India as a hub for wildlife trafficking
- June 9, 2022
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: DPN Topics
India as a hub for wildlife trafficking
- According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest form of transnational organised crime (after smuggling of drugs, human trafficking, and counterfeiting) worth an estimated £15 billion per annum.
- Despite being a part of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora), India is not only a major source, but also a transit and a destination country for trafficked wildlife and wildlife products.
- International wildlife trafficking into and out of India mainly occurs through either the long international border along the Northeast or through airports. Chennai and Mumbai airports are major hubs for this illegal activity.
- Wildlife trafficking in India is driven by the demand for raw material like red sandalwood and ivory, and animal parts – particularly rhinoceros horn and tiger parts – for traditional medicine, demand for meat, and the attraction towards exotic pets.
- When exotic live animals that have been smuggled into India are seized, they are sent to rescue centres or sanctuaries.
- Several international and national governmental organisations are teaming up to develop tools and networks that counter wildlife trafficking.
- Due to its mega diverse nature (India has 8% of the world’s wildlife), and dense human population.
- Porous international borders with China, Myanmar, and other Southeast Asian countries.
- A growing aviation market and the fast-expanding airport sector, and
- The use of social media as online marketplaces by wildlife traffickers.
- Also, smugglers of exotic wildlife species in India have even resorted to misusing the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in 2020.
- Besides these reasons, there are major lacunae in laws that pertain to the ownership of exotic animals in India. People caught transporting exotic wildlife species can be charged with the crime only if it can be proven that they crossed an international border illegally with those animals.
Species trafficked in India
- Ivory, turtles and tortoises (especially the Indian star tortoise), and red sandalwood.
- Pangolin, Indian rhino for horn, tiger, ornamental fish such as the Channa barca or snakehead (endemic to the upper Brahmaputra basin) and the zebra loach (in the Western Ghats).
- Wildlife trafficking has expanded to include trade in body parts of golden jackals, Asiatic black bears, leopards (for tantric uses and traditional medicines) and mongooses (for mongoose hair paint brushes).
- Instances of exotic animals such as kangaroos, marmosets, tamarins, and birds such as macaws and parrots being transported across India are on the rise.
Factors driving wildlife trafficking in India
- The foremost is the demand for raw materials like red sandalwood and ivory (used in manufacturing luxury products), and animal parts – particularly rhinoceros horn and tiger parts – for traditional medicine.
- Another factor that drives wildlife trafficking is the demand for meat – many animals such as the Bengal slow loris, soft shell turtles from Uttar Pradesh, deer, antelope, wild cattle, and even sea cucumbers are mainly trafficked for consumption.
- The third major driving factor for wildlife trafficking in India lies in the growing demand for exotic pets, especially birds like cockatoos, macaws, and grey parrots.
Steps taken to reduce wildlife trafficking in India
- The DRI, which is in the forefront of the battle against smuggling, has teamed up with the Indian Customs as a part of the Green Customs initiative of the World Customs Organization, to counter wildlife trafficking into and out of India.
- To combat the rising use of air transport in wildlife trafficking, a suite of tools have been developed by TRAFFIC, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Wildlife Fund-India (WWF-India), and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).
- Apart from this, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also has a short 20-minute training module to help spread awareness on wildlife trafficking through air transport.
- Airport authorities in Bengaluru have even set up a forest cell to tackle wildlife smuggling.
The Counter Wildlife Trafficking program, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society-India, conducts training and sensitisation workshops for state forest departments, police forces, customs officials, border security force units, and even the judiciary, on conducting crime scene investigations and promoting inter-agency collaborations