In Brief: Wildlife Crimes

In Brief: Wildlife Crimes

  • Section 2(37) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, defines wildlife’ to include any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat.
  • Wildlife crime can be defined as taking, possession, trade or movement, processing, consumption of wild animals and plants or their derivatives in contravention of any international, regional, or national legislation.
  • Two major wildlife crimes include:
    • Hunting & poaching
    • Illegal trade
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has included wildlife crimes in the list of Transnational Organised Crimes (TOC).
  • In India, The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, is the umbrella legislation for wildlife crime enforcement.
  • India is a signatory to CITES which regulates international commercial wildlife trade. (CITES is a voluntary agreement)


Issues in Wildlife Crime in India

  • Important provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 dealing with wildlife crimes include
    • Chapter VI A – Illegal Trade
    • Section 51 – Punishments for certain offences
    • Section 39 – Wild life is government property
  • The conviction rate of wildlife crimes in India is very low.
  • The main reasons:
    • Lack of uniformity among various states in wildlife crime investigation procedures
    • The techniques used in wildlife crime investigation are obsolete.
    • The most important challenge in wildlife crime investigation is ‘specimen identification’.


DNA Forensics in Wildlife Crime Investigation

  • DNA fingerprinting as a tool for criminal investigation focuses on establishing blood relations, identifying criminal etc by matching DNA samples.
  • However the use of DNA forensics in wildlife crimes is basically focused on establishing the identity of the species.
  • Morphology-based investigations are not foolproof due to the time lag between occurrence and detection of wildlife crime.
  • Thus molecular-level based DNA forensics will significantly improve wildlife crime investigation procedures in India


Way forward

  • The Zoological Survey of India is developing a protocol for use of DNA forensics in wildlife crime investigation.
  • Besides we should also have a standard operating procedure in wildlife crime investigation to bring in uniformity among states.


Related Topic

DNA Profiling Bill was passed by Lok Sabha recently.

  • To understand science of DNA forensics and compare DNA forensics in general and in wildlife crime, click here
Section : Science & Tech