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World Environment Day: Need of the hour is to save illegal trade in wildlife

The Illegal Trade In Wildlife Is A Matter Of Grave Concern As It Is Causing Startling Problems By Undermining Economies And Promoting Organized Crime.

News Nation Bureau | Edited By : Nivedita R | Updated on: 07 Jun 2016, 03:37:16 PM
Wildlife crime poses threat to iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas, sea turtles, pangolin, sea-horse, ghariyal and many more.

New Delhi :

People across the globe celebrated World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June which was centered on the theme "Fight against Illegal Trade in Wildlife". The theme was aptly set as eco crimes, like illegal logging, ivory smuggling, are on the rise. The recent incidences, like discovery of corpses of 40 tiger cubs in Thailand's famed tiger temple, more tigers poached in the first five months of 2016 in India than in the entire 2015 and many more, all the more fuel insecurity across the globe.

The illegal trade in wildlife is a matter of grave concern as it is causing startling problems by undermining economies and promoting organized crime. Moreover, by overexploiting the animals and the plants in their natural habitats by means of overfishing, trapping and mutating the natural habitats the wild lives are rendered rarer and scarcer sending the commercial value uncontrollably soaring. 

According to a report by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol, "The amount of money lost due to environmental crimes is 10,000 times greater than the amount of money spent by international agencies on combating it -- just $20-30 million.”

Experts believe that eco criminals are flourishing with money and the laws are not stringent enough to stop such crimes.  "Go Wild for Life", says this year's theme -- and the crime syndicate has already turned towards "the wild".  

Besides, the forest officials and wildlife conservators say that the demand as well as rates for animal parts and specimens has increased over last year. "One kilogram of rare pangolin scales would fetch a poacher around Rs 9,000-10,000 till last December; now it fetches them between Rs.18,000-20,000," told a forest officer of Madhya Pradesh to a news agency.

It is quite shocking to learn from the experts that wildlife crime poses threat to iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas, sea turtles, pangolin, sea-horse, ghariyal, sea urchin, North Ring and Red Crown turtles, Gangetic sharks, Fishing Cat etc. These species might go extinct in a few years, given the speed at which they are being targeted.

Wildlife experts and investigators, like Debbie Banks of Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), have their hopes focused on the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties - CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), which is to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September, to force governments around the world to stop the "licensed victimisation" of wildlife species, like tigers and lion.

As per a joint report by the UNEP and Interpol, with an estimated 'black revenue' of $258 billion, the illegal environment trade or "Environmental Crimes" has outstripped the illegal trade in small arms.

"International criminal gangs and militant groups profit from the plunder of Earth's resources," a UNEP statement released on World Environment Day said.

The UNEP-Interpol report adds that environmental crime has notched an annual growth of 5-7 per cent. This is 1.9 to 3.9 times higher than Global Economic Growth, says the International Monetary Fund.

Crimes like trafficking hazardous waste, poaching and logging cost the world economy between some $91-258 billion in 2015, which was 26 per cent higher than previous estimates, while it stood at $70-213 billion in 2014.

Furthermore, according to government records, which experts claim widely under-report, about 3,622 cases of wildlife crime were reported in India in the last three years. A group of elephant poachers was arrested last year from Kerala with 18 elephant carcasses and 538 kg of ivory. Most of the poachers, however, go free.

"The biggest issue is sustaining prosecution and investigation efforts when it comes to wildlife crimes. Poachers arrested with tiger bones and hides get away with bail for a mere Rs 400 to 500. That is the problem we need to deal with to stop all this," Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of wildlife conservation organisation Wildlife SOS, told a news agency. 

The dimension of the illegal wild life trade is very deep and multi-faceted and hence all possible means to control this crime is welcome. Stringent rules and regulations have to be formulated and implemented well. 

The need of the hour is to raise voice against illegal trade in wildlife and support the global fight against the illegal trade in wildlife for a better future. Zero Tolerance towards the illegal trading of wildlife is the need of the hour. 

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First Published : 07 Jun 2016, 03:28:00 PM

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