This article is written by Divyanshi Singh of Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article discusses the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 along with several other Acts that protect the survival of wildlife in India. It also gives a detailed analysis of the wildlife trade and multiple organizations working to prevent the illegal trade.
Table of Contents
Our country has a long history of conservation, dating back to Asoka’s stone edicts in the 3rd century B.C., which laid out guidelines for elephant preservation. The conservation agenda has evolved over the years in response to changing human needs, cultural, social, and political standards. As a result, wildlife policing in India has also evolved, with the most drastic developments coming in the past several years.
India, as one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, plays a significant role in the international trade of wildlife, which includes all kinds of wild animals. There is more to wildlife trade than merely charismatic creatures. Animal conservation in India is governed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which is the country’s primary wildlife legislation. As well, India was one of the first countries to ratify CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Wildlife, which is an integral part of the environment, constitutes the wealth of the nation. Man in the course of development has been causing a lot of damage to the forest and wildlife. In order to protect the wildlife, the government has passed the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The objectives of this Act are as follows:
- To provide protection to wildlife animals, birds, and plants.
- Empowerment of the central government to declare certain areas sanctuaries and national parks where human involvement would be vastly restricted.
- Prohibition of hunting of birds and animals and suitable punishment in case of violation of the rules.
Under the Section 2(37) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, animals and plants that are found in the wild are included in the definition of wildlife. These ecosystems would also include those found in the ocean, freshwater, and coastal regions.
Wild Animal as per Section 2 (36) includes any animal that is given in Schedules I to IV of the Act and is wild in nature.
What is wildlife trading
The term “wildlife trade” refers to the selling and exchange of animal and plant resources. Ornamental animal items such as corals for aquariums, reptile skins for the leather industry, tortoiseshell, as well as ornamental plants such as orchids and cacti are traded. It also includes timber products, medicinal and aromatic products such as taxol, agarwood, and musk, as well as fisheries products and live animals for the pet trade, such as parrots, raptors, primates, and a large range of reptiles and decorative fish.
When it comes to the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, Chapter V explicitly deals with Trade or Commerce in Wild Animals, Animal Articles, and Trophies, even though the word “wildlife trade” is not defined.
What are the reasons for wildlife trading?
Illegal wildlife trading
What is illegal wildlife trading
Illegal wildlife trading is the sale or exchange of wild animals and plants that are prohibited to be sold under law. This can include live or dead animals, plants, and their byproducts. For example, the trade could be in the pet or horticulture industries. It could also be in the sale of wild animal and plant items, such as skins and medicinal ingredients or tourist attractions.
Why is illegal wildlife trading problematic
Over-exploitation of species-
As a result of the illegal wildlife trade, several species have been severely over-exploited, making it difficult for them to survive at all. A lot of attention has been paid to this issue in the case of tigers, rhinoceros, elephants, and star tortoises.
Depletion of species due to over-usage-
Many freshwater and marine species, such as otters, freshwater and marine turtles, corals, sharks, tuna, and other sea fish, have been depleted as a result of overfishing for commerce.
Economic Development is hampered-
It’s not just about preserving creatures from extinction when it comes to fighting the illegal wildlife trade. Promoting economic development and the rule of law as well as protecting public health are all part of this effort.
Major health risk-
Depleting forest resources-
A substantial percentage of our human population relies on forest and coastal biomes for their sustenance, and the illicit wildlife trade threatens that.
Threat to livelihood-
Not only do these people rely on wild resources to feed themselves, but they also rely on them to provide for their livelihood and healthcare. These wildlife resources must be managed sustainably and protected in accordance with the legislation.
Reasons for the steep rise in wildlife trade in India
- Prosecution of illegal traders and animal stores is a difficult and challenging task in itself, often leading to deception. The majority of the cases have fallen due to the high level of corruption, with barely a few exceptions. Typically, the networks of trafficking in wildlife include numerous interconnected pieces that function in the chain.
- High Court interventions were ineffective since these markets are extremely robust and tailor-made. Sometimes a market stops for a while when there comes a stringent judge in the High Court and comes back in action when they retire.
- The local police are generally in cooperation with illegal traders in markets like Crawford. Information is transmitted directly to traders when a citizen or activist is informed and makes a complaint at a police station. All measures are in place before raiding the region. That is why activists now rely on the criminal branch to ensure they do not involve the local police station.
- While the WPA governs trading in wild animals, it excludes exotic wild animals imported into India. Because the WPA only applies to trade in native animals protected by its six schedules, this gap has resulted in a dramatic increase in the commoditization and sale of exotic species.
- The customs law provides another loophole. The Customs Act 1962, the Foreign Trade (Development Regulation) Act 1992, and the Government of India’s Foreign Trade Policy all contain penalties for import and export offences such as wildlife movement without authorization, the export of protected species, or the misclassification of exports.
- Customs law applies only when there is clear evidence of smuggling, and the onus of tracking animals to their nation of origin falls on the authorities, which is a challenging process.
- The absence of provisions for imprisonment further weakens these regulations. Furthermore, they do not mandate the involvement of wildlife and forest authorities, who are normally specialists in this subject. This leads to a lack of inter-agency coordination and, as a result, additional enforcement issues.
Non-governmental organisations working for wildlife protection
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild animals and plants aka CITES, is an international agreement that was drafted after a resolution at a meeting of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 1963. It came into force in July 1975.
This convention ensures that the international trading of wildlife does not prove harmful to the survival of the species. It establishes a framework that must be adhered to by each party, which must adopt its own domestic laws to guarantee that CITES is implemented at the national level.
WWF-India is the country’s largest non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and natural environments. It works with a wide range of stakeholders, including local communities, teachers and students, state and federal governments, industry, and civil society organizations, to ensure that future generations will have a healthy world. WWF-India implements its goal and operations through a network of state and field offices scattered throughout the country. The Secretariat is based in New Delhi, and the organization is part of the WWF’s international network, with its headquarters in Gland, Switzerland.
Founded in January 2000, PETA India is a non-profit animal welfare organization. It aims to educate politicians and the public about animal abuse and promote a better understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect.
PETA India focuses on the areas where animals suffer the most: laboratories, the food industry, the leather trade, and the entertainment industry. PETA India’s investigations, public education campaigns, research, animal rescues, legislative advocacy, special events, celebrity involvement, and national media coverage have resulted in innumerable changes to the quality of life for animals and have saved countless lives.
TRAFFIC is a worldwide network that includes TRAFFIC International, based in Cambridge, UK, and offices on five continents, seven regional programs in 25 nations and territories, and ongoing research and activities in dozens of others.
Since its establishment in 1976, TRAFFIC has evolved to become the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring organization and a global expert on wildlife trafficking concerns. TRAFFIC actively monitors and investigates wildlife trade, and delivers its findings to a diversified audience worldwide as a basis for effective conservation policies and activities.
As part of its mission, TRAFFIC India is actively involved in wildlife trade-related issues in India and the South Asian region. This includes providing policy inputs, supporting and strengthening field enforcement, and improving capacity across multiple levels and organizations to handle wildlife trade-related issues.
Government Agencies contributing to wildlife crime enforcement
- Directorate of Wildlife Preservation: It works on national policies and legislations that are related to the issues on wildlife.
- Wildlife Crime Control Bureau: A federal agency on enforcement and regulation of wildlife crime and has multi-agency representation.
- State Forest Departments: It is responsible for the management of enforcement of forest and wildlife resources within respective states.
- State Police Departments: It works on the enforcement and the investigation of crimes within respective states.
- Central Bureau of Investigation: This agency is entrusted with the investigation of criminal cases. It is also the nodal agency of Interpol in India.
- Indian Customs: This body regulates trading across international borders.
- Department of Revenue Intelligence: It is a federal agency that works on the collection of intelligence about the smuggling of contraband goods, narcotics, under-invoicing, over-invoicing, etc. With the help of its sources in India and abroad, it analyzes and disseminates such intelligence to the field formations for action.
- Indian Army: Indian Army is present along with remote border areas of the country and helps in monitoring transborder activities.
- Paramilitary including Coast Guard, ITBP, SSB, BSF, CISF, etc.: They are present on all international borders, airports, seaports, etc., to monitor trans-border activities.
- Directorate of Forensic Sciences: A premier federal agency on forensics that provides specialized support to enforcement agencies.
- State Forensic Directorates
- Wildlife Institute of India (WII): In order to implement the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, WII was established with the primary objective of developing and standardizing techniques for identifying the species of varied wildlife parts reported in wildlife trade and providing support to various enforcement agencies such as the Forest Department, Police Department, CBI, DRI, Courts, Government of India, and Customs.
- Zoological Survey of India
- Botanical Survey of India
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute
Interpol and Wildlife Crimes
The “International Criminal Police Organization Interpol” (Interpol) is the world’s largest international police organization. Established in 1923, it encourages international police cooperation and provides assistance to all organizations, institutions, and services whose duty is to prevent or combat international crime and terrorism.
There is a National Central Bureau in each of the Interpol member countries, which is maintained by local law enforcement professionals. For the General Secretariat, regional offices, and other member countries requesting assistance with foreign investigations and the finding and recapture of fugitives, the NCB serves as a recognized contact point for Interpol. It is the responsibility of the National Central Bureau (NCBs) to act as a link between member countries and the General Secretariat. Indian law designates the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) as a National Central Bureau (NCB).
1992 marked the beginning of Interpol’s campaign against environmental crime, and since then, the program has evolved dramatically. Towards the beginning of 2006, a full-time officer was appointed to handle the wildlife crime program, which continues to extend its activities in cooperation with numerous national and international authorities.
Laws regulating wildlife trading in India
The following Acts have an important bearing on the enforcement of wildlife in India:
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- The Indian Forest Act, 1927
- The Forest Conservation Act,1980
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
- The Criminal Procedure Code, 1974
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- The Arms Act, 1959
- The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992: India, at present, governs all the Exports and Imports, including that of wildlife under the EXIM Policy that was formulated under this act.
- The Customs Act, 1962: Custom Violation in export and import is regulated under and is punishable under this Act.
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002: As per the amendment of 2009, hunting of wild animals is constituted as an offense.
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
The Wildlife Act was enacted by Parliament under Article 252 of the Constitution of India after 11 state legislatures passed the required resolutions. After the subject wildlife was moved to the concurrent list by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976, Parliament was empowered to enact laws relating to wildlife without recourse to Article 252(1).
The Act regulates trade and commerce in wild animals, animal articles, trophies, and derivatives from certain animals. Any violation of the provision in the Act attracts imprisonment and fines. Under section 26(1)(i) of the Indian Forest act, 1927, anyone who contravenes any rules made by the state government to hunt, shoot, fish, poison water, or set traps or snares, is punishable in a matter provided in that section.
In India, the Wild Life (Conservation) Act, 1972, is the primary legislation for wildlife protection. A number of amendments have been made to this Act as per changing circumstances. The following are some of the key components of the Act:
- The Act categorizes species into “wildlife” and “wild animals”.
- Wild animals are divided into six categories.
- Only species listed in Schedule V (vermin) are allowed to be hunted without permission.
- All other species can only be hunted under particular conditions and with special permits.
- Schedule I animals can only be hunted under very unusual circumstances, with the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden, and only when the species has become a threat to human life or is disabled or diseased beyond recovery.
- Schedule I to IV species can be hunted with authorization from the Chief Wildlife Warden or the Authorised Officer if they pose a threat to human life or property, including standing crops, or if they are diseased or handicapped beyond recovery.
- Species included in Schedule I through IV and Schedule VI are protected, wherever they are found.
- Wildlife, as defined by this Act, is protected as part of the habitat in any Protected Area.
Wildlife offenses in India
The following acts constitute a crime against wildlife in India and are punishable offenses as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, (1972).
- As per Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, any illegal hunting or killing of any species is stated under the schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, or even the slightest attempt to do so.
- Under Section 27 and Section 35(8), causing harm or destruction to any National park or Sanctuary is punishable.
- Illegal possession of wild animals and/or their derivatives require signed authorization from the Chief Wildlife Warden to keep all “animal articles, trophy or uncured trophy” that are produced from animals stated listed in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II as well as salted and dried skin of any such animal, as well as the musk from musk deer or rhino horns. Such possession, even if it predates the CITES treaty or Indian law, is prohibited without a certificate of ownership from the Chief Wildlife Warden.
- Section 40(2), 43, 44, 49, 49 B prohibits the domestic or foreign commerce of specified species or their derivatives.
- Entrance into a national park or wildlife refuge without authorization as given under Section 27, 35 (8).
- Invasion of a national park or wildlife sanctuary with a weapon according to Section 31, 35(8).
- Arson and the use of harmful chemicals within a sanctuary, a national park, or a Conservation reserve as per Sections 30, 32, 35(8), 36 A(2), 36C(2), 38V(2).
- The act of mocking or assaulting animals in a zoo, or causing disruption or littering is punishable according to Section 38J.
Transnational crimes in illegal wildlife trade
Crimes involving more than one country are referred to as “transnational crimes.” The structure, strength, size, geographic range, and extent and diversity of operations of transnational criminal organizations vary greatly.
A group of persons acting together to commit one or more significant crimes with the goal of directly or indirectly receiving an economic or material profit is usually the basis of worldwide organized crime syndicates. In the actions of such a group, “money laundering,” or the recycling of illicitly obtained money, plays a major role.
Let us look at some major characteristics of transnational organized crime:
- Fraudulent use of legal business entities, especially in the transportation sector.
- It has a considerable impact on business, politics, the media, public administration, and other areas of public life.
- When such criminals are captured, they seem to have no trouble getting access to expensive legal counsel, despite the fact that they may appear to have limited financial resources.
- It often thrives in the absence of strong governance regimes, especially under unstable political settings, most often in the “developing world.”
In the illegal wildlife trade, organized criminal groups generally fall into three categories.
- Local farmers: They sell species to supplement their meagre income.
- Mafia-style groups: These groups purchase species from impoverished peasants and sell them at a large profit. Such groups are especially common in developing nations.
- Major International Smuggling Rings: These rings are involved in other illegal trades as well. They tend to use violence, have resources, and are aware of smuggling routes, therefore, present the greatest threat in regulating the illegal wildlife trade.
Global health implications of wildlife trade
There exist threats to global health due to a variety of risk factors for new infectious diseases ranging from climate change to security concerns. However, few seem instantly manageable in the name of the global wildlife trade. Wildlife trading provides disease transmission channels at levels that not only cause epidemics but also affect livestock, rural incomes, international trade, local wildlife populations, and ecosystem health. The global wildlife trade is nearly impossible to quantify as it exists at every level from local barter systems to massive international channels. Most of the wildlife trade is performed illegally or through informal networks.
The scale of the wildlife trade is tremendous. According to Interpol, the annual illegal trade alone is worth the US $6.2 billion, making it one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities. The profits earned from the illegal trade are mostly concentrated in the hands of small groups of intermediaries, many of whom are also involved in drug and weapon smuggling.
As per a report, one-third of the first 41 patients that were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms had been exposed to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, central China in some of the other manner. It is believed that there is a high possibility that the coronavirus developed from this wet market in Wuhan where illegal wildlife trade exists. It provided optimal conditions for the coronavirus’s new mutation due to the poor hygiene conditions. The market also sold livestock protein alongside wild species such as pangolins, bats, snakes, and civets. All this created an ideal breeding habitat for the novel virus. The apparent link between the Huanan Seafood Whole Market and the global outbreak of COVID-19 quickly drew attention to animal trafficking in wet markets.
Wet markets typically sell ‘wet’ commodities such as fruits and vegetables, as well as domestic animal protein. Because of a variety of socioeconomic conditions, these markets are a common characteristic in the Global South. One of the frequently reported concerns is a lack of access to refrigeration in poor urban settlements, which diminishes the practise of consuming cold meat, which is popular in the Global North. Customers who prefer ‘fresh’ and ‘warm’ meat to frozen meat throng to these markets on a regular basis. As a result, these wet markets supply important nourishment to urban people and are critical to maintaining urban food security. However, when the hygienic conditions of these marketplaces are poorly regulated and there is parallel traffic in animals, a major threat to public health is posed.
Unregulated wet markets dealing in animals risk becoming potential origins of zoonotic disease pandemics due to high pedestrian traffic, high human-species interactions, and a lack of proper sanitary procedures. As long as wildlife trading in those marketplaces and throughout the entire supply chain stays unregulated, we will continue to be confronted by a nuclear pandemic bomb that is detrimental to human health, environmental security, and the global economy.
Let us discuss the landmark cases that have evolved wildlife protection in India.
State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig (1988)
The case of the State of Bihar v. Murad Ali Baig focused on elephant hunting and whether it was justified under the Indian Penal Code and the Wildlife Protection Act. It was held by the Supreme Court that killing/hunting elephants is a crime as they fell under the ambit of Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
It was further held that “hunting” as per the definition under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code, 1872 are not the same. The Court was of the view that the ingredients of an offense under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are significantly different from those of an offense under the scope and breadth of the Indian Penal Code.
Tilak Bahadur Rai v. State of Arunachal Pradesh (1979)
In the case of Tilak Bahadur Rai v. State of Arunachal Pradesh, a Tiger was shot and killed by the defendant. When deciding whether an accused killed a wild animal in good faith or not, the Court concluded that it was essential to comprehend the nature and hazards that surrounded the accused, as well as the circumstances under which the accused killed the animal. According to the Court, the accused shot the tiger that charged at him in good faith and as a means of self-defense after due discussions and arguments by both sides.
The Court ruled that if the accused had not shot the approaching, intent on attacking the tiger, he would have died. As a result, he shot the tiger to protect himself, which can be considered self-defense and was therefore lawful.
The Supreme Court clarified that when an animal is harmed or killed in self-defense, it becomes the property of the government. Anyone who has killed or injured a wild animal has no claim to the animal, regardless of who shot or killed it.
Naveen Raheja v. Union of India (2000)
When Naveen Raheja, a wildlife enthusiast, filed a lawsuit under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, he pointed out that captive tigers in Bhubaneswar Zoo were at risk of being skinned alive, and that the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad had skinned an adult tigress alive as well. Both in the protected forests and zoos, he expressed his concern for animal welfare. The Supreme Court was horrified by the terrible activities that people engaged in, causing animals to suffer in excruciating anguish.
The Court held that the zoo administrators had a duty to safeguard the tiger, however, the tiger was not protected from the cruelty that was perpetrated in the zoo. Inhumane treatment of voiceless animals is unacceptable and constitutes animal cruelty. It is punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 if it is committed. The Court ordered the state to take the necessary procedures to ensure that such an incident does not occur in zoos or protected forests in the future.
T.N.Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India (1947)
In the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad, the petitioner Godavarman filed a petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, asking the Supreme Court to direct Chattigrah and the Union of India to take necessary steps to save the Asiatic Wild Buffalo, an endangered species, as well as to ensure that interbreeding between wild and domestic buffalo does not occur and that the genetic purity has been protected from contamination.
The Supreme Court directed the state of Chattisgarh to adopt the Centrally Sponsored Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats Scheme, 2009 in order to conserve the wild buffalo from extinction. For severely endangered animals and their habitats, recovery programs should be prioritized over conservation initiatives, and the recovery program’s goals are to protect wildlife outside of protected areas.
Ivory Traders and Manufacturers Association v. Union of India (1997)
The Petitioners challenged various amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 that prohibited the importation of ivory goods in their petition. The Petitioners’ major argument, in this case, was that they were not covered by the required provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and that the Amendment Act No. 44 of 1991 did not cover them either. The Petitioners were primarily affected by the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act of 1991, which prohibited them from dealing or storing ivory taken from African elephants.
They claimed that they were simply traders who traded in ivory that was legitimately delivered to India, inflicting no harm to African elephants. They argued that the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act of 1991 were unconstitutional because they infringed on their right to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade, or business as granted by Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.
This case was decided by the Delhi High Court, which ruled that the ban imposed on the sale and trading of ivory items was not unreasonable or unconstitutional. The Court held that the restrictions placed under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Amendment to the Act were in accordance with the Constitution’s provisions and were not ultra vires the Constitution’s provisions.
The ban on the sale and possession of ivory was a fair restriction on the fundamental right to do business. The Court held that a statute enacted to safeguard an animal on the verge of extinction cannot be considered ultra vires to the Constitution’s provisions and that the amendment was made with the protection of endangered species in mind. The Court decided that such a law could not be construed as infringing on the rights provided by Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.
Illegal trade of exotic species
Exotic species are the ones that are taken from their natural environment and shifted to a non-natural environment. These species of animals and plants are generally transferred by people from one place to another.
The illegal trade of exotic flora and fauna in India has increased to a great extent. The main trade in India is that of tortoises and birds particularly belonging to the parrot family and which are vulnerable. Due to the complete ban on the trading of Indian species, illegal trade of exotic species has flourished causing disastrous global environmental damages. The interest in trade in exotic species of birds has opened up illegal trade channels in India. These illegally traded exotic species are very easily sold in the pet market.
In June 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change had issued an advisory to curb the import and possession of exotic species in India.
The advisory stated that since there is no clear data of the holders of such exotic species, they would collect the data through voluntary disclosure of the same within the next 6 months.
The aims for this disclosure are:
- To provide better management of species.
- To provide better veterinary care, housing, and other aspects of the well-being of the species.
- To provide better management of zoonotic diseases.
Loopholes in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 with respect to illegal trade in exotic species
Zoonotic diseases, such as Covid19, developed in other species and are transmitted to humans (as well as other animal species) by direct or indirect contact. The Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 contains a loophole that has a direct impact on the development of lethal pandemics like the one caused by COVID-19.
While the Act governs trading in wild animals, it excludes exotic wild animals introduced into India. The act is applicable only to the trading of native animals protected by its six schedules. This gap has resulted in a dramatic increase in the commoditization and sale of exotic species.
Furthermore, the term “exotic animal” is not defined under any law prevailing in India. Although many species, such as monkeys and snakes, are protected under the Pet Shop Rules of 2018, exotic animals are still very easily sold in a pet shop or at a live wet market.
As per the law, pet shop owners are required to ensure that their suppliers of imported exotic breeds of birds and animals have all the necessary approvals or license from the Director-General of Foreign Trade along with a sanitary import permit and permission from the Regional or State Animal Quarantine and Certification Services. Furthermore, the import of live animals is done in a legal and reprehensible manner.
Despite all of the restrictions and rules, illegal trading in exotic animals continues to happen in both stores and online, using e-commerce platforms like Olx and Quikr, without being licensed by the State Animal Welfare Boards. All attempts to curtail the illegal wildlife trade fails due to a strong network of traders.
Licensing is also vital for public health since it assures safe, humane, and healthy circumstances for exotic animals, which is the first step in preventing the spread of dangerous zoonoses like Covid19.
To address the above-stated loopholes there are few steps as stated below:
- Amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act to include not just CITES-listed creatures, but also exotic animals in need of protection.
- Introduce a new law that addresses exotic species trade and criminalizes not only ownership but also possession of such animals, or
- Intervention by the Supreme Court to fill in these loopholes until a new statute is enacted.
Instances of illegal trade of exotic species in India
Following are some instances of illegal trade in India:
- In October 2017, a man was convicted for smuggling body parts of 125 tigers and 1,200 leopards in Madhya Pradesh.
- In July 2020, a red Kangaroo, six Hyacinth Macaws, three Aldabra Giant Tortoises, and two Capuchin Monkeys were rescued in Cachar district in Assam from a private truck coming for Mizoram.
- In January 2021, 30 exotic birds and a red-eared guenon were rescued from the Mizoram-Assam border town in the Kolasib district.
- In February 2021, 80 exotic animals including rare species like leopard tortoise, red-footed tortoise, yellow, orange, and green iguana, bearded dragon, and albino iguana were rescued from the Friendship Bridge over the Tayo river near the India-Myanmar border in Champai district of Mizoram.
PIL for illegal trading of exotic species (2017)
In 2017, a PIL was filed by social activist Sanjay Shirke before the division bench of Chief Justice Chellur and Justice G. S. Kulkarni at Bombay High Court. Through the PIL, the social activist was seeking an immediate shutdown of a pet shop at Crawford Market because of cruelty towards animals and illegal trading of exotic species.
The Court ordered the ward officer and senior inspector of the area to check the license of all shopkeepers in Crawford Market that illegally sold animals and birds to ensure no illegal sale of animals and birds took place. The Court also ordered two secretaries to make surprise inspections to the market and report back in four weeks.
National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031
The Third National Action Plan on Wildlife for 2017-2031 was published by India to outline the future Wildlife Conservation Road Map. The plan was first introduced in 1983, and then in 2002 to 2016, the third action plan follows on from the first. The third National Plan of Action on Wildlife is special because it is for the first time that India has acknowledged its worries about climate change in wildlife and emphasises the integration of measures to mitigate it and adapt to wildlife planning.
On the launch day of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP), environmental Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan revealed the strategy. The GWP, which was started in 2015, is a World Bank partnership leading 19 nations to promote sustainability and conservation through fighting wildlife trafficking. Within the four-day conference, India will be able to learn about best practises in wildlife habitat management and minimise conflicts between people and animals.
The proposal was launched by the Environment Department in February 2016. This proposal was developed by a committee of 12 members chaired by former Minister JC Kala. The GWP, which was started in 2015, is a World Bank partnership leading 19 nations to promote sustainability and conservation through fighting wildlife trafficking. Within the four-day conference, India learned about best practises in wildlife habitat management and minimised conflicts between people and animals.
The proposal for Third National Action Plan on Wildlife for 2017-2031 was launched by the Environment Department in February 2016. This proposal was developed by a committee of 12 members chaired by former Minister JC Kala. In the conservation of all animals – uncultivated flora and fauna – which have ecological significance for the ecosystem and humanity, regardless of where they occur, the Plan employs a “landscape approach.” It emphasises the recovery of endangered wildlife species while maintaining their ecosystems.
The state has also stressed the business sector’s increasing participation in the conservation of wildlife. The strategy provides for enough and continuous funding to be made available for the implementation of the National Wildlife Action Plan, including corporate social responsibility resources.
India, the world’s seventh-largest country, is home to four of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots, making it one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. As a result, animal conservation and welfare in the country have taken on a significant position in recent years, from Bengal Tigers to Great Indian Rhinoceros. According to the Indian Constitution, animals must be protected and there are various animal welfare laws in India, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, as well as state-level laws prohibiting cow slaughter and protecting cattle.
Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution makes it a duty of every citizen to protect the natural environment and wildlife. Moreover, Article 48A provides a Directive Principle of State Policy to protect and improve the wildlife of the country.
The legislature and the judiciary have cooperated to safeguard wildlife and have issued judgments that highlight the importance of wildlife. Over the years India’s environment Jurisprudence has evolved to great heights.
To conclude, there are currently more than seven billion people on the planet, and that number is expected to continue to expand enormously in the coming years. The billions of people on the earth are consuming natural resources faster than ever before. It also threatens the habitat and existence of a wide array of animals and plants, including those that may be relocated for land development or used as food or in other human endeavors. Invasive species, climate change, pollution, hunting, fishing, and poaching are significant hazards to wildlife.
Today, it has become even more important to protect wildlife because the threat to it will eventually pose a question of the existence of humanity in the future.
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