To, Date: 10th Feb 2022 The Chairman Shri Jairam Ramesh Parliamentary standing committee on Science & Technology, Environment Forests and Climate Change Parliament house, New Delhi – 110 001 SUB: COMMENTS ON THE WILD LIFE (PROTECTION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2021 Dear Sir, This relates to the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021, which incorporates wildlife conservation and management elements, rationalises the schedules, and adds additional revisions for better management of protected area. The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation (FIAPO) is India’s apex animal rights organisation. As the collective voice of the animal rights movement in India, FIAPO is the catalyst that protects the rights and interests of animals at local and national levels. Created, for the movement, by the movement, FIAPO is India’s only federation with more than 120 members and 200 supporter organisations, nationally. We are concerned, about revisions to the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, enacted through the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021, particularly with regard to elephants and vermin-classified species, as well as the protocols and processes that surround them. Therefore, we take the opportunity to submit our brief comments on the proposed amendments, specifically Section 62 & Section 43 of the Act, as well as other suggestions. Sincerely FIAPO 1. COMMERCIAL TRADING OF LIVE ELEPHANTS 1.1 To withdraw the new sub clause (4) to Section 43 The amendment bill propose to insert sub clause (4) to Section 43 which reads as - The definition reads as - (4) This section shall not apply to the transfer or transport of any live elephant by a person having a certificate of ownership, where such person has obtained prior permission from the State Government on fulfilment of such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government." The new Section 43(4) as proposed to be added would open commercial trade of elephants, which is disastrous for Elephants and would lead to their increased suffering and commercial exploitation and defeats the whole purpose of the Wildlife Protection Act, and hence should be deleted. Under Section 43 clause (1) & (2) of the Principal Act the transfer of captive animal is only allowed if the person has a certificate of ownership with a condition that such transfer shall not be for sale of offer of sale of the animal i.e., commercial purpose is out of the purview of the Act and is illegal. Hence, the proposed amendment is carving an exception to allow the commercial sale and purchase of live elephants legally. It is also unclear what kind of prior permission will be needed from the State Government, whether this permission is needed from both the states or only one state, what shall be the criteria of giving or denying the permission. This clause is vulnerable to abuse and has the potential to have a negative influence on elephant populations by allowing the live trading of elephants. Therefore, we appeal to withdraw the sub clause (4) to Section 43 from the amendment bill. 1.2 To repeal Proviso to sub clause 2 (A) and 2 (B) of Section 40 Proviso 2 (A) to Section 40 provides that a person having certificate of ownership, shall acquire, receive, keep in control, custody for possession any captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II, only by way of inheritance whereas Proviso 2 (B) provides for declaration of such inheritance to Chief Wild Life Warden or the authorised officer. The proviso to sub-sections (2A) and (2B) has carved an exception only for live elephant by virtue of which live elephants are the only wild animals species which can be transferred not only through inheritance but also other modes. Such an exception raise concerns on the protection of the Schedule I species, our heritage animal and works as a backdoor window to issue fresh ownership certificates for any captive wild elephant to private parties via proviso to Section 40 (2A/2B). Therefore, we also appeal that the Proviso to Sub-Sections (2A) and (2B) of Section 40 [2003 amendment], which permits acquisition of captive elephants through non-commercial modes such as Gift should also be repealed. We urge you to withdraw proviso to sub clause 2 (A) and 2 (B) of Section 40 We also submit the following recommendations- i) That offsetting capture from the wild and trading under ownership certificates is a disastrous move to regularise traders, buyers, and sellers because wild caught elephant calves will be severely endangered. ii) The current move under Section 43 may result in a situation similar to Thailand, where elephants are treated as cattle and bought and sold on the open market. It is not wanted by the public, and it also goes against the spirit of the WLP Act. iii) Rather of going backwards and turning a wild animal into a commercial animal, the government should take a step forward in animal welfare, setting an example for other countries and India. iv) It is submitted that the Indian elephant Elephasmaxis is a highly cognitive species that is a perceptual, complex, social creature that must remain in the wild social herd. Therefore, we appeal you to recognise your constitutional duty in Article 48A read with Article 21 of the Constitution of India to acknowledge a valid inherent rights interest in the elephant, “the right to live with no interference freely, in social herds in the wild.” v) All provisions with respect to 'captive animals' should be repealed. vi) WLP should be amended to seize all captive animals and return them to their natural habitat within a limited timeframe. vii) Indian Parliament should adopt a progressive stand and provide for Reforestation and "giving back" of land to nature and wildlife, in a planned manner (including moving humans from the vicinity of forests, sanctuaries and national parks), which would also reduce the human-animal conflict. 2. VERMIN 2.1 To scientifically rationalize and supplement the schedules under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (herein referred to as WLP) and not unplanned The amendment bill propose to amend Section 62 of the Principal Act as herein. In section 62 of the principal WLP Act,— (a) the words and figures "and Part II of Schedule II" shall be omitted; (b) the words and figure "and so long as such notification is in force, such wild animals shall be deemed to have been included in Schedule V" shall be omitted. After the amendment the new Section 62 will read as under – Declaration of certain wild animals to be vermin.—The Central Government may, by notification, declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I to be vermin for any area and for such period as may be specified therein. Through this change, the proposed Bill reduces the total number of schedules to four from six in the following ways: (i) reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two (one for greater protection level); (ii) removes the schedule for vermin species i.e., schedule V; (iii) Schedule III for specified plants and; (iv) inserts a new schedule IV for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES (scheduled specimens) As a result of this change, the list of wild animals in the Act has been reduced from six to two. The bill now proposes that by amending Section 62, the animals listed in Schedule II may be declared vermin. That is, all animals listed in Schedule II can be declared vermin. As a result of this amendment, wild animals that could not previously be designated vermin can now be declared vermin. Common foxes, red foxes, and jackals, for example, can now be classified as vermin. This amendment has broadened the range of species of wild animals that can be branded vermin, which will be disastrous for the country's wildlife and eco system. Therefore, we urge you to withdraw this amendment and restore the previous Section 62 by keeping the objectives of the WPA Act intact. We further urge you to initiate a process under Section 12 (bb) (ii) of the Act before declaring wild animal as vermin, which provides for scientific management that includes “population management of wild life without killing or poisoning or destroying any wild animals”. Further we also submit the following recommendations- • To carry out scientific investigation/study before declaring any wild animal vermin. The first step towards declaring any wild animal a vermin would be to initiate a process under Section 12 (bb) (ii) of the Act for scientific management which includes “population management of wild life without killing or poisoning or destroying any wild animals”. However, no such scientific basis recommending the reclassification of wild animals as vermin is taken into consideration by the States. As a result, such declarations have a negative impact on other allied species but is allowed for political reasons, ultimately leading to unbalanced ecology fit. • In addition, the method of killing is unspecified, and in fact sometimes Markman or shooters are hired to kill these wild animals on payment. In doing so, both states and unions violate the constitutional obligation to protect the country's wildlife and the environment and are on contrary are only providing a license to kill. • To include the procedural guidelines, scientific studies on how and under what circumstances Section 62 can be exercised. • Using alternate methods such as adequate fencing, noisemakers, and repelling animals naturally from farms through the use of chili plants or other such means, that balance ‘human necessity’ i.e., protection of property (crops, houses, livestock etc.) and human life on one hand AND protects and conserves the environment and wildlife on the other hand. • The schedules shall be scientifically rationalize and supplement and not unplanned manner. • We further recommend supporting local communities to install and maintain on a sustained basis bio- fencing, power fencing, solar/stone-wall/trenches around vulnerable areas. • The State Government/UTs to implement schemes to compensate people in cases of man-animal conflicts Special drives to improve the habitats of wild animals with special focus on their needs of food and water could be started under the existing schemes by way of plantation of fruit-trees (suitable in the wild) and water conservation. Government of India could provide additional funds and proper monitoring mechanism. • If at all the above measures - after sincere trial for a reasonable period which could be 3-5 years - do not get the desired results, then as a last resort only the step of declaring a wild animal as vermin could be considered but that too should not be based merely on the reports of the State Governments/UTs but after a careful scrutiny of the reports through scientific studies conducted independently by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change through a capable agency/institution.