Amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, a "significant increase" is reported in wildlife poaching, according to a World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF) report released on Wednesday, June 3.
The study was carried out by WWF-India's programme division TRAFFIC, a wildlife trafficking monitoring network. TRAFFIC is an NGO working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
It compared media-reported instances of poaching during a six week pre-lockdown period from February 10 to March 22, 2020, to those from six weeks of lockdown from March 23 to May 3.
The study found that during the lockdown, 88 poaching cases were reported in open source media, which was "significantly higher" than the 35 cases reported during the pre-lockdown period. However, the report added that it is unknown how reporting rates have changed because of the lockdown.
The report titled 'Indian wildlife amidst COVID-19 crisis: An analysis of poaching and illegal wildlife trade trends' found that poaching of ungulates (a group of large mammals with hooves), hunted mainly for their meat, saw the highest increase during the lockdown. The cases rose to 39 out of 88 (44 per cent) in the six weeks of lockdown, from eight out of 35 poaching incidents in prior (22 per cent).
Poaching of "small mammals" such as hares, porcupines, pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys and smaller wild cats also saw a significant increase. Cases against this group rose from 17 per cent to 25 per cent between the pre-lockdown and lockdown periods.
Among big cats, nine leopards were reported to have been killed during the lockdown, against four in the pre-lockdown period.
However, seizures of wild pet-birds came down from 14 per cent to 7 per cent during the lockdown, presumably due to lack of transport and closed markets.
Several endangered Indian gazelles (Chinkaras Gazella bennie), a protected species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, were reported to have been poached in Rajasthan. Pangolins were also targeted in various parts of the country.
A total of 222 people were also arrested in poaching-related cases, higher than 85 arrests before the lockdown was implemented.
"If poaching of ungulates and small animals remains unchecked it will lead to depletion of a prey base for big cats like Tigers and Leopards and a depletion of the ecosystems. This, in turn, will lead to higher incidences of human-wildlife conflicts and will undermine the significant successes that India has achieved in the field of wildlife conservation," Ravi Singh, SG & CEO, WWF-India said.Also Read: Amid Lockdown, Poaching Attempts Increase Rapidly Across India