As per a recent report published by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, there has been an increase in wildlife poaching incidences during the COVID-19 lockdown. The report says that the majority of these incidences are related to meat consumption or an increase in the local trade.

As per the TRAFFIC (a wildlife trade monitoring network) analysis, the reported poaching incidents increased from 35 (before the lockdown) to 88 (during the lockdown period). No evidence for stockpiling of the wildlife products for future trade was found.

The report had been prepared on a basis of the comparison carried out using media-reported instances of poaching at some point of six-weeks pre lockdown (10th Feb to 22nd March 2020) duration to those from six weeks of lockdown (23rd March to 3rd May 2020). The report has highlighted that the wildlife population in the country was under extra risk during the course of lockdown length, regardless of consistent efforts made by the law enforcement agencies.

The major cause for the highest increase in poaching during the lockdown was reported for the meat of Ungulates. Apart from this, the other group of animals showed a marked increase were small mammals like wild cats, giant squirrels, hares, civet cats etc. One major reason behind the rise in poaching rates is said to be because of an increase in local trade or local meat consumption. Cases for these rose from 6 (17%) to 22 (25%) between the pre and lockdown periods. Also, the number of persons arrested in poaching related cases during this lockdown was 222. Before the lockdown period, the number was 85.

Dr. Saket Badola, TRAFFIC INDIA, explains that the increase of poaching, mainly of Ungulates and other small wildlife animals, has been mostly because of meat purposes. Thus, in turn, has put a burden on the routine workings of wildlife law enforcement agencies.

Apart from this, the CEO of WWF India had highlighted the consequence of such unlawful activities. He added that such illegal activities would lead to depletion of the prey base for big cats like Tiger. As a result, it would ultimately cause increased incidences of human-wildlife conflicts and will undermine the successes that India has achieved in the fields of wildlife conservation till now.

(By: Dushyant Shekhar)

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