Wildlife Protection Act 1972 UPSC | Explained – India is the first nation in the world to have made provisions for environmental protection in the constitution. On 5th June 1972, the topic of the environment was first discussed as an issue at the U.N. Conference of Human Environment in Stockholm, and thereafter 5th June is celebrated as World Environment Day.
This Act provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds, and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
Among other things, the Act lays down restrictions on hunting many animal species.
The Act was last amended in the year 2006.
The Act created six schedules which gave varying degrees of protection to classes of flora and fauna.
Schedule I and Schedule II get absolute protection, and offences under these schedules attract the maximum penalties.
Schedule 5 includes species that may be hunted.
Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act
The Act provides for the protection of plants and animals in India. It consists of 6 schedules which provide a varying degree of protection
These species need rigorous protection and therefore, the harshest penalties for violation of the law are under this Schedule.
Species under this Schedule are prohibited to be hunted throughout India, except under threat to human life.
Absolute protection is accorded to species on this list.
The Trade of these animals is prohibited.
Examples: tiger, blackbuck, Himalayan Brown Bear, Brow-Antlered Deer, Blue whale, Common Dolphin, Cheetah, Clouded Leopard, hornbills, Indian Gazelle, etc.
Animals under this list are also accorded high protection.
Their trade is prohibited.
They cannot be hunted except under threat to human life.
Examples: Kohinoor (insect), Assamese Macaque, Bengal Hanuman langur, Large Indian Civet, Indian Fox, Larger Kashmir Flying Squirrel, Kashmir Fox, etc.
Schedule III & IV
This list is for species that are not endangered.
This includes protected species but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules.
Hunting: Not allowed.
Examples: hyena, Himalayan rat, porcupine, flying fox, Malabar tree toad, etc.
This schedule contains animals that can be hunted(vermin).
Examples: mice, rats, common crow, fruit bats, etc.
The specified endemic plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
Examples: pitcher plant, blue vanda, red vanda, kuth, etc.
Protected Areas under the Wildlife Protection Act : Wildlife Protection Act 1972
There are five types of protected areas as provided under the Act. They are described below.
“Sanctuary is a place of refuge where injured, abandoned, and abused wildlife is allowed to live in peace in their natural environment without any human intervention.”
They are naturally-occurring areas where endangered species are protected from poaching, hunting, and predation.
Here, animals are not bred for commercial exploitation.
The species are protected from any sort of disturbance.
Animals are not allowed to be captured or killed inside the sanctuaries.
A wildlife sanctuary is declared by the State government by a Notification. Boundaries can be altered by a Resolution of the State Legislature.
Human activities such as timber harvesting, collecting minor forest products, and private ownership rights are permitted as long as they do not interfere with the animals’ well-being. Limited human activity is permitted.
They are open to the general public. But people are not allowed unescorted. There are restrictions as to who can enter and/or reside within the limits of the sanctuary. Only public servants (and his/her family), persons who own immovable property inside, etc. are allowed. People using the highways which pass through sanctuaries are also allowed inside.
Boundaries of sanctuaries are not generally fixed and defined.
Biologists and researchers are permitted inside so that they can study the area and its inhabitants.
The Chief Wildlife Warden (who is the authority to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries) may grant permission to persons for entry or residence in the sanctuary for the study of wildlife, scientific research, photography, the transaction of any lawful business with persons residing inside, and tourism.
Sanctuaries can be upgraded to the status of a ‘National Park’.
Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary (Rann of Kutch, Gujarat)
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu (oldest bird sanctuary in India)
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary (Karnataka)
“National Parks are the areas that are set by the government to conserve the natural environment.”
A national park has more restrictions as compared to a wildlife sanctuary.
National parks can be declared by the State government by Notification. No alteration of the boundaries of a national park shall be made except on a resolution passed by the State Legislature.
The main objective of a national park is to protect the natural environment of the area and biodiversity conservation.
The landscape, fauna, and flora are present in their natural state in national parks.
Their boundaries are fixed and defined.
Here, no human activity is allowed.
Grazing of livestock and private tenurial rights are not permitted here.
Species mentioned in the Schedules of the Wildlife Act are not allowed to be hunted or captured.
No person shall destroy, remove, or exploit any wildlife from a National Park or destroy or damage the habitat of any wild animal or deprive any wild animal of its habitat within a national park.
They cannot be downgraded to the status of a ‘sanctuary’.
Bandipur National Park in Karnataka
Hemis National Park in Jammu & Kashmir
Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
Corbett National Park
The State government may declare an area (particularly those adjacent to sanctuaries or parks) as conservation reserves after consulting with local communities.
The State government may declare any private or community land as a community reserve after consultation with the local community or an individual who has volunteered to conserve the wildlife.
These areas are reserved for the protection and conservation of tigers in India.
They are declared on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Bodies Constituted under the Act
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
As per the act, the central government of India shall constitute the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).
It serves as an apex body for the review of all wildlife-related matters and for the approval of projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister and is responsible for promotion of conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the Vice-Chairperson of the board.
The board is ‘advisory’ in nature and can only advise the Government on policy making for conservation of wildlife.
Standing Committee of NBWL
The NBWL constitutes a Standing Committee for the purpose of approving all the projects falling within protected wildlife areas or within 10 km of them.
The committee is chaired by the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
State Board for Wildlife (SBWL)
The state governments are responsible for the constitution of the state board of wildlife.
The Chief Minister of the state/UT is the chairperson of the board.
The board advises the state government in:
The selection and management of areas to be declared as protected areas.
The formulation of the policy for protection and conservation of the wild life
Any matter relating to the amendment of any Schedule.
Central Zoo Authority
The act provides for the constitution of Central Zoo Authority consisting of a total 10 members including the Chairperson and a Member-Secretary.
The Environment Minister is the chairperson.
The authority provides recognition to zoos and is also tasked with regulating the zoos across the country.
It lays down guidelines and prescribes rules under which animals may be transferred among zoos nationally and internationally.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA
Following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was constituted in 2005 for strengthening tiger conservation.
The Union Environment Minister is the Chairperson of NTCA and the State Environment Minister is the Vice-Chairperson.
The Central Government on the recommendations of NTCA declares an area as a Tiger Reserve.
More than 50 wildlife sanctuaries in India have been designated as Tiger Reserves and are protected areas under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)
The act provided for the constitution of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
The Bureau has its headquarters in New Delhi.
It is mandated to:
Collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities and to disseminate the same to the State to apprehend the criminals.
Establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank.
Assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes.
Advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.
Related Constitutional Provisions : Wildlife Protection Act 1972
The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
Article 21: Right to a clean environment.
It directs the State to protect and improve the environment and safeguard wildlife and forests.
This Article was added to the Constitution by the 42nd amendment in 1976.
Article 51A imposes certain fundamental duties for the people of India.
One of them is to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.