The Supreme Court recently upheld the June 2020 advisory issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to deal with the import of exotic live species of animals and birds in India and declaration of stock, dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging its legality and validity.
Exotic live species are animal or plant species moved from their original range (location) to a new one. These species are introduced to a new location most often by people.
The advisory was issued as the Covid outbreak raised global concerns over wildlife trade and zoonotic diseases. While the import of live exotic animals was covered under the Customs Act, experts sought stringent laws and guidelines to document and regulate the number of exotic species kept as pets in India.
Here’s all you need to know about the advisory:
- IT COVERS: The advisory includes animals named under the Appendices I, II and III of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and does not include species from the Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
- VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE: The MoEFCC allows the holders of such species to give information on the exotic species through voluntary disclosure. The registration is to be done for the stock of animals, new progeny, as well as for import and exchange.
- SIX-MONTH WINDOW: The declarer would not be required to produce any documentation in relation to the exotic live species if it has been declared within six months of the date of issue of the advisory. For any declaration made after six months, the declarer will have to comply with the documentation requirement under the extant laws and regulations.
- WHAT IT MEANS: It will ensure better management of the species and guide the holders on proper veterinary care, housing and other aspects of well-being of the species. The database will also help in control and management of zoonotic diseases on which guidance would be available from time to time to ensure safety of animals and humans.
- HOW IT WORKS: After the declaration, the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW) of the State or UT shall, after physical verification, register the stock and maintain a record in their office and issue an online certificate of possession. The CWLW or the authorised officers shall be provided with free access to the exotic live species being declared and housed at the facility around-the-clock on any given day for verification. Any acquisition/ death/ trade/ change of possession after the declaration should be informed to the respective CWLW within 30 days.
- FOR IMPORT OF LIVE ANIMAL: A person trying to import a live exotic animal will have to submit an application for grant of a licence to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), under the provisions of the advisory. The importer will also have to attach a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) of the chief wildlife warden of the state along with the application.