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Biodiversity & Environment

Culling of Vermin

  • 11 Jun 2022
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: Wildlife Protection Act,1972, Vermin, Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021

For Mains: Contribution of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the conservation of the various flora and fauna. Culling of vermin's poses a severe threat to the food chain of an ecosystem

Why in News?

The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Parliament to amend the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in December 2021.

  • The basic motive of the amendment is to align the act according to changes in circumstances and trying to emulate a proper solution as per culling of vermin are concerned.

What are Vermin?

  • Vermins are basically a problematic animal or a nuisance creature because they threaten humans, crops, livestock, or property.
  • Species which have been classified as the Vermin placed in schedule V of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
    • Example: common crows, fruit bats, rats and mice, which may be hunted freely.
  • The act does not define the word Vermin. The 62nd section of the Wildlife Protection Act grants the central government the power to declare any wild animal as vermin.
  • Wild animal species which are placed in the Schedule I and Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 can not be declared as Vermin.
    • An animal can be declared as vermin for any specifed area and a specified period of time.
  • In order to prevent human-wildlife conflicts, several states in the past have petitioned to declare various animals to be vermin, including elephants, Indian porcupine, bonnet macaque, common langur and barking deer.
  • The Center declared rhesus monkeys in Himachal Pradesh, wild boar in Uttarakhand and Nilgai in Bihar to be vermin.

What is the Wildlife protection Act, 1972?

  • Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, the management of their habitats, and the regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and products made from them.
  • The Act also lists schedules of plants and animals that are afforded various degrees of protection and monitoring by the government.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 currently has six schedules that assign varying degrees of protection to animals and plants.
  • The Listed breeds and types of animals in Schedule I and part II of Schedule II get supreme protection. For example, Himalayan Brown Bear, Indian Elephant, Golden Geckos, Andaman Teal, Hornbills, Black Coral, Amara Brucei and many more. Offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • The Listed breeds and types of animals in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also secured, but the penalties are comparatively much lower. For example, Barking Deer, Falcons, Kingfisher, Tortoise etc.
  • Schedule V includes the animals which can be hunted. For example, Common Crow, Mice, Rats, Fruit Bats etc.
  • The plants, trees and crops mentioned in Schedule VI are banned from Cultivation and Planting. For example, Kuth, Red Vanda, Pitcher Plant etc.

What Changes may be Introduced Through The Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill, 2021?

  • The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021, makes a significant amendment in that it reduces the number of schedules from six to four.
    • Schedule I for species that will enjoy the highest level of protection.
  • Schedule II for species that will be subject to a lesser degree of protection.
  • Schedule III that covers plants.
  • It seeks to do away with Schedule V entirely. It removes the schedule for vermin species. Vermin refers to small animals that carry diseases and destroy food.
  • It inserts a new schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES (scheduled specimens).
  • The Central government will be empowered to directly declare any species to be vermin.
  • Thus, to declare any species as vermin becomes easier.
  • This change could potentially impact 41 species of mammals, 864 birds, 17 reptiles and amphibians and 58 insects.

What is the Need of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021?

  • Growing human-wildlife conflicts poses a threat to both animals and people.
    • Such incidences in the form of crop / livestock damage are widely reported from different parts of the country.
      • The Himachal Pradesh Department of Agriculture recorded a crop loss of 184.28 crore in 2016 as a result of wild animals, notably monkeys.
  • Since 2017, there have been 7,562 reports of agricultural invasion by wild animals in Tamil Nadu.

What is the history of vermin & ecological imbalance?

  • The genesis vermin category of the The Wildlife Protection Act,1972 is a colonial legacy which has minimal scientific foundation.
    • The Tudor Vermin Acts provided for the elimination of undesirable animals and agricultural pests.
  • The Preservation of Grain Act, 1532, was one of the Vermin Acts, and it established an official list of vermin' animals.
    • Owls, otters, foxes, hedgehogs, and other animals are seen as terrible food competitors with humans.
  • By giving financial incentives, the Indian government has granted blanket permission to eradicate the vermin population.
    • The Government of Himachal Pradesh, for example, offered Rs 500-700 for each monkey exterminated as vermin.
  • This approach of the government can cause severe ecological imbalance.
  • Mass extermination can cause a vacuum in the food chain of the area.
  • Methods of lethal control of human-wildlife conflict endanger the targeted species but traps and snares often prove fatal for non-targeted animals.
    • After the Karnataka government legalized the culling of wild boars in 2016 in the cause of agricultural damage, the number of snares in the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka surged.
    • Species such as tigers, leopards, and bears (all Schedule I animals) were also caught in similar traps.
  • The Himachal Pradesh Government has declared the rhesus macaque as vermin four times since 2020. This ultimately led to a decrease in the population by 33.5%.
  • Non-lethal methods of human-wildlife conflict management have been shown to be more effective than lethal methods.
  • More importantly, mass culling does not address the real reason.

Why are human-wildlife conflicts rising?

  • The main reason for the rise in Human-Wildlife Conflicts are habitat destruction and encroachment.
  • Developmental projects, industrialisation and agricultural expansion have drastically reduced forest cover.
  • This ultimately led to bringing the wild animals near agricultural settlements creating the problems of human-wildlife conflict.

Way Forward

  • Declaring an animal a ‘vermin’ is neither a sustainable nor an effective solution towards mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Consequently, there is an urgent need to maintain a database on the extent of crop damage and conduct scientific surveys or censuses on problem-causing animals and conflict patterns.
  • Unscientific and abrupt decisions made without data will have a long-lasting impact on the ecosystem and biodiversity.

Source: DTE

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