Why Is Interpol Saving India’s Wildlife?

Posted on March 5, 2015 in Environment

By Anjali Nambissan:

Remember how all the tigers disappeared from Sariska, Rajasthan in 2006?

That really shook things up. Everyone, from the top official at the National Tiger Conservation Authority to the forest guards in India’s national parks, were pulled up and lambasted by the government, public pressure and the nation’s media. We all remember Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s passionate appeal to the public to save the remaining 1,001 tigers left in India, don’t we?

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

The Status of Tigers in India, 2014 report, came as vindication for all this hullabaloo, when it said that the tiger population went up by 40% in 4 years to stand at 2,226 in 2014. Can we please see some similar action towards conserving the lesser known, critically endangered – meaning there are less than 250 of them in the wild – species, such as the Namdapha squirrel or the Malabar Civet cat?

The Lesser Animals

India, says India Today, is the second largest shark hunting country in the world. In Tamil Nadu, over 20,000 tortoises were seized in the period between 2000 and 2013. Roughly 10 to 15,000 fresh water turtles are smuggled from India, every year. Traffic India says that over 3,350 pangolins were poached in the four years between 2009 and 2013. Where are they all headed? To seedy apothecaries and quack dens in East Asia and China, where parts of these hapless animals are considered medicine and food and aphrodisiacs.

Now reportedly, Interpol will help the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of the Union Ministry of Environment track the increase in wildlife crime of the less glamorous endangered animals of India. This is good news. Wildlife crime is a serious crime, no less than murder. It thrives on the black market that makes $10 billion a year, second to narcotics. 52% of the world’s wildlife population has been hunted to extinction since 1970, says the World Wildlife Fund.

Interpol could help the WCCB take on this cross-border, illegal trade that has to stop. And since the WCCB doesn’t have a functioning website, let alone a plan, this could be helpful.

Pet My Tiger

What is definitely not helpful is the gem of a suggestion from Law and Animal Husbandry Minister of the Madhya Pradesh government, Kusum Singh Mahdele, to protect the tigers in her home state.

Wildlife Protection Act be damned, she feels it would make perfect sense to allow “affluent people with large farms of 20-40 hectares to keep tigers as pets”. She doesn’t like the fact that even after all these tiger conservation efforts, tiger numbers haven’t increased much. Citing examples of some South Asian countries where tigers are reared as domesticated animals, Ms Mahdele asserts that, “They can share the burden of the government and help increase the tiger population”.

Yes, let that sink in.

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