BHUBANESWAR: With officials giving a free hand to pet shops, the capital is reporting a high demand for exotic pets and many of these shops are involved in illegal wildlife trade. Sources say these shops have strong sources within the forest department who give prior warning about impending raids.
“We have conducted many raids at pet shops for busting the illegal wildlife trade racket. But, most of these suspected shops have strong sources who leak the information in advance,” said Sanjib Kumar Das, honorary wildlife warden, Khurda.
Interestingly, the exotic pet shops are also using some of the well-known wildlife experts for promoting their sale. These experts are keeping exotic pets in their custody and giving promotional talks. However, forest officials are keeping a blind eye towards these actions that are in gross violation of wildlife rules.
According to sources, some of these shops are maintaining secret godowns in the capital.
Currently, many pet shops in the state are importing exotic species like Pyrrhura conures (a parrot, Rs 30, 000 to Rs 70,000), Amazon parrots (Rs 30,000 to Rs 4 lakh), Eclectus parrot (Rs 1.5 lakh), Iguana (a lizard, Rs 10,000-15,000), Hedgehog ( Rs 7000-10,000), Ball Python ( Rs 15,000-25,000) among others. Forest officials do not monitor the sale; nor do they take action as dictated under the Wildlife act.
Some customers who buy exotic animals also abandon them. Abandoned exotic species could pose new challenges to the ecosystem and native species. For instance, Alligator Gar, an exotic fish, was recently captured from Bindusagar. “Alligator Gar would grow up to 10 ft and pose a threat to our native species. We have shifted it to Nandankanan Zoological Park. We believe that it should be abandoned. However, we are unable to trace the owner,” admits a top official of forest department.
India is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an agreement signed in 1973 by various governments to ensure that trade in animal or plant species does not threaten their survival. But, forest officials are not doing even a regular monitoring of pet shops for ensuring the survival of non-native species.
When approached for comments, top forest officials were not forthcoming. For instance, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Subash Chandra Mishra requested this daily to contact additional PCCF, PK Mohan and Mohan re-directed it to another official. “We didn’t have any information on the buyers or sellers of exotic animals,” said deputy ranger, Hrudananda Parhi. In fact, this official remained tightlipped on the measures taken to prevent the release of exotic animals to our environment.
Even the Customs officials here were not having details on the exotic pet importers. “Most of these exotic animals are imported into Kolkata. We will allow the import only if they have No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the forest department,” said joint customs commissioner, Santosh Kumar Mohanty.
Although, wildlife experts have requested the forest department for regular monitoring of pet shops, the department is not being serious about it. “We have requested the forest department to maintain a list of the pet shop and pet traders. But, the department has not done anything and they are not conducting regular raids at these shops,” said secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, Biswajit Mohanty.
“Apart from regular monitoring, the forest department has to introduce a licensing system for pet shops and exotic pet owners. The licence of the exotic pet owners has to be updated regularly for ensuring the safety of animals and also to prevent their abandonment,” added Das.
Significantly, a section of the wildlife experts are of the view that the government should stop the sale of exotic species. “We have to discourage the sale of non-native species. These animals or birds are not supposed to be kept in captivity and the government has to take measures to stop this cruelty to animals,” said Biplab Mahapatra, wildlife expert.
“Apart from discouraging the practice of keeping exotic animals, forest officials are bound to ensure safety of these species. We should consider making necessary laws for preventing exotic pet sale,” said environmentalist Sunder Narayan Patro.
Jose K Joseph, OP