Wildlife crimes down over a decade: Environment Ministry

New Delhi


Ahead of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP) involving 19 Asian countries, to be held here on October 2 to address the issue of illegal wildlife trade, the government on Friday said wildlife crimes in India have dropped in last 10 years.

Stating that India was playing a leadership role in managing wildlife, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan stressed that the numbers of free ranging animals had gone up.

"The number of rhinos, tigers and elephants is in fact increasing," the minister said.

Speaking of a change in strategy, the minister also added that while till now programmes and plans related to wildlife were focused on and around national parks and sanctuaries, now the strategies would be based on the landscape of the region.

According to the ministry, on comparing last 10 year's data on animals poached or killed and "reported to them", it was concluded that the wildlife crimes had dropped.

However, in the past there had been differences in the figures on animal poaching projected by the government and those by individual sources. 

"From all over the country, we collected information and when we bought the matrix of 10 years, we saw the illegal activities, including poaching of wildlife, reported to us have gone down," said Somitra Dasgupta, I.G (Forest).

He said although sporadic cases of poaching of some species like pangolins, tigers and monitor lizards had come to light, overall the generalised trend in illegal forest activities had dropped.

On being asked if the poaching cases were being reported on the real time basis, a senior ministry official told IANS that the ministry was working to enhance the mechanism to get the accurate picture.

"This is the area that needs more focus and we seek suggestions and public involvement for more accuracy," a senior official said.

Of the total 74 tiger deaths reported by the government till July 25 this year, 15 tigers were confirmed poached, five are said to have died from natural causes, while 54 cases have been placed under scrutiny.

However, wildlife organisations and independent sources kept the number of dead tigers due to poaching or seizures during this period at 22.

Additionally, 59 cases of tiger mortality between 2014 and 2016 are still under investigation.

Similarly, while the ministry said 33 tigers deaths in 2016 were due to poaching -- either through direct evidence or on the basis of seizures -- wildlife organisations put this number at 50.

According to experts, the discrepancies in the government figures are due to slow processing or presenting of DNA samples or delay in forensic reports on the cause of death.

Meanwhile, speaking of eco-tourism and reported construction activities near but outside the protected forest areas like sanctuaries and national parks, the official said they were working on a new management plan to address the concern.

"We are developing a landscape-based management, which will also be addressing the issues which are beyond the protected areas," he said. - IANS