Two hundred sacred nilgai (blue bulls), have been shot and killed, in Bihar, India, following a directive by the Ministry of Forests and the Environment. Rhesus monkeys, wild boars, and other wild species, normally protected by Indian wildlife law, will also now be allowed to be killed.
A June 10, 2016 article in The Hindu, “Maneka slams Javdekar over culling of animals” reports that the Minister of Environment and Forests, Prakash Javdekar, has declared several species of wild animals to be “vermin,” a designation that allows them to be killed. (See the link below.)
First requesting that the states send him lists of animals that harmed crops or were involved in human/wildlife conflicts, Prakesh Javadekar followed this up by three declarations within the past six months allowing wild species to be killed. Last December, the blue bull, or nilgai, was declared to be “vermin” in the state of Bihar. The nilgai, the largest antelope in Asia, native to the Indian sub-continent, are innocent, peaceful animals, considered sacred in India. Normally people would never kill them.
The killing of the 200 nilgai unleashed a strong reaction from Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development, who is one of India’s leading animal rights activists. Maneka Gandhi accused Prakash Javdekar of “a lust for killing animals,” citing the killing of the nilgai, and the decision to allow the killing of Rhesus monkeys in Himachal Pradesh, as well as wild boars where they were in conflict with humans. She also reported that peacocks, the magnificent national bird of India, were allowed to be slaughtered in Goa, and that the Environment Ministry had even allowed the killing of elephants in West Bengal – despite protections afforded by the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act.
Farmers in Bihar had complained that the Nilgai were devouring their crops.
In a country of 1.2 billion people, keeping forest and wilderness areas reserved for wild life is an impossible challenge since there are encroachments everywhere, all the time, so virtually every wild species does come into conflict with humans, and many wild birds and animals naturally eat grain. The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act gives protection to all wild species and bans sports hunting throughout India. The deaths of so many animals, especially the sacred nilgai, who have been protected for centuries, comes as a great shock.
When predators, such as leopards, cheetahs, lions, and tigers suffer from loss of habitat or are driven to extinction or near-extinction by gangs of poachers serving the international wildlife trade, the eco-system becomes unbalanced and unhealthy, leading to harm to crops and conflict with humans.
This action by the Environment Ministry places all native Indian wildlife at risk. Killing animals is against the traditions of India, and there are viable non-lethal options. It is deeply disturbing that the Minister, whose job is to protect the forests, the wildlife, and the environment of India, is now seeking the killing of native wild animals.
The Hindu quotes a former member of the National Board for Wildlife, Praveen Bhargav, as saying that these declarations should have been discussed with the National Board of Wildlife before being issued. The full National Board of Wildlife has not met for two years, according to Praveen Bhargav. This may say something about the current government’s relationship to wildlife.
The Hindu reports that Maneka Gandhi’s view is that the states should not have been advised to shoot animals and should instead have been encouraged to pursue other non-lethal options.
The action by the Ministry of the Environment and Forests is unprecedented and defies both wildlife law and the most ancient customs of India.
How you can help
Dr. Nanditha Krishna, animal activist and environmental historian has sent out this call to action:
“The large-scale slaughter has begun in Bihar. Please storm tweets to @PMOIndia, @narendramodi and @PrakashJavdekar. We need help to stop this horror. Please tell your governments to object. Tell travel agents to cancel India bookings. … Please tweet to @PMOIndia and @narendramodi asking him to SACK Prakash Javdekar. Javdekar has written to all the states asking them which animals they would like to declare as vermin and cull. He is terrible. He has a lust for blood.”
To read the article in the Hindu, click here.
Top photo: Jon Connell / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. / Nilgai at Ranthambore National Park, India.
Second photo: J. M. Garg / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. / Rhesus monkey in Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh, India.