This article mainly focuses on the wildlife in India and the available legal provisions to protect and conserve the wildlife. India is a country with rich and diverse forms of flora and fauna which makes it a biodiversity hotspot in the world. As human induced activities increased and development started taking place on a large scale, the wildlife and the ecosystems began to be affected by it. This called for some measures by the government to protect the wildlife and their habitat with the help of stringent legal provisions and conservation strategies. The Article highlights on the importance of conservation of wildlife and the problems faced in implementing these conservation measures with a reference to various forms of threats faced by these wild animals and plants.
The Article further goes on to describe the various legal provisions and Acts enforced and enacted in India in consonance with the international standards towards protecting and conserving the wildlife and biodiversity of the country. This Article also highlights various problems and challenges in implementing these Acts and their reasons and also provides possible solutions for effective implementation of these legal provisions so as to maintain a balance of the environment and life forms on the earth.
Wildlife protection act is made to protect animals based on their threat of survival in wild. Its categorised animals under I-IV schedules. Schedule I and II animals under more threat and prioritise for conservation, schedule III is for animals under moderate challenge of survival in wild and IV enlists the game animals which are under very less threat in wild. It extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which had its own wildlife act.
- The Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants and matters connected with them, with a view to ensuring the ecological and environmental security of India.
- Extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir which has its own wildlife act
- It provides for a prohibition on the use of animal traps except under certain circumstances
- It provides for the protection of hunting rights of the Scheduled Tribes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Has provisions for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection
- Species listed in Schedule I and part II of Schedule II get absolute protection — offenses under these are prescribed the highest penalties
- Species listed in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penalties are much lower
- Schedule V includes the animals which may be hunted
- The plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
India is a party to five major international conventions related to wildlife conservation, viz., Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), International Whaling Commission (IWC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation—World Heritage Committee (UNESCO- WHC), and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). The Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for these conventions
Policies and Legislations
To govern wildlife conservation and protection of endangered species, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was adopted by all states excluding Jammu and Kashmir (which has its own Act). The Act prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.
It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection.
Schedule 1 and part 2 of Schedule 2: Provide absolute protection – offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
Schedule 3 and Schedule 4: This are also protected, but the penalties are much lower.
Schedule 5: It includes the animals which may be hunted.
Schedule 6: The specified endemic plants in schedule 6 are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
Government at central level provides financial assistance to states for
- strengthening management and protection of infrastructure of national parks and sanctuaries
- protection of wildlife and control of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife products
- captive breeding programmes for endangered species of wildlife
- wildlife education and interpretation
- development of zoos
- conservation of rhinos in Assam
- protection of tiger, elephant, etc
We have following laws relating to wildlife protection:
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: This prohibits hunting, provides protection to wildlife
- Indian Forest Act, 1927: and their State counterparts: these laws stipulate 3 kind of forests: reserve forests, village forests and protected forests out of which laws relating to reserve forests are very stringent.
- Forest Conservation Act, 1980: This is to keep a tab on rapid deforestation. The Supreme Court has banned the release of forestland for non-forest activities without prior approval of Centre.
- Environment Protection Act, 1986: This deals with creation and coordination of various authorities. It was established after Bhopal Tragedy to implement decisions of United Nation Conference of Human Environment.
- Biological Diversity Act, 2002: It was enacted by the Parliament to enforce Convention on Biological Diversity to which India is a signatory.
- National Wildlife Action Plan, 2017–2031: It relates to the protected wildlife areas and bans certain activities in protected areas and wildlife corridors. It also deals with rehabilitation of threatened species.
- National Forest Policy: This is the policy framed by Ministry of Environment and Forests. The latest draft NFP, 2016 has been placed in public domain for suggestions. The latest NFP, 2016 seeks to replace NFP, 1988. A major point in the new NFP is a provision for green tax for financing ecological balance and address forestry issues.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972
- The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2002 proposes…
- To provide that captive animals and wild To provide that captive animals and wild animals included in Schedule I and part II animals included in Schedule I and part II of Schedule II of the Wildlife Act and their of Schedule II of the Wildlife Act and their parts and products can be acquired only parts and products can be acquired only by way of inheritance by way of inheritance.
- Sec 40: Every person in possession or custody of Sec 40: Every person in possession or custody of any captive animal specified in Schedule I or any captive animal specified in Schedule I or part II of Schedule II is required to declare this part II of Schedule II is required to declare this to the Chief Wildlife Warden to the Chief Wildlife Wardeni.
- 2-A: No person except one with a certificate A: No person except one with a certificate of ownership can keep, acquire , keep in of ownership can keep, acquire , keep in control etc. any captive animal specified in control etc. any captive animal specified in Schedule I or part II of Schedule II except by Schedule I or part II of Schedule II except by Inheritance.
- 2-B: Such inheritance to be declared within B: Such inheritance to be declared within ninety days to CWLW ninety days to CWLW.
- Sec 42: Certificate of ownership Sec 42: Certificate of ownership- to be granted only after ensuring that the granted only after ensuring that the applicant has adequate facilities for applicant has adequate facilities for housing, maintenance and upkeep of housing, maintenance, and upkeep of the animal the animal
- Sec 43: No person who has with him a Sec 43: No person who has with him a
captive animal with a certificate of captive animal with a certificate of ownership shall transfer by way of sale ownership shall transfer by way of sale or offer for sale or any other commercial or offer for sale or any other commercial consideration, any captive animal consideration, any captive animal
- Offence related to animal of Schedule I or Offence related to animal of Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II Part II of Schedule II- Minimum 3 yrs. Minimum 3 yrs.
Imprisonment up to 7 yrs. AND fine not 7 yrs. AND fine not
less than 10,000/ less than 10,000/-
- On second and subsequent offence, On second and subsequent offence,
Minimum 3 yrs. Imprisonment Minimum 3 yrs. Imprisonment up to 7 yrs.
Minimum fine 25,000 years minimum fine 25,000 years
- Hunting in a National Park or Sanctuary or alteration of boundaries: alteration of boundaries:
- Minimum 3 yrs. Imprisonment Minimum 3 yrs. Imprisonment up to 7 yrs. AND 7 yrs. AND fine not less than 10,000/ fine not less than 10,000/-
- On second and subsequent offence, minimum 3 On second and subsequent offence, minimum 3 yrs. Imprisonment yrs. Imprisonment up to 7 yrs. AND fine 25,000 7 yrs. AND fine 25,000 years
An Act to provide for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants and for matters animals, birds and plants and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto with a view to ensuring incidental thereto with a view to ensuring the ecological and environmental security the ecological and environmental security of the country.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 extends to the whole of India except extends to the whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir
- Various species classified in Schedules I Various species classified in Schedules I to VI
- Species in Schedule I can be hunted only Species in Schedule I can be hunted only in very special conditions in very special conditions if they are a if they are a threat to human life threat to human life
- Species in Schedule II can be hunted Species in Schedule II can be hunted if they are a threat to human life, or they are a threat to human life or property
- Trade of Species in Schedule I or Part II of Trade of Species in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II invites very stringent Schedule II invites very stringent punishment
- Species in Schedule VI are specified Species in Schedule VI are specified plants whose possession, collection, sale plants whose possession, collection, sale etc. is regulated by Chapter III etc. is regulated by Chapter III-A
- Species in Schedule V are Vermin which Species in Schedule V are Vermin which can be hunted freely can be hunted freely
•Common crow Common crow
•Fruit bats Fruit bats
Sec 2: Definitions
(5) Captive animal means any animal specified in Schedule I, II, III or IV which is specified in Schedule I, II, III or IV which is captured or kept or bred in captivity captured or kept or bred in captivity.
Sec 2 (16) Hunting Sec 2 (16) Hunting Includes:
- Killing or poisoning of any wild or captive animal Killing or poisoning of any wild or captive animal or any attempt to do so any attempt to do so
- Capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving, or Capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving, or baiting any wild or captive animal and every baiting any wild or captive animal and every attempt to do so.
- Injuring or destroying or taking any part of the Injuring or destroying or taking any part of the body of such animal, or damaging the eggs or body of such animal, or damaging the eggs or nests of such birds or reptiles nests of such birds or reptiles
History of Wildlife Protection Legislation in India
- The first such law was passed by the British Indian Government in 1887 called the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1887. The law sought to prohibit the possession and sale of specified wild birds that were either killed or captured during a breeding session.
- A second law was enacted in 1912 called the Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act. This was amended in 1935 when the Wild Birds and Animals Protection (Amendment) Act 1935 was passed.
- During the British Raj, wildlife protection was not accorded a priority. It was only in 1960 that the issue of protection of wildlife and the prevention of certain species from becoming extinct came into the fore.
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. Now it is Concurrent List. 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, it was mentioned by Edward Pritchard Gee (A naturalist), that at the turn of the 20th century, India was home to close to 40000 tigers. But a census in 1972 showed this number drastically reduced to about 1827.
- 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.
Protected Areas Under the Wildlife Protection Act
There are five types of protected areas as provided under the Act. They are described below.
1. Sanctuaries: “Sanctuary is a place of refuge where injured, abandoned, and abused wildlife is allowed to live in peace in their natural environment without any human intervention.”
- They are naturally occurring areas where endangered species are protected from poaching, hunting, and predation.
- Here, animals are not bred for commercial exploitation.
- The species are protected from any sort of disturbance.
- Animals are not allowed to be captured or killed inside the sanctuaries.
- A wildlife sanctuary is declared by the State government by a Notification. Boundaries can be altered by a Resolution of the State Legislature.
- Human activities such as timber harvesting, collecting minor forest products, and private ownership rights are permitted as long as they do not interfere with the animals’ well-being. Limited human activity is permitted.
- They are open to the general public. But people are not allowed unescorted. There are restrictions as to who can enter and/or reside within the limits of the sanctuary. Only public servants (and his/her family), persons who own immovable property inside, etc. are allowed. People using the highways which pass through sanctuaries are also allowed inside.
- Boundaries of sanctuaries are not generally fixed and defined.
- Biologists and researchers are permitted inside so that they can study the area and its inhabitants.
- The Chief Wildlife Warden (who is the authority to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries) may grant permission to persons for entry or residence in the sanctuary for the study of wildlife, scientific research, photography, the transaction of any lawful business with persons residing inside, and tourism.
- Sanctuaries can be upgraded to the status of a ‘National Park’.
- Examples: Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary (Rann of Kutch, Gujarat); Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu (oldest bird sanctuary in India); Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary (Karnataka).
2.National Parks: National Parks are the areas that are set by the government to conserve the natural environment.
- A national park has more restrictions as compared to a wildlife sanctuary.
- National parks can be declared by the State government by Notification. No alteration of the boundaries of a national park shall be made except on a resolution passed by the State Legislature.
- The main objective of a national park is to protect the natural environment of the area and biodiversity conservation.
- The landscape, fauna, and flora are present in their natural state in national parks.
- Their boundaries are fixed and defined.
- Here, no human activity is allowed.
- Grazing of livestock and private tenurial rights are not permitted here.
- Species mentioned in the Schedules of the Wildlife Act are not allowed to be hunted or captured.
- No person shall destroy, remove, or exploit any wildlife from a National Park or destroy or damage the habitat of any wild animal or deprive any wild animal of its habitat within a national park.
- They cannot be downgraded to the status of a ‘sanctuary’.
- Examples: Bandipur National Park in Karnataka; Hemis National Park in Jammu & Kashmir; Kaziranga National Park in Assam. See more on List of National Parks in India.
3. Conservation Reserves: The State government may declare an area (particularly those adjacent to sanctuaries or parks) as conservation reserves after consulting with local communities.
4. Community Reserves: The State government may declare any private or community land as a community reserve after consultation with the local community or an individual who has volunteered to conserve the wildlife.
5. Tiger Reserves: These areas are reserved for the protection and conservation of tigers in India. They are declared on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Wildlife conservation includes all human efforts to preserve wild animals from extinction. It involves the protection and wise management of wild species of their environment. Some species have become extinct due to natural activities. The progress of man throughout has been beneficial for the human race, but it is the wildlife that has suffered through the years. Inventions of sophisticated weapons, industrialization, urbanisation, and even increasing human population have been some of the major causes for dwindling of our rich resources. Hunting, clearing of forests, drawing of swamps, and damming of rivers for irrigation and industry – this is what we appraise of man’s progress.
These activities have vastly reduced the natural habitats of our wildlife and many species are endangered or nearly extinct. Extinction is a ‘biological reality’ for no species has as yet existed for more than a few million years without evolving into something different, or dying out completely. Success in evolution is measured in terms of survival and is failure by extinction. Once a species is extinct because of natural causes or human activities, it is gone forever. It is believed that each individual wild creature has a right to survive without human interference, just as each human being has the right to survive.
Q. 1) According to The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Which of The Following Animals Cannot Be Hunted by Any Person Except Under Some Provisions Provided by Law?
Ans – Garial, Indian wild ass and wild buffalo.
Q. 2) When Was the Indian Board for Wildlife Constituted?
Ans– The Indian Board for Wildlife was constituted in 1952. The main purpose of the board was to advise the Government on the means of conservation and protection of wildlife, construction of national parks, sanctuaries and zoological gardens as well as promoting public awareness regarding conservation of wildlife.
Q. 3) Which of The Following Is A Step Taken by The Government to Protect the Wildlife?
Ans- The Government of India took various steps to the wildlife. The major among them is establishing of various projects in order to protect the wildlife. Some of the projects are Project Tiger, Project Rhino, Project Great Indian Bustard and many more.