TRAFFIC initiative in India warns against buying illegal wildlife products
New Delhi, India, 26th July 2017–Four new posters under the “Don’t Buy Trouble” banner have been released by TRAFFIC and WWF-India in an effort to help curb illegal wildlife trade in some of the most traded wildlife species in India.
Their message—In danger of becoming just words in history. Don’t let their future be just a memory—comes with a clear warning against buying illegal wildlife products.
Targeted at domestic and foreign tourists and other potential buyers of wildlife products, the Don’t Buy Trouble posters send a clear message that it is not only the poacher or trader of endangered wildlife who is liable for punishment under India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, but also those who purchase and use such items as ignorance of the law is not considered a valid defence.
The posters are part of TRAFFIC’s ongoing awareness efforts to curb the demand that fuels poaching and illegal wildlife trade in India, and highlight the threats to some of the country’s most heavily poached and trafficked wildlife species—Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Greater One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis, Black Spotted Turtle Geoclemys hamiltonii and pangolins Manis spp. All of the species are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972.
Asian Elephant populations were once widely distributed throughout the country, throughout States such as Punjab and Gujarat. Currently, fragmented populations are found in only 14 States. Elephants have been killed as a result of human-wildlife conflict or for their tusks, used to make ivory bangles, rings, name seals, statues, chess pieces and many other items. Similarly, Greater One-horned Rhinoceroses are targeted for their horns, which are mainly smuggled to Viet Nam where they are consumed by businessmen as a display of wealth and to strengthen professional and personal relationships.
Pangolins are shy, nocturnal animals that live in burrows. There are two species in India—Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata and Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla. Today, pangolins are among the most trafficked wildlife species globally. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and tonic food, while pangolin scales are used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicines.
In India, large numbers of turtles and tortoises are also illegally caught in the wild and trafficked to pet trade markets in India and elsewhere in Asia. Turtles and tortoises are also traded for their meat, considered a tonic food, and often served as a delicacy. Some of the commonly traded turtle and tortoise species include the Black Spotted Turtle, Indian Star Tortoise Geochelone elegans, Gangetic Softshell Turtle Nilssonia gangetica, Indian Flapshell Turtle Lissemys punctata, and the Indian Tent Turtle Pangshura tentoria.
“The scale and frequency of wildlife crime in India needs to be urgently addressed. In addition to strengthening enforcement and regulation, awareness of the law and the issues behind wildlife conservation need to be made explicitly clear to members of the public to help stem demand for wildlife products and curb involvement in illegal trade,” said Merwyn Fernandes, TRAFFIC’s Program Co-ordinator in India. “Initiatives such as these contribute to changing consumer perceptions.”
Dipankar Ghose, Director - Species & Landscapes Conservation Programme, WWF-India said, “Making consumers aware about illegal wildlife trade and garnering their support is crucial to addressing this problem. It is important that buyers understand the gravity of the threat and support the fight against wildlife crime by refusing to purchase or acquire illegal wildlife products. The Don’t Buy Trouble initiative is a step in this direction”.
The initiative has been running successfully at airports, hotels/resorts, wildlife reserves and other significant hotspots through hoardings, posters, films, and leaflets. It has received tremendous support and responses from various audiences since its launch in 2008 and has been crucial towards spreading awareness about this important cause throughout the country.