Northeast India’s Struggle to Provide Shelter for Seized Animals: Need for Sanctuary

June 28, 2023
1 min read

Currently, the seized animals in North East India, both exotic and native wildlife, are taken to small and mini zoos to provide them shelter. Owing to the increasing number of seizures, however, and the limited space and resources in these zoos, the states’ forest departments are facing challenges in housing and properly caring for these animals.

In order to address this issue, new rescue centers are being built in Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya, and an existing rescue center in Sikkim is being upgraded. There will be separate enclosures in these centers for exotic animals, specialized quarantine cells, and larger veterinary facilities to cater to the needs of the seized animals.

Financial assistance will be provided to the states by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for veterinary care, long-term care, housekeeping, and the recurring cost of feeding the wildlife. The zoos in Northeast India, particularly in states like Mizoram, Assam, and Tripura, lack space.

In particular, Mizoram has become a hotspot for smuggling wild animals, and the regular seizures in the Champhal district have overwhelmed the existing facilities. Aizawl’s small zoo is unable to accommodate the volume of seized animals, making it necessary to build a rescue center.

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Owing to space constraints, the Lady Hydari Park minizoo in Shillong, Meghalaya, also has to turn away seized animals. The aim of the new rescue centers is to provide proper housing and enclosures for the seized animals.

The technical committee of the CZA has recommended approval, and the centers will be funded through financial assistance from the CZA and possibly from the compensatory afforestation pool. With animals confined in cramped cages and crowded vehicles, the transportation of smuggled animals is often done under humane conditions.

Close monitoring of the seized animals is required by zookeepers and veterinarians to ensure their well-being, including managing their distress levels and providing timely feeding. There is a rise in seizures by law enforcement agencies due to an increase in wildlife smuggling.

Intercepting consignments of smuggled wildlife along with their traditional focus on arms smuggling, border security agencies have become more vigilant. The threats posed by smuggled animals to local ecology and humans have become more serious, leading to heightened efforts to combat wildlife smuggling.

After enforcement agencies such as the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and state police departments seize the consignments, the seized animals end up in zoos. The local police stations receive cases filled by the state forest departments. Aligning it with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the recent amendment of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, now provides protection to exotic species.

Cases related to wildlife seizures, especially those involving exotic animals listed in CITES appendices, will be tried using the new Act provisions. Exotic animals, however, are not protected under CITES and are still outside the purview of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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