as the population had been reduced to 160 mature individuals in the 2008 census.
Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus leucogaster)
The White-bellied musk deer or Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster) is a musk deer species occurring in the Himalayas of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and China. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN because of overexploitation resulting in a probable serious population decline.
While they lack antlers, a trait notable among all musk deer, they do possess a pair of enlarged and easily broken canines that grow continuously. These deer have a stocky body type; their hind legs are also significantly longer and more muscular than their shorter, thinner forelimbs. Male are fiercely territorial, only allowing females to enter their range.
The white-bellied musk deer has a waxy substance called musk that the male secrets from a gland in the abdomen. The deer use this to mark territories and attract females, but the musk is also used in the manufacture of perfumes and medicines, it is highly valuable.
Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), is native to the Indian subcontinent. The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced their range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal.
Poaching for rhinoceros horn became the single most important reason for the decline of the Indian rhino after conservation measures were put in place from the beginning of the 20th century.
Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur)
The Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur) is a subspecies of the onager native to Southern Asia.
The Indian wild ass once ranged over western India, southern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and south-eastern Iran. Today, its last refuge lies in the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch and its surrounding areas of the Great Rann of Kutch in the Gujarat of India. Besides disease, other threats include habitat degradation due to salt activities, the invasion of the Prosopis juliflora shrub, and encroachment and grazing by the Maldhari.
Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus)
The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Asian elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia. Asian elephants are primarily threatened by degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, and poaching.
Elephants are crepuscular. They are classified as mega herbivores and consume up to 150 kg (330 lb) of plant matter per day.
Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)
The bearded vulture, also known as the lammergeier, is a bird of prey and the only member of the genus Gypaetus. In July 2014, the IUCN Red List has reassessed this species to be near threatened. Their population trend is decreasing.
The bearded vulture eats mainly carrion and lives and breeds on crags in high mountains in southern Europe, the Caucasus, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Tibet, laying one or two eggs in mid-winter that hatch at the beginning of spring.
Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)
The Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) is mainly found in the Indian Subcontinent, with small disjunctive populations in some parts of Southeast Asia.
White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
The white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is an Old World vulture closely related to the European griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). This species, as well as the Indian vulture and slender-billed vulture have suffered a 99% population decrease in India and nearby countries since the early 1990s. The decline has been widely attributed to poisoning by diclofenac, which is used as veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), leaving traces in cattle carcasses which when fed on leads to kidney failure in birds.
Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
The steppe eagle is a bird of prey like all eagles. It breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia. The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India. It lays 1–3 eggs in a stick nest in a tree. Throughout its range it favors open dry habitats, such as dessert, semi-desert, steppes, or savannah.
The steppe eagle’s diet is largely fresh carrion of all kinds, but it will kill rodents and other small mammals up to the size of a hare, and birds up to the size of partridges. It will also steal food from other raptors. Steppe eagles are opportunistic scavengers, which may expose them to the risk of diclofenac poisoning.
Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps)
The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) or Indian bustard is a bustard found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Once common on the dry plains of the Indian subcontinent, as few as 250 individuals were estimated in 2011 to survive and the species is critically endangered by hunting and loss of its habitat, which consists of large expanses of dry grassland and scrub. The habitat where it is most often found is arid and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, tall grass interspersed with cultivation.
During courtship display, the male inflates the gular sac. The male also raises the tail and folds it on its back. The great Indian bustard is omnivorous.
Macqueen’s Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueeni)
MacQueen’s bustard is found in the desert and steppe regions of Asia, east from the Sinai Peninsula extending across Kazakhstan east to Mongolia. The species feeds throughout the day, but is most active at dawn and dusk. It has a diverse diet, mainly comprising plants and invertebrates, but also including vertebrates such as rodents, lizards, small snakes and even young birds. Males attract their mates with an extravagant courtship display which they perform at the same site each year.
Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis)
The great hornbill also known as the great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family. It is found in South and Southeast Asia. Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals. The great hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity. It is predominantly frugivorous, but is an opportunist and will prey on small mammals, reptiles and birds. Females are smaller than males and have bluish-white instead of red eyes.
Narcondam Hornbill (Rhyticeros narcondami)
The Narcondam hornbill (Rhyticeros narcondami) is endemic to the Indian island of Narcondam in the Andamans. Males and females have a distinct plumage. The Narcondom hornbill has the smallest home range out of all the species of Asian hornbills.
It feed on fruits; they also consume invertebrates and occasionally feed on small reptiles. Being predominantly fruit eaters, they play an important role in the seed dispersal of figs and other plant species. The species nests in holes on the trunk or broken branches of large trees. The female remains concealed in the nest-cavity for the duration of egg-laying and chick-rearing. At this time, the female sheds her flight feathers and hence cannot fly. The male provides food for the female and chicks.
Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus)
The lesser florican (Sypheotides indicus), also known as the likh, is a large bird in the bustard family. It is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent where it is found in tall grasslands and is best known for the leaping breeding displays made by the males during the Monsoon season. These bustards are found mainly in northwestern and central India during the summer but are found more widely distributed across India in winter. The species is highly endangered and has been extirpated in some parts of its range such as Pakistan. It is threatened both by hunting and habitat degradation.
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
The greater flamingo is the largest of six species of flamingo and is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and southern Europe.
The bird resides in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. Using its feet, the bird stirs up the mud, and then sucks water through its bill and filters out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks.
Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)
The black-necked stork is a tall long-necked wading bird in the stork family. It is a resident species across South and Southeast Asia with a disjunct population in Australia. It lives in wetland habitats and certain crops such as rice and wheat where it forages for a wide range of animal prey. Adult birds of both sexes have a heavy bill and are patterned in white and glossy blacks, but the sexes differ in the colour of the iris.
Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius)
The sociable lapwing or sociable plover (Vanellus gregarius) is a critically endangered wader in the lapwing family of birds. This species breeds on open grassland in Russia and Kazakhstan. These birds migrate south to key wintering sites in Israel, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and north-west India and occasionally in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman.
Indian Cobra (Naja naja)
The Indian cobra (Naja naja) also known as the Spectacled cobra because “spectacle” marking on the back of the hood. It is found in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal). It is one of the Big four snakes of South Asia which are responsible for the majority of human deaths by snakebite in Asia and their venom is neurotoxic.
Russels Viper (Daboia russelli)
Apart from being a member of the big four snakes in India, Russell’s Viper is also one of the species responsible for causing the most snakebite incidents and deaths among all venomous snakes on account of many factors, such as their wide distribution, generally aggressive demeanor, and frequent occurrence in highly populated areas.
This species is often found in highly urbanized areas and settlements in the countryside, the attraction being the rodents commensal with man. As a result, those working outside in these areas are most at risk of being bitten.
Indian Chameleon (Chamaeleo zeylanicus)
The Indian chameleon is a species of chameleon found in Sri Lanka, India, and other parts of South Asia. Like other chameleons, this species has a long tongue, feet that are shaped into bifid claspers, a prehensile tail, independent eye movement, and the ability to change skin colour. They move slowly with a bobbing or swaying movement and are usually arboreal. Strangely, they do not choose the background colour and may not even be able to perceive colour differences. They are usually in shades of green or brown or with bands. They can change colour rapidly and the primary purpose of colour change is for communication with other chameleons and for controlling body temperature by changing to dark colours to absorb heat.
Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), also known as the gavial. This fish-eating crocodile is native to the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent.
The gharial is one of the longest of all living crocodilians, measuring up to 6.25 m (20.5 ft). With 110 sharp, interdigitated teeth in its long, thin snout; it is well adapted to catching fish, its main diet. The male gharial has a distinctive boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot.
Gharials once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy River in the east to the Indus River in the west. Their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range. They inhabit foremost flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.
Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)
The Indian star tortoise is a species of tortoise found in dry areas and scrub forest in India and Sri Lanka. This species is quite popular in the exotic pet trade.
The patterning, although highly contrasting, is disruptive and breaks the outline of the tortoise as it sits in the shade of grass or vegetation. They are mostly herbivorous and feed on grasses, fallen fruit, flowers, and leaves of succulent plants, and will occasionally eat carrion. In captivity, however, they should never be fed meat.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
The hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Indo-Pacific subspecies.
While this turtle lives part of its life in the open ocean, it spends more time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs. Human fishing practices threaten populations with extinction. Hawksbill shells were the primary source of tortoise shell material used for decorative purposes. In some parts of the world, hawksbill sea turtles are eaten as a delicacy. They are highly migratory. Because of their tough carapaces, their predators are sharks, estuarine crocodiles, octopuses, and some species of pelagic fish.
Giant Treefrog (Rhacophorus maximus)
Nepal flying frog, Günther’s treefrog, giant treefrog, is a species of frog in the Rhacophoridae family found in southwestern China (Yunnan, Tibet), northeastern India, Nepal, western Thailand, and northern Vietnam, and possibly in Bangladesh.
Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis microdon)
The largetooth sawfish (Pristis microdon), also known as the freshwater sawfish, is a sawfish of the family Pristidae, found in shallow Indo-West Pacific oceans, and it also enters freshwater. This species reaches a length of up to 7 metres (23 ft).
The largetooth sawfish is a heavy-bodied sawfish with a short massive saw which is broad-based, strongly tapering and with 14 to 22 very large teeth on each side – the space between the last two saw-teeth on the sides are less than twice the space between the first two teeth.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (translation: ‘king Shivaji museum’), abbreviated CSMVS and formerly named the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, is the main museum in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It was founded in the early years of the 20th century by prominent citizens of Mumbai, with the help of the government, to commemorate the visit of Edward VIII, who was Prince of Wales at the time. It is located in the heart of South Mumbai near the Gateway of India. The museum was renamed in the 1990s or early 2000s after Shivaji, the founder of Maratha Empire.
The building is built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, incorporating elements of other styles of architecture like the Mughal, Maratha and Jain. The museum building is surrounded by a garden of palm trees and formal flower beds.
The museum houses approximately 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history as well as objects from foreign lands, categorized primarily into three sections: Art, Archaeology and Natural History. The museum houses Indus Valley Civilization artefacts, and other relics from ancient India from the time of the Guptas, Mauryas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakuta.