Current Affairs

Wild Life – Illegal Wildlife Trade in India

Wildlife Definition: Animals living in their natural habitat and not within the possession or control of humans. Wildlife trade refers to the commerce of products that are derived from non-domestic at edanimalsor plants usually extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. It can involve the trade of living or dead individuals, tissues such as skins, bones or meat, or other products. Legal wildlife trade is regulated by the United Nations’Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES), which currently has 170 member countries called Parties.

Illegal Wildlife Trade in India
In India, illicit wildlife trade includes diverse products including mongoose hair, snake skins; Rhino horn: Tiger and Leopard claws, bones, skins, whiskers; Elephant tusks; deer antlers: shahtoosh shawl turtle shells; musk pods; bear bile; medicinal plants: timber and caged birds such as parakeets, mynas, munias etc. A large part of this trade is meant for the international market and has no direct demand in India India has a strong legal and policy framework to regulate and restrict wildlife trade. Trade in over 1800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivative is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This act provides protection to these species against hunting, trading and any other form of exploitation. India is also a member of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1976. CTTES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species listed on Appendices to certain controls India is also a party to the CITES since 1975. Under the CTES agreement, international trade in over 850 species is banned whilst the trade in over 33,000 species is strictly regulated. A TERI Report gives basic data of India’s wildlife wealth in proportion to world wildlife below:
  • 397 Mammals: 9%
  • 1232 Birds: 14%
  • 460 Reptiles: 8%
  • 240 Amphibians: 5%
  • 2546 Fish: 12%

Similarly, Wildlife Protection Society of India PSI) has documented the following cases of tiger deaths in India from 1994 to 2014 as shown in the following graphical format:
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, provides for protection to listedspecies of flora and fauna and establishes a network of ecologically-important protected areas. The Act consists of 60 sections and VI Schedules- divided into Eight Chapters. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 empowers the central and state governments to declare any area a wildlife sanctuary, national park or closed area. There is a blanket ban on camying out any industrial activity inside these protected areas. It provides for authorities to administer and implement the Act: regulate the hunting of wild animals: protect specified plants, sanctuaries, national parks and closed areas: restrict trade or commerce in wild animals or animal articles: and miscellaneous matters. The Act prohibits hunting of animals except with permission of authorized officer when an animal has become dangerous to human life or property or as diseased as to be beyond recovery.
Enforcement of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 by Courts in India
In Sansar vs State, the Delhi High Court upheld S.49 & 57 of the Act and refused to grant relief to notorious poacher, Sansar Chand. In State vs Saif Alis, the Rajasthan High Court stated that the State was pumping huge sums of money for conservation and preservation of wild life and thus, the interpretation sought to be drawn by the counsel for the respondents that s 141 IPC cannot be applied to the offence under S. 51 of the wild Life Protection Act, could not be accepted. It was the firm opinion of this Court that by the act of using fire arms for killing wild life, the accused committed the offence of mischief as defined in S. 425 and 429 IPC. Since S. 141 IPC covered in its ambit, mischief, criminal trespass or other offence, therefore, the provision of s. 141 IPC can very well be applied to an offence of mischief when committed in relation to a wild animal also. Accordingly, the term other offence as mentioned in S. 141 covered in its ambit. an offence under wild Life Protection Act. Therefore, every member of the unlawful assembly which participated in the act of hunting was definitely liable for being prosecuted for the offense under S.51 of the Wild Life Protection Act with the aid of S.149 IPC.

In India, like many other countries, the problem is not of the laws but that these may be poorly communicated and just as poorly implemented and enforced. Often, positive efforts to address wildlife trade concerns are undermined by lack of political will and govemance failures. Without political backing, disincentives for over-exploitation and illegal trade, such as penalties for legal infringements, are all too often weak. wwF’s TRAFFIC estimates that at least four Leopards have been poached and their body parts entered into illegal wildlife trade every week for at least 10 years in India. The following agram shows the peril India’s wildlife faces from illegal trading.

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