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The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021:

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 after being introduced in Lok Sabha was later referred to the Standing Com­mittee on Science and Tech­nology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

  • The panel has recently recommended the Central Government not to encourage sale and purchase of captive elephants.
  • Section 43 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 states that no person having in his posses­sion captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy in respect of which he has a certificate of owner­ship shall transfer by way of sale or offer for sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature, such animal or article or trophy or uncured trophy.
  • The amended Bill introduces an exemption clause for elephants.
  • Other issues wrt Bill highlighted by the standing committee:
    • The Standing Com­mittee pointed out that a number of species is missing in all the three Schedules.
    • The committee also finds species that should be in Schedule I but have been placed in Schedule II.
    • There are species missing altogether both in Schedules I and II as well as in Schedule III.
    • The Bill also fails to address “human-animal conflict”, the committee noted.

Highlights of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021:

  • The proposed amendment is likely the most expansive so far in scope: it covers more areas of legislation, from trade in wild species to permitting filmmaking in protected areas and controlling the spread of invasive species.
  • The Bill increases penalties for wildlife crimes. For example, offences that attracted a fine of Rs 25,000 now attract Rs 1 lakh.
  • There’s a new and separate chapter on regulating species involved in international trade according to the CITES treaty.
  • The Bill prohibits possessing, trading and breeding species without prior permissions from CITES authorities.
  • The Bill also recognises threats that invasive alien species pose.
  • The Bill doesn’t include regional invasive species – some of which may be native to the country but invasive in some parts.
  • The amendment Bill has no separate Schedule for species the Act classifies as ‘vermin’, so the Centre can directly notify such species and open them up to be hunted – including some of the species currently in Schedule II.
  • The Bill also proposes changes to the Schedules.
  • Foremost, it reduces the number of Schedules from six to four, to “rationalise” the lists. But the two main substitute Schedules that will specify the protected species are incomplete.
  • The Bill will render the existing ‘State Boards for Wildlife’ defunct by replacing it them with set up a ‘Standing Committee’ of the State Board of Wildlife – headed by the respective state forest minister and 10 members nominated by the minister.
  • The State Boards of Wildlife currently manage the conservation and protection of wildlife at the state level. The state chief minister sits atop the board and is supported by 20+ members, including of the state legislature, NGOs, conservationists and representatives of the state forest departments and tribal welfare.
  • Under the proposed amendments, the commercial sale and purchase of elephants will no longer be prohibited under the Act. This clause is prone to abuse and can severely impact elephant populations by legitimising live trade of elephants.