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Wildlife Trafficking- A destruction to Ecosystem

Article submitted by Pooja, 4th Year, BBA LLB (Hons), Sastra Deemed University.

The tradition of conservation has been followed for many centuries in our country. In the 3rd century B.C., elephant preservation was laid down in stone edicts by Asoka. But in the dynamic society, the agenda of conversation has undergone a great transition in response to the social, cultural, economic, and political needs. In India, one of the pronounced changes can be identified in wildlife enforcement. Our country plays a huge role in the wildlife trade which includes many varied life forms present in nature. The wildlife trade evolves in new dimensions with the help of easy access to the international level. It is progressively considered as a form of organized transnational crime.

Threats induced by wildlife trade

Every citizen has a public duty to protect the green environment and to grow compassion towards living creatures. But the powerful motive behind the wildlife trade is the exploitation of plant and animal species especially in poor countries, therefore it is considered an immense threat to wildlife preservation. For the species survival, the second biggest threat after habitat destruction is wildlife trade. As the human population increase, the demand for wildlife trade also increases, which in turn results in overexploitation and survival of species hangs in without balance. The recent overexploitation was well recognized in cases of elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses.

Most rural households depend on wildlife for meat, local trees for fuel, and other medicinal purposes. But overexploitation disturbs the balance of nature, for example, overfishing causes harm to both fishing communities and to fish species, which in turn causes an imbalance in the whole marine system. In illegal wildlife trade, the species are smuggled without paying duties and the conditions of transport are worse which is more likely to affect the environment. Illegal trade undermines society's effort to protect the ecosystem and natural resources. The indirect harm of wildlife trade is the introduction of invasive species by wildlife traders.

The Constitutional Overview

The 42nd Amendment inserted the following in the Concurrent list: Entry 17-A for the forests, Entry 17-B for the wild animals and birds, Entry 20-A for the pollution control.

· Article 48 of the Indian Constitution provides that:

The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.

The 42nd Amendment added to 48A and 51A (g) to the Indian Constitution which enhanced the protection of wildlife.

· Article 48A of the Indian Constitution provides that:

The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

· Article 51A (g) of the Indian Constitution provides that:

Every citizen of India has a fundamental duty to protect and improve the environment and have compassion for living creatures.

· Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides that:

The protection and preservation of the environment, to ensure ecological balance free from pollution of air, water, sanitation without destruction of any life.

In a case, the role of animals and birds in maintaining ecological balance has been analyzed and they form the basis of cultural heritage so it was held that it was a fundamental duty of every citizen under Article 51A (g)to keep this balance in steady form.[1] If the threat of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife is not stopped then the potential stability is lost in wildlife conservation.

Supervisory bodies to tackle the threat

CITES was created in 1975, it provided all the legally obliged frameworks to all the signed up countries. The need was the existence of a body to monitor the wildlife trade and implement the treaty, so the IUCN Commission established TRAFFIC. This international non-governmental organization collaborates with government and others to monitor and investigate the wildlife trade. TRAFFIC entered the joint monitoring program of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and IUCN. In 1991, TRAFFIC was established in India, it was hosted by WWF-India, and it gave a boost to the trade monitoring organization. WWF-India is also a non-governmental organization that strives to achieve sustainable development through the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity. Both the bodies mainly aim at effective regulation, sustainable development, positive incentives, and mobilizing knowledge in society. This organization is investigated by surveys and assessments and they bring solutions to the problems in species conservation. They also provide policy inputs for strengthening field level enforcement and effectively address the wildlife trade issues. The three areas where WWF and TRAFFIC address the threat of wildlife trade:

· To support CITES by giving technical and scientific advice by doing complete research on wildlife trade routes, species, and the deficiencies that arise in the law regarding them.

· They tighten and enforce appropriate penalties for illegal trade.

· They persuade consumers to make the right choices in buying wildlife-based products by providing public education.

Wildlife Law In India: Inconsistency in enforcement level

- Legislative Framework

India's legal and regulatory framework towards wildlife trade and endangered species is convincing. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 came into force intending to regulate the wildlife trade and protect the endangered species. However, the legislation specified that trade in wildlife was permissible within the country, as a consequence of this many animal products were sold across Indian borders for massive profits.[2] As this legislation was failing to fulfill the objective, it was first amended in 1986. This amended act prohibited trade in wildlife specified in Schedules I and II of the Act and it also has retrospective effect. After the suggestion of the Indian Wildlife Board and Ministry of environment and forest, the second amendment was brought in 1991, which imposed a total ban on hunting of all wild animals except vermin. In Indian Handicrafts Emporium v. Union of India,[3] The constitutional validity of this amendment was challenged. They argued that it imposed an unfair restriction on freedom of trade and commerce ensured in Article 19(1) (g) of the Indian Constitution and contended that Wildlife Protection Act is "colorable legislation". The court held that the restriction was reasonable in furtherance with preserving the wildlife and balancing the ecosystem.

However, in another leading case, the exception to this rule was highlighted. It was held that is any animal was a threat to life or property then it may be hunted. Further, any animal specified in Schedule I may also be hunted with the permission of Chief Wild Life Warden.[4] The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau was also constituted in 2008[5] with more scrutiny. Many changes have evolved past few years in conformity with CITES, the penalties too were revised. But the changes were merely superficial and they were not substantial enough to tackle the threat of an exponential increase in wildlife trafficking.

- Judicial Developments

Judicial development has been progressive as compared to the legislative framework. The court made critical observations that poaching is an organized international illegal trade that generated a huge amount of profits for the criminal.[6] The gap that continues to prevail between the order of the court and the attitude of state executive causes more threat of extinction in wildlife. For example, in the Jallikattu case,[7] the court gave direction to ban the tradition of bullfighting in State. The unwilling attitude of the Executive Body in the State of Tamil Nadu made the enforcement weak and negligible. Many other public interest litigations have been disregarded due to poor enforcement by the executive body. Pro-wildlife judicial developments are important but it can function only if there is a well-functioned executive.


It is a daunting task for both the government and NGOs to prevent wildlife trafficking. Even though there are many progressive judgments, the level of priority to wildlife trafficking is very low in both central and state governments. The efforts of the legislature and judiciary have become weakened due to their inefficiency at the enforcement levels. But, the collaboration of TRAFFIC and WWF and other agencies have intensified the action programs for forest and law enforcement officers. The step has to be taken to move forward in the careful use of wildlife species. The existence of human life depends on the existence of the ecosystem, so the serious disturbances to the wildlife habitats should be stopped. High profile cases like the "Blackbuck"[8] case of Salman Khan should not be treated with leniency. The casual attitude should be shifted with a more serious attitude to such crimes. The sensitivity of this issue should spread among the people and a zero-tolerance policy should become necessary.


[1] GR Simon v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1997 Del 301. [2] Shyam Divan & Armin Rosencranz, Environmental Law And Policy In India 328-329(1989). [3] Indian Handicrafts Emporium v. Union of India, (2003) 7 S.C.C. 589. [4] Chief Forest Conservator v. Nisar Khan, A.I.R. 2003 S.C. 1867. [5] Government of India, Ministry Of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Order No. S.O. 918(E), Jun.6, 2007. [6] Sansar Chand v. State Of Rajasthan, (2010) 10 S.C.C. 604. [7] Animal Welfare Board of India v. A.Nagaraja, Civil Appeal No.5387 of 2014. [8] Salman Khan v. State of Rajasthan, 2007 (3) W.L.N. 324.


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