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Each individual life form must learn to enjoy its benefits by forming a part of the system in close relation with other species. Let not any one species encroach upon the other’s rights. - From the ancient scriptures of the Isha Upanishad, 1st Millenium BC.

Wildlife Protection Act of India

A Concise History

Protection of the Forest and Wildlife in India is traditional to its inhabitants, written in the early scriptures in the Vedic times, over a millennium ago. Village communities in the Vedic period were instructed to protect the surrounding forests, as the ancient wisdom of living in harmony with nature was understood, and practised.

Official Governance in Forest Conservation can be traced back to the 3rd Century BC when King Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire, appointed a Forest superintendent or Kupyadaksha who was in charge of Protecting the Forest for Sustainable Utilisation of its Produce and safety of its Wild Inhabitants.

His grandson, Emperor Asoka Maurya, the great propagator of Buddhism, believed in Ahimsa or non-violence. Non-harm to all living things such as animals was an important philosophy of Buddhism. The Pillars of Asoka at Sarnath depicting Lions survives to this day, and is imprinted on all Indian Currency as well.

However, with the advent of the Mughals into India, these long-standing practises were left behind as the Mughal Kings propagated hunting, in a grand scale. It was a show of might, and India, with its abundance of large and exotic animals such as the Asiatic Lion, Greater One-horned Rhino and the Tiger – saw a huge decline through the centuries. Save for the period of King Akbar and King Jehangir – who did introduce regulations for hunting, and permitted only those who had a license or the necessary permissions to carry out the hunts.

The practise of Shikar or sport-hunting continued into the British Era of the 18th – 20th Century where Indian Royalty and the important Statesmen and guests of the British Empire went on long and luxurious hunts, raking up records of trophy animals in a single hunt, with the advent of the single-barrel rifle. Local tribesman who had mastered the skill of tracking, gained their reputation in this field and led the Hunters to their Game. Large forest areas with the promise of regulated big-game hunting were preserved as well, which are many of todays important National Parks of India. An important mode of Tourism till the 1970’s in India as well, before the modern-day game-viewing safaris.

Post the Independence of India, hunting wildlife became unregulated, and the shift of focus towards re-building a nation and economic development, wildlife populations across the country were decimated and most notably, the Royal Bengal Tiger was almost brought to the brink of extinction. All this, until the early 1970’s when an expose in a popular newspaper by notable Conservationist and Zoologist Mr.Kailash Sankhla, coaxed the government into considering official action to protect the Tiger and safeguard the Forest of India in national interest. Data collection and appeals were ongoing since the 1960’s and these efforts finally saved the Tiger from being hunted to extinction – due to sportsman, angry locals as well as commercial poachers. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 with its stringent laws, was drawn up under the Prime Ministership of Mrs.Indira Gandhi who was clearly empathetic towards the cause of Wildlife.

In 1973, Project Tiger was launched, helping understand and conserve the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Ecosystems which it was spread across in India. These 02 Historic Events have changed the course of Conservation in India, thereby benefitting overall, the Citizens of India themselves holistically.

Subsequently, in the Industrial Age, massive conservation movements by the People of India themselves with the Chipko Movement and the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the 1970’s & 80’s against Large-scale Deforestation and construction Big Dams displacing people and forests, has seen the emergence of India’s conscience and shown an understanding of the importance of maintaining the Natural Ecosystem as life itself has designed it. Today, the threat of habitat loss continues, though the overall scape of Wildlife Conservation is at its crescendo, guarded by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

Purpose and Implementation

The Wildlife Protection Act of India was passed on 21st August, 1972 (Last amended in 2006). It was implemented across India except in Jammu & Kashmir on 9th September, 1972. The Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972 is an important statute that provides a powerful legal framework for:

  1. Prohibition of hunting.
  2. Protection and management of wildlife habitats.
  3. Establishment of protected areas.
  4. Regulation and control of trade in parts and products derived from wildlife.
  5. Management of zoos.
The Wildlife Protection Act of India provides for several categories of Protected Areas / Reserves :
  1. National Parks
  2. Wildlife Sanctuaries
  3. Tiger Reserves
  4. Conservation Reserves
  5. Community Reserves

The are 06 Schedules to this act which provide varying degrees of protection and legal punishments in case of offences :

Black Buck - 1

Wildlife Protection Act of India - Schedule I & Part of Schedule II

Provides absolute protection and offences are given the highest penalties possible as under the Act. Examples: Royal Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Indian Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard, Indian Elephant, Greater One Horned Rhinoceros, Indian Gazelle, Blackbuck, Wild Ass, Kashmir Stag, Pangolin, Gangetic River Dolphin, Dugong, Gharial, Indian Soft-shell Turtle, Pythons amongst many others Wildlife Crimes in relation to trapping, poisoning or killing any of the animals in this Schedule can amount upto 03 years of prison and upto INR 25,000/- in fines.
Indian Wild Dog

Wildlife Protection Act of India - Schedule II

Examples : Wild Dog, Foxes, Assamese Macaque, Bonnet Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, Pig-tailed Macaque, Stump-tailed Macaque, Grey Langur, Porcupines, Himalayan Newt Salamander, Indian Chameleon, Spiny-tailed Lizard, Civets, Weasels, Martens, Marmots, Otters, Sloth Bear, Himalayan Black Bear, Flying Squirrels, Giant Squirrels, Cobras amongst many other species.
Egyptian Vulture

Wildlife Protection Act of India - Schedule III

Bird Examples : Vultures, Indian Peafowl, Himalayan Monal, Sclater’s Monal, Tibetan Snowcock, Tragopan’s, Nicobar Scrubfowl, Swiftlets, White-winged Wood Duck, Andaman Teal, Narcondam Hornbill, Lesser Florican, Bengal Florican, Jerdon’s Courser, Grey Peacock Pheasant, White-bellied Heron, Swiftlets amongst various other birds. Mammal Examples : Chital, Barking Deer, Gorals, Hog Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Nilgai, Striped Hyaena amongst other animals.

Red Avadavat

Wildlife Protection Act of India - Schedule IV

Crustaceans and Insects.

Mammal Examples : Five-striped Palm Squirrel, Hares, Hedgehog, Indian Porcupine.

Bird Examples : Avadavat, Barbets, Babblers, Barn Owl, Bitterns, Cranes, Cuckoos, Bulbuls, Buntings, Ducks, Falcons, Egrets, Finches, Flamingoes, Doves, Darters, Flowerpeckers, Flycatchers, Larks, Kingfisher, Jacanas, Jungle Fowls, Munias, Mynas amongst various other bird families.

House Crow

Wildlife Protection Act of India - Schedule V & VI

Schedule V: Examples : Common Crow Butterfly, Fruit Bat, Mice, Rats.

Schedule VI: Plants which may be harmful for the ecosystem and are forbidden to be cultivated or planted.

Examples : 1. Beddomes’ cycad (Cycas beddomei) 2. Blue Vanda (Vanda soerulec) 3. Kuth (Saussurea lappa) 4. Ladies slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum species.) 5. Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana) 6. Red Vanda (Rananthera inschootiana)

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