With the evolving world, we are now coming across several issues caused by the advancements and changing conditions on the earth. Endangered wildlife is one such among them. There are thousands of species under threat of extinction due to human activities which need an adequate protection regime. Expanding to all existing species, a 2019 UN report on biodiversity put this estimate even higher at a million species. It is also being acknowledged that an increasing number of ecosystems on Earth containing endangered species are disappearing. We need to consider our protection regime for their conservation not only for our country but for world at large.
- Wildlife conservation in India has a long history, dating back to the colonial period when it was rather very restrictive to only targeted species and that too in a defined geographical area.
- Then, the formation of the Wildlife Board at the national level and enactment of Wildlife Act in 1972 laid the foundation of present day “wildlife conservation” era in post-independent India.
- Project Tiger in the 1970s and the Project Elephant in 1992–both with flagship species attracted global attention.
- India then also became a member of all major international conservation treaties related to habitat, species and environment like Ramsar Convention, 1971; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1973; Convention on Migratory Species, 1979; Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992, among others.
- Today, a chain of 41 tiger reserves and 28 elephant reserves, besides a network of 668 Protected Areas, bear testimony to the efforts of Centre.
- With the opening up of Indian market and process of globalisation, the country has made significant progress in achieving higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- But, on the other hand, disturbing developments about dilution of conservation efforts on the part of the system of governance on one side and a significant increase in the death toll of protected species, combined with intervention within Protected Areas.
What are Endangered and Extinct species?
According to the global definition, a species is considered “endangered” if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and a species is considered “threatened” if it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
What are major threats and concerns for wildlife?
- Today, about 23% (1,130 species) of mammals and 12% (1,194 species) of birds are considered as threatened by
- Threat of Invasive species: Global biodiversity is being lost much faster than natural extinction due to:
- changes in land use
- Unsustainable use of natural resources
- invasive alien species, climate change, and pollution among others
- Land conversion by humans, resulting in natural habitat loss, is most evident in tropical forests and is less intensive in temperate, boreal, and arctic regions.
- Pollution from atmospheric nitrogen deposition is most severe in northern temperate areas close to urban centers.
- Habitat loss: Fewer natural wildlife habitat areas remain each year. Moreover, the habitat that remains has often been degraded to bear little resemblance to the wild areas which existed in the past. Habitat loss due to destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat is the primary threat to the survival of wildlife.
- Climate Change: Global warming is making hot days hotter, rainfall and flooding heavier, hurricanes stronger and droughts more severe. This intensification of weather and climate extremes will be the most visible impact of global warming in our everyday lives.
- Plants and wildlife are sensitive to moisture change so, they will be harmed by any change in moisture level. Natural phenomena like floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning, and forest fires also affect wildlife.
- Unregulated Hunting and poaching: Unregulated hunting and poaching cause a major threat to wildlife. Along with this, mismanagement of the forest department and forest guards triggers this problem.
- Pollution: Pollutants released into the environment are ingested by a wide variety of organisms. Pesticides and toxic chemicals being widely used, making the environment toxic to certain plants, insects, and rodents.
- Over-exploitation: Overexploitation is the overuse of wildlife and plant species by people for food, clothing, pets, medicine, sport, and many other purposes. People have always depended on wildlife and plants for food, clothing, medicine, shelter, and many other needs.
- The loss of one species can affect many other species in an ecosystem. The hunting, trapping, collecting, and fishing of wildlife at unsustainable levels is not something new. The passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction, early in the last century, and over-hunting nearly caused the extinction of the American bison and several species of whal
- Deforestation: Humans are continually expanding and developing, leading to an invasion of wildlife habitats. As humans continue to grow, they clear forested land to create more space. This stresses wildlife populations as there are fewer homes and food sources for wildlife to survive.
- Population: The increasing population of human beings is a major threat to wildlife. More people on the globe means more consumption of food, water, and fuel, therefore more waste is generated. Major threats to wildlife are directly related to the increasing population of human beings. A low population of humans results in less disturbance to wildlife.
Who is responsible for protecting them?
- In India, wildlife conservation has got both legal backing and proper management to implement the same.
What is wildlife conservation?
Wildlife conservation refers to the protection of wild species and their habitats in order to maintain healthy wildlife species or populations and to restore, protect or enhance natural ecosystems.
- The geographic location and latitudinal position of India has gifted India with a diverse wildlife species.
- India with 6 biodiversity hotspot possesses several numbers of species of plants and animals.
- Several animal species which exists in India have their significance in mythological story line and hundreds and thousands years ago the equation between animal and people were very much correlative.
- Government of India has enacted Wildlife Protection Act in 1972 which has been amended several times to create a balance in the changing scenario.
- Declaration of biosphere reserves and national parks and their proper management are also entrusted by the government to protect the ecological survival of the species.
- Corridors for animals: Several corridors for animals has been created to provide a safe passage to the animals from one ecosystem to another with minimal human animal confrontation.
- 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.
Other Governmental institutions:
- In US, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was passed to protect US species deemed in danger of extinction. The concern at the time was that the country was losing species that were scientifically, culturally, and educationally important.
- In the same year, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) was passed as part of an international agreement to prevent the global trade of endangered wildlife.
- In 1980, the World Conservation Strategy was developed by the IUCN with help from the UN Environmental Programme, World Wildlife Fund, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNESCO.
- Its purpose was to promote the conservation of living resources important to humans. In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed on at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (often called the Rio Earth Summit) as an international accord to protect the Earth's biological resources and diversity.
Non-governmental institution -Many NGOs exists to actively promote and involve in wildlife conservation. Some of them are;
- The Nature Conservancy is a US charitable environmental organization that works to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
- World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization working on the issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund.
- It is the world's largest independent conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide, working in more than 90 countries, supporting around 1300 conservation and environmental projects around the world.
- Conservation International (CI) is an American non-profit environmental organization headquartered in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia.
- CI's work focuses on science, policy and partnership with businesses, governments and communities. The organization employs nearly 1,000 people and works with more than 2,000 partners in 29 countries.
- The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a non-governmental organization headquartered at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, that aims to conserve the world's largest wild places in 14 priority regions.
- New York Zoological Society (NYZS), the organization is now led by President. WCS manages four New York City wildlife parks in addition to the Bronx Zoo: the Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. Together these parks receive 4 million visitors per year. All of the New York City facilities are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
- 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.
What is India’s situation in Wildlife conservation?
- Wildlife conservation Act, 1972
- The Act was enacted for the protection of plants and animal species.
- It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Prior to this legislation, India had only five designated national parks.
- At present, there are 101 National Parks in India.
- Salient features of the Act:
- Prohibition of hunting: It prohibits the hunting of any wild animal specified in Schedules I, II, III and IV of the act.
- Prohibition of Cutting/Uprooting Specified Plants: It prohibits the uprooting, damage, collection, possession or selling of any specified plant from any forest land or any protected area.
- Declaration and Protection of Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks: The Central Government can constitute any area as a Sanctuary, provided the area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance.
- The government can also declare an area (including an area within a sanctuary) as a National Park.
- A Collector is appointed by the central government to administer the area declared as a Sanctuary.
- Constitution of Various Bodies: The WPA act provides for the constitution of bodies to be established under this act such as the National and State Board for Wildlife, Central Zoo Authority and National Tiger Conservation Authority.
- Government Property: Hunted wild animals (other than vermin), animal articles or meat of a wild animal and ivory imported into India and an article made from such ivory shall be considered as the property of the Government.
- Wildlife conservation Amendment Act, 2022
- The rationalisation of the schedule for animals and plants was long overdue. The parliament had streamlined the scheduling of species from the original six schedules to just three — Schedule I for species that will enjoy the highest level of protection, Schedule II for species that will be subject to a lesser degree of protection and Schedule III that covers plants.
- The species that should be in Schedule I, but have been placed in Schedue II are classified under the new legislation.
- There are species missing altogether both in Schedules I and II as well as in Schedule III.
- Schedules I and II as proposed in the Bill will also not be able to be referenced easily by those entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the amended Act since they are arranged according to their scientific names in Latin.
- Removal of vermin species.
- Obligations created under CITES:
- Management Authority will be answerable.
- Scientific Authority will be appointed.
- It will widen the scope of legislation.
- Environment protection Act, 1986
- Overview: The Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) was enacted in 1986 with the objective of providing the protection and improvement of the environment.
- It empowers the Central Government to establish authorities charged with the mandate of preventing environmental pollution in all its forms and to tackle specific environmental problems that are peculiar to different parts of the country.
- Powers of the Central Government: The Central Government shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment in coordination with the State Governments.
- Restriction on Pollutant Discharge: No individual or organisation shall discharge/emit or permit to discharge/emit any environmental pollutant in excess of the prescribed standards.
- Powers of Entry and Inspection: Any person empowered by the Central Government shall have a right to enter (with the assistance deemed necessary) at any place:
- For the inspection of compliance of any orders, notifications and directions given under the Act.
- Establishment of Environmental Laboratories:it is empowered to;
- Establish environmental laboratories.
- Recognise any laboratory or institute as environmental laboratories to carry out the functions entrusted to such a laboratory.
- Complete Centralisation of the Act:A potential drawback of the Act could be its centralization. While such wide powers are provided to the Centre and no powers to the state governments, the former is liable to its arbitrariness and misuse.
- No Public Participation:There is a need to involve the citizens in environmental protection to check arbitrariness and raise awareness and empathy towards the environment.
- Incomplete Coverage of Pollutants:The Act does not address modern concept of pollution such as noise, overburdened transport system and radiation waves which are also an important cause for the deteriorating environment.
What are impacts of wildlife loss in India?
- Species loss is also compounded by:
- The ongoing growth of human populations and unsustainable consumer lifestyles
- Increasing production of waste and pollutants
- Urban development
- International conflict.
- These are major reasons from which wildlife is to be conserved and the following impacts develops such as;
- Ecological impact: The loss of Biodiversity and wildlife creates an imbalance in the ecosystem of the dependable species.
- For example- loss of habitat for tigers led to the reduction of Tiger population drastically.
- Environmental impacts: wildlife forms the basis of life on earth and several plants and animals contribute to the maintenance of our surroundings. They help in exchange of gases, cross-pollination, control of over-population of a specific species etc.
- Political impacts: the various commitments done by India globally has made this the responsibility of our governments to make proper legislations and executives to implement them properly. If this will not happen then our global political image can be harmed.
- Economic impacts: the loss of biodiversity has led to loss of funds by the government in several schemes which led to failure due to lack of proper implementation at ground level. Human activities against animals and plants for illegal trading and for food, has made markets depend on their consumption. Exploiting them for our needs will make situation even worsen.
- Exploitation of forest for wood, medicinal plants, vegetation etc also makes habitat destruction.
- Cultural impact: Many tribes living in core areas of forest are unaware of the fact of biodiversity conservation or its importance.
- They traditionally have a custom of eating wild animals, which can also led to human- animal conflict.
- Public awareness: Religious customs and beliefs in forest and tribal areas hinder the protection measures. A wide stage campaign to promote the importance of such bio diversity needs to be spread.
- Involvement of NGOs: Recognizing and involving NGOs will reduce the governmental burden and all areas can be covered with other institutional expansion.
- In situ and ex situ conservation.
- Increasing resilience of natural reserves.
- Creation and management of biosphere reserves and protected areas.
- Stringent law regarding environmental clearance for green field developmental projects.
- Neutrality of Environmental Impact Assessment.
Ecological sustenance of wildlife species is very much important to preserve the ecological balance in the ecosystem. Disruption in such balance can create unimaginative impact in future which becomes very difficult to predict via any statistical methods. Along with wildlife protection, developmental projects and socio religious customs are two major concerns that need to be taken care off. The government policies must try to create a balance between these variables of the equation and prepare an equation between people and wildlife.