Wildlife India review @50: Wild Encounters

On the 50th anniversary of India’s animal welfare legislation, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, experts assess its successes and failures

On the 50th anniversary of India’s animal welfare legislation, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, experts assess its successes and failures

A ceremonial airlift of the long-extinct leopard, from Namibia to Kono National Park in Madhya Pradesh, and a recent report condemning humans for being responsible for exterminating at least 70% of the world’s wildlife, provide a disturbing backdrop to reading WildlifeIndia @50.

Edited by Manoj Kumar Misra, a former member of the Indian Forest Service, the book critiques the Five Decades of Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 (WLPA), with brief personal experiences by forest administrators, conservationists, activists, and journalists including a star-studded list of Renowned conservation activist and tireless forester HS Panwar to wildlife reporter Usha Rai.

In the past five decades, the law has gone through many enabling amendments, but its implementation has proven to be inadequate. The book is divided into two parts, the first section reflecting the successes and failures of WLPA. Part two is stories with stakeholders sharing their stories, and there are two chapters on the future of wildlife and WLPA in India.

If the difficulty of law enforcement is an area of ​​focus, the book also looks at other issues including the need for ‘unviolated habitats’, why some human-animal conflicts are intractable, the illegal wildlife trade, conservation challenges, and species rescue. Such as tigers, lions, elephants, crocodiles and the great Indian bustard.


Indira Gandhi’s deep interest in wildlife led to legislation in the first place, the provisions of which were mainly aimed at regulating hunting. However, for decades, the Prime Minister’s National Wildlife Council made the law comprehensive, but the political commitment to upholding its provisions waned. While many contributors are disappointed with the continued shrinkage of forests and wildlife, others maintain that the National Wildlife Council’s glorious legacy remains torn. Far from serving its primary purpose – “always be vigilant in the cause of freedom-loving citizens, that is, wild animals and birds” – provisions of the legislation have been distorted to grant rights to infringe on wildlife habitats. The frenetic pace with which the permanent committee, set up by the council, has granted such permissions means that the area under 990 protected areas is likely to shrink from the current 5.2% of the country’s geographic area, which is already below the world average. 9.3%.

The key excerpt from the memorial volume is that good intentions are not necessarily lined up with expected outcomes. Being a forester, Misra deserves credit for collecting contributions from those engaged in the quest to protect wildlife and their habitats.

existential stress

Ironically, multiple enabling modifications to the WLPA, and subsequent species-specific conservation initiatives, have been widely successful in putting wildlife under existential stress. Nothing could be more shocking than the fact that the institutions established by law to protect wildlife have often proven to be counterproductive. The provisions of the law were so conveniently misinterpreted that these provisions eventually became de facto provisions. As a result, it is a progressive law that lacks a corresponding system.

The editor claims that the idea behind the volume is to inform, entertain, and enlighten. It does all this and more. Sample of this: A rare albino sloth bear was taken to the zoo where the state premier wanted the public at large to see it. What purpose does an animal serve if no one can see it is logic. Legal provisions were appropriately bargained to honor his horses, and the unlucky animal landed at the zoo to the delight of spectators. Nowhere does the law declare that wild animals belong to the government, but the idea has remained ingrained in the minds of the powers that be.

The question that begs an answer is: Is WLPA with its sixteen amendments objectively understood by those who are supposed to support it? The referenced volume provides ample evidence that officers, judges, and lawyers are still struggling to understand its provisions. If not, the court would not have acquitted a witch for illegally possessing an ajgar because in its wisdom, an ajgar is too small to be a snake (one of the Schedule I species under the WLPA). While the law makes no distinction as to the age of the animal to be protected, the court noted that only after reaching the age of maturity does the agar become a snake. Since no ajgar is mentioned in any of the tables – only the serpent – the witches were said to have committed no crime. It is rightly said that the law is as good as it is understood.

What does the future hold?

Conservation activist and writer Neha Sinha says the proposed 2021 WLPA Amendment Bill could benefit from attention to climate change and create a climate-conscious policy for wildlife. In her article, “Considering the Crystal Ball: WLPA 2072,” she writes that planning ahead can help India achieve some of its conservation goals. “The past fifty years have shown us what we can gain (and lose) by the unspoken but always present nature. The next fifty years will be even more difficult than the last half century.” To give just one example from WLPA for the future, Sinha says an idea [animal] Population estimates should exceed species such as tigers and predators. In the future, the animals at the center of the conflict must be accounted for, and their needs taken into account.”

The volume makes for an interesting, entertaining, and sometimes shocking read, highlighting the fact that the power of citizens to question the decision of the National Wildlife Council Standing Committee is legally unthinkable. The reader is left to search for answers.

Wildlife of India @ 50; Edited by Manoj Kumar Misra, Ruppa, Rs 995.

The reference is an independent writer, researcher and academic.

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