No dedicated agency to curb thriving online wildlife trade

By Shravan Regret Iyer

Bengaluru: It wouldn’t be surprising if in the near future you stumble across an online portal advertisement selling tigers and Kaziranga rhinos. This would be in keeping this the trend of today’s thriving online trade in protected wildlife species, currently rampant on the Internet.

Photo by Kannan AS
White-rumped munia uses an abandoned nest. Photo by Kanan K S

The disappointing aspect is that a number of government agencies including the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), a statutory multi-disciplinary body established to combat organized wildlife crime in the country, has no dedicated wing to monitor these protected species traded online.

Two weeks ago, the city police had nabbed a youth after he posted an ad on an online portal to sell Baya weaver nests.

The police recovered 43 nests and the accused is awaiting trail. According to wildlife experts, the illegal wildlife trade on the Internet could pose a serious problem. This has now become a ‘trans-national’ crime. Many wildlife species and their products are now available online and in the marketplace with the help of e-commerce.

“We have no special wing to monitor the wildlife trade online. There have been no major cases reported in the last one year except for one person who was trying to sell mynas online from Chennai and action was taken against him,” said an official from the Southern Region, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

Wildlife activists have found that hundreds of native bird species, snakes and other wildlife are being traded online with impunity. “There are many online sellers of birds and snakes from Chennai and Kerala. Some of the common ads one can see on web portals are of Alexandrine parakeets and rose-ringed parakeets. They also sell foreign species of snakes such as the ball python,” says a wildlife expert.

Photo by Peter Tan
A male Alexandrine Parakeet. Photo by Peter Tan

In Karnataka, only a few cases of wildlife trade online have been busted till now. In December 2012, CID sleuths were successful in rescuing 21 Alexandrine parakeets from a city-based IT consultant who tried to sell them online.A report published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare says that there have been over 7, 000 online auctions, advertisements

A report published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare says that there have been over 7, 000 online auctions, advertisements and classifieds, with an advertised value of $3.87m. The report also identified ivory as a major area of trade, representing more than 73 per cent of the activity monitored. All this shows the need to set up a special wing to crack the growing wildlife trade.

Online Trading

  • A web portal advertised an eight-month-old Alexandrine parakeet for sale for INR 4,000. While another ad posted on the web portal from the same location said a three-month-old Alexandrine parakeet was on sale for INR 3,500. Similarly, there have been many instanced where native birds species and other wildlife have been sold online.
  • The experts feel that the easy reach, huge market place and no brokerage have led to an increase in the illegal wildlife trade online. Despite the blanket ban since 1990-91 on trade in birds, the trade continues.
  • The WWF India, has found that out of twelve native species of birds, about eight species are regularly found being illegally traded in India. Some of the species include Alexandrine, Rose-ringed, Plum-headed, Red-breasted, Malabar, Himalayan and Finsch’s Parakeets and Vernal Hanging-parrot.

 

 

This story was originally published in Deccan Chronicle Oct 12, 2014, edition.