The Wildlife Act was passed in 1972 to protect the wildlife and their habitats. The habitat destruction due to agriculture, industries, urbanisation and other human activities had led to the erosion of the country’s wildlife.
The major activities and provisions in the act can be summed up as follows:
- It defines the wildlife related terminology.
- Enactment of an All India Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
- It provides for the appointment of wildlife advisory Board, Wildlife warden, their powers, duties etc.
- Becoming a party to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1976).
- Launching a “national component of UNESCO’s ‘Man and Biosphere Programme’ (1971).
- Under the Act, comprehensive listing of endangered wildlife species was done for the first time and prohibition of hunting of the endangered species was mentioned.
- Protection to some endangered plants.
- The Act provides for setting up of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc.
- The Act provides for the constitution of Central Zoo Authority.
- There is provision for trade and commerce in some wildlife species with license for sale, possession, transfer etc.
- The act imposes a ban on the trade or commerce in scheduled animals.
- It provides for legal powers to officers and punishment to offenders.
It provides for captive breeding programme for endangered species. Several Conservation Projects for individual endangered species like Lion (1972), Tiger (1973), Crocodile (1974) and Brown antlered Deer (1981) were stated under this Act. The Act is adopted by all states in India except J & K, which has its own Act.
Some of the major drawbacks of the Act include mild penalty to offenders, illegal wildlife trade in J & K, personal ownership certificate for animal articles like tiger and leopard skins, no coverage of foreign endangered wildlife, pitiable condition of wildlife in mobile zoos and little emphasis on protection of plant genetic resources.
- The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 5, 2013. The Bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Forests. The Bill seeks to amend the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. This Act provides for the protection and conservation of wild animals, birds and plants. It also covers the management of their habitats and regulation and control of trade or commerce linked to wild life.
- According to the government, India is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and amendments to the Act are necessary for India to fulfil its obligations under the CITES. The key amendments made by the Bill are:
- The manufacture, sale, transport or use of animal traps except for educational and scientific purposes (with permission) is prohibited.
- Under the Act, destruction, exploitation or removal of any wildlife including forest produce from a sanctuary is not permitted, except with a permit. The amendment allows certain activities such as grazing or movement of livestock, bona fide use of drinking and household water by local communities, and hunting under a permit.
- Provisions to regulate international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora as per the CITES have been inserted. A schedule listing out flora and fauna for purposes of regulation of international trade under CITES has been added.
- The Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau has been changed to the Wild life Crime Control Bureau.
- The term of punishment and fines for commission of offences under the Act have been increased.
- The Bill protects the hunting rights of Scheduled Tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.