By RACHAEL SERAVALLI
January 30, 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.
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
a similar mechanism for the protection of India’s shrinking
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.
said the Kalam-endorsed legislation was tougher and would allow
rangers and forest wardens to speed up the crackdown against
The amended law does not allow offenders to obtain bail and provides
for the forfeiture of property derived from illegal hunting and
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
The stern law also threatens five years’ imprisonment
and a hefty cash fine for people caught with animal body organs
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
Some 40,000 striped big cats roamed the wilds before
India became independent in 1947 and according to government estimates
tiger population is around 3,000 at present.
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