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3rd June 2022 (7 Topics)

India sees surge in exotic wildlife smuggling

Context

The illicit smuggling of exotic animals through border countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar is rapidly on the rise. A lack of formal regulation of the sector allows the trade to flourish.

About

Rising Wildlife smuggling in India:

  • The latest report by UNEP’s partner TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring agency, found that over 70,000 native and exotic animals and their derivatives were trafficked through 18 Indian airports between 2011 and 2020.
  • India is among the top ten countries in terms of using the airline sector for wildlife trafficking.

India has also been a member of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1976.

CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

  • The most trafficked species are pangolins, seahorses and tortoises:
    • In 2018, TRAFFIC India released a study which revealed that at least 5,772 pangolins were captured in India from 2009 to 2017 for illegal trade.
    • The Patagonian seahorse (hippocampus patagonicus) is one of the three sea horse species which is trafficked for its use in medicine.
    • The Indian star tortoise is now the most trafficked tortoise worldwide as it is in high demand as a pet.
  • A lack of knowledge, anonymous e-commerce, greed and low risk, high reward opportunities are coming together in a perfect storm to fuel wildlife crime globally, and India is a major hotspot.

Lack of legal protection for wildlife

  • Unfortunately, the trade in exotic species does not fall within the purview of the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, leaving a gaping legal hole in India’s wildlife protection system.
  • This is well exploited by those involved in various levels of the wildlife trade.
  • According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of India, diverse products including mongoose hair, snake skins, turtle shells, musk pods and bear bile are bound for the international market and have no direct demand in India.
  • Large quantities of ambergris, a waxy substance that comes from a whale’s digestive tract , have been seized from various parts of the country over the last two years.
  • Ambergris is used in the West to stabilize the scent of fine perfumes
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