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SOS Rhino : In the News : India adds sting to wildlife law
 

India adds sting to wildlife law

 

Daily Times, Pakistan
By Pratap Chakravarty
January 27, 2003

NEW DELHI: India on Monday gave sharper teeth to its antiquated wildlife protection laws in a bid to end poaching, but experts called for more action to stem the carnage of endangered species.

Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam gave his formal assent to an amendment to existing laws which MPs, wildlife experts and environmentalists warned were not enough to halt poaching.

The Wild Life Protection Amendment Act 2003 provides for the setting up of a National Wildlife Board headed by the prime minister and manned by 26 policy-makers to “oversee protection of the ecological balance in the country.”

The law stipulated that a high-profile federal agency be set up within three months, adding that state administrations would have to install a similar mechanism for the protection of India’s shrinking wildlife population.

India’s forest cover has shrunk to 17 percent of its geographical mass from almost 30 percent five decades ago and experts say the diminishing green belt has accelerated the destruction of wildlife.

Officials said the Kalam-endorsed legislation was tougher and would allow rangers and forest wardens to speed up the crackdown against violators.

“ The amended law does not allow offenders to obtain bail and provides for the forfeiture of property derived from illegal hunting and trade,” a spokesman from environment and forests said.

The law prohibits possessing illegally-acquired wildlife and makes it obligatory for citizens to assist authorities engaged in protecting wildlife.

The stern law also threatens five years’ imprisonment and a hefty cash fine for people caught with animal body organs acquired through poaching, hunting or illegal purchase.

An upsurge in poaching and demands for animal organs for traditional medicines has pushed the Asian rhino and some other endangered species to the brink of extinction in India, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Some 40,000 striped big cats roamed the wilds before India became independent in 1947 and according to government estimates the country’s tiger population is around 3,000 at present.

WWF-India director P.K. Sen said India’s array of similar laws were ineffective because bureaucratic apathy and ground-level corruption were the stumbling blocks in their implementation. “Our acts are all there and all that the government has done with this latest amendment is to add spice to previous legislation, but the basic thing is that the people will have to follow the rules,” Sen said. —AFP

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