Salient Features of Wild life Protection Act 1972

The WPA 1972 Act provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds, and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically important protected areas in the country. The Act provides for the formation of wildlife advisory boards, wildlife wardens, specifies their powers and duties, etc. The Act prohibited the hunting of endangered species. The Act provides for licenses for the sale, transfer, and possession of some wildlife species. Its provisions paved the way for the formation of the Central Zoo Authority. This is the central body responsible for the oversight of zoos in India. It was established in 1992. The Act created six schedules that gave varying degrees of protection to classes of flora and fauna. Schedule I and Schedule II (Part II) get absolute protection, and offences under these schedules attract the maximum penalties. The schedules also include species that may be hunted. The National Board for Wildlife was constituted as a statutory organization under the provisions of this Act. It is chaired by the Prime Minister. This is an advisory board that offers advice to the central government on issues of wildlife conservation in India. It is also the apex body to review and approve all matters related to wildlife, projects of national parks, sanctuaries, etc. The chief function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.

Criticism

Naturalist Peter Smetacek, member of the Kerala State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), criticised the act and its far-reaching hunting restrictions specifically as oppressive towards the rural population as well as scientists and as ineffective in achieving its goals in conservation (e.g. by creating counterproductive incentives and bringing peasants to set fire to forests in order to limit population growth of nuisance wildlife like wild boar). Smetacek further characterized the act as coming into existence in the context of the political movement against the erstwhile Indian nobility (among whose traditional pastimes was hunting for thousands of years), then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi's romanticized view of nature, and India's extensive system of licensing and regulation in the 1970s, known as the Licence Raj.

Offences not pertaining to the hunting of endangered species

Offences related to trade and commerce in trophies, animals articles etc. derived from certain animals (exception: chapter V A and section 38J) attract a term of imprisonment up to three years and/or a fine up to Rs. 25,000/-

For offences relating to wild animals (or their parts and products) included in schedule-I or part II of Schedule- II and those relating to hunting or altering the boundaries of a sanctuary or national park the punishment and penalty have been enhanced, the minimum imprisonment prescribed is three years which may extend to seven years, with a minimum fine of Rs. 10,000/-. For a subsequent offence of this nature, the term of imprisonment shall not be less than three years but may extend to seven years with a minimum fine of Rs. 25,000. Also a new section (51 - A) has been inserted in the Act, making certain conditions applicable while granting bail: 'When any person accused of the commission of any offence relating to Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II or offences relating to hunting inside the boundaries of National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary or altering the boundaries of such parks and sanctuaries, is arrested under the provisions of the Act, then not withstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, no such person who had been previously convicted of an offence under this Act shall be released on bail unless

(a) The Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of opposing the release on bail; and -[4] (b) Where the Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offences and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail". In order to improve the intelligence gathering in wildlife crime, the existing provision for rewarding the informers has been increased from 20% of the fine and composition money respectively to 50% in each case. In addition to this, a reward of up to Rs. 10,000/- is also proposed to be given to the informants and others who provide assistance in the detection of crime and apprehension of the offender.

At present, persons having ownership certificate in respect of Schedule I and Part II of Schedule II animals can sell or gift such articles. This has been amended with a view to curb illegal trade, and thus no person can now acquire Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II animals, articles or trophies except by way of inheritance (except live elephants).

Stringent measures have also been proposed to forfeit the properties of hardcore criminals who have already been convicted in the past for heinous wildlife crimes. These provisions are similar to the provisions of 'Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985'. Provisions have also been made empowering officials to evict encroachments from Protected Areas.

Amendments

The Code has been amended several times.

S. No. Short title of amending legislation No. Year
1 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 1982 1986
2 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 1986 1986
3 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 1991 1991
4 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 1993 1993
5 Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 2002
6 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 2006 2008
7 Wild Life (Protection ) Amendment Act 2013 2013

Definitions under the Act (Section 2)

"animal" includes amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and their young ones, and also includes, in the cases of birds and reptiles, eggs. "animal article" means an article made from any captive or wild animal, other than vermin, and includes an article or object in which the whole or any part of such animal has been used and an article made therefrom.

"hunting" includes (a) capturing, killing, poisoning, snaring, or trapping any wild animal, and every attempt to do so (b) driving any wild animal for any of the purposes specified in sub-clause (c) injuring, destroying or taking any body part of any such animal, or in the case of wild birds or reptiles, disturbing or damaging the eggs or nests of such birds or reptiles. "taxidermy" means the curing, preparation or preservation of trophies. "trophy" means the whole or any part of any captive or wild animal (other than vermin) which has been kept or preserved by any means, whether artificial or natural.

This includes:

(a) rugs, skins, and specimens of such animals mounted in whole or in part through a process of taxidermy (b) antler, horn, rhinoceros horn, feather, nail, tooth, musk, eggs, and nests and shells. "uncured trophy" means the whole or any part of any captive animal (other than vermin) which has not undergone a process of taxidermy. This includes a freshly killed wild animal, ambergris, musk and other animal products. "vermin" means any wild animal specified in Schedule V. "wildlife" includes any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths; and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat Many non-endangered species, such as Papilio buddha are also protected.