Wildlife Amendment Act 2022

Context: The Lok Sabha passed the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, with no significant modifications to the version of the Bill presented in the House for discussion. 

Background of Wildlife Protection Act

  • The wild Birds Protection act was passed by the British India Government in 1887
  • A second law was enacted in 1912 called the wild birds and animals protection act. This act was amended in 1935
  • After Independence in 1960 rising issue of protection of certain species from becoming extinct came into the limelight. Hence in 1972 forests part from state subject was shifted to concurrent list by passing the wildlife protection act 1972.

About Wildlife Protection Act 1972

  • Wildlife Act 1972 preserves the country’s wild animals, birds and plants in order to ensure ecological and environmental security.
  • This act has laid down restrictions on hunting various kinds of animal species.
  • It also includes provisions related to harvesting and various other ancillary matters connected thereto.
  • It has six schedules which includes the list of endangered species, list of wild animals that are threatening to human lives, list of animals declared as vermin and list of specified trade, plants, possession etc which extend all over the India.
  • Various kinds of penalties have been laid down for the violation of the laws contained therein.

Schedules under WPA

  • It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection. 
  • Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide absolute protection – offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • Species listed in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penalties are much lower.
  • Animals under Schedule V, e.g. common crows, fruit bats, rats and mice, are legally considered vermin and may be hunted freely.
  • The specified endemic plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
  • The hunting to the Enforcement authorities have the power to compound offences under this Schedule (i.e. they impose fines on the offenders). 

Key Objectives of Wildlife protection act

  • Prohibition of hunting
  • Protection and management of wildlife habitat
  • Establishment of protected aread
  • Regulation and control of trade in parts and products derived from wildlife
  • Management of zoos

The recent amendment  

  • The key objective of the Bill is to make Indian law compatible with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  
  • There were 50 amendments to the Act proposed in the Bill.  

Need of the amendment

  • India has been blacklisted by CITES once before, and if a second blacklisting were to happen — then India will no longer be able to trade in important plant specimens. This would affect the livelihood of a large section of Indian society that relies heavily on this trade.
  • The rationalisation needed to be done because there were many discrepancies in the schedules and they were also ambiguous.
  • Some species were listed under English names, others under scientific names, some under families while others under orders.
  • Such a categorisation was very confusing for wildlife and forest officials on the ground to implement.

Key Highlights of the Bill 

  • Rationalising schedules:  
    • Currently, the Act has six schedules for specially protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one).   
    • Bill reduces it to four by:  
      • Reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two (one for greater protection level) 
      • Removes the schedule for vermin species 
      • Inserts a new schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES (scheduled specimens). 
  • Obligations under CITES:  The Bill authorises central government to designate  
    • Management Authority: which grants export or import permits for trade of specimens, and  
    • Scientific Authority: which gives advice on aspects related to the impact on the survival of the specimens being traded.   
    • Every person engaging in trade of a scheduled specimen must report the details of the transaction to the Management Authority.   
    • It prohibits any person from modifying or removing the identification mark of the specimen.   
    • Every person possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority. 
  • Invasive alien species:  It empowers the central government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species.   
  • Control of sanctuaries:  The Present Act entrusts the Chief Wildlife Warden to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state.  The Chief Wildlife Warden has been appointed by the state government. The Bill specifies that the actions of the Chief Warden must be in accordance with the management plans for the sanctuary.  These plans will be prepared as per guidelines of the central government, and as approved by the Chief Warden. 
  • Conservation reserves:   Under the Act, state governments may declare areas adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries as a conservation reserve, for protecting flora and fauna, and their habitat.   The Bill empowers the central government to also notify a conservation reserve. 
  • Surrender of captive animals:  The Bill provides for any person to voluntarily surrender any captive animals or animal products to the Chief Wildlife Warden. No compensation will be paid to the person for surrendering such items. The surrendered items become property of the state government.   
  • Penalties: Bill has increased the fines for violating the provisions of the Act.   

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