India Intelligence Report

   Army to Hunt Poachers, Safeguard Forests



  • Govt to create new National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (NWCCB)

  • Army being drafted to track and kill poachers

  • Amendments to Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in Monsoon Parliament session

The Ministry of Environment and Forests briefed Army Chief J.J. Singh about a new proposal, apparently supported by non-Government organizations, to amend relevant laws that will empower the Army to track and kill poachers. Conservationists have long objected to the army’s deployment in or close to forests and jungles but now see that the Army could play a positive role to eliminate poachers of endangered species. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Worldwide Fund for Nature and other conservationists.

While the army has initiatives to conserve wildlife within its own establishments, this proposal will cover huge areas that are outside its current jurisdiction. More importantly, the new proposal will institutionalize the Army’s role. Reports say that relevant amendments to the Wildlife Act to empower the army for conservation may be effected in the monsoon session of Parliament this year.

Alarmed by statistics that the number of Indian tigers has dwindled sharply to about 3,700, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to increase the visibility of this issue by visiting Ranthambore National Forest in Rajasthan.

Despite such high touch visibility to the problem, the number of cases of poaching has only increased. Therefore, the government has decided to set up a wildlife crime control bureau to protect animals and check smuggling of their skin and body parts. Led the National Wildlife Board to give a final go-ahead for the creation of a National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (NWCCB) on lines of the National Narcotics Bureau, this body will evolve a national policy for checking the illegal trade in animal products and probe wildlife crimes in a professional manner. As part of this process, it was also decided to legally empower Army Commanders for containing poaching especially in the border areas of Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast and modify the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to reflect this empowerment.

Under the Indian Constitution, crime is a state subject. However, the enormity of threat to wildlife in the country and illegal international trade of skin and other body parts has necessitated the creation of an autonomous federal authority. Besides poaching, there are also increased instances of deforestation and encroachment on forestland in the past two years which has reduced tiger habitation by 26% in the country's 28 tiger reserves.