India is one among the 17 megadiverse countries of the world with extraordinary biological richness and diversity. It has within its national boundaries over 8% of the world’s species. The country is one among the signatories of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and recognizes the importance of conservation, sustainable use and equitable access to the genetic benefits of its biodiversity.
Discovery and scientific documentation of Indian fauna began with European explorers. Early explorers documented Indian fauna by collecting samples and illustrating them. Since then a vast quantities of specimens have been collected and illustrated. During British regime, a large part of these collections were deposited in various European museums. Some of these were also deposited in India, mainly in Asiatic Society and Indian Museum, Kolkata. When Zoological Survey of India was established in 1916, specimens, paintings, books and other precious natural history documents were transferred to ZSI. Since then, scientists of Zoological Survey of India has been exploring faunal diversity of Indian subcontinent and collecting voucher samples. Currently, these collections are housed in head quarters and sixteen Regional Centers and form a basic source reference on fauna of the subcontinent.
The National Zoological Collection (NZC) of ZSI is designated repository under Section 39 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The Type and voucher specimens of NZC is very valuable to address issues in taxonomy, biology, biodiversity, bio-prospecting, bio-security, to establish sovereign right over fauna of India and to counter bio-piracy. As per various Articles of CBD, data on such authenticated samples should be shared with scientific community of India and abroad, industries and general public . The most efficient way to share data on voucher specimens and other natural history collections is by digitally archiving them and sharing to the world through web technologies. Towards this goal, ZSI has created Virtual National Zoological Collections (VNZC), which is a digital archive on the collection holding of headquarters and Regional Centers. The archive will provide information on type and other specimens held in NZC to different stakeholders and general public.