Illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest forms of transnational organized crime today. In India, trade in over 1,800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivatives, is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
As one of the 17 megadiverse countries of the world, India acts as a source as well as a transit country to meet the growing appetite for illegal wildlife products. While crimes such as narcotic trade, arms trafficking, and human trafficking have received dedicated attention of enforcement agencies and lawmakers, wildlife crimes continue to be treated with exclusivity and as one-off incidents. However, as reports have time and again pointed out the organized nature of wildlife trafficking, dismantling it requires a collaborative action by several stakeholders at both the center and state level within the country.
Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko), recently included in Appendix II of CITES Trade Database during CoP 18, due to increased illicit demand for its use in traditional medicine and in pet trade. It is one among multiple other wildlife species found in India, that are vulnerable to organized wildlife trafficking syndicates.
WCS-India’s Counter Wildlife Trafficking program aims to support mandated agencies to effectively detect, identify, investigate, arrest, prosecute, and convict criminal organizations that perpetrate wildlife trafficking. Our goal is to work closely with the government to improve conviction rates of wildlife traffickers, and ultimately dismantle organized wildlife trafficking networks, and thereby help ensure all of India’s wildlife can thrive in their native habitats.
Mridula Vijairaghavan (Legal Advisor, WCS-India), explaining the structure of wildlife crime networks through the ‘web of wildlife trade’ interactive game
The program plays the role of a facilitator, enabling government officials to gain access to information, skills, technologies, and expert support required to tackle wildlife related crime in India.
Jharkhand Forest Department Personnel using an investigation kit as part of a ‘Mock Crime Scene’ exercise during a CWT Training Session. During this exercise they practice various techniques and methods of seizing wildlife products and evidence collection.
The work of the program consists of conducting training and sensitization workshops for state Forest Departments, Police, Customs officials, security forces such as the Border Security Force and Sashastra Seema Bal, and the judiciary. These trainings focus primarily on conducting professional wildlife crime investigations and promoting inter-agency collaboration through the involvement of multiple allied agencies in training. Beyond trainings conducted in collaboration with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, India’s premier federal agency dedicated to wildlife trafficking, we have also worked to establish strong formal partnerships through MoUs with the state Forest Departments of Telangana, Nagaland, West Bengal, and the Border Security Force.
Participants at a CWT Training with the Nagaland Forest Department, in Dimapur practice techniques in seizing and collecting evidence as part of a ‘Mock Crime Scene’ exercise.
A close partnership with the Directorate of Enforcement has enabled officers from various Forest Departments to be introduced to crucial aspects of financial investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 by anti-money laundering experts.
CWT Training Session with Enforcement Personnel from Nagaland Forest Department, Nagaland Police Department, and Dobashis (in-charge of adjudicating on customary law matters), organized in September 2019.
We have also developed technical assistance to aid government officers in tackling wildlife crime. This includes a dedicated helpline to address questions related to wildlife crime, a network of lawyers who provide pro bono legal support to draft and file court documents, a smartphone application developed in collaboration with the WCCB that will enable authorized government officers to accurately draft the preliminary offence report, and establishment of a wildlife crime database and use of the investigative analysis software i2 to provide strategic intelligence reports to agencies on critical wildlife trafficking cases.