Speaking up for lesser-known species, which are being relentlessly hunted and traded, conservationists, wildlife experts, policy makers, scientists, research scholars, and senior officials from the State Forest Departments, Ministry of Environment and Forests, enforcement agencies, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and non-government organisations got together earlier this week to deliberate on how security measures can be put in place to protect the future of these species.
Wildlife species like pangolins, birds, tortoises and sharks, were discussed during the meeting on ‘Consultation on Illegal Trade in Lesser Known Species’. The meet was jointly organised by the TRAFFIC, the WWF-India, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
Every year in India, hundreds of pangolins, lizards and tortoises are poached, an estimated 700,000 birds are illegally trapped, and about 70,000 tonnes of sharks are caught, yet the levels of exploitation on these species are rarely reported.
TRAFFIC, India head, Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj said: “While the threat posed by illegal wildlife trade to some of India’s most iconic wild animals, such as the tiger and Indian rhinoceros are well publicised, many of India’s less well-known species are also rapidly vanishing because of poaching, yet their fate remains largely under the radar.’’
“Pangolins are highly threatened because they are subject to a colossal illegal trade internationally, yet their plight is barely publicised in conservation or media circles. Others, like the monitor lizard, mongoose, star tortoises, spiny-tailed lizards, freshwater and mariner turtles also need immediate attention,” he added.
Monitor lizards, especially the Bengal Monitor, were once commonly seen across the country but appear to have declined markedly.
Other speakers at the meeting included Ravi Singh from the WWF-India, Kamal Dutta from the WCCB, Belinda Wright from the WPSI.