WILDLIFE (PROTECTION) ACT, 1972

Wildlife Act, a landmark in the history, was enacted for providing protection to wild animals and birds.

From State to Concurrent subject: Wildlife was transferred from State list to concurrent list in 1976, thus giving powers to the Central government to enact legislation.

Salient features of WPA-1972.

Clear definitions:

It clearly defines the wild-life related terminology.

Appointments:

It provides for the appointment of wildlife advisory Board, Wildlife warden, their powers, duties etc.

Exhaustive list of Indian wildlife:

The endangered wild life species was done for the first time and prohibition of hunting of the endangered species was mentioned.

    • some endangered plants like Beddome cycad, Blue Vanda, Ladies Slipper Orchid, Pitcher plant etc
    • some animals are – Tiger, Sangai deer, Dugong, great Indian bustard.

Institutions

  • The Act provides for setting up of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc.
  • The constitution of Central Zoo Authority.
  • The Act also provides the constitution of Indian Board of Wildlife (IBWL)
  • It also sets up the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

 

  1. Wildlife trade and protection
  • There are few provisions for trade and commerce in some wildlife species with license for sale, possession, transfer etc.
  • The Act imposes a ban on the trade or commerce in scheduled animals.
  • It provides for legal powers to officers and punishment to offenders.
  • It provides for captive breeding programme for endangered species.
Why was this act passed?

  • The rapid decline of India’s wildlife population needs legal protection from activities such as poaching, smuggling, etc which is cause of grave concern.
  • The Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1935 had become completely outdated.
  • The existing laws not only had become outdated but also provide punishments, which were not commensurate with the offence and financial benefits that occurred from poaching and trade in wildlife produce.

Type of protected areas in Wildlife Protection Act.

Five kinds of protected areas can be notified in the Act. These are:

Sanctuaries:

  • The State or Central Government may by notification declare its intention to constitute any area as a sanctuary for protecting wildlife and the environment.
  • The government determines the nature and extent of rights of persons in or over the land within the sanctuary.

National Parks:

  • The State or Central Government may declare an area, whether inside a sanctuary or not, as a national park for the purpose of protecting and developing wildlife and its environment.
  • The State Government can not alter the boundaries of a national park except on the recommendation of the National Board for Wildlife.
  • No grazing or any other human activities is allowed inside a national park.
National parks in India:

  • Protected under category II of IUCN.
  • India’s first national park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park(Jim Corbett National Park), Uttarakhand.
  • In 1970, there are only five national parks.
  • After 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard the habitats of conservation reliant species
  • At present, there are 104 NPs in India
  • Kuno NP is the newest one
Project Tiger and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • Project Tiger was launched in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves for conserving our national animal, the tiger. Currently, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 50, spread out in 18 tiger range states.
  • Environment Minister is the Chairman of the NTCA.
  • Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It became the tiger in 1973.
  • The TRs in India are Orang (Assam) and Kamlang(Arunachal Pradesh).
  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
  • It is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory/coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The NTCA was launched in 2005, following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force. It was given statutory status by 2006 amendment of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) is an app-based monitoring system. The system would enable field officers to assist intensity and spatial coverage of patrols in a geographic information system (GIS) domain.
  • All provisions applicable to a sanctuary are also applicable to a national park.

Tiger reserves

  • These areas were reserved for protection tiger in the country.
  • TheState Government on the recommendation of the Tiger Conservation Authority may notify an area as a tiger reserve, for which it has to prepare a Tiger Conservation Plan.

Conservation reserves and community reserves   

  • These protected areas act as buffer zones and migration corridors between established national parks,  wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.
  • These protected area categories were first introduced in the wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2003.

 

Conservation reserves Community Reserves
  •  The State Government after consultations with local communities can declare any area owned by the Government, especially areas adjacent to national parks or sanctuaries, as conservation reserves.
  •  The government can constitute conservation reserve Management Committee to manage and conserve the conservation reserve.
  •  Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities, and community areas if part of the lands are privately owned.
  • Such reserves administered through local people and local agencies like the gram panchayat.
  • The State Government after having a consultation with the community or an individual who has volunteered to conserve wildlife declares any private or community land as a community reserve.
  •  A Community Reserve Management Committee shall be constituted by State Government for conserving and managing the reserve.
  • Community reserves are the first instances of private land being accorded protection under the Indian legislature.
  • It opens up the possibility of communally owned for-profit wildlife resorts, and also causes privately held areas under non-profit organizations like land trusts to be given protection.

Schedules in WPA-1972

Schedule I and II – these are the most vital sections of the act.

  • This section covers animals which are in the category of endangered species.
  • The sections in this schedule give absolute protection to certain species and these cannot be infringed on any account.
  • The animals can only be hunted if they are dangerous to human or diseased or disabled.
  • Any violation is a punishable offence, the famous actor Salman Khan was sentenced to 5 years rigorous imprisonment for shooting a black buck in Rajasthan.
  • The case is under appeal in the high court. In addition, 16 persons have been convicted and sentenced to various terms of prison up to 7 years for killing a tiger.

Schedule III and IV.

  • These also have roughly the same provisions of Section I and II, but cover animals that are not in danger of becoming extinct or endangered, required equal protection.
  • The penalties under this section are also less than Schedule I and II.

Schedule V

  • This include the list of vermin animals-mice, common crow, monkey, pigs, bats, etc
  • For this purpose, the hunter has to apply for a license to the District Forest Officer who will allow a hunter to shoot during a specific season and restricted area. Any infringement can lead to cancellation of the hunting license.

Schedule VI

  • It concerns with the cultivation and plant life and gives teeth to setting up more protected animal parks.
What are Vermins?

  • Vermin means wild mammals and birds which are harmful to crops, farm animals or which carry disease.
  • In India, wild animals can be declared as vermin if they have become (i) dangerous to human life or property (including standing crops on any land). (ii) become disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery.
  • The Central Government through notification may declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I and part 11 of Schedule H of the law to be vermin for any area for a given period of time.
  • The hunted wildlife is declared as government property and it imposes restrictions on how these carcasses must be disposed of.
  • Currently, some animals like the common crow, fruit bats, mice and rats have been listed as vermin in Schedule V of WPA.
  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has declared Wild Pig as vermin in Uttarakhand and the Monkey as Vermin in Himachal Pradesh for the period of one year for a year.

Drawbacks of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:

  • It seems that the Act has been enacted just as a fallout of the Stockholm Conference held in 1972.
  • Loopholes: e.g. The personal ownership certificates for animal articles (tiger, leopard skins, etc.) are permissible which very often serves as a tool for illegal trading.
  • J&K exception: The Wildlife traders in Jammu and Kashmir easily get illegal furs and skins from other states which after being made into caps, belts etc. are sold to other countries. This is so happening because J and K have its own Wildlife Act and it does not follow the Central Wildlife Act. Moreover, hunting and trading of several endangered species prohibited in other states are allowed in J and K, thereby opening avenues for illegal trading in such animals.
  • Bias towards fauna There is little emphasis on the protection of plant genetic resources.

Poor deterrence :

  • The offender of the Act is not subject to very harsh penalties. It is just up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 25000 or both.
  • Conviction rate is as low as of 2% for crime related to wildlife.
  • Lack of control mechanism in international border and transport facility.

Lack of skilled people

  • Due to lack of specialization, police and customs officers are not able to recognize tiger bones, which are exported with a different label.
  • Authorities are not highly sensitive towards animal welfare and the seriousness of the crime.

 

Schedule-I Mammals   
1. Binturong

2. Black Duck

3. Brow-antlered deer

4. Caracal

5. Cheetah

6. Clouded leopard

7. Dugong

8. Fishing Cat

9. Golden Cat

10. Golden langur

11. Hispid hare

12. Hoolock gibbon

13. Indian lion

14. Indian Wild Ass

15. Indian Wolf

16. Kashmir Stage

17. Leopard cat

18. Lesser or Red panda

19. Lion-tailed macaque

20. Loris

21. Lynx

22. Malabar Civet

23. Marbled cat

24. Markhor

25. Musk deer

26. Ovis Ammon or Nyan

27. Pallas’s cat

28. Pangolin

29. Pygmy hog

30. Rhinoceros

31. Rusty spotted cat

32. Slow Loris

33. Snow leopard

34. Spotted linsang

35. Swamp deer

36. Mishmi Takin

37. Tibetan Gazelle

38. Tibetan Wild Ass

39. Tiger

40. Urial or Shapu

41. Wild buffalo

 

Before WPA-1972After WPA-1972
  • A number of rhinoceros only 75 in 1905.
  • Only 5 national parks.
  •  In 1971, 1800 tigers were present in Indian subcontinent (in 1971 Delhi High court banned tiger hunting).
  • Now it is 3550 in India and Nepal.
  • Today it has grown to 110 (July, 2018).
  • The number of tigers was 2,226 in 2014.

 

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