NO WILD, NO LIFE
RSTV PERSPECTIVE: NO WILD, NO LIFE
- Humans rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs from food to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing.
- Millions of people are also dependent on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.
- According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable.
- As per this data 239 faunal species which are known to occur in India are classified as endangered species which includes 45 species of mammals, 23 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles, 39 species of amphibians and 114 species of fishes.
What is wildlife?
- Wildlife refers to those plants and animal species which live and grow in areas uninhabited by
- It includes all non-domesticated animals & plants including many other organisms & fungi.
- Wildlife is found in all ecosystems such as forests, plains, grasslands, deserts and all other areas and have a specific and different form of wildlife.
- India is endemic to many species of plants and animals which are evident from one of the study conducted which says that 6% avian, 7.6% mammals, 6.2% reptiles and 6.0% species of flowers are native to this country.
- Around 33% plant species are endemic to India and hence it is one of the biodiversity reserves in the world with around 70% endemic and diverse plants and animal species.
- India also has a wide range of forest belt which also depicts the diverse climatic pattern in the sub-continent which has provided home to such a rich and varied wildlife species. India has a vast belt of forests which ranges from tropical rainforest in Andaman Islands, North-Eastern region and the Western Ghats to the moist deciduous forest in the East, dry deciduous forest in Central and South India, Thorn forest in the Deccan and Western Gangetic Plain to the Coniferous forest in the Himalayas.
- India has a network of 733 Protected Areas including 103 National Parks, 537 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 67 Conservation Reserves and 26 Community Reserves covering approximately 4.89 percent of country's geographical area.
- According to the recent data by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and State Forest and Police Authorities, in the past three years (2018-2020), about 2054 cases were registered for killing or illegal trafficking of wild animals in India.
Importance of wildlife:
- Wildlife plays an important role in balancing the environment
- Wildlife provides a stability to different processes of the nature
- Wildlife and nature have been largely associated with humans for emotional and social reasons
- Ecological importance: Wildlife helps in maintaining the eco-logical balance of nature. Killing of carnivores leads to an increase in the number of herbivores which in turn affect the forest vegetation, thus due to lack of food in the forest they come out from the forest to agriculture land and destroy our crops. This makes us know that wildlife helps in maintaining ecological balance even by being predators of each other .
- Economic importance: The wild life can be used to earn money. Wild plant products like food, medicine, timber, fibres, etc. are of economic value and the wild animal products such as meat, medicines, hide, ivory, lac, silk, etc. are of tremendous economic value.
- Investigatory importance: Some wild organisms are used for scientific experiments such as to test effect of medicine.
- Conservation of biological diversities: By conserving wildlife, diversity in the environment can be conserved. According to some scientists an ecosystem with more diversity is more stable
- Importance in agriculture: Wild organisms are very important for modern agriculture.
- Production of new hybrid variety using wild plants
- Production of better hybrid variety of animals used for agriculture using wild animals
- New species of plants and animals can be produced by them
- Religion of wild: Many animal species have spiritual significance in different cultures around the world, and they and their products may be used as sacred objects in religious rituals.
- Tourism: Many nations have established their tourism sector around their natural wildlife.
Threats to Wildlife:
- Suffering: Animals living in the wild experience many harms due to causes which are either completely or partially natural, such as starvation, dehydration, parasitism, predation, disease, injury and extreme weather conditions.
- Destruction: The four most general reasons that lead to destruction of wildlife include overkill, habitat destruction and fragmentation, impact of introduced species and chains of extinction.
- Overkill happens whenever hunting occurs at rates greater than the reproductive capacity of the population is being exploited.
- Habitat destruction and fragmentation: Deforestation and increased road-building in the Amazon Rainforest are a significant concern because of increased human encroachment upon wild areas, increased resource extraction and further threats to biodiversity. Examples of habitat destruction include grazing of bushland by farmed animals, changes to natural fire regimes, forest clearing for timber production and wetland draining for city expansion.
- Impact of introduced species: Mice, cats, rabbits, dandelions and poison ivy are all examples of species that have become invasive threats to wild species in various parts of the world.
- Chains of extinction: All wild populations of living things have many complex intertwining links with other living things around them. Large herbivorous animals such as the hippopotamus have populations of insectivorous birds that feed off the many parasitic insects that grow on the hippo. Should the hippo die out, so too will these groups of birds, leading to further destruction as other species dependent on the birds are affected.
- Illegal Trading, Hunting and poaching of endangered species: Illegal hunting and poaching has posed a major threat to wildlife which is further fuelled by the lack of proper management and use of resources by the forest officials to curb the menace and save the wildlife.
- Climate change: Global warming and climate change has also played a major role in posing threat to the wildlife. This is also again due to human induced activities which is done by the burning of fossil fuels etc. which resulted in the changing of the climate globally.
- Over exploitation of resources: Exploitation and over exploitation of resources for food and other purposes has resulted in posing a threat to the wildlife, especially to the endangered species. The over use of the wild animals and plants for food, medicines, clothing etc has badly affected the wildlife populations and thus has become a threat to their existence
- Pollution: The ever increasing pollution level due to human activities and industrial operations has resulted in the release of harmful and toxic pollutants in the air, water and land. Hence, it has affected the wildlife in an adverse manner and ultimately posed a threat to become extinct.
- The major threats being faced by the wildlife in India are:-
- Decreasing Capacity. The wildlife sanctuaries of India have become overcrowded and their capacity has decreased to quite an extent. This is one of the major reasons for the depleting population of wild animals in India.
- Increasing Fatalities. Tourism in the national parks of the country is increasing day by day. One of the reasons for this is a rise in the popularity of eco-tourism and adventure tourism. This has led to a growth in vehicle pollution increasing wildlife road fatalities, apart from leading to a damage of the natural habitat of birds and animals.
- Increasing Forest Fires. Increase in forest fires due to campfires by visitors or deliberate fires by poachers / villagers has had a damaging effect. These fires not only kill animals, but also destroy their natural habitat.
- Increased Motor Boat Activity. The wildlife of coastal areas is constantly disturbed by personal watercrafts, like jet skis or wave runners. These personal watercrafts enter shallow waters and expel nesting birds from their roosts. Such activities are disturbing the mating pattern of birds.
- Release of Chemicals/Toxins. Releasing of chemicals and other toxic effluents into the water bodies has led to poisoning of the water. The animals and birds drinking such water face a fatal threat. Even the population of fish, living in such water bodies, is declining at a fast pace.
- Climate Changes. The climate changes taking place in the world today, are affecting not only humans, but also the wildlife. The natural habitat as well as migration patterns of the animals and birds is experiencing disturb patterns.
- Increase in Poaching. The threat of poaching has been haunting the wildlife of India since ages. Even after the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, the threat of poaching has not been totally eliminated.
India’s Domestic Legal Framework for Wildlife Conservation:
- Constitutional Provisions for Wildlife:
- The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
- Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests and Wildlife.
- Article 48 A in the Directive Principles of State policy, mandates that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
- Legal Framework:
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 have been drafted to protect wetlands in India.
- India’s Collaboration With Global Wildlife Conservation Efforts:
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
- Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
- World Heritage Convention
- Ramsar Convention
- The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC)
- United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)
- International Whaling Commission (IWC)
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- Global Tiger Forum (GTF)
- Related Organisations: Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Central Zoo Authority, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Wildlife SOS, Wildlife Trust of India, Wildlife Institute of India, Aaranyak, Nature Conservation Foundation, etc.
- WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country. It has its headquarter in New Delhi. WCCB has conducted a number of species-specific enforcement operations with coordination of State Enforcement Agencies.
- Operation Save Kurma: To focus on the poaching, transportation and illegal trade of live turtles and tortoises.
- Operation Turtshield: It was taken up to tackle the illegal trade of live turtles.
- Operation Lesknow: To gain attention of enforcement agencies towards the illegal wildlife trade in lesser-known species of wildlife.
- Operation Clean Art: To drag attention of enforcement agencies towards illegal wildlife trade in Mongoose hair brushes.
- Operation Softgold: To tackle Shahtoosh Shawl (made from Chiru wool) illegal trade and to spread awareness among the weavers and traders engaged in this trade.
- Operation Birbil: To curb illegal trade in wild cat and wild bird species.
- Operation Wildnet: It was aimed to draw the attention of the enforcement agencies within the country to focus their attention on the ever increasing illegal wildlife trade over the internet using social media platforms.
- Operation Freefly: To check illegal trade of live birds.
- Operation Wetmark: To ensure prohibition of sale of meat of wild animals in wet markets across the country.
- Projects undertaken:
- Project Tiger: Initiated in 1972. It helped in the conservation of both tigers and the entire ecosystem.
- Project Elephant: Initiated in 1992 with the aim of conserving elephants and their habitat and of migratory routes by developing scientific and planned management measures.
- Crocodile Conservation Project: The main objectives of the crocodile project is to protect the remaining population of crocodiles and their natural habitat by establishing sanctuaries.
- UNDP Sea Turtle Project: To conserve the Olive Ridley Turtles. Initiated by Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun as the Implementing Agency in 1999.
- Cheetah Reintroduction Programme in Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh from Namibia.
- Vulture Conservation: National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared a plan for conserving vultures.
- India Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020: The goal of IRV2020 was to increase the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by establishing populations in new areas.
- Project Hangul. The Kashmiri stag also called Hangul is a subspecies of Central Asian Red Deer native to Northern India.
- After the success of animal projects, the government has now initiated several new projects for conservation of other endangered animals like, The Himalayan Musk Deer Ecology and Conservation Project, Project Lion, Project Snow Leopard and endangered Birds / Pheasant Projects.
- Expansion of Sanctuary System. Habitat creation was another important measure, like for instance, various National Parks, Zoological Parks, Botanical Gardens, Sanctuaries and Biosphere Reserves have been constructed that serve as protected areas for the wildlife. They help in conserving the wild life in their state.
- Breeding in captivity has also helped in the survival of many wild life species.
- Mass Awareness and Education. Another important significant measure of conservation of Indian wildlife is mass awareness and education.
- India’s National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031):
- It consists of 17 chapters with new action themes like Climate Change and Wildlife, Wildlife health, Inland Aquatic and Coastal and Marine conservation, and Human-wildlife conflict mitigation.
- It provides for priority projects like setting up of ‘Electronic-eye (e-eye) surveillance’ in highly sensitive Tiger Reserves and Protected Areas, beside the use of Drone/ UAV technology for airborne monitoring and better protection of wildlife.
- It also focuses on ‘Management of Tourism in Wildlife Areas’ and ‘Control of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife’.
Challenges In Effective Implementation Of Wildlife Protection Laws In India:
- The Wildlife Protection Act also does not cover the foreign endangered species of plants and animals and hence does not have the authority to protect such foreign species if they are being hunted or poached or used.
- It is noticed that the punishment and penalties for offences made under the Act is not enough to stop and control exploitation of wildlife.
- There is another problem identified that the Forest departments and the Forest Officers are not able to work effectively in implementing the laws and facilitate the conservation activities because they are not adequately trained or have adequate resources.
- It is seen that the enforcement mechanism of the laws in India for the conservation and protection of wildlife is also complicated in nature.
- The laws, on one hand, enable the forest officers to protect the forests resources, but they are not given any powers to make policies pertaining to the situation which further creates problems in the confiscation of the felled timber or the poached animal.
- Forest department itself plays a role in the exploitation activities for their selfish reasons and corruption.
- Awareness among Public and Officials:
- concerned personnel should be provided with training and research in wildlife conservation measures and the legal provisions available for their protection.
- need to involve the local people who live in the surrounding areas of the protected areas by sensitizing them about the importance of wildlife conservation and protection and the relevant laws governing it.
- Recognizing and involving NGOs: The involvement of such NGOs will considerably help in protecting the wildlife resources in India.
- In-situ and Ex-situ Conservation: In-situ and Ex-situ conservation strategies are one of the important strategies for conservation of wildlife, especially the endangered species of plants and
- Increasing Resilience of Nature Reserves: This strategy includes maintaining natural reserves, creating buffer zones, minimization of human activities such as construction of buildings, roads and transportation activities, minimization of wildlife tourism, minimization of habitat fragmentation, conversation of genetic diversity, protection of biodiversity ‘hot spots’ thereby preventing extinction and protecting threatened species.