The Cull of the Wild
“In the blue corner today, we have the farmers of India! In the red corner, the animals!”
Over the past few months, authorities have declared, or sought to declare, as vermin an entire bunch of wild animals that are apparently in conflict with humans, particularly farmers.
According to new rules laid out by India’s environment ministry, three wild animals — the nilgai and the wild boar in Bihar and the rhesus monkey in Himachal Pradesh — can now be killed as they are detrimental to crops.
Where? When? Why?
The Centre declared the mentioned animals as ‘vermin’, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in December of 2015, following requests from the respective States.
As per Section 62 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter. The Central Government may by notification, declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I and part 11 of Schedule H of the law to be vermin for any area for a given period of time. As long as the notification is in force such wild animal shall be included in Schedule V of the law, depriving them of any protection under that law.
Some activists claim that the environment ministry has given people in some parts of the country the go-ahead to cull peacocks and even elephants, though the government denies these reports. In any case, many wildlife experts say there is little reason for the culls, but it’s possible that widespread killing of these animals could damage the environment by dramatically reducing the populations of important species in the local ecosystem.
In February this year, the Ministry allowed Uttarakhand in India’s north to cull wild boars. A similar permission was given to neighbouring Himachal Pradesh in May for getting rid of monkeys. Two other states, Maharashtra and Gujarat are currently awaiting permission to kill nilgais. Gujarat in its proposal has claimed that nilgai numbers have increased from 41,644 to 1,86,770 in 2015, and with shrinking population of wild predators, their numbers are continuing to peak.
Meanwhile, the western Indian state of Goa is studying a proposal to declare the peacock as vermin, while West Bengal is seeking the environment ministry’s permission to capture wild elephants because they kill humans.
You can find a detailed article about the good and bad of culling here.
What is being done?
The legality of the culls may be decided soon: an animal rights activist has brought the case before the Indian Supreme Court, which is taking it on this week. If the Supreme Court rules against the environment ministry, the rhesus monkey, nilgai, and wild boar will all remain protected from culling under the law.
The human population of India is still growing steadily and is projected to overtake China as the most populous country in the world by 2030.
As we slowly encroach more and more into the habitats of wild animals, conflicts are bound to happen. Most of these problems are faced by the wildlife though, not the people.
On a global scale, estimates show that around 565 species of mammals may become extinct over the next 50 years due to agricultural encroachment.
The decision to cull certain animals has outraged animal rights activists and wildlife experts around India, many of whom argue that there is little scientific evidence about the benefits of cullings.