Kangaroos on the street and a suitcase of iguanas: India’s unique pet downside | Unlawful wildlife commerce

From the red-eared slider turtle, cockatoo and falcon to the yellow-cheeked gibbon, capuchin monkey and orangutan, nothing is an excessive amount of for these demanding uncommon pets in India. However it was the sight of three kangaroos wandering the streets of West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district in April that introduced residence the extent of the nation’s unique pet commerce.

The malnourished kangaroos have been intercepted after tipoffs from native residents. One of many rescued marsupials later died, whereas the remaining two are recovering and will probably be rehomed at a close-by zoo.

A red-eared slider turtle smuggled into India.
A red-eared slider turtle smuggled into India. {Photograph}: Site visitors India

A senior forestry official advised the Indian Express on the time: “We are surprised as to who brought these kangaroos here, and how. We suspect they were being smuggled to Nepal.”

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The kangaroos have been the newest in a sequence of trafficking circumstances of unique species into India in the previous few years: in April, five exotic monkeys and a wallaby have been rescued in Assam, shortly after 5 siamang gibbons have been present in the identical state; 30 unique birds and a red-eared guenon, native to Africa and listed as weak on the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) purple record, have been intercepted on the Mizoram-Assam border in January 2021; in July 2020, additionally in Assam, a kangaroo, blue macaws, capuchin monkeys and Aldabra large tortoises have been rescued; and in October 2019, the customs division at Tiruchirappalli worldwide airport in Tamil Nadu seized a suitcase filled with unique reptiles, together with iguanas.

In response to a report by Traffic India, greater than 70,000 native and unique wild animals have been seized at India’s airports between 2011 and 2020, with many featured on the IUCN purple record and the Conference on Worldwide Commerce in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) appendices. The most typical non-native species seized was the red-eared slider turtle, adopted by the Chinese language pond turtle.

The unique animals are offered in markets and pet retailers throughout India, in addition to on-line. A two-year study discovered as many as 84 unique reptile species have been traded in India between 2018 and 2020.

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“India is both a source and destination of illegal wildlife trade, and is at times a transit route, too,” says Jose Louies, head of wildlife crime management on the Wildlife Belief of India. “The exotic animal trade into India is driven by the demand of people who would like to own something exclusive and costly, as a style or status symbol, with disregard for their natural habitat. Most of the animals end up in a zoo, as the country of origin may not repatriate them.”

A grey parrot in an aviary with other birds
Unique birds are among the many rising numbers of species being smuggled and offered in markets and pet retailers throughout India. {Photograph}: Site visitors India

Dr Saket Badola, head of Site visitors India, says: “The number and diversity of exotic species being smuggled into India has surprised everyone. We attribute it to the growing number of Indians with disposable incomes and the influence of social media, where people are exposed to exotic species being kept as pets around the world.”

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Traffickers are exploiting a loophole in India’s 1978 Wildlife Protection Act, which protects native species however doesn’t cowl imported or unique species. Commerce in any unique species listed by Cites is allowed solely with import and export licences, certificates and permissions from acceptable authorities. Nevertheless, the animal could also be freely traded as soon as it has entered India.

In June 2020, India’s ministry of setting, forest and local weather change provided amnesty to Indians in possession of unique species with out documentation. Greater than 32,000 people declared animals, together with kangaroos, iguanas and lemurs, in keeping with a report by IndiaSpend, a data-driven journalism initiative.

“The concerns with this illegal trade are manifold,” says Badola. “Besides threatening the species in their natural habitat, they can spread zoonotic diseases as they travel across the globe, carrying pathogens and viruses not seen in this part of the world. Lots of invasive imported species can threaten the local species, too.

“Most of the illegal shipments come via air, as many species are very expensive. To minimise losses they are hidden in plastic boxes and bottles, in hand baggage, checked baggage or air cargo. Others that come by land are trafficked through the porous borders with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.”

Many animals which are seized are repatriated, but when their nation of origin is unclear, they’re quarantined then despatched to native zoos or wildlife parks.

“The major concern is that invasive species that reach the country as part of this international trade could impact our biodiversity,” says Louies.

Site visitors is working with customs officers at airports, coaching workers to concentrate on unlawful contraband past gold or narcotics. They’ve additionally developed a web based course in regards to the wildlife commerce, together with related legal guidelines, purple flags to be careful for at airports and the best way to deal with seizures of harmful species.

Campaigners hope that the wildlife (protection) amendment bill, 2021 will probably be handed by the Indian parliament this 12 months, rising the variety of species protected beneath the regulation.

“The proposed amendment empowers the government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species which pose a threat to the wildlife or habitat,” says Debadityo Sinha of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

However, he provides: “The proposed definition of ‘invasive alien species’ is limited to only species which are not native to India. Ideally, this definition should include any species not native to the geographical range. We have many examples which indicate that species from one geographic area can become invasive and pose a threat to local biodiversity when introduced to other geographic areas within the country.”

Discover extra age of extinction coverage here, and observe biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the newest information and options

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