Today India plays a major role as an importer, exporter and conduit for the over 2.5 billion dollar annual global illegal trade in wild animals and plants. It is a bigger trade than drugs and guns – and it is done by the same people. But remember, this trade cannot flourish – unless you choose to turn a blind eye. Today, Orissa has become a very important centre for illegal wildlife trade. Ivory is still sold in the Jaipur markets – which means elephants will still be killed and there are less than 1000 tuskers left. Wild birds are taken from the mountains and sold in the cities. Monitor Lizards are taken from Dhenkanal and brought toDelhi with their spines broken to be sold as aphrodisiacs or as drum covers. Hunting parties for tourists are organised by local motels for Nilgai on the pretext that it is troubling the farmers. Deer are routinely killed and there are very few left. Skins of wild cats can be ordered clandestinely. Monkeys and bearcubs are trapped here and taken to Agra-Jaipur. Blackbuck are taken by trucks going to Andhra Pradesh and eaten there. No policeman either knows the law or bothers to apply it and the Forest Department staff are often actively involved with the poachers themselves. Therefore it is important that you protect these animals yourself.
Wildlife crime has to be prevented because: a number of species have become extinct due to the demands of the wildlife trade; a number of species are on the brink of extinction directly due to the effects of trade e.g. rhinoceros, elephant, tiger and the smaller species like butterflies and molluscs. In fact 80 per cent of all India’s wildlife, including the national bird, the peacock is endangered. Poaching has a drastic effect especially in species whose survival is already compromised by habitat loss. Wild plants are being driven to extinction by trade. These plants are essential for genetic variation for crops and are a major natural source for many medicines (some may yet have to be discovered). Illegal wildlife trade is part of a general crime syndicate of any country and must be eradicated. In India the same criminals are involved in gun running, drugs and wildlife.
There are several agencies in India who contribute to stopping illegal wildlife activities. But none of these are effective by themselves. This eradication of poaching has to be driven by NGOs and individuals who become proactive in wiping out urban markets and who develop networks. Too many Government agencies are happy just picking up dead animals or skins. But this is too late. Neither does the trade stop nor are the animals saved. But if efficient patolling takes place in a town, then the market gradually stops. The kalandars and circuses are a case in point : continuous harassment has led to a gradual winding down of the illegal trade and use of animals.
The sale of wild animals or birds and their products is illegal in India. The major applicable laws for prohibiting such sales are: Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972;The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA), 1960; Local Police Acts; Local Municipal Corporation Acts.
Other relevant Acts: These includes the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation Act) 1992, Indian Penal Code, 1860; The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974; the Arms Act,1959, the Beggary Act in which all kalandars are treated as beggars and can be jailed.
There are any number of illegal items you can look for in such animal markets. These range from wild animals to their products or finished articlea made from wild animal products. Any wild animal whether indigenous or not being kept and/or sold or made to suffer in any way; Any wildbird whether indigenous or not being kept and/or sold, with the exception of the Blue Rock Pigeon (columbea livea). Keeping birds like Munia, Parakeet, Peacocks, Baya weaver birds, Koel, Owls and love birds is illegal under Section IV of the WPA. Keeping or selling or treating any other life form, live reptiles, bees, butterflies, etc. or the eggs of reptiles or birds is also illegal. Selling skins (cured, uncured) of any animal listed under Schedules of the WPA or practicing taxidermy on such animals. Selling/keeping shells of tortoises/turtles. Selling/keeping corals or shells or items made from them; Selling or keeping any ivory or items made from ivory. Claws of carnivores, horns of antelopes or trophies of any sort, are all illegal. Any street medicine which uses wild animals or their products is illegal e.g. bat, bear bile, tiger penis etc. The sale of musk obtained from musk deer is also illegal.
Before you start trying to apprehend criminals make sure you know the law. Under any of the previously mentioned Acts it is illegal to carry on such activity. When you see such illegal markets you have two options:
- File an FIR (First Information Report) at the nearest police station. Lodging an FIR alone will usually not be sufficient. Insist on a senior police officer accompanying you to the site of the market as soon as possible. This will make it possible to arrest the person/persons involved while they are committing the crime and before they have a chance to escape.
- The second option is referred to as a “citizens arrest”. Under Section 43 of CPC every citizen has a right to arrest any person who has committed in his/her presence a “cognizable offence”. A person conducting the arrest also has the right to search the offender and place in safe custody the articles found on him. The person has to hand over the offender and articles at the earliest to a police station.
Other than this if there are foreign birds or animals or articles made from such animal products in the market, it could be a crime under CITES. CITES is an international convention that regulates export/import of endangered agencies between the member countries. India is a signatory.
- You will have to block the markets. Till there are markets for animals and animal products, whatever the punishment for trading in them, there will be people to sell them. Blocking markets can be done effectively through the media.
- All wild animals enter the city from outside the urban centers. These animals are usually brought in via train or bus. Birds usually form the bulk of illegal trade.
- It can be taken for granted that all pet shops that legally sell pets (dogs, cats etc.) are illegally selling all other animals kept in the shop. If there is such a shop in your locality inform them of the consequences of trade in protected species.
- Keep a group of informants in the market place who can report to you on a regular basis.
- Be prepared to meet resistance with the local police. Many times there is a nexus between them and the market place.
- You can put up slides at your local theatre telling people that trade in any wild animal/bird is illegal.
- Patrol the market at least 3 times a week in a group. If you see any wild animal or bird or producer for sale, mob the shopkeeper, threaten him with the police, raise a confusion and in the confusion take the animal or product and run.
- Localise the places you usually find such trade in your locality. Usually the trade is maximum in areas near schools and colleges.
- Find the one person in your local corporation or police station who is honestly making a difference.
- Offer a reward and non-disclosure to anyone giving information about wildlife trades. Give your phone number, email number and fax.
- Give an award to police officers who have assisted or initiated the stopping of such sales.
- Butterflies are usually sent through parcels. The main countries are Germany and Japan. Tell the local post office to any inspect any large parcels to these countries.
Other than your local police station you can contact the following people if you witness a wildlife crime or trade in wild animals/ their parts: The local Chief Wildlife Wardens; Additional Inspector of Forests (Wildlife); Director of Specific Project dealing with the concerned species e.g. Director Project Tiger; Director Traffic – India.