GUWAHATI, July 4 - The threat posed to mega species such as tiger, rhino, elephant, etc., by the illegal trade in wildlife body parts may be well known and well documented, but not many are aware that at equal risk are a number of lesser wildlife species � including birds and reptiles � with the flourishing global trade increasingly targeting smaller creatures which fetch a fortune for the traders.
Conservationists believe that the many seizures made in recent times of live species such as Tokay gecko lizards and pangolins or body parts of other lesser known species are the proverbial tip of the iceberg, with the sinister racket flourishing over the years.
�While poaching of tigers and rhinos invariably hog the limelight, many smaller creatures that have an equally vital role in the complex web of life are equally bearing the brunt of the thriving wildlife syndicates operating in the Northeast. Wildlife such as tokay gecko, pangolin, snakes, owl, mongoose, etc., is extremely vulnerable to poaching and capture,� a forest official said, wishing anonymity.
Matters stand worse due to the abysmal protection mechanism in most of the forests of the region, especially in the reserved forests � many of which harbour wide-ranging fauna.
India has a strong legal and policy framework to regulate and restrict wildlife trade. Trade in over 1,800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivative is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. India is also a member of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1976.
Conservationists, however, point out that more than absence of laws, the menace has to do with weak implementation and enforcement besides conviction of those arrested for wildlife crimes.
�It�s true that an effective preventive mechanism is not there, as many wildlife habitats lack manpower and logistics. To be frank, unless the government accords priority to forest protection, things are unlikely to change,� the official said.
A substantial portion � often as high as round 80 per cent � of the money meant for wildlife in five-year plans is spent on the 50 Tiger Reserves of the country that make up less than 10 per cent of the total notified wildlife areas in the country.