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How India is curbing wildlife trafficking

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Tuesday thwarted an attempt at wildlife trafficking, rescuing 436 baby Indian Tent Turtles in Lucknow from an individual engaged in illegal interstate transportation. The case, now under investigation by the forest department in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, highlights the ongoing challenge of wildlife trafficking hindering the thriving population of animals.

The Indian Tent Turtle, a protected species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, is native to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, resembling the Indian roofed turtle.

Globally, the international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth up to $23 billion annually, prompting the Government of India to take stringent measures against this illicit trade. At the 74th Standing Committee Meeting of CITES in 2022, India reiterated its commitment to combating illegal animal trade, both domestically and internationally.

Anti-trafficking initiatives     

Playing a crucial role in this effort is the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, a statutory body under the Union Environment Ministry. Established to combat organized wildlife crime, the Bureau collects and disseminates intelligence related to such activities. It operates a centralized wildlife crime data bank, collaborates with foreign authorities, and conducts awareness programs and capacity-building initiatives to strengthen enforcement agencies.

Anti-poaching squads in regions like Assam have contributed significantly to curbing poaching activities, protecting animals such as one-horned rhinos from illegal trade. These squads train law enforcement officers and forestry personnel to combat wildlife trafficking and provide legal assistance where needed.

One notable project in India's anti-trafficking initiatives is “Operation Soft Gold,” which focuses on curbing the illegal trade of Tibetan antelope (Shahtoosh).

India's enforcement regime, governed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, prohibits the illegal capture, killing, buying, and selling of animals and their parts. Violations can result in imprisonment up to three years, a fine of up to 25,000 rupees, or both.

Supporting these efforts is TRAFFIC India, a wildlife trade monitoring network under the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF India). Since 1991, TRAFFIC India has collaborated with national and state governments to study, monitor, and combat illegal wildlife trade through awareness campaigns, coordination efforts, capacity-building, and training initiatives.

Rupa Kumari

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