The trade in animal trophies

Wildlife authorities reckon that there are several unaccounted possessions of wildlife trophies across city households, says P. Oppili

Reports of Internet postings on the sale of live endangered animals have made wildlife authorities sit up and take stock of the situation in their backyard.

Wildlife authorities said endangered wildlife were reared as pets in European countries and the U.S. and sold through advertisements on the net. In India, the problem is different. Here, the possession of animal parts, wildlife trophies and other related animal products is illegal activity, unless otherwise sanctioned by the authorities concerned.

Ivory articles, tusks mounted on a rosewood stand, tiger skin, nails, claws, leopard skin, cured bison head and elephant legs are some of the articles that people keep at home. In order to curb the trade on wildlife trophies and animal products, the Union Government introduced the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972 giving an opportunity to those who possessed animal parts or trophies to take a "possession" certificate from wildlife officials, said K.S.S.V.P. Reddy, Wildlife Warden, Chennai.

The Union Government again issued a notification on April 18, 2003, stating that those having captive animals, animal articles, trophies, uncured trophies (specified in Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act) could produce them and after due verification and explanation from the owners on how they got the materials, obtain a certificate. The Union Government had given a grace period of six months, said Mr. Reddy. During this six-month period, the Wildlife authorities in the city received 170 applications from residents.

Mr. Reddy said 160 applicants were provided certificates and the remaining applications were at various stages of process.

When asked about the number of people keeping such items in their homes, Mr. Reddy said not even one per cent of those who had trophies had applied for the certificate.

In the instance of illegal possession of trophies coming to light, it would be viewed as a serious violation and attract a minimum punishment of three years of rigorous imprisonment and a maximum of seven years. Mr Reddy said: "Ignorance of the Act is not accepted as an excuse for not obtaining the possession certificate."

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