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Sudarshan Sreeram

Year-Prize: The 9th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Fight against illegal trade in wildlife

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Erosion of wildlife due to corrosion in human values

Winner's name: Sudarshan Sreeram (India)
Prize: Honorable Mention

India?s rich biodiversity accounts for approximately 7% of world?s wildlife
and it treasures exotic regional variations of animals and plants. The flora and
fauna decorates the seemingly endless wildlife landscapes dipped in shades of
green. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling?s fiction, the 2016 movie ?Jungle Book?
portrays the conflicts between ?Mowgli? (human) and ?Sherkhan? (tiger) in
wildlife. In India too we witness similar conflicts between humans and wildlife,
caused primarily due to illegal wildlife trades. The insatiable desire of humans to
consume wildlife derivatives is the basis for these trades. The rise in illegal
trades is eroding our wildlife at a rapid pace. We should unite our masses to
fight against illegal trades and bring concordances with our wildlife. Hence our
goal is to achieve and sustain zero illegal wildlife trade.
Illegal wildlife trades cover the sale of wild animal and plant derivatives.
In India, these derivatives include snake, civet or tiger skins, rhino horns,
elephant tusks, sloth bear parts, medicinal herbs and endangered wood. Based
on the reports published by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), illegal trades
have become one of India?s most challenging crimes to control. In 2015 alone,
around one thousand crimes were reported across India. For example, the
population of Asian elephants has dropped in excess of 50% since 1986. Similar
stories have emerged on fast disappearing Bengal tigers, Indian rhinos and Black
Buck antelopes. The count of Malabar large spotted civets, Indian vultures and
Hawksbill sea turtles is reduced to just two digits. India?s fast eroding wildlife
and its endangered species is a clear sign that rapid action is required to achieve
our goal of zero illegal wildlife trade.

Erosion of wildlife due to corrosion in human values – Sudarshan Sreeram
Forest department is India?s single largest landlord with over 20% land
reserve and is responsible for protecting wildlife. Complementing illegal trades is
the issue of corruption in wildlife offices and at border check points. These
loose ends in law enforcement make illegal trades flow and flourish freely with
least resistance. Corrupt governmental systems are carefully weaved as an
integral part of this trade chain thus camouflaging the illegal means from
watchful eyes. Illegal trades generate millions of US dollars annually with supply
chain worldwide. Solutions to control such trades include imprisonment, fines,
trade bans, police patrols and confiscation. Side effects of these solutions
include for example, confiscated items are smuggled back into illegal trade
chains by paying bribes.
Illegal trades destroy wildlife and future economy. Typically, youths from
cities and tribal areas are wooed into this pool of illegal money and later forced
into drugs and for fueling civil disobedience movements. Such trades negatively
impact India?s revenue, natural resources and communities including local tribes
which may otherwise gain, for instance, from tourism. Loss in revenue translates
to less development in rural areas, lower investments for renewable energy,
disposal of wastes, agriculture and healthcare. Hence the revenue loss due to
such illegal trades must be stopped. A root cause analysis reveals monetary
gains driven by greed (e.g. human behavior), lack of strict legislation (e.g.
crimes and punishments) and no mechanisms for tracking wildlife (e.g.
technology, trained human resources) as the primary causes for illegal trades.
Solutions to achieve our goal must address protectors and poachers in the
trade chain. Originating mainly from tribal communities, the poachers know their
forests well and their income is derived from forest resources. However,

Erosion of wildlife due to corrosion in human values – Sudarshan Sreeram
realization of our goal depends on effective turnaround of poachers to wildlife
protectors. For this, fundamental changes in behavior and beliefs are required.
Such changes are imparted through constant education to reinstate corroded
human values, winning the confidence of tribal people and rehabilitation where
required. So, what is the solution to stop illegal wildlife trades? Each one of us
may take a small step but with unity from masses, it is sure to become a giant
leap towards achieving our goal. A four dimensional solution combines people,
culture, technology and processes.
• Educate masses not to subscribe illegally traded wildlife derivatives.
• Develop trust and understanding with tribal communities.
• Reward wildlife staff in regions that show a decline in wildlife poaching.
• Reward public for reporting illegal trades.
• Equip wildlife protection forces for detection and prevention of crimes.
• Create similar derivatives not from animals but from eco-friendly
• Balance sex ratios of endangered wild animals.
• Enforce stronger legislation on wildlife crime.

Erosion of wildlife due to corrosion in human values – Sudarshan Sreeram
The people dimension involves organizing wildlife awareness sessions at
schools, colleges and through social media. Meeting tribal people helps develop
bonding with their community. The tribal people in India have been continuously
displaced from their lands since 1950 due to expansion projects (e.g. mining,
dams). We should work with governments to identify employment opportunities
for tribal people (e.g. forest tourism) and gain their trust and help them
disengage from illegal activities.
On the culture dimension, we should encourage governments to reward
good wildlife conservation efforts. On the technology dimension, industrial
sponsors should promote and develop cost-effective and Eco-friendly
technologies for prevention, detection and control of wildlife crimes (e.g. animal
tags, use of recycled materials and solar energy).
On the process dimension, endangered wildlife population growth
programs may be launched between Universities and the government. A deeper
understanding is required on the failure points in wildlife law enforcement
processes. These processes may be synchronized with organized crime
guidelines from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and
amended in the legal framework of Indian Wildlife Protection Act.
Protection of wildlife is no longer a problem for India alone but for the
whole world. Sharing best practices through social media, Eco-generation forums
and conferences should help us gain velocity in achieving our goal of zero illegal
wildlife trade. Concluding this note with a quote from Swami Vivekananda,
?Arise, Awake and Stop Not Till The Goal Is Reached?.


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