‘Status of Wildlife Trafficking in Northeast India & West Bengal,’ Journalism meet held in Guwahati

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Guwahati: The Counter Wildlife Trafficking program of Wildlife Conservation Society-India organised a one-day journalism meet on the topic “Status of Wildlife Trafficking in Northeast India and West Bengal’ on February 15, 2023 in Guwahati, Assam.

Uttara Mendiratta, Program head, Counter Wildlife Trafficking program in her introductory remarks opined that journalist are key stakeholders in garnering public opinion and influencing political will to address the complex issue of Illegal wildlife hunting and trade.

“It’s been a collective process from the WCS team and we are really glad that we have started this process. I think that’s all we are calling it at the moment. It’s a start of a process and we hope beyond this we get more opportunity,” said Uttara Mendiratta in her introduction.

Discussions for the meeting were led by moderators including Krishnendu Mukherjee from Times of India, Mayank Aggarwal, independent journalist, and Ananda Banerjee, senior independent journalist and Bano Haralu, journalist and a conservationist from Nagaland.

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Some of the presentations by moderators included current status of illegal wildlife trade involving Indian and exotic species, supply routes and trade markets of these species, an overview of wildlife trading, specifically looking at the landscape of Northeast, West Bengal from a regional perspective, as well as in India and all over the world.

The meeting also had a series of interactive sessions led by Bano Haralu, a wildlife conservationist from Nagaland whose documentary proved useful in stopping the hunting of Amul Falcon to a large extend, on role of journalists in responsible reporting; Krishnendu Mukherjee on learnings and challenges on reporting on illegal wildlife trade in India and why journalist are key stake holder in the illegal wildlife trafficking; and Mayank Aggarwal on Indian and exotics species involved in illegal trade, trade route and illegal supply chain of wildlife species.

“Even though the journalist are not reporting about illegal wildlife crime as data points, over the years, globally, the reports that are reported about seizure have become a data point. Journalist reporting on the issue is the data, whereby WCS team collect the data. The sea cucumber seizure in Myanmar border is a good example. We have scientist’s facts and details but there are proves to show that facts doesn’t change anything. A collective will of social decision is what changes behaviour and that is what we are hoping to do through this engagement,” said Uttara Mendiratta.

A film by WCS India based on illegal wildlife trade in India titled “Surviving the Odds” was also screened during this meeting.

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Ananda Banerjee, talking about the current status of illegal wildlife trade, and the varied species of wildlife animals trafficking, with focus in the region noted that winter season is the most active season for illegal wildlife trafficking, making Northeast an active place for buyers. “Charismatic species like Rhino horn is a big talking point in Assam, but it’s good to see that no poaching has been recorded during last year,” Ananda said.

Trading of less charismatic species like Pangolin for more than 25 years, including Tokay Gecko trade in Northeast; trade of exotic animals like Tiger skin, rhino horns and almost all species sold, including sale of fake ones sold as genuine; demand for owl, raven, parrot for use of occult, black magic book mostly found in train station; concept of museum in modern world, the crave for collections, use of menagerie, a colonial trend followed in modern world, were some of the talking points of Ananda Banerjee.

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The workshop ended with reflections and discussion on the current and emerging trends on wildlife trade, human-wildlife interactions and ceremonial hunting practices in Northeast India and West Bengal.

A total of 32 media persons and journalists representing the Northeast states of Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur (Ukhrul Times), Meghalaya and the state of West Bengal participated in this meet. Participants from Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Odisha also participated in this meeting which outlined the challenges of illegal wildlife trade and hunting in Northeast India and West Bengal.

The Wildlife Conservation Society-India is a decade old wildlife conservation and science- based organization working in India. Its mission is to save wildlife and wild places in India through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

To get information from CWS India you can connect with them at cwt@wesindia.org

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