Smt. Kalpana Palkhiwala 6 Oct :The illegal trade in wildlife is a global issue. From animal parts, like tiger bones and musk glands to live reptiles, birds and ivory, poachers and smugglers illegally poach and traffic a variety of wild plant and animal species. The two major categories of traded items are live specimens of wildlife species and products from wildlife species.
The wildlife products mostly traded illegally are musk, ivory, rhino horns, tiger and leopard skins and bones; snakes and monitor lizard skins; pet trade and feather for decoration; turtle for meat and soups and Tibetan antelope for shawls.
Animals Involved In Wildlife Trade
Tiger- The problem of tiger poaching has come into the limelight because of a number of seizures of tiger skins, bones and other body parts, which took place in different parts of the country. The problem is mainly on account of the high demand for tiger parts, which are used in oriental medicine.
Elephant- Carving of ivory is a traditional cottage industry in South India. The spurt in prices of ivory has been mainly responsible for killing of elephant in India. It is alleged that poachers do not hesitate to shoot even young elephants down to 5 years of age, which carry tusks of about 2.5 Kg. a piece only. This type of systematic and sustained poaching of tuskers appeared to affect even the genetic potential and sex ratio of the species.
Tibetan Antelope or Chiru – The famous Shahtoosh shawls are woven from the under wool of the animal which has to be killed in order to derive the wool. This animal is migratory and was once found in large numbers in summers in the northeastern corner of Ladakh. Their numbers have now come down to a few hundreds, though they are still found in large numbers in the Tibetan Plateau.
Live Birds – Around 250 native species are trapped in India and are traded mainly for food, zoo, as pets medicine, black magic falconry and taxidermy. Millions of birds are caged for trade of which two thirds die during capture or during transportation.
Rhinoceros – This animal is now on the endangered list mainly due to trade in rhino horn. The horn fetches about 2,00,000 to 3,00,000 rupees in India and much more in the international market. Its meat, bones are also used for medicinal purposes. Rhino population in India faces threat of poaching because of the mythical properties attributes to its horn and its astronomical prices in the international market. As the economic incentive is provided by the prices of Rhino horn, large number of Rhinos are killed every year inspite of serious efforts on the part of the Government.
Decline In The Population Of Wild Animals
There is no constant decline in the population of wild animals. Fluctuation in the population of wild animals is a natural phenomenon and can be attributed to both biotic and abiotic factors:
? Biotic Factors include natural deaths due to age, competition, disease out-break, forest fire, flash flood etc.
? Abiotic Factors include unnatural death due to:
? Human induced factors like intentional killing and unintentional or accidental deaths on roads, rail tracks etc.
? The intentional killing of wild animals mainly done for pecuniary gains, animal protein and as a retaliatory action.
Protected Areas For Conservation And Protection
Protected Areas are geographical areas set apart exclusively for the conservation of biodiversity and where the prime objective of management is conservation of biodiversity. There are four categories of Protected Areas declare under Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. They are Sanctuaries, National, Parks, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves.
There are 606 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the country out of which 96 are National Parks and 510 are Wildlife Sanctuaries. In the field of National Parks Andaman and Nicobar and Madhya Pradesh top in the list with nine National Parks followed by West Bengal, Maharashtra and Kerala each with six National Parks. The States of Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Assam each have five National Parks. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir each posses three National Parks.
The Islands of Andaman & Nicobar posses highest number of Wildlife Sanctuaries to the tune of 96. Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh stand second with 35 and 32 Wildlife Sanctuaries respectively. States of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu and Uttar Pradesh each have more than 20 Wildlife Sanctuaries.
No rights or concessions are available to people in National Parks whereas in Wildlife Sanctuaries regulated grazing and certain rights not harmful to Wildlife can be permitted at the time of settlement. Forest areas of Government land adjacent to National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries normally have important flora and fauna. This can be declared as Conservation Reserve. At the same time the private or community land having flora and fauna cultural values in proximity to Sanctuary, National Park or Conservation Reserve can be declared as Community Reserve. This is always done with the consent of local people.
The Government has important schemes for management of protected areas which is in the form of assisting State Governments. There are three main schemes namely Development of National Park and Sanctuaries, Project Tiger and Project Elephant. Under Development of National Park and Sanctuaries financial assistance is given for expansion of the protected area network and to create infrastructural facilities.
Under the centrally sponsored Project Tiger Scheme, which was launched on April 1, 1973 on the recommendation of Special Task Force of the India Board for wildlife, the States received 100 per cent financial assistance for non-recurring items and 50 per cent assistance for recurring items. The objectives of Project Tiger Schemes are to ensure the maintenance of viable population of tigers in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values, to preserve such areas for benefit education and enjoyment of the people and to improve the biotope and stimulation as per conservation. There are 28 Tiger Reserves in the country.
Under the Project Elephant Scheme, 24 elephant reserves in 12 States have been declared to protect elephant population in the wild and develop there habitat. It was launched in the year 1991-92 as a sequel to a series of efforts to conserve this magnificent specie. The 12 States are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Nation is celebrating World Wildlife Week which is observed between October 1-7. It is time to take stock of conservation efforts to protect flora and fauna, the world over. Wildlife week is a celebration of wild heritage and puts the spotlight on all creatures big and small. The goal is to educate people about wildlife, other resources and ecology.
*Deputy Director (M & C), PIB, New Delhi