Wildlife & Biodiversity

COVID-19: Surge in illegal wildlife trading amid nationwide lockdown

Poaching incidents reported in Karnataka and Maharashtra

By Nibedita
Published: Tuesday 14 April 2020
Five hunters were arrested for poaching spotted deer Photo: Nibedita Sen
Five hunters were arrested for poaching spotted deer Photo: Nibedita Sen Five hunters were arrested for poaching spotted deer Photo: Nibedita Sen

Illegal wildlife trade seems to be on the rise amid the nationwide lockdown to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. National parks across the country reported incidents of clashes between wildlife rangers and hunters.

Exotic birds were captured and wild animals hunted as monitoring decreased and administrative officers were kept busy with running emergency services.

Hunting festivals also saw an increase in participation. The Sandra festival, a hunting festival in the forests of Panskura and Kolaghat, in West Bengal's East Midnapore district, saw the participation of tribal communities  in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district.

Rising unemployment also contributed to an increase in hunting activities.

“There is no work in hand, so I’m hunting,” said Siddha, a youth from a tribal family, who took part in the Sandra festival.

“We know that killing wildlife is legally punishable but the hunting festival was not included. We will monitor this matter,” said Sagata Das, a forest officer in East Midnapore.

West Bengal has a large exotic bird breeding industry that supports a huge number of people. Parakeets and mynas are the most commonly traded birds in West Bengal, while the peacock is hunted in Maharashtra.

Forest officials recovered two heads of spotted deer and five deer skins in Karnataka's Shivamogga district Photo: Nibedita Sen

The illegal transport of birds had increased, with trading conducted at the Nepal border through Uttar Pradesh, according to Chandan Clement Singh, the founder of Nest for Nature and Social Development, a non-profit that works on rescuing wild animals.

“Perpetrators always slip away. We need to protect exotic birds and save them from being traded,” Singh said.

Exotic birds and exotic fish breeding did not come under the preview of the forest department as these species were not listed under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, he said.

Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka saw incidents where people were arrested for hunting wild animals including a tiger and deer.

Three people were arrested after they hunted peacocks in Ghoti area, near Kalamb city in Maharashtra.

“We have made people aware regarding the same and asked locals to call us immediately if they see any illegal activity in their area,” said KR Arjun, an assistant forest officer.

Two people were caught after hunting down a tiger in a reserved forest area in Goa with country-made guns.

“As far as Goa is concerned, except one incident in Canacona, no other incidents of hunting were reported. Miscreants in Karnataka were arrested for hunting deers,” said a senior forest officer in-charge of the Goa Karnataka region.

A team of five hunters were arrested after reportedly killing two spotted deer in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district on April 6, 2020.

Forest officials recovered two heads of spotted deer, five deer skins, eight trophies, a car, tractor and gun from a farm house reportedly belonging to the culprit.

The reports of poaching of wild animals were confirmed by a senior forest officer, who said that it was tougher to transport exotic birds.

Poaching of wild animals may rise, but not the trade of exotic birds, he said, adding that it was more difficult to transport exotic birds in India in the present scenario because of an active Directorate of Enforcement.

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