Experts say it is the need of the hour to stop treating exotic animals as status symbols.
Rescued animals that are victims of wildlife smuggling face severe health impacts and often die due to the stressful condition they are trafficked in. According to wildlife experts, these animals are often trafficked in small cages hence space constraint is one of the biggest problems that add to their suffering.
Over 300 animals have been seized by the customs official at Kempegowda International airport since Jan 2023. The animals that are smuggled to Bangalore are mostly exotic species of snakes, reptiles, and primates. The office of customs, Bangalore is responsible for the seizing of the animals, especially when the smuggling is via airports or sea routes. This is a very long lede. Please break it up into shorter paras.
Shri Pushkar Kumar, the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife), says that the customs office passes the animals to the Karnataka forest department. In case of exotic species, the forest department sends back the animals to their native country. However, some animals are rehabilitated in Bannerghatta national park. However, this process takes a lot of time, hence adding to the suffering of the trafficked animals, say experts.
Doctors at Bannerghatta Biological Park who take care of the rescued animals say that a lot of species die because of the climatic differences. It is also a challenge for the rehabilitation centers to create new spaces for the rescued animals and understand their behavioral patterns, “There were 48 species of all reptiles and birds that were captured recently. So, we had to immediately create space for that. In this process, however, the animals are under a lot of stress because of the small cages they are in.” He says that a lot of animals lose their lives while getting rehabilitated.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports of 2014-2021, Karnataka is one of top states to have reported the greatest number of wildlife smuggling cases. In September itself, the customs office confiscated around 55 ball pythons, 20 king cobras, and 16 dead capuchin monkeys from baggage which arrived from Bangkok, says a wildlife expert.
The general manager at People for Animals (PFA) Wildlife rehab and conservation society says that most of the shipments come from either Bangkok or Thailand. He highlights the demand for exotic animals and emphasizes that the only way to curb smuggling is to sensitize people and stop the breeding practices, “There are some rich people who want to keep these animals as status symbols to show off in their parties for their entertainment purposes. Previously most animals were being smuggled to Chennai but now the trade has widened therefore they are also coming to Bangalore. Besides this, there are also many reports of animals being smuggled via sea routes through Kolkata and Dhaka.” Although there are laws that protect animal rights, the solution to curb wildlife smuggling lies in stopping the breeding of exotic animals.