The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has issued an advisory saying people importing “exotic live species” will have to make a voluntary disclosure.
The move comes as the outbreak of coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) has raised global concern about illegal wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases. “Considering the significance of the import and export of exotic live species, this Ministry is issuing the advisory to streamline the process ....”
The advisory issued earlier this month defines “exotic live species” as animal or plant species moved from their original range (location) to a new one. Several exotic species of birds, reptiles, small mammals, fishes and even some plants are imported. The Ministry has said “exotic live species” shall be construed to mean only “the animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora”. (CITES Appendix I, no trade happens, Appendix II trade can happen with prior permission and in Appendix III there are a large number of animals and birds which can be traded.)
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Experts have welcomed the move and said it will create a process where all imports will be screened. As of now, the imports are being made through the Director General of Foreign Trade and State Forest departments are not kept in the loop.
For new “exotic live species”, the importer should obtain a no-objection certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden ( CWLW) of the State. For existing species, stocks “shall be declared by the owner/ holder (stock, as on 1 January 2020) to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the concerned State or UT”. The advisory also has provision of “registration of progenies of imported animals” to the respective CWLW within 30 days after their birth.
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“This move is going to be a disabler in the business of wildlife trade. Exotics are a major problem for us because of invasive species and possible ecological imbalance if they are released in the wild,” said Jose Louise, who heads the wildlife crime prevention unit for the Wildlife Trust of India.
“This is the first time that CITES Appendix listed animals will be examined by the State Forest department. Earlier it was limited to customs officers to check whether the animal is being imported following CITES rule. For CITES Appendix III listed animals, the department has no role in it once they crossed the customs point,” Mr. Jose Louise said.
He said so far the forest officers had no control over pet shops because the owners say they are not Indian species and hence not protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. “This is the first step in controlling the illegal pet trade.” Moreover, the government has issued an advisory where it has listed what has to be done.