Asian

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Elephants, International Issues For Endangered Species

Asian: Legislation Trunk Full of Tales

 

Asian Elephant Conservation: Legislation

The Asian elephant is accorded one of the highest levels of protection that a species can have in both national and international laws and treaties. As befits its endangered status as accorded by the IUCN Red List, the Indian government has placed it in Schedule I of its Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) has placed it in Appendix I, thus placing restrictions on the form of trade that can be made. However, with recent one time sales of ivory, the protection the elephant has had for the past 10 years seems to be quickly eroding. What CITES has accomplished on the back of International concern for the elephants, it seems to be playing with fire in which its past success rate in handling the decline of species is paltry at best (case in point is the black and white rhino). In 1986, India banned all domestic trade in ivory from the Asian elephant.

CITES had for a long time tried to control the trade in ivory worldwide. By the mid 1970s the demand for ivory was outstripping legal and illegal supplies, This prompted illegal traders to set up very complicated trade routes globally in order to circumvent the archaic control methods in place. In 1985, CITES responded by setting up an ivory control unit based in Switzerland top provide a permits database and to mark and register ivory. By 1989 it was finally clear that even this facade had absolutely no real effect and CITES parties over much argument finally agreed in part to put the African elephant on Appendix I and ban trade in ivory (See Full History as there are so many details not mentioned here).

Although national legislation has afforded the elephant with a certain level of protection, the local administrative rules or regional acts sometimes are at odds with or nullify the effect of the protection put in place. In Kerala, for example, a single provision of the Kerala Forest Code that operates on the maxim "Loss to the employer is to be borne by the employee" translates into stiff pecuniary penalties being levied on staff in the case of the death of an elephant. Ironically (or not), the code is not applied to all parties; senior officers are not within the purview of the law and Forest Guards, Foresters and, rarely, Range Officers are penalized. This has resulted in a large number of cases male elephants are reported as female elephants in order to escape the loss of government property. On the surface, this "rule" is supposed to ensure that greater responsibility is placed upon field protectors of wildlife but in reality turns them into willing or unwilling accomplices to the crime.

The major hurdle in the legislative process in aiding in the conservation of the elephants are generally not the laws themselves but the very slow and in many cases ineffective judicial process in India which coupled with careless filing of cases or presentation of evidence leads to a very poor rate of conviction. And, if people can make money from the killing of elephants without getting punished then the laws themselves are of minuscule value. Sadly, all court cases relating to seizures of ivory carvings are pending in various courts of law and within the last decade not a single case had resulted in conviction (at the time of publication of A God In Distress )

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