August 30, 2020
New Delhi: In Rajasthan, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected not only people, but also wildlife. More than 100 cases of hunting of chinkara, blackbuck, peacock, grey francolin and Jawai leopard have been reported in districts such as Nagaur, Pali, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.[i] The recent poaching activities are a violation of the Forest Act 1972, which penalizes anyone who is carrying out illegal activities in forest belts.
The poaching of smaller animals could lead to negative consequences for larger animals such as Jawai leopards starving due to lack of food, which could lead to them getting extinct and hence making a slow impact on the ecosystem if proper preservation initiative or control isn’t implemented.[ii]
Tribal groups too count on hunting for their livelihood, particularly when other modes of earnings like handicraft and livestock are not feasible due to lockdowns. Natives such as the Bhils consume flesh of these animals and also undertake animal slaughter related commercial activities, which they have been practicing for many generations.[iii]
On the other hand, the Bishnoi community continues to play an essential role to spread awareness about protecting the environment and also to promote afforestation, organizing education and awareness drives.[iv] They has also established rehabilitation centers for injured animals and a vehicle facility to bring the animals for immediate care in Jodhpur.
Technology could play an important role in efficient tracking of poaching activities through surveillance tools such as CCTV cameras and using movement tracking devices on the animals since lockdown has made it difficult for lawmakers and forest personnel to pay visits to the forest areas. Such initiatives could be spread across all areas to reduce physical monitoring.
(Vineet Malik is a Research Assistant at OneWorld Foundation India)
[i] Azeer Parveen Rehman,”Rajasthan Sees Spike in Wildlife Poaching During COVID-19 Lockdown “, Mongabay, May 20,2020, https://india.mongabay.com/2020/05/rajasthan-sees-spike-in-wildlife-poaching-during-covid-19-lockdown/
[ii] Saket Badola, “ Indian Wildlife Amidst The Covid-19 Crisis: An Analysis Of Status Of Poaching And Illegal Wildlife Trade”, Traffic India ,2020, pp 5-11
[iii] Bobby Luthra Sinha, “Through The Looking Glass Of Bhils- How Markets Win What The State Has Lost In The Jungles Of Western Rajasthan”, Research Gate, October ,2017,pp 32-35
[iv] Ibid, p 45