Published: 16th June 2022
#WhatTheFAQ: What are the consequences of torturing and killing the Great Indian Hornbill?
The video of a rare bird being murdered by a few miscreants in India has gone viral on the internet, inviting ire and criticism. We look at such incidents at large and related nuances
There is no doubt that very often human cruelty knows no bounds. A video that went viral on the internet on June 15 is a good example of this.
In the video, a few individuals were seen torturing a Great Indian Hornbill bird to death. Outrageous, right? The video was shared on Instagram by an account that expressed its owner’s anger over the issue. Other netizens have also voiced their wrath. Meanwhile, the culprits have been caught and taken into custody, though their cruel act will continue to shock people for days to come. Interestingly, the incident occurred in Nagaland, the same state that celebrates the Hornbill Festival. Read on to find out more.
Why is the Great Indian Hornbill special?
This beautiful bird is an endangered species. It has been marked as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2018. The species is found only in a few Southeast Asian countries. Also known as the concave-casqued hornbill, Great Indian Hornbill or Great Pied Hornbill, it is one of the larger members of the Hornbill family. Due to its large size and vibrant colours, it is important in many tribal cultures and rituals. And guess what? The Great Indian Hornbill is Kerala’s official state bird.
The bird is native to the forests of India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mainland Southeast Asia and Sumatra. Its distribution is fragmented in the Western Ghats and in the foothills of the Himalayas. The species prefers dense, old and unlogged forests of hilly regions and are dependent on large stretches of rain forests. It is mainly frugivorous in nature, meaning it mostly eats fruits.
Why is it vulnerable?
The bird is primarily threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation. But that is not all. It is hunted for its meat, fat and body parts like the casque and tail feathers, which are used as adornments. In parts of Northeastern India, tribals use the feathers for headdresses, and the birds’ skulls are often worn as decorations. In some tribal populations, the beaks and head are used in charms, while the flesh is believed to be medicinal. And the young birds are considered a delicacy.
Additionally, the bird faces continuous threats of captivity. It has been known to be held captive by people for the past 50 years.
What are the laws to protect such rare species?
The police in Nagaland have arrested three people involved in the incident under the Wildlife and Arms Act. It comes under the ambit of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, which was enacted in the year 1972 for the protection of plants and animal species. It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which has its separate Wildlife and Arms Act.
It prohibits the hunting of any wild animal specified in Schedules I, II, III and IV of the act. Uprooting, damage, collection, possession or selling of any specified plant from any forest land or any protected area is also prohibited under this act. It also allows the central government to constitute any area as a Wildlife Sanctuary or National Park, provided the area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance.
The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) to combat organised wildlife crime in the country was constituted under this act. The Bureau has its headquarters in New Delhi.
Applicable to the case at hand, the Section 51 of this act states, “Where any person is convicted of an offence against this Act, the Court may direct that the licence, if any, granted to such person under the Arms Act, 1959 (54 of 1959), for possession of any arm with which an offence against this Act has been committed, shall be cancelled and that such person shall not be eligible for a licence under the Arms Act, 1959, for a period of five years from the date of conviction”.
Though the punishment under this act varies for different situations under which the crime is committed, a prison sentence is awarded from 1 to 7 years and fines are levied accordingly, and the amount can go up to Rs 25,000.
What are the famous instances when this act was used?
Film star Salman Khan was booked under this act in 1998 when he allegedly killed a black buck in Jodhpur. In addition to the accusations of poaching endangered antelopes under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, a case under the Arms Act was filed against Khan for allegedly keeping and using firearms with an expired licence. Along with him, other actors including Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam Kothari and Saif Ali Khan were also embroiled in it.
Saif Ali Khan’s father, cricket legend Tiger Pataudi, was arrested in 2005 for killing a black buck in Haryana. There are several other instances when this act has been employed to punish wildlife offenders over the years. Such cases are still reported every day from across the country.
What is the IUCN Red List?
IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A data record designed by it in 1964 is known as the Red List of Threatened Species. It is also called the IUCN Red List or Red Data Book. The IUCN Red List is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. It uses a set of precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies worldwide.
Pygmy Hog, Andaman White-toothed Shrew, Nicobar White-tailed Shrew, Kondana Rat, Namdapha Flying Squirrel, Malabar Civet, Pondicherry Shark, Bengal Roof Turtle, Gharial and the Indian Vulture are some of the other endangered species marked under the IUCN Red List for India.