BELINDA WRIGHT: How can we stop the illegal trade in animal parts?

BELINDA WRIGHT, founder and executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India

Wildlife crime is the third largest illegal occupation in the world, after arms and narcotics, and is now more deeply entrenched than ever.

On a practical level, the trade cannot be curbed without unflinching support of political leaders and civil society. In India, we need good intelligence-led enforcement to deter poachers, adequate and equipped field staff, more focus on solving human-animal conflict, better coordination between enforcement agencies, and quick and effective prosecution of wildlife cases. WPSI has records of 882 people accused in tiger-related crimes in the last decade. Of these, only 18 have so far been convicted in a mere six court cases. We need better surveillance of known offenders, international coordination to check cross-border smuggling and a massive awareness campaign to discourage buyers. People will only refrain from buying wildlife products in countries like China if a social stigma is attached.

On a personal level, we should all spread awareness of the problem and express support for strong laws and policies governing poaching and the trade in wildlife. Do not buy exotic pets, however tempting it may be—it often leads to animals being captured and traded illegally. Systems to monitor illegal trade are weak and often exist merely on paper. It may not be possible to entirely halt wildlife crime, but it most certainly can be controlled so that we have something to leave for future generations.

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From its inception, the Wildlife Protection Society of India's main aim has been to bring a new focus to the daunting task of tackling India's growing wildlife crisis. It has now broadened its focus to deal with human-animal conflicts and provide support for research projects.