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Stiffer rap for wildlife crime

New Delhi, Dec. 25: Amendments to the Wild Life Protection Act have proposed heavy penalties for wildlife crimes and restricted states from shifting the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries.

Wildlife offenders will now be sentenced to a minimum of one to three years in prison, with a maximum sentence of seven years. Fines have been doubled from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000.

Informers working with forest authorities will now receive half the value of the seizure of wildlife items meant for sale. In addition, those who assist in the detection of wildlife crimes will be rewarded with Rs 10,000.

National parks and sanctuaries occupy only 4.7 per cent of the country’s geographic area but account for nearly 50 per cent of the world’s surviving tigers and Asiatic elephants, besides the Asiatic lion and 65 per cent of horned rhinos.

The amendments hope to curb poaching and illegal trade in wildlife articles, which have spiralled over the years. Suggestions have been made so that hardcore criminals with a track record of wildlife crimes are dealt with firmly and their assets forfeited.

The provisions are similar to offenders booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

To put an end to the phenomenon of killing dangerous animals, the amended Bill stipulates that only those animals which cannot be “tranquillised and/or captured” alive will be ordered to be killed.

State governments, henceforth, will not be allowed to redraw the maps of national parks and sanctuaries without the permission of the National Board for Wildlife, which has been given statutory powers.

Sale of forest produce removed from national parks and sanctuaries has been banned as also construction of hotels and tourist lodges within their boundaries.

People who claim to own wild animals have been given one chance to declare them before the authorities.

The legislation classifies wildlife reserves into two categories — conservation reserves and community reserves.

A conservation reserve area denotes land located near national parks and sanctuaries that is owned by the state government.

State administrations will now have the power to notify any community land or private property as community reserve land with consent from members of the community who will protect its flora and fauna.

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