Exotic wild pets are not glamorous. Start amending the wildlife law

a A few years ago, the senior editor of a well-known lifestyle magazine walked down the slope of a fashion show at a 5-star hotel in Pune, glancing at a live pygmy monkey (piggy monkey) stuffed into his coat pocket. He had the ladies faint all evening, admiring the still seated little chiefs. Many asked him where they could buy one for their child or their families. What they didn’t realize was that the adorable, well-behaved little monkey, who was not native to India, might have been stressed and humiliated by the bright lights and loud music of the fashion show party he was made to endure all evening.

Watching one of the videos that emerged from the party, I was incensed that the display of this model is exactly what encourages people to buy a non-native wild animal as an exotic pet that looks appropriate and carries a “cool” quotient.

Over the years, the popular pet breeding options in India have changed drastically. While dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs are still popular pets for families and children, keeping exotic wild animals such as ball snakes, corn snakes, iguanas, parrots, parrots, turtles, lemurs, pygmy crustaceans and gliders has emerged as a popular choice among young people or individuals, who want to “make a statement.” By owning a “wild” pet.

In the latest news, one is reading about kangaroos being rescued from the outskirts of a city in North Bengal, orangutans being smuggled and lost within Mumbai, and reports from Pune district about the Rail Police Force arresting traders in moving trains while illegally smuggling More 1200 iguanas and 300 African sulcata tortoises stuffed into a small bag.

    Dwarf dwarf dwarf walking in fashion show as Jeep Square in Pune.
Dwarf dwarf dwarf walking in fashion show as Jeep Square in Pune.

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Exotic Wild Animal Buyers

“Owning exotic wildlife as a pet is legal in India if you have supporting documents, however, local regulation of rampant trade and transport is lacking. Huge amounts of money are being paid to purchase these pets, and thus the growing demand is being met by appalling acts of hunting. Overcrowding from the wild, smuggling or illegal breeding followed by an incomprehensible trauma that these animals go through during transit and transport,” says Sumanth Bindumahav, Senior Director, Wildlife and Disaster Response and Darwad Program, Humane Society International/India. “Their plight does not end at the point of sale, for they are often doomed all their lives to abnormal living conditions devoid of any form of animal welfare.”

Besides animal suffering, the wildlife trade poses significant risks to biodiversity and disease transmission. It is the fourth largest illegal and transnational organized crime after drugs, arms and human trafficking, which has undoubtedly been tracked towards fueling terrorist activities and threats to national security.

    A collection of images from e-commerce websites, WhatsApp group chats and WhatsApp status messages where both endemic and exotic wild animals are offered for sale.  These groups were created primarily for dog breeders but always host many individuals involved in the breeding and sale of wild animals as well.
A collection of images from e-commerce websites, WhatsApp group chats and WhatsApp status messages where both endemic and exotic wild animals are offered for sale. These groups were created primarily for dog breeders but always host many individuals involved in the breeding and sale of wild animals as well.

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New Bill: A Big Hole Waiting to Be Filled

Since 1976, India is one of 180 countries that have signed CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), an international agreement between governments aimed at regulating international trade in plants and animals so that they are not driven to extinction. While we have made significant contributions and represented many interventions towards global conservation of species at CITES’ COP, the inability to regulate domestic trade and property within India is a contradiction we have lived with for more than 40 years.

The new Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2021 passed by Lok Sabha on August 2, 2022, finally marks the gradual change of biodiversity in India and protection from the multiple threats posed by the trade and ownership of exotic wildlife.

There are several major changes in the law, but the one I most welcome is the inclusion of the section on CITES implementation in India and the timetable for the types listed in Annexes I, II and III of CITES.

When the treaty was signed in 1976, the Director of Wildlife Conservation, GoI, was appointed as the principal administrative authority for CITES in India. The proposed bill calls on the central government to designate an administrative authority and details responsibilities such as issuing import and export permits for samples, regulating internal trade and transportation, and issuing registration certificates to individuals who own live samples mentioned in the table. . It also includes the designation of scientific authority by designating one or more institutes engaged in research on the various species to provide guidance on issues relating to the samples in circulation.

The bill is necessary to combat the damage done over the years and provide the ability to make corrections to disturbances that have occurred in the natural ecological balance, and also gives the central government control over the prevention of importation, trade or possession of foreign invasive (or foreign) species, which refers to any plant or an animal that is not native to India and has been shown to have a negative impact on wildlife or the environment. In such cases, the central government may grant official permission to confiscate and eliminate the invasive species.

“The proposed bill will significantly increase and double the overall fines for violations from Rs 25,000 to Rs 100,000, which may also help increase fear of consequences for violators and advance the implementation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and its amendments thereafter,” says Bendumhav.

1,200 iguanas and 300 African tortoises were discovered by the railway police in Pune.  They were crammed into boxes and sacks of vegetables to be transported in a small bag.  |  Image source: special arrangement
1,200 iguanas and 300 African tortoises were discovered by the railway police in Pune. They were crammed into boxes and sacks of vegetables to be transported in a small bag. | Image source: special arrangement

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Challenges ahead

The bill allows individuals to voluntarily surrender any captive animal protected by law, without monetary compensation in return, after which the animal becomes the property of the state government. While this may prevent the arbitrary abandonment or release of these animals by individuals who do not want to bother registering their animals and are subject to the scope and regulations of the law, the management of these exotic and potentially invasive species will end. It requires huge capacity building efforts in terms of infrastructure and trained personnel to ensure that captive animals are taken care of.

In addition to providing physical management of live animals, implementing authorities may need to adopt a robust digital infrastructure to track and ensure the well-being of captives for life. Currently, the Maharashtra Forestry Department uses an online system to monitor all types of temporary and permanently captive Indian wildlife in zoos, rescue and treatment transit centres. Such systems for effective data management, including animal inventory, registration, mortality and transfer, are likely to be needed for optimum use of resources, particularly by forest departments in states such as West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra which have a major specialization The proportion of exotic wildlife dealers.

The bill has yet to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha, but as we prepare for the path toward progressive changes in the 75th year of India’s independence, let us take a moment to celebrate the opportunity we may be able to lay new foundations toward securing a better future for both local and exotic wildlife, bringing us one step closer. One of the preservation of our relationship with nature.

Neha Panchemia is the founder and president of the RESQ Charitable Trust. She tweets @NehaPanchamia. Opinions are personal.

(Edited by Serengoy Dai)

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