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Illegal Animal Trade in India

By Janhvi Johorey, Psychologist specialized in animal therapy. Updated: October 10, 2017
Illegal Animal Trade in India

Illegal animal trade in India has emerged as a kind of organized transnational crime that threatens wild species across the globe to the brink of extinction. Diverse animal products such as rhino horns, bones, skins, whiskers and turtle shells have been in demand for some time now; these products are usually obtained from poaching, that is, hunting illegally.

India also has a thriving black market in timber and caged birds such as munias, mynas and parakeets. Illegal animal trade in India is meant for international markets and a global audience. Stay with us at AnimalWised to learn more.

You may also be interested in: Endangered Animals of India - With Pictures

Laws on animal trade in India

India has a strong policy and legal framework to regulate and limit wildlife trade. Over 1800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivatives are disallowed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. India is also a member of the CITES or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora since the 1970s.

Working to subject international trade in animal species to specific controls, the problem is not just of laws but also a lack of communication, ineffective implementation and lack of enforcement. Positive efforts to address illegal wildlife trade concerns are few and far between.

Lack of political intentions and ineffective governance has triggered overexploitation and illegal trade resulting in mild punishment for offenders. To ensure that many species are saved from extinction, the WWF and IUCN work with national and state governments to curb trade and prevent illegal hunting and poaching.

With strict legal statutes in place and laws such as Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Indian Penal Code and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, there are still many wild species across the nation which are being decimated. Illegal wildlife trade is the 4th largest organized crime sector across the globe, after arms, human and drug trafficking.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Laws on animal trade in India

Indian pangolins in danger

The Indian pangolin is one of the victims of illegal animal trade in India. Also called Manis crassicaudata, this is the world's only scaly mammal. The flesh of this animal is considered a delicacy in Southeast Asian countries. Its body parts are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Sadly, the Indian pangolin has become an endangered species.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Indian pangolins in danger

Tokay gecko threatened

Northeast India is home to the tokay gecko. But if the illegal animal trade in this region continues, pretty soon this gecko could be on the brink of extinction.

The tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) is the world's second largest gecko and it is traded as an exotic species and also to make medicinal liquor, as it is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that it can cure AIDS, diabetes and skin diseases. Geckos also make for loyal pets. But the illegal animal traders and poachers in Northeast India view this threatened animal as a lucrative cash cow.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Tokay gecko threatened
Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tontantravel/24436898141

Indian star tortoises fading out

Also known as Geochelone elegans, the Indian star tortoise has a shell so exquisite that people are ready to kill for it. Prized for their radiating patterned shells, these tortoises are an illegally traded wildlife species. This tortoise is also prized in households and temples in India on the grounds that it represents the Hindu God Vishnu.

Found in grasslands and scrublands of the country, they are poached and shipped to another nation despite laws in place to ensure protection. Here you can learn more about the Indian star tortoise and other pet tortoises from around the world.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Indian star tortoises fading out

The missing hill mynah

In the Western, Eastern and Northeastern regions of India, the hill myna or Gracula religiosa rings loud with whistles and calls. But the poachers see these sterlings' call as a call for actions such as caging these beautiful birds.

Hill mynahs are prized for their ability to mimic many different kinds of speech. This is why they form a major segment of illegal pet trade in India.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - The missing hill mynah

Owls out of action

Owls are known for their knowledge and stealth. But unfortunately, in India, they are also known to poachers as symbols of large amounts of cash in exchange, because their association with Hindu goddess Lakshmi has led to these birds being sacrificed in magic rites and rituals. Certain groups in India even believe that holding onto to body parts of owls is a harbinger of wealth.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Owls out of action

Red sand boas burdened

These beautiful and distinctive snakes are non-venomous, and maybe this is why they easily targeted by poachers. Red sand boas (Eryx johnii) are considered lucky by the superstitious in India. As the rate at which these snakes are sold is based on how much they weigh, poachers feed them steel balls or liquid mercury to increase their weight.

Sand boas are also believed to have medicinal properties and they are regularly targeted by poachers. Unless policy and action go hand-in-hand, sand boas will remain threatened along with a host of other animals, further damaging diversity and hurting the natural balance.

Illegal Animal Trade in India - Red sand boas burdened

If you want to read similar articles to Illegal Animal Trade in India, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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