Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

    Introduction

    The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972[1], was legislated to ensure the protection of plants, birds, and animals species. The Act provides for 6 schedules that provide the list of species that are protected and any intentional harm to those species results in heavy penalties and imprisonment. The Act was created to ensure the protection of rapidly decreasing wildlife within the country. Before this Act, there was no strict regulation or restriction on hunting down animals and this led many animals to the verge of extinction. Thus, this Act was legislated not to just stop hunting and other such activities but also to make sure that there was a rise in the wildlife population in India. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, was legislated to ban the hunting, protection, and management of wildlife habitats, regulation, and control of trade parts and products derived from wildlife, management of zoos, and therefore the establishment of protected areas. Before this Act, there have been 10 protected areas, but after the Act, the amount of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves has seen a rapid increase which successively has led to a rise in the wildlife population.

    Background

    Before the Act, there have been only five designated national parks. The Act led to the creation of lists of protected plants and animals which made it illegal for anyone to hunt or poach these species. The Act recognized that some species in India were more endangered than others and hence it created six schedules that list the species in various degrees of danger of extinction

    Objectives

    The objective of the Act is to supply for the protection of untamed animals, birds, and plants. The Act also takes care of any ancillary needs which will arise for the protection of varied species of wildlife. Important Provisions: The important provisions of the Act are:

    Definitions 

    Some important definitions under the Act are:

    • ‘animal’ which incorporates amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles including eggs. 
    • An ‘animal article’ means a piece of writing made up of any captive animal or wild animal: this definition is vital to stop the abuse of animals for his or her horns, tusks, skins, etc., which are often cut from live animals to sell them. 
    • Under this Act, a ‘reserve forests’ means forests declared to be reserved by the government under the Indian Forest Act or any State Act.
    • ‘ Taxidermy’ is defined because of the curing, preparation or preservation or mounting of trophies. Taxidermy may be a process during which an animal’s body is stuffed for the method of display (usually as hunting trophies) or their study.

    Authorities under the Act

    The Act[2] allows the central government to appoint a director of wildlife preservation. Similarly, the government can appoint a chief wildlife warden and wildlife wardens to perform the duties under this Act.

    National Board for Wildlife and National Tiger Conservation Authority:

     

    The central government established the National Board for Wildlife after the 2002 amendment to the present Act. The Board consists of the Prime Minister of India as the chairperson, the minister who is responsible for forests and wildlife as the Vice-Chairperson. Alongside these, MPs, representatives from NGOs, eminent conservationists, ecologists and environmentalists, chief of army staff, the director-general of forests within the ministry, the director-general of tourism within the Government of India, the administrators of the Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun), Zoological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, etc, also are members. The Act tries to mix material expertise concerning the conversation and administrative expertise to satisfy its goals. The National Tiger Conservation Authority is made to specifically make sure the conservation of the tiger species in India. It must make sure that there’s a Tiger Conservation Plan and supply for management focus and measures for addressing conflicts of men and wild animals and to stress coexistence in forest areas.

    Functions of the National Board

    The board is constituted to market the conservation and development of wildlife and forests by such measures because it thinks fit. It is also required to border policies and advise the middle and therefore, the state governments on the ways and means of promoting wildlife conservation and effectively controlling poaching and illegal trade of wildlife and its products. It is also required to form recommendations on fixing land management of national parks, sanctuaries, and other protected areas. It also must review from time to time, the progress within the field of wildlife conservation within the country, and suggest improvement of an equivalent.

    Prohibiting hunting:

    The Act prohibits the hunting of untamed animals laid out in Schemes I, II, III, and IV1 of the Act. The Act, however, does not completely ban hunting. If the chief wildlife warden is satisfied that any wild animal laid out in Schedule I has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or suffering from disease beyond recovery, the warden may permit a person to hunt such an animal. The animals mentioned within the II, III, and IV Schedule could also be hunted if it becomes dangerous to human life or property. Killing or wounding any animal in straightness or defense of one’s own life is additionally not an offense.

    Protection of specified plant species:

     Nobody is allowed to willfully pick, uproot, damage, destroy, acquire or collect any specified plant from any forest land and any area specified. The Act also says that nobody can cultivate a specified plant except under and following a license granted by the chief wildlife warden.

    Protected areas: 

    The Act works towards the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and closed areas if a specific area has adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural, and zoological significance. The Act allows for the acquisition of land for an equivalent purpose. Once a neighborhood is recognized as protected, there’s a prohibition on causing fires there, ban on the utilization of injurious substances, and entry of weapons into such a neighborhood.

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    Amendments of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

    The 1982 amendment of the Act was made to inhibit people from applying for licenses for animal article trading. additionally, to the present, approval from the central and state governments would be required for transportation and therefore the use of untamed animals for scientific management purposes[3]. 

    The 1986 amendment curbed illegal international trade or smuggling of animals and animal articles.

     The 1991 amendment banned hunting of untamed animals and birds, proposed immunization of animals in sanctuaries and national parks. The stipulations were also applied to the body of water of India to guard aquatic flora and fauna. Under the 1993 Amendment, a replacement chapter, Chapter IV A was added to the Act. Within the 2002 amendment, many new rules were introduced. The National Board for Wildlife was given a constitutional status. It prohibited the trade of forest products obtained from reserved areas. It also increased penalties, rewards, and compensation amounts. 

    An important feature of the 2006 amendment was the establishment of a National Tiger Conservation Authority, for managing the rapidly depleting Tiger numbers in India. A WildLife Crime Control Bureau was also formed.  

    Criticism

    The Wildlife Protection Act, while well-intentioned and necessary for conservation efforts, has often been the way of the livelihood of tribes and people who believe wild animals and forest plant species, very often people without sufficient knowledge of the Act unwittingly get caught thereunder while undertaking activities within the normal course of their daily lives that have now been brought under persecution thanks to the Act. Further, the Act also takes away land from people just in case any area is identified as having ecological significance. the opposite problem with the Act is concerning its enforcement. While the Act has been successful to an outsized extent in curbing hunting and promoting conservation, it’s also stripped people of their land within the name of making national parks and sanctuaries. Thus, there’s an over-emphasis on wildlife conservation and neglect regarding how humans are suffering from it. Harmony is often achieved by specializing in the peaceful cohabitation of both human and wildlife species

    Conclusion

    One of the foremost issues is the protection and management of other animals outside the protected areas. Exploitation, killing, road accidents of these animals are rarely paid attention to by the government. Another issue is that the shrinking protection area covers due to the increasing population, government infrastructure projects, etc., yet one more problem arises when there’s a scarcity of regulation of sound pollution levels around the protected areas. These areas don’t provide facilities for housing more animals that are rescued. Moreover, the forest protection staff isn’t well-trained and shows poor awareness about the biological and psychological needs of animals. Increasing awareness among the common citizens to guard Wildlife and animals, generally, has gained tons of momentum in recent years. Assisting the government, the citizens are spreading the word of wildlife protection and conservation through social media, campaigns, petitions, and more. Hopefully, the govt adopts better policies to form the country a far better place for the Wildlife too!! 

    Endnotes:

    1. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (Act 53 of 1972).
    2. Objectives and features of Wildlife protection Act 1972, available at: https://thefactfactor.com/facts/law/civil_law/environmental_laws/wild-life-protection-act/1454/ ( last visited on January 7, 2021).
    3. The Wildlife protection ( Amendment ) Bill,2013, available at: https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-wildlife-protection-amendment-bill-2013-2829#:~:text=The%20Wild%20Life%20(Protection)%20Amendment,Sabha%20on%20August%205%2C%202013.&text=This%20Act%20provides%20for%20the,commerce%20linked%20to%20wild%20life. ( last accessed on January 7, 2021 ).

    BY ISHITA MISHRA | BANASTHALI VIDYAPEETH

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