Antlers of spotted deer and sambar may find their way to Ayurveda medicines if a recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) finds favour with the National Board for Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
SBWL, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday, decided to approach the Centre for suitable amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act for using the antlers for medicinal purposes.
Though some board members objected to the recommendation apprehending that such a move would lead to hunting of the animals, the Chief Minister was of the view that it shall be permitted as the clearance was sought for Oushadhi, an Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing company owned by the Kerala government, said poet Sugathakumari, who attended the meeting.
Antlers are the extensions of the skull of the deer. All the three deer varieties found in Kerala, including spotted deer, sambar, and barking deer, shed their antlers annually, said a wildlife specialist.
The proposal, which was originally mooted a few years ago, was to collect the antlers annually shed by the ungulates after the breeding season, he said.
K. Binu, a member on the SBWL, said the suggestion to make amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 came at a time when the world was united against wildlife hunting. It may be recalled that many countries had recently destroyed huge quantities of ivory seized by them. Those countries could have earned money by allowing the use of ivory for various purposes, he said.
In the long run, Mr. Binu feared, the recommendation on antlers would lead to hunting of animals.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has included antler in the definition of wildlife trophy. A wildlife trophy is defined as the “whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal”.
Section 39 of the Act also states that “no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise or destroy or damage such property.”
Wildlife and wildlife trophies are considered as owned by the government. The Act also prescribes imprisonment up to three years and fine of RS. 25,000 for offences involving wildlife trophies.