07 Mar

New Central Rule Makes Exotic Pet Registration Mandatory

Owners of exotic pets like macaws, cockatoos, turtles, and so on will now have to register them with their state’s wildlife department, according to the Living Animal Species (Reporting and Registration) Rules, 2024 issued by the Union Environment Ministry on February 28. The rules do not apply to other wildlife that are already protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, with those animal species being banned from captivity.

Such species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). "'Animal species' means any living specimens of any animal species listed in Schedule IV appended to the Act" which covers species under the Convention," the notification shared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said. 

Section 49 M of the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2022 concerns the registration of possession, transfer, and reporting of birth and death of living scheduled animal species which are listed in the Appendices of CITES and listed in the Schedule IV of the Act, the rules regarding these have been issued on February 28 and come into effect shortly after. 

India is a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which also requires its provisions to be enforced for the safeguarding and protection of endangered species. 

The newly inserted Section M of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 last year mandates that anyone possessing exotic wild animals listed under Schedule IV of the Act must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority to comply with CITES regulations. This registration requirement also applies to any transfer of the animals or birth of offspring from them, with the Rule prescribing the process for such registration. One significant challenge facing our ecosystems is the harmful impact of invasive alien species on native biodiversity due to accidental escapes. We hope that this Rule will aid in monitoring such accidental escapes by establishing accountability for both the owner and the Authority, said Debadityo Sinha, lead, of climate & ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

"The opportunity created to launder illegal stocks of exotic CITES species vide the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme (VDS) in 2020 was brought to the attention of the Parliamentary Standing Committee which was looking into the amendments to the Wildlife Act. It was also submitted that the infiltration of exotic species poses a threat of zoonotic diseases due to a lack of disease surveillance. The DRI also flagged this issue in Chapter IV of its report 2020-21 report titled – Smuggling in India. Strangely the Ministry of Environment pushed ahead with the amendments and included the CITES Chapter in the Wildlife Act. As a result, we now have the Living Animal Species (Reporting and Registration) Rules, 2024 framed to permit registration of exotic species with various conditions specified. But with poor veterinary infrastructure and a lack of trained officers in the Forest Departments, it would be naive to assume that the slew of conditions specified in the Rules and the consequent violations will be monitored on the ground. The ill-advised VDS then leading to the amendments, ignoring the suggestions of the Parliamentary Committee and now the Rules, have set the stage for legalising the hitherto illegal Pet Trade and establishment of "Rescue Centres" to the detriment of the country's indigenous wildlife species," said Praveen Bhargav, Trustee – Wildlife First, Former Member – National Board for Wildlife.

According to the notification issued by the Union Ministry at the end of February, all persons in possession of a live specimen of an animal listed under CITES will now have to apply for and register their animal within six months from the date of commencement of these rules (February 28) and thereafter within 30 of coming into possession of such animal species to the concerned State Chief Wildlife Warden, through the PARIVESH 2.0 portal.

If an owner wishes to transfer ownership/registration or transfer any offspring of such an animal species, they will also need to be registered, and if such an animal dies, it will also have to be reported to the concerned Chief Wildlife Warden through the PARIVESH 2.0 portal. In April 2024, provisions for a breeder's license were launched by the Union Ministry, stating that those who breed exotic species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and listed in Appendix 1 of Schedule IV of Wildlife Protection Act 2022 can now obtain Breeders of Species Licence under the Breeders of Species Licence Rules, 2023. 

Appendix 1 of Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Protection Act 2022 covers various animals which are endangered and have stricter import requirements, such as different species of bear and panda, various species of dogs, wolves, cats, apes, chimpanzees, gibbons, lemurs, squirrels, armadillos, various birds including Hornbills, Macaws, Parakeets, Owls, various reptiles among others. The Wildlife Protection Act 2022 aims to better implement CITES, proposing an amendment to the schedules that include the list of animal species to make sure that seized animals receive better care and seized wildlife parts are disposed of properly. 

Wildlife experts said that these rules and regulations indirectly normalized people adopting or buying exotic species before the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act of 2022. Despite the exact percentage of the number of trafficked animals still being unknown, the number of wild animals traded in markets domestically and internationally is mind-boggling. Pet parents with good intentions can often be oblivious to the consequences of demanding such animals, keeping them in captivity, and rearing them as unregistered pets. Of course, these are other motivators as well for trading wild animals, according to the Wildlife Trust of India. 

According to recent reports, upwards of 70,000 native and exotic species have been trafficked by air. To help things out, the Centre introduced a one-time amnesty program through the MoRFCC, wherein owners of exotic pets could declare their ownership. Around 32,645 people voluntarily declared their ownership of exotic animals from June to December 2020; these disclosures remain private information with no public access. 



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