A campaign to protect "highly endangered" animals -Tiger, Pangolin and Star Tortoise- hunted for illegal trading internationally, has been launched by the Ministry of Environment at major airports in the country.
The campaign 'Not all animals migrate by choice' has been launched ahead of the International Day of Biological Diversity, to be celebrated on May 22, by C K Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and actor and United Nations Environment Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza here.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), UN Environment and GMR Group are also part of the campaign.
"Conservation is innate to India's ethos. While wildlife faces threat across the globe and India's flora and fauna's demand continues in illegal global markets, in keeping with our stringent provisions for protection of wildlife under the Wild life (Protection) Act, 1972, efforts towards creating awareness among public at large would go a long way to help protect our wildlife," said Mishra.
"In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.
"Tiger is traded for its skin, bones and body parts; Pangolin, the most illegally traded wild mammal on the planet is trafficked for its meat and its scales are used in traditional medicines; Star Tortoise for meat and pet trade and Tokay Gecko in traditional medicine mostly into South East Asia and particularly Chinese Markets. Phase two will see more threatened species and explore other routes of trafficking," said an official statement from the ministry.
The campaign aims at creating awareness and garnering public support for the protection and conservation of wildlife, prevention of smuggling and reduction in demand for wildlife products, said the official.
"There is an urgent need for awareness, action and stringent enforcement of laws to put an end to all illegal wildlife trade threatening biodiversity and conservation in the wild. This campaign is an important step forward in creating much-needed awareness on wildlife trafficking which threatens the very survival of these species," said Atul Bagai, Head, UN Environment India.
Speaking at the launch, WCCB Additional Director Tilotama Verma said the awareness campaign at airports is a step towards reaching out to public regarding smuggling of India's fauna.
"A huge global demand for our flora and fauna is a major cause for illegal wildlife trade by ruthless cross border smugglers. WCCB stands committed to fight this organized crime but it is crucial to work together across various government and non-government organizations, private sector and civil society to save wildlife. Our awareness campaign at Airports is a step towards reaching out to the public," Verma said.
The ministry's statement said some of the major wildlife species and their body parts being smuggled through airports are star tortoises, live birds, tiger and leopard body parts, pangolin and their scales, ivory, rhino horns, sea shells, sea-horse, sea-cucumber, red sanders, deer antlers, mongoose hairs, reptile skins, live snakes, lizards, corals, orchids, medicinal plants, and Shahtoosh shawls.
In collaboration with the Airports Authority of India and GMR Group, the campaign will travel across 22 airports across India over the next year.
Both WCCB and UN Environment initiated a comprehensive approach with focus on awareness building of various stakeholders towards the issue of prevention of illegal trade and smuggling of wildlife and wildlife products through exit points.
The awareness campaign is expected to complement the efforts of the Govt Agencies.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
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