Environmental News from India:
- 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.
Wildlife trafficking, which is the illegal trade of wild animals and plants, either as dead or live specimens, or their parts, has a huge negative effect on the world’s environments, biodiversity, economies, governance, and health. It is a form of transnational organised crime that spans across many countries and involves poaching, smuggling, and illegal collection or capture, of protected wildlife.
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 currently one among the top 20 countries for wildlife trafficking, and among the top 10 for wildlife trafficking by air. Due to its megadiverse nature (India has 8% of the world’s wildlife), and dense human population (which makes tracing illegal goods very difficult once they have entered domestic markets), India serves as both, a source, as well as a transit country for illegal wildlife and wildlife products.
Added to this, several other factors have made the fight against the illegal wildlife trade increasingly difficult. Amongst these are the 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.
Furthermore, 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. The scheme aimed to regulate the growing market of exotic animals in India – which boomed after the complete ban on trade in Indian species – by allowing Indians to declare the possession of exotic wild species without any documentation before March 15, 2021.
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