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Rising wildlife crime and ‘appallingly low’ number of convictions

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New Delhi, June 08: Poor rate of conviction and lack of administrative willpower is the biggest obstacle in checking wildlife trade even as the ever-evolving global crime is getting more sophisticated and organised.

Though one case of poaching was registered daily in the last three-and-a-half years, convictions happened in only 10 per cent of the registered poaching cases.

Rising wildlife crime and ‘appallingly low’ number of convictions

Data collated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) shows that though 2,269 people have been arrested since 2015 in poaching cases, and 1,224 cases registered in various states, conviction took place in 126 cases only.

The crisis highlights the weaknesses of the forest staff in building a strong wildlife case, often overlooked by them that ultimately results in poor conviction rate in the court of law. A strong mechanism for nabbing them and ensuring they receive adequate quantum of punishment will prove to be a strong deterrent.

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According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, In India we have some of the best laws for forest and wildlife protection, however it is generally noticed that due to lacunae at the time of filing of wildlife cases or due to procedural lapses at the time of prosecution in the court of law, wildlife criminals often get away with very simple punishment. Therefore, the law fails to act as a strong deterrent for wildlife criminals.

It is important that the field level staff is made to understand the important legal procedures and how they can contribute towards strengthening a wildlife case.

If we are to conserve and protect our wildlife then the manner in which wildlife crime is perceived and addressed has to change. Rising crime levels for many species and falling conviction rates clearly demonstrates that wildlife is not getting the protection, or the justice.

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