WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2021-INDIA’S COMMITMENT TOWARDS STOPPING ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING
To commemorate the World Environment Day 2021, the Shri Soumitra Dasgupta, ADG of Forests (Wildlife) The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, launched two awareness campaigns for Wildlife Crime Control Bureau & UNEP, to Stop Wildlife Trafficking, on 5th June, 2021. These campaigns are specially created for UNEP and its partners, The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, and WWF India, by the renowned advertising agency Ogilvy.
Many articles, reports, and research reveal that rampant smuggling of India’s endangered wildlife species exists due to superstitious beliefs and myths. Many wildlife species and their parts and derivatives are illegally traded for use as false remedies that are not scientifically proven. The use of wild animal parts in traditional medicine contributes to species’ decline, and the rarity of a creature does not protect it from being killed in the name of “medicine. One of the most alarming characteristics of wildlife trafficking is the growing use of threatened species in traditional medicines.
The first campaign released today conveys that the illegal trade of wildlife drives wildlife trafficking to make medicines that have no scientific backing and therefore, it is essential to curb this. Through powerful visuals, the campaign sends a message to people that these species are – Not your medicine.
Indian Rhinos Rhinoceros unicornis are poached for their horns while pangolins are trafficked in large number for their scales, all used to make traditional medicines. Tokay Geckos Gekko gecko, too, have found their unscientific and illicit use in medicine. These three species are the prime focus of the campaign- Not your medicine.
Emojis that cover different human emotions are an integral part of our day-to-day online conversations. To raise awareness about the illegally trafficked endangered species and their plight, the campaign also presents a set of five, SAD EMOJIS, featuring five Indian endangered species – tiger, bear, owls, tortoise and pangolin. These emojis will help in raising awareness not just about species that are trafficked in India but will also raise awareness to stop wildlife trafficking.
The objective of the two campaigns – Not your medicine (English & Hindi) and Sad Emojis, is to launch a communication campaign in drives as an effective tool to sensitize and orient mass audiences, general public and law enforcement officials towards the status, scale and mode of trafficking of wildlife products. An informed consumer is a keen observer and can help authorities to raise alarms towards illegal, or suspicious activities at vantage points for illegal wildlife trafficking such as airports, railway and metro stations and ports. His ability to make consumption choices that favour wildlife protection and conservation will also go a long way in helping curb wildlife trafficking.
COVID-19 pandemic is proof that the health of people and the planet are deeply inter-connected. The origin of COVID-19 is strongly linked to the disturbance of natural habitats, indicating the dysfunction between humans and nature. Blurred lines between wilderness areas and human settlements have brought us closer to wildlife, through which zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 have become rampant.
About 60 per cent of all infectious diseases in humans and 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are estimated to be zoonotic. Zoonoses are the diseases that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animal and man. There are over 300 zoonotic diseases that are reported from developed as well as developing countries of the world.
UNEP is working towards the status of biosecurity systems and measures to enable better readiness, early detection and rapid response systems for zoonotic pathways and risks.
The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the adverse impacts that illegal wildlife trade can have on our health and economy. Not only does wildlife trade pose the second biggest direct threat to the survival of species after habitat destruction, but also the recent pandemic has shown how swiftly it can cripple our economic infrastructure and development processes. To deal with Illegal wildlife trade, there is a need for greater capacities to implement and address the threats through enhanced knowledge of legal systems, illegal trade networks, procedures for prosecution and information sharing, emerging tools and technology to mitigate poaching among others.
A lack of knowledge, anonymous e-commerce, greed and low risk, high reward opportunities are coming together in a perfect storm to fuel wildlife crime globally, and India is a major hotspot. Not only does wildlife trade pose the second biggest direct threat to the survival of species after habitat destruction, but also the recent pandemic has shown how swiftly it can cripple our economic infrastructure and development processes.
The campaigns will be showcased on social media platforms as well as supported by celebrities and influencers, concerned for the cause. They will also be disseminated and used by policymakers, government officials, law enforcement staff, Wildlife Wardens, partner agencies and their officers at MoEFCC, WCCB, TRAFFIC, CISF, NACIN, WWF, Ports Authority, Border Security Force, Airports Authority, Railways, Metros,, at national and sub-national levels.
Ms Tilotama Verma, Additional Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, said, The Framers of our Constitution aptly understood the relevance and importance of wildlife and thus urged the citizens of India to be duty bound as per Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution "......to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures". Let each one of us bring meaning to these words and 'Nurture Our Nature'.
Mr Atul Bagai, Country, Head UNEP India Office, reiterated that “The COVID -19 pandemic has been a wake- up call to the human race to respect nature and to learn to coexist. Illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest global crime. It is driven by demand for trophies, fashion accessories, exquisite cuisine, exotic pets and products based on cultural/ superstitious beliefs. One of the main reasons for illegal poaching and trade is their unsubstantiated use in traditional medicines. In building back better, we need to remember that these species, traded illegally for false remedies is one of the most serious threats to the existence of wildlife are- Not your medicine !’
Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC-India, said, " Thousands of wild animals are poached every year in India for their parts and derivatives. Rhino is hunted for its horn falsely believed to cure certain diseases. Pangolin meat is consumed as a delicacy, and its scales are used to make traditional medicines. Similarly, other endangered wild animals such as tigers, elephants, bears, owls, and sharks have been victims of illegal wildlife trade. Therefore, this campaign is crucial for raising awareness about the misleading uses associated with wildlife, often sold to unsuspecting and misinformed consumers. It is also important to understand how our consumption choices can threaten the future of endangered wildlife and how can we correct our preferences to diminish demand for wildlife contrabands".