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The Plight of Unintended Victims- Animal Snaring in India

On May 27, 2020, in Palakkad district, Kerala, a pregnant elephant succumbed to injuries it suffered as a result of consuming a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers. The incident led to an outbreak of tweets and social media posts expressing anger towards the ‘perpetrators’ and condemning the act. It was later clarified that the elephant had accidentally consumed the fruit which had been placed in order to prevent wild boars from entering into plantations.


Another incident of a similar nature took place in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh and was reported on June 8, 2020 (the incident took place on May 25, 2020). A cow was critically injured after it consumed dough which was stuffed with explosives, to prevent wild boars and other such animals from entering into fields. These incidents have led to some questions being asked, apart from triggering angry or shocked responses.


One of the main questions is whether these incidents would have triggered a similar extent of shock or anger if the animal had been a wild boar. The answer to this question in most cases would be in the negative, as incidents of wild boars eating such fruits are more common. While in a moral sense, the acts may be considered wrong, the same acts are justified legally under certain conditions.


Section 11(1)(b) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (hereinafter WPA) states that an animal can be hunted, if authorized officials (Mainly the Chief Wildlife Warden) are satisfied that the animals pose a threat to human life or property and issue an order in writing providing permission to hunt (along with the reasoning behind the issue of the order), provided the wild animals are specified in Schedule II, Schedule III or Schedule IV of the Act.


Section 11(1)(a) of the act deals with animals mentioned in Schedule I. Wild boars or wild pigs are protected under Schedule III of the Act, meaning they can be killed if they pose a threat to human life or property. The Act, however, does not define the methods that can be employed in order to kill such animals including those animals which have been declared to be ‘vermin’ (The wild boar is declared vermin in Kerala, where snaring can be used as a method to kill them). This then leads to the farmers to employ common, economically viable and effective methods such as snaring, shooting, etc.


In the aforementioned incidents, while the firecracker-stuffed pineapple and dough were employed to snare/kill wild boars, it is unfortunate that the victims have been animals which did not pose any threat to human life or property. It is understandable that such measures are taken by farmers in order to protect their fields and crops, upon which their livelihood depends. However, the aforementioned incidents have brought into light the need for a change in the methods used to snare/kill or hunt animals in such situations, as there is potential harm to animals which are harmless.


While wildlife activists have suggested scientific snaring/killing through the help of forest officials or using devices to generate ultrasound to scare away the animals. It is essential to understand that many small-scale farmers who are dependent on their crops for livelihood cannot access such devices or use the aforementioned methods in situations which have to be dealt immediately for their own safety and the security of their crops. They hence resort to methods such as shooting or snaring, which in some cases, may cause harm to other animals, which are harmless.


The occurrence of such incidents cannot possibly be completely eliminated but they can be mitigated to an extent. For the same, authorized officials from whom permissions are sought need to grant permission only after they are satisfied that all other possible options apart from killing have been tried and the trials have resulted in failure and also that the method by which the animal is killed is such that the harm it may cause to other harmless animals is minimum. If a harmless animal dies even after all such precautions have been taken then the burden to prove the taking of precautions will have to be imposed on those seeking the permission and failure to prove the same should attract punishment or fines.


In the cases relating to persons who lack access to needed resources to repel the animals and resort to killing them, efforts have to be made by authorized officials to take required measures, either to repel or kill the animal on behalf of those persons, provided those seeking permission have no other sources which can be of help. In conclusion, these measures may not completely eliminate incidents such as the aforementioned ones but should be enforced, in order to reduce the occurrence of such incidents in future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rajrishi Ramaswamy is currently a 1st Year student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.

Editor: Jayant Upadhyay

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