Stiffer penalty for wildlife crimes

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Thursday 08 July 2010

With the rise in instances of wildlife crimes, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has amended the Wildlife (Protection) Act, hoping it would curb wildlife trade and poaching.

Under the amended act, the maximum prison sentence for poaching has been enhanced from three years to seven years; the maximum fine that can be imposed has been raised from three to five lakh rupees.

“Penalties should be tough – till now even Nepal's penalties were more than ours – but what is crucial is to ensure higher rate of convictions. No law is going to work if it is not properly implemented,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

The newly drafted act has also called for a ban on the domestic trade of peacock feathers except for religious purposes. Although their export is banned, the possession and domestic trade of naturally shed peacock feathers is legal. But now, the environment ministry reckons that such kind of trading leads to poaching.

This ban, though supported by animal rights activists, is seen as unnecessary by others. “There is no evidence for this move. In fact a study by TRAFFIC India (the wildlife trade monitoring network) indicates that feather trade is not a major issue. Most peacocks are killed for the meat. This ban will make it illegal for people to have the feathers, commonly used in decorations, in their homes,” said Ashok Kumar of Wildlife Trust of India. The act bans leg traps which are a cheap and effective snare used by poachers.

Also, as per the newly designed act, wildlife trade cases will now be heard by special courts, ensuring fast paced judgements.

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