This Article is written by Rahul, 4th sem student of Teerthankar Mahaveer University, Moradabad
The trade or commerce in wild animals, animal articles, and trophies is a major issue of concern in India. The country has a rich animal and plant life, and these resources have been exploited for various commercial purposes. This trade involves the buying and selling of wild animals, their parts, their derivatives, and their trophies. This trade is driven by the demand for these animals and their parts driven by the interest of individuals in owning them as pets, religious or traditional beliefs, use in traditional medicine, and for trophy hunting. However, the unlawful trade in these animals has been recognized as a significant threat to the survival of many endangered species, and as such, it has been prohibited under various wildlife protection statutes. The exploitation of these resources, however, has caused significant harm to the environment, the animals themselves, and the people who interact with them. As a result, the Indian government has passed several laws to regulate and prohibit the trade or commerce in wild animals, animal articles, and trophies.
Wildlife in India:
India is a country that is blessed with a rich biodiversity. The country has a vast array of wildlife that includes tigers, lions, bears, elephants, rhinos, and many other species. India also has a significant number of bird species, including migratory birds that visit the country during the winter season. The diversity of plant and animal life in India is vital to its ecosystem, and therefore the conservation of wildlife is a crucial aspect of life in India.
Trade or Commerce in Wild Animals:
The trade or commerce in wild animals is a term that refers to the act of buying, selling, or exchanging live wild animals. Several species in India are traded for various purposes such as pets, show animals, zoo animals, meat, and even traditional medicine. This trade has been significant in India because of the value of certain species such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos. The illegal trade in wildlife is an international problem that has negative impacts on both the economy and social welfare, as well as the conservation of these animals. The impact of wildlife trade can be seen in the staggering number of animals that are poached, killed, or captured illegally, leaving some species on the brink of extinction. The trade in wildlife has created an illegal economy that has been estimated by the United Nations to be worth as much as USD 23 billion annually. The exploitation of wildlife is not new as humans have a history of using animals for various reasons. However, with the increasing demand for exotic animals, international trade in wildlife has grown to be a highly organized and complex criminal activity. In most cases, it is the vulnerable and endangered species that are targeted, which are then smuggled across borders for use in traditional medicine, as pets or for their trophies.
Animal Articles and Trophies:
Animal articles refer to any product created from an animal’s body, such as fur, hide, horn, bones, or ivory. These items are often used for fashion, jewellery, or decoration. Animal Articles, also defined as any article or object made from a protected species, is also part of this illegal wildlife trade. This includes products made from ivory, rhino horn, and other animal parts.
Trophies refer to the body parts of animals such as the head, skin, or bones, that are taken as a prize from hunting. Trophy means the whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal, other than vermin, which has been kept or preserved by any means, whether artificial or natural, and includes,
- rugs, skins, and specimens of such animals mounted in whole or in part through a process of taxidermy, and
- antler, horn, rhinoceros’ horn, feather, nail, tooth, musk, eggs, and nests;
Both animal articles and trophies are often obtained through illegal hunting activities These products are highly valued and are used for decorative, medicinal, and religious purposes. This kind of trade puts pressure on populations of vulnerable and endangered species pushing them even closer to extinction. In response to this problem, countries around the world have enacted wildlife protection laws prohibiting the trade, capture and killing of endangered species.
Prohibition of Trade or Commerce in Wild Animals, Animal Articles, and Trophies:
The Indian government has taken several measures to regulate and prohibit the trade or commerce in wild animals, animal articles and trophies. In India, the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was enacted to provide for the protection of wild animals and birds, and for matters connected therewith. This law was amended in 2002 to strengthen the provisions of wildlife protection and provide for stringent punishments for those caught trading in wildlife. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA) is one of the major laws that have been enacted to protect wildlife in India.
The primary objective of the WLPA is to provide for the protection of wild animals and plants and for the conservation of their habitats. This act is also designed to ensure that trade or commerce in these species is not detrimental to their survival. The act categorizes animals based on the level of protection they require. Species that require the maximum level of protection are listed under Schedule I, while those that require less protection are listed under Schedule II, III, IV and V.
The WLPA makes it illegal to hunt or kill any animal listed under Schedule I. It also prohibits the sale or purchase of any animal listed under Schedule I or any part or derivative of that animal. The act also prohibits the sale, purchase or possession of any animal article or trophy that is derived from Schedule I or Schedule II animals. Under the Wildlife Protection Act, the hunting or capturing of wild animals, even for scientific purposes or photography, is prohibited, except under specified conditions. Any person found guilty of hunting or capturing a wild animal can be imprisoned for a term of between 3 to 7 years, in addition to a fine of between INR 10,000 to INR 25,000. If the animal is endangered, the term of imprisonment is increased to between 3 to 7 years, with a fine between INR 2 lakhs to INR 10 lakhs.
Similarly, the trade in wild animals, animal articles, and trophies is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act. Any person found guilty of buying, selling, or possessing any of these items can be imprisoned for a term of between 3 to 7 years, with a fine between INR 10,000 to INR 25,000. If the animal is endangered, the term of imprisonment is increased to between 3 to 7 years, with a fine between INR 2 lakhs to INR 10 lakhs. The Act allows for the confiscation of any item used in the commission of the offence and the forfeiture of the proceeds of the trade. The WLPA has also created various regulatory mechanisms to monitor and control the trade in wild animals, animal articles and trophies. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) is one such mechanism. This bureau is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases related to wildlife crime. The government also regulates the trade in wild animals and their parts through the issuance of permits and licenses.
There have been many instances in India where wildlife seizures have been made, and the offenders have faced stricter punishment. In the case of Mohammed Yasin and Another vs. the State Of Andhra Pradesh, the accused were found to be in possession of a leopard skin and sentenced to three years imprisonment under the Wildlife Protection Act. They filed an appeal against the order, but it was dismissed, and their sentence was upheld. Similarly, in the case of State of Rajasthan vs. Suman, the accused was found to be in possession of a tiger skin, and he was sentenced to five years imprisonment under the same Act.
The United Nations has also recognized the threat posed by the illegal trade in animals, and it banned the trade-in endangered species through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international agreement that serves to regulate the trade in endangered species and their products. CITES has been successful in regulating the trade in endangered species worldwide.
The illegal trade in wildlife is a critical issue that needs more attention from governments, international organizations, and individuals. It has been recognized as a threat to the survival of many species, and as such, it has been prohibited under various wildlife protection statutes. In India, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, provides for stringent punishment for offenders involved in the trade of wildlife, animal articles, and trophies. The Act has been successful in curbing illegal trade, and there have been cases where the offenders have been sentenced to serve prison terms. This activity has been detrimental to the environment, the animals themselves, and the people who interact with them. The government has enacted various laws, including the WLPA, to protect wildlife in India. These laws have been successful in reducing wildlife crime and protecting wildlife habitats in India. However, more needs to be done to prevent the trade in wild animals, animal articles and trophies. The government should also focus on ensuring that the regulations are being followed and that the enforcement is effective to ensure the survival of India’s wildlife.