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Poaching doubled during coronavirus lockdown, says wildlife group

Representational image.   | Photo Credit: S. Harpal Singh

A recent report by TRAFFIC, a leading wildlife trade monitoring network, has recorded a significant increase in poaching in India during the over two month lockdown period.

Also read: Animal poaching registers a sharp increase during lockdown

The report titled “Indian wildlife amidst the COVID-19 crisis: An analysis of status of poaching and illegal wildlife trade” was released earlier this week. It points out that reports of poaching for consumption and local trade have more than doubled during lockdown. The report, however, mentions that there was no evidence of stockpiling of wildlife products for future trade.

The researchers analysed compared media reports of poaching incidents in a six-week period before the lockdown (February 10 to March 22) with those from six weeks during the lockdown (March 23 to May 3).

Based on this, the report said: “Reported poaching incidences rose from 35 to 88.” The report, however, added that it remains unknown how reporting rates in the media have changed because of the lockdown.

For consumption

A species group comparison during pre-lockdown and post-lockdown reveals that the biggest increase in reported poaching was related to ungulates, where the percentage jumped from 22% of total reported cases during pre-lockdown, to 44% during the lockdown period.

Also read: Poaching, not coronavirus, is the bigger threat, says tiger expert

“Since these species are targeted mainly for meat (for self-consumption or for local trade), the increase is presumably due to those poaching for self-consumption or those who are trying to compensate their loss of income by making quick money through poaching,” the report stated.

The second group of animals where there was a marked increase in poaching was ‘small mammals’, including hares, porcupines, pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys and smaller wild cats. “Cases against this group 17% to 25% between the pre-and lockdown periods,” the report pointed out.

Interestingly, there was a slight decrease in the incidence of bird-related seizures, which dropped from 14% to 7% between the pre-lockdown and post-lockdown periods. There was less reporting of poaching and illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles, with almost no seizures of these species during the lockdown period.

Even though there are reports about pangolins being linked to the COVID-19 crisis, the report states that pangolins were targeted by poachers in various parts of the country. “Live pangolins Manis spp. and their scales were seized from poachers in Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Odisha,” the study said.

Officers burdened

Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office and author of the report said more than doubling of reported poaching cases, mainly of ungulates and small wild animals for meat is doubtless placing additional burdens on wildlife law enforcement agencies.

“Therefore, it is imperative that these agencies are supported adequately and in a timely manner so they can control the situation” he added. The report also pointed out that the number of persons arrested for poaching related cases during lockdown was higher than in pre-lockdown weeks. A total of 222 people were arrested for poaching related cases in the lockdown period, which is significantly higher than the 85 suspects who were arrested during the pre-lockdown phase.

The outcome of this study indicates that “despite efforts by law enforcement agencies, wild animal populations in India are being subjected to additional threats during the lockdown period”.


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 2:20:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/poaching-doubled-during-coronavirus-lockdown-says-wildlife-group/article31768167.ece

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