Despite the ban on the sale and purchase of endangered and exotic animals and birds, these are easily available in Delhi and elsewhere in the country for sale.
Iguanas, chameleons, geckos, monitor lizards, snakes, Tarantula spiders, black squirrels, macaws, etc., are available in the national capital. Even owls, peacocks, ostriches, turtles, tortoise, and emu would be made available for a person with some advance payment to the seller.
Unlike Mumbai’s Crawford Market, Delhi does not have a dedicated pet market, but one can easily reach the sellers through various online marketplaces. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 protects native Indian birds like mynahs, parakeets, peacocks, koels, owls, etc., from being captured or traded. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) also restricts the trade of foreign birds and animals, but most markets sell them.
“A significant part of this form of trade in wild animals, their articles, trophies cured/uncured etc., is in complete violation of national and international guidelines such as CITES and legislations such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 etc. Most of the dealers involved in this racket run their businesses without having the requisite trade licences, permits and certificates in place as their brush with law and order is very rare,” said Sahana Ramdas, Legal Associate, WildlifeSOS.
When The Sunday Guardian contacted one of the sellers through an online advertisement, which read, “Iguanas, Geckos, Chameleon for sale in Delhi”, the seller (whose name is being withheld) shared pictures of his stock of several exotic wild animals, including different species of iguanas, chameleons, snakes, monitor lizards, spiders, etc. “We have all kinds of animals. You can choose whatever you want to buy, and we will also deliver them to your address. The food of these animals would also be delivered to your house every month,” he said.
Asked from where he gets these animals, he only said, “Sir, why would you want to know from where we get them?”
These animals do not come cheap. The price of an iguana is about Rs 18,000, while a Tarantula costs Rs 16,000. Chameleons are sold at a price of Rs 12,000.
Apart from these, birds like owls, peacocks, ostriches, emu, parakeets, etc., which are banned from trading in India, are also being sold, though not so openly.
When The Sunday Guardian contacted a bird seller in South Delhi for a peacock, he said, “We will arrange it for you; it will cost around Rs 7,000-9,000 depending upon the quality.”
Exotic birds like macaw, African grey parrots, Lorikeets, Amazon etc., are sold for Rs 1.2 lakh in Delhi. Even turtles and tortoises are sold for Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,500 each.
Dr D.S. Khanduri, Inspector General, Wildlife, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, said: “In terms of the sale of exotic birds, we are working out a legislation to curb their trade and strengthen the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. As far as the illegal trade in animals is concerned, it is mostly dealt with by the state governments, but as and when we receive any information, we take swift action.”
Even websites like Amazon India was seen selling animal trophies like the head of an alligator, sea horses, star fish, etc. But the items listed in the webpage were taken down last month after intervention by WildlifeSOS.
Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head of TRAFFIC India, a wildlife trade monitoring network said, “Every year there are lakhs of animals and birds that are traded internationally. Tortoise, pythons, antelopes, tiger claws, sea horses, sea cucumbers, pangolins, monkeys, and birds are amongst the most trafficked animals in India. In the last six months we have done 10 seizures where we recovered the musk of deer, tiger claws, fresh water tortoise, birds and snake venoms and got the poachers arrested.”
According to TRAFFIC India data, among the most notorious states in terms of animal trafficking are Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
Nikunj Sharma, Government Affairs Liaison, PETA India, said: “To stop the trade, the authorities must act, but the public must stop the purchase of animals.”
According to a Law Commission of India report, thousands of breeders and pet shops exist in the Indian market.
As per a recent study by Euromonitor International, the Indian pet-care market, at Rs 1,394 crore, has more than doubled from Rs 538 crore in 2011. The growth between 2014 and 2015 itself was about 26%. Dawn William, general manager of Blue Cross, said: “We have a very strong law against prevention to cruelty to animals, but it is not being implemented.”