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Wildlife Conservation In India

Wildlife Conservation In India

Introduction

  • Wildlife involves the study of wild undomesticated animals and plants living in their natural habitats and their ecological interactions.
  • Due to the destruction of forests, a large number of animals and plants have become endangered and their conservation has become a matter of utmost importance.
  • We have to spread awareness that protection of wildlife is necessary for ensuring our own survival on this planet.

Types Of Wildlife Management

  • Manipulative management involves regulating numbers of animals directly by harvesting or by influencing numbers by altering food supply, habitat, density of predators etc.
  • Custodial management is preventive or protective and minimizes external influences on the population and its habitat. It is done by setting up national parks where ecological conditions are protected and threatened species are conserved by law.
  • The Wildlife Management program focuses on the following:
    • Predator-prey relationship
    • Urban and suburban wildlife
    • Migratory wildlife species
    • Wildlife-human interaction
    • International wildlife
  • Management is operated at four basic levels – local, state, national and international.
  • Government agencies plan the policies of protecting, conserving and managing wildlife. All the management levels participate in passing wildlife management tools and many a time, conflicts arise.

Forms of Wildlife Management | Wildlife Conservation In India

  • Habitat Restoration and Management
    • Habitat management is a primary tool wildlife biologists use to manage, protect, and enhance wildlife populations. Increased wildlife diversity in an area may be a wildlife management goal. It is difficult to develop strategies for managing each species separately. Several wildlife species can benefit when a complete ecosystem is improved or preserved intact to meet the needs of threatened or endangered species or groups of species.
    • Managers may enhance grassland areas by clearing brush (prescribed burning, cutting, herbicides) and removing trees, as well as over-planting them with native prairie species. This helps reduce cover used by edge predators (skunks, raccoons, red-tailed hawks) and improves the quality of the habitat for grassland animals.
  • Harvest
    • Managers may strive to reduce or maintain populations so animals conflict less with human activities. For example, white-tailed deer are abundant in urban areas. This presents challenges for wildlife managers because hunting with firearms is not allowed. The most effective solution has been controlled hunts. Monkey population in urban India can be controlled by capture and release in wild areas.
  • Endangered Species Management
    • Endangered or threatened species require intensive management. Critical habitat and locations of existing populations must be identified so they can be managed successfully. An animal species is considered endangered when its numbers become so low that experts think it may become extinct unless action is taken to save it.
    • Threatened species’ populations are showing signs of unnatural decline or they are vulnerable to becoming endangered. Many endangered or threatened species are specialists that have very restrictive habitat needs and eat specialized foods. The leading cause for a species becoming endangered or threatened is habitat loss.
  • Species Reintroduction
    • Another wildlife management goal may be to re-establish species in suitable habitat. The lost species can be reintroduced from other areas once again in reintroduction programs and management efforts. Study of biology and ecological requirements of the species is necessary before the introductions.
  • Conservation and Preservation
    • Wildlife conservation helps ensure future generations can enjoy our resources. Conservation can include harvesting natural resources, activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting timber as well as non-consumptive activities such as bird watching, photography, and hiking. Conservation must balance issues between wildlife and human populations. Conservation of wildlife implies insuring threatened and endangered species receive special management to protect their presence in the future.
    • Conservation may include preservation or protection of natural resources that emphasizes non-consumptive activities. A habitat or ecosystem can be preserved by manipulation and an area also may be managed by doing nothing at all. For example, a forest can be conserved by allowing it to mature without any human manipulation such as timber harvest, grazing, or  tree planting.

Biodiversity Conservation In Forest Ecosystems | Wildlife Conservation In India

Conservation of natural forest ecosystems is the main function of most protected forest areas and the term “protected area” encompasses a vast variety of approaches for the management of natural and semi-natural forest types. National parks and forest reserves are no longer the only methods that can be used for the conservation of biological diversity. A possible alternative is multiple use forest management, which incorporates harvesting of forest products within a framework of sustainable management that aims at both conserving biodiversity and supplying benefits to local people and the national economy.

  • Protected areas
    • Numerous problems arise in relation to the management of protected areas. Problems include conflicts with local people over land rights and illegal extraction of animal and plant resources. These problems are often intensified due to the inability of state authorities to protect such areas. Hence, stated conservation achievements do not always reflect reality. In practice, even though there are good examples of effective national parks and forest reserves, the past hundred years or more have witnessed a parallel increase in both the number and surface area of protected areas and a growing number of extinct or threatened species.
  • Buffer zones
    • Experience has shown that legal protection alone is not enough to ensure effective conservation activity. In particular, protected areas will only fulfill their conservation goals if the land around them is managed appropriately. In reality, many protected areas suffer from encroachment by farming and cropping activities. Currently therefore, the objective of biodiversity conservation in forests can only generally be ensured by the creation of substantial areas of natural forest for production around them. Such a “buffer zone” can support the protected area while, at the same time, provide local people with benefits.
    • Buffer zones are meant to form a physical barrier against human encroachment of the centrally protected area. Furthermore, the support of local people in conservation objectives can be promoted by their participation in the harvesting and management of buffer zones.
  • Sustainable wildlife management
    • Wildlife is being used for tourism, mainly in Africa. Besides the financial value of these activities, this method of utilizing wildlife resources should be ecologically and socially viable, but it is important to remember that wildlife also has considerable socio-cultural and religious importance. In the past, authoritarian management of wildlife resources has often failed. Total bans on the use and marketing of game have also forced communities to poaching. The implication is that it is not generally possible to manage natural resources and fauna without the active participation of local communities in decision-making and subsequent benefits. Integrated community programmes for resource conservation have been formulated with success in several African countries, leading to a considerable drop in poaching, an increase in animal populations and to habitat regeneration.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

  • This Act provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
  • Among other things, the Act lays down restrictions on hunting many animal species.
  • The Act was last amended in the year 2006.
  • An Amendment bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2013 and referred to a Standing Committee, but it was withdrawn in 2015.

Constitutional Provisions for the Wildlife Act | Wildlife Conservation In India

  • Article 48A of the Constitution of India directs the State to protect and improve the environment and the safeguard wildlife and forests. This article was added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976.
  • Article 51A imposes certain fundamental duties for the people of India. One of them is to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

Need for the Wildlife Protection Act

  • Wildlife is a part of ‘forests’ and this was a state subject until the Parliament passed this law in 1972. Reasons for a nationwide law in the domain of environment particularly wildlife include the following:
  • India is a treasure-trove of varied flora and fauna. Many species were seeing a rapid decline in numbers. For instance, at the turn of the 20th century, India was home to close to 40000 tigers. By the seventies, this number drastically reduced to about 1820.
  • A drastic decrease in the flora and fauna can cause ecological imbalance, which affects many aspects of climate and the ecosystem.
  • The most recent Act passed during the British era in this regard was the Wild Birds and Animals Protection, 1935. This needed to be upgraded as the punishments awarded to poachers and traders of wildlife products were disproportionate to the huge financial benefits that accrue to them.
  • There were only five national parks in India prior to the enactment of this Act.

Salient Features of Wildlife Protection Act | Wildlife Conservation In India

This Act provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.

  • The Act provides for the formation of wildlife advisory boards, wildlife wardens, specifies their powers and duties, etc.
  • It helped India become a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
    • CITES is a multilateral treaty with the objective of protecting endangered animals and plants.
    • It is also known as the Washington Convention and was adopted as a result of a meeting of IUCN members.
  • For the first time, a comprehensive list of the endangered wildlife of the country was prepared.
  • The Act prohibited the hunting of endangered species.
  • Scheduled animals are prohibited from being traded as per the Act’s provisions.
  • The Act provides for licenses for the sale, transfer and possession of some wildlife species.
  • It provides for the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, etc.
  • Its provisions paved the way for the formation of the Central Zoo Authority. This is the central body responsible for the oversight of zoos in India. It was established in 1992.
  • The Act created six schedules which gave varying degrees of protection to classes of flora and fauna.
    • Schedule I and Schedule II (Part II) get absolute protection and offences under these schedules attract the maximum penalties.
    • The schedules also include species which may be hunted.
  • The National Board for Wildlife was constituted as a statutory organisation under the provisions of this Act.
    • This is an advisory board that offers advice to the central government on issues of wildlife conservation in India.
    • It is also the apex body to review and approve all matters related to wildlife, projects of national parks, sanctuaries, etc.
    • The chief function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
    • It is chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • The Act also provided for the establishment of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
    • It is a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with an overall supervisory and coordination part, performing capacities as given in the Act.
    • Its mandate is to strengthen tiger conservation in India.
    • It gives statutory authority to Project Tiger which was launched in 1973 and has put the endangered tiger on a guaranteed path of revival by protecting it from extinction.

The Issues In Wildlife Protection Act Implementation | Wildlife Conservation In India

  • Implementational Lacuna
    • WLPA revolves around the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW), appointed under Section 4 of the WLPA. CWLW, are not full-filling their statutory duties comprehensively, as provided under the Act. Some of these instances are:
      • The power of CWLW (under sec 18-26) to carry out settlement in protected area has not started even after 46 year.
      • CWLW are empowered to take cognizance of destruction of wildlife , and regulate the inflow and outflow of water. But they are not acting on this front.
      • The Section-27 and 28 provide for regulation of entry, registration of arm licenses and inoculation of cattle to ward off diseases. There is also almost total inaction in this direction.
      • The amendment act of 2002 provided for confiscation of property derived from illegal hunting and trade by a confiscation tribunal. But investigation officer, confiscation officer and confiscation tribunal has not been appointed or created.
    • There is a conflict between legislative intent of WLPA and Forest Right Act 2006, as the resource poor farmers and tribal generally come in conflict with wildlife animals as well as forest guard.
  • Institutional Capacity
    • Forest guard are not given proper training, about problem specific to forest like species diversity, study of animal behaviour, landscape planning to cope with porosity and fragmentation, understanding of Zone of Influence, and knowledge of Animal Classification
    • Forest guard are not given weapons. In case of conflict with poachers, they retreat.
    • With increased population burden, the wildlife area, particularly the corridors are shrinking.
    • The Wildlife Departments don’t have the space to house rescued animals till their release orders are issued by the court.
  • Lack of Coordination
    • There is lack of integration between various agencies working for the protection of wildlife
      • Conviction rate is dismal 2% for crime related to wildlife.
      • Even with the increase in nefarious trade in wildlife, any control mechanism is not established at international border and transport facility.
      • Due to lack of specialization, police and customs officers are not able to recognize tiger bones, which are exported with a different label.
    • Police and judges are not sensitized to animal welfare or are aware of the laws and the seriousness of the crime.
    • Police authorities and wildlife officers are found wanting, especially when it comes to handling, identifying and rehabilitating the live animals seized
  • Legal Impairment
    • Section 11(2) of the wild life act that is self-defence or killing animals in good faith is exploited. When forest dweller is caught with killing animals, they claim this provision to get away with it.
    • Punishment for crime in wildlife crime disproportionately low.
    • Many exotic species are not covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that regulates all commercial trade.
      • In such cases, the courier is charged under the Customs Act and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act for not having a no objection certificate (NOC) for their “goods”. The courier is then let off after paying a penalty.

Conclusion | Wildlife Conservation In India

  • Wildlife animal definition in the WLPA, 1972 should be made more broad-based and in convergence with international emergent situation.
  • The success of WLPA, or for that matter, any law depends on the constituents in any such programmes. There are many success stories in which local communities participated and saved wildlife. For example
    • Gujarat: Maldharis , a nomadic tribe helped in conservation of Gir lions
    • Nagaland: Naga Tribe, because of the help of this tribe, Nagaland is known as amur falcon capital of the world
    • Rajasthan: Pastoral community of Thar Desert is conserving Great Indian Bustard
  • Such models and participation needs to be replicated all over India.

 

 

 

Environment & Biodiversity

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