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SUPREME COURT LOOKS TO SAVE BOTH WILD ANIMALS AND CROPS

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Prelims

Why in news?

Supreme Court accentuated the urgent need to find an alternative to killing marauding wild animals as vermin even while protecting crops from them.

Details

  • Chief Justice of India heading a three-judge Bench, suggested “explosives that do not kill” but make a lot of noise and “rubber bullets” to scare off the animals.
  • The court was hearing a petition seeking measures to prevent killing of wild animals in India.
  • Issuing a notice, the court tagged the petition with an earlier one on an elephant who died after consuming pineapples laced with explosives in Kerala.
  • CJI said man-animal conflict is leading to both killing of wildlife and crop loss.

Vermin?

  • ‘Vermin’, described as a ‘noxious animal’, etymologically means worms. This meaning was later extended to other wild animal species — and even humans.
  • Legally, The Wild Life (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, states that ‘vermin’ is any wild animal that is specified in its Schedule 5.
  • Section 62 tells us that GoI can notify any wild animal as vermin, for a specific period and a specific area, and include it in Schedule 5.
  • Permanent inhabitants of Schedule 5 include the common crow, fruit bats, mice and rats.
  • States can send a list of wild animals to GoI to be declared as vermin for selective slaughter (culling). In select states, for instance, wild boar, wild elephants, nilgai, rhesus monkey and peacock fall in this category.

Is the Criteria for Vermin clearly defined?

  • States do NOT have clearly defined criteria for declaring wild animals as vermin.
  • This is despite an environment and forests ministry advisory requirement.
  • As soon as farms and human lives around a forest area are threatened, there is a tendency to declare a wild animal as vermin.

How easy is it to declare an animal as a vermin?

Section 11(b) states, ‘The chief wildlife warden or the authorised officer may, if he is satisfied that any wild animal specified in Schedule 2, Schedule 3, or Schedule 4 has become dangerous to human life or to property (including standing crops on any land), or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, by order in writing and stating the reasons therefor, permit any person to hunt such animal or cause such animal to be hunted.

How are vermin handled?

One of these four criteria must be met:

  1. Only forest officials can kill ‘The Vermin animal’.
  2. Anyone can kill ‘The Vermin animal’, but only by shooting, and only licensed firearm-owners can do this.
  3. A farmer who kills ‘The Vermin animal’ will be given ₹1,000 per kill, thereby incentivising killing, with a trader driven demand for ‘The Vermin animal’ meat existing in any case.
  4. Anyone can kill ‘The Vermin animal’ through any means, including snares.

The primary issue

  • One presumes certification (about the area where killing is permitted) is enforceable.
  • A person who shoots can, hopefully, distinguish between a wild boar and a wild elephant.
  • But a snare, or cracker-filled fruit, is ‘anonymous’, and the animal does not know that this is geotagged and meant for a wild boar that was declared as ‘vermin’.

Conclusion

  • More importantly, this solution to the man-animal tension solves nothing, and can lead to not only undesirable, but unintended, consequences on the ecosystem.
  • Population pressures have heightened the man-animal tension.
  • Traditional farmers probably had a better handle on dealing with it.
  • It is the advent of commercial farming and larger estates that have tilted the scales, failing to distinguish between an animal and its actions.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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