From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : CITES appendices
Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention
The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has issued an advisory saying people importing “exotic live species” will have to make a voluntary disclosure.
Practice questions for mains:
Q. What are Zoonotic Diseases? Discuss how the illicit trade in wildlife has resulted in the spread of zoonotic diseases of the scale of the ongoing COVID-19?
What is the new Advisory?
- According to the advisory, the phrase “exotic live species” includes “animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora”.
- It does not include species from the Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
- This will create a process where all imports will be screened.
- As of now, the imports are being made through the Director-General of Foreign Trade and State Forest departments are not kept in the loop.
- For new “exotic live species”, the importer should obtain a no-objection certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the State.
- For existing species, stocks shall be declared by the owner/ holder (stock, as on 1 January 2020) to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the concerned State or UT.
Why need such advisory?
- Many exotic species of birds, reptiles and amphibians are imported into India for commercial purposes.
- Some of the most sought after exotic species in India are Ball python, Scarlet Macaw, sea turtles, sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), marmoset and grey African parrots.
- These imports were happening through the Director-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), but they were beyond the purview of the forest departments and the chief wildlife wardens weren’t aware of them.
- Wildlife experts have long been asking for stringent laws and guidelines to document and regulate numbers of exotic species being kept as pets by individuals and breeders in India.
- The move comes as the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised global concern about illegal wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases.
- Often these species are illegally trafficked into the country to avoid lengthy documentation and scrutiny.
Issues with guidelines
- Matters such as the spread of invasive species as well as zoonotic diseases had not been taken care of in the advisory.
- There is a growing domestic trade in exotic species of wildlife that is unfortunately not listed under the various appendices of CITES (such as sugar gliders, corn snakes).
- Hence limiting the scope of the latest advisory to only those species covered under CITES drastically limits the scope of the advisory itself.
- It does not have the force of law and could potentially incentivize illegal trade by offering a long amnesty period.
- CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- It is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
- It was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
- It entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
- The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
- India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.
- CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
- All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
It has three appendices:
- Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade-in specimens of these species are permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
- Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
- Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade.