Biosphere Reserves in India (2024): Complete List, History & more!

Biosphere Reserves in India (2024):-A Biosphere Reserve earns UNESCO recognition as a special land or water area of significant biodiversity and ecological value. Each reserve boasts distinctive fauna, flora, and natural features that contribute to its ecological richness. Designated as protected zones by UNESCO, these reserves are overseen by the respective national governments. Their primary goal is to conserve and sustainably develop the biodiversity of specific regions. India, for instance, hosts 18 Biosphere Reserves, with 12 integrated into the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Notably, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was India’s inaugural Biosphere Reserve, while the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat stands as the country’s largest.

Biosphere Reserves in India 2024

Following the initiation of the MAB-Man and Biosphere Programme in 1971, UNESCO compiled a roster of Biosphere Reserves, aligning them with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). India boasts a total of 18 such reserves. India’s premier Biosphere Reserve, Nilgiri, was established in 1986, spanning the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Subsequently, in 1988, Nanda Devi and Nokrek Biosphere Reserves were designated. Nanda Devi, nestled in Uttarakhand within the Western Himalayas, is renowned for its snow leopard and Himalayan black bear populations. Meanwhile, Nokrek, situated in Meghalaya’s West Garo hills, also part of the Western Himalayas, is famed for its Red Panda habitat. The following year, 1989, saw the establishment of four additional Biosphere Reserves: Gulf of Mannar, Sundarbans, Manas, and Great Nicobar.

Gulf of Mannar, extending from Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, is celebrated for its Dugong or Sea-Cow population. Sundarbans, located in West Bengal near the Gangetic Delta, is renowned for the Royal Bengal Tiger. Manas Biosphere Reserve, nestled in Assam’s eastern Himalayan foothills, is notable for its diverse fauna, including the Asiatic Elephant and Golden Langur. Meanwhile, Great Nicobar, the southernmost island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, is famous for its Saltwater Crocodiles.

In 1994, Similipal Biosphere Reserve was established in Odisha’s Deccan Peninsula, featuring Gaur, Asian Elephant, and Royal Bengal Tiger among its key inhabitants.

Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve, established in 1997 in Assam’s eastern Himalayan foothills, stands as India’s smallest Biosphere Reserve, home to species such as the Capped Langur and White-Winged Wood Duck. In 1998, Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve was established in Arunachal Pradesh, known for its Mishmi Takin and Musk Deer. Successively, in 1999, 2000, and 2001, Pachmarhi, Khangchendzonga, and Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserves were established. Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve, founded in Maikal hills, Madhya Pradesh, is recognized for its White-Rumped Vulture and Four-Horned Antelope populations.

The Great Rann of Kutch Biosphere Reserve, established in 2008 in Gujarat’s desert area, is India’s largest, notable for its Indian Wild Ass and Kharai Camel inhabitants. In 2009, Cold Desert Biosphere Reserve was established in Himachal Pradesh’s Western Himalayas, known for its Snow Leopard population. Seshachalam Hills Biosphere Reserve, founded in Andhra Pradesh in 2010, is acclaimed for its Slender Loris population, covering an area of 4755.997 square kilometers. In the same year, Panna Biosphere Reserve was established in Madhya Pradesh’s Moist Deciduous Forest, home to species such as Sloth Bear, Sambhar Deer, Bengal Tiger, and Nilgai, covering 2998.98 square kilometers.

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Biosphere Reserves in India Overview

Article ForBiosphere Reserves in India (2024): Complete List, History & more!2024): Complete List, History & more!
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Biosphere Reserves in IndiaClick Here

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List of Biosphere Reserves in India

Sl. No.Name of Biosphere ReserveYearLocation (States)
1Nilgiri1986Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka
2Nanda Devi1988Uttarakhand
4Great Nicobar1989Andaman and Nicobar Islands
5Gulf of Mannar1989Tamil Nadu
7Sunderbans1989West Bengal
10Dehang-Dibang1998Arunachal Pradesh
11Pachmarhi1999Madhya Pradesh
14Achanakamar – Amarkantak2005Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh
16Cold Desert2009Himachal Pradesh
17Seshachalam Hills2010Andhra Pradesh
18Panna2011Madhya Pradesh

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UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves

YearName of Biosphere ReserveState
2000Nilgiri Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Gulf of Mannar Biosphere ReserveTamil Nadu
2001Sundarbans Biosphere ReserveWest Bengal
2004Nanda Devi Biosphere ReserveUttarakhand
2009Pachmarhi Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh
2009Nokrek Biosphere ReserveMeghalaya
2009Simlipal Biosphere ReserveOdisha
2012Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere ReserveChhattisgarh
2013Great Nicobar Biosphere ReserveGreat Nicobar
2016Agasthyamala Biosphere ReserveKerala and Tamil Nadu
2018Kanchenjunga Biosphere ReserveNorth and West Sikkim districts
2020Panna Biosphere ReserveMadhya Pradesh

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First Biosphere Reserve in India: Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is located in the Nilgiri Mountains of the Western Ghats. It is the largest protected forest in India. The name “Nilgiri” derives from the Sanskrit words “Neelam” (blue) and “giri” (mountain), inspired by the Kurinji shrub (Strobilanthes kunthiana), also known as Neelam Kurinji, which blooms once every twelve years.

Spanning the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala, the reserve includes parts of Mudumalai National Park (Tamil Nadu), Mukurthi National Park (Tamil Nadu), Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu), Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka), Bandipur National Park (Karnataka), Silent Valley National Park (Kerala), Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala), Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala), and Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala). Established in 1986 by UNESCO under the Man and Biosphere Programme, it covers approximately 5,670 square kilometers. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its diverse fauna, including the Nilgiri Pipit, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr, and Golden Jackal.

Biosphere Reserves Zone

The Biosphere Reserve is divided into three zones:

  • Core Zone
  • Buffer Zone
  • Transition Zone

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Core Zone

This is the central and most protected area of the reserve. Human intervention is strictly prohibited in the core zone to preserve biodiversity and maintain the natural ecosystem. Data collected from this area helps determine the environmental quality and sustainability of activities in the surrounding regions. The primary function of the core zone is to protect endangered species and their habitats, ensuring the ecosystem’s integrity.

Buffer Zone

Surrounding the core zone, the buffer zone allows limited human activities such as education and research, provided they do not interfere with the conservation goals of the core area. Tourism and recreational activities are permitted within certain limits. Additionally, studies on fisheries, agriculture, and natural vegetation management are conducted in this zone.

Transition Zone

Encircling the buffer zone, the transition zone is located on the periphery of the Biosphere Reserve. This area permits activities like cropping, forestry, recreation, and settlements in collaboration with local communities and reserve management. Scientists, local residents, conservation organizations, and cultural groups can work together in this zone to support sustainable development and conservation efforts.

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Biosphere Reserves in India Key Fauna

NameKey Fauna
Nilgiri Biosphere ReserveLion-tailed Macaque (EN), Nilgiri Tahr (EN), Malabar Giant Squirrel (LC), Nilgiri Langur (VU)
Nanda DeviSnow Leopard (VU), Musk Deer (EN), Bharal or Blue Sheep (LC)
NokrekRed Panda (EN), Hoolock Gibbons (EN), Red Giant Flying Squirrel (LC)
Great NicobarDugong (VU), Saltwater Crocodile (LC)
Gulf of MannarDugong (VU), Olive Ridley Turtles (VU)
ManasAssam Roofed Turtle (EN), Hispid Hare (EN), Golden Langur (EN), Pygmy Hog (EN), Wild Water Buffalo (EN), Bengal Florican (CR)
SunderbansRoyal Bengal Tiger (EN)
SimlipalRoyal Bengal Tiger, Wild Elephant (EN), Gaur (VU – Indian Bison), Chausingha (VU)
Dibru-SaikhowaBengal Tiger, Clouded Leopard (VU), Gangetic Dolphin (EN)
Dehang-DibangTakin (VU), Red Panda (EN)
PachmarhiTiger, Gaur, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (LC)
KhangchendzongaRed Panda (EN), Snow Leopard (VU), Musk Deer (EN), Great Tibetan Sheep (Argali – NT)
AgasthyamalaiNilgiri Tahr (EN)
Achanakamar-AmarkantakFour-horned Antelope (Chausingha – VU), Indian Wild Dog (VU)
Great Rann of Kutch (Kachchh)Great Indian Bustard (CR), Indian Wild Ass (NT)
Cold DesertSnow Leopard (VU), Himalayan Ibex (Siberian Ibex – LC)
Seshachalam HillsRed Sanders (NT), Golden Gecko (LC – endemic to Tirumala Hills)
PannaTiger (EN), Chital (LC), Chinkara (LC), Sambar (VU)

Key to Conservation Status Abbreviations:

  • EN: Endangered
  • VU: Vulnerable
  • LC: Least Concern
  • CR: Critically Endangered
  • NT: Near Threatened

Biosphere Reserves in India Map

Biosphere Reserves

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India’s Biosphere Reserves stand as testament to its commitment to environmental conservation. They are not merely protected areas but vibrant ecosystems where nature thrives alongside human communities. By nurturing and safeguarding these reserves, India paves the way for a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come.


How many biosphere reserves are there in India in 2024?

India is home to 18 biosphere reserves. These include: Parts of Wayanad, Nagarhole, Bandipur, and Mudumalai; as well as Nilambur, Silent Valley, and Siruvani hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka). Portions of Chamoli, Pithoragarh, and Bageshwar districts (Uttarakhand).

Where are the 18 biosphere reserves in India?

Currently, India has 18 biosphere reserves: Nilgiri, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Great Nicobar, Gulf of Mannar, Manas, Sundarbans, Simlipal, Dibru-Saikhowa, Pachmarhi, Dehang-Dibang, Khangchendzonga, Agasthyamalai, Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Kachchh, Cold Desert, Seshachalam Hills, and Panna.

What is the history of Biosphere Reserve in India?

India has a total of 18 biosphere reserves. The first, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, was established in 1986 and spans the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Following this, the Nanda Devi and Nokrek Biosphere Reserves were established in 1988.

Who declares biosphere reserves?

Biosphere Reserves are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO, based on decisions made by the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB-ICC). Their status is internationally recognized.

Which is famous biosphere reserve?

The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve holds the distinction of being India's premier biosphere reserve, renowned for its abundant heritage of flora and fauna.

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