Essay on Ethical Issues in Conservation of Wildlife in India

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India is home to an array of wildlife, living in different stretches of land. The country’s distinctive ecosystems comprising high mountains in the snow regions, east and west coastal regions, deserts and semi-arid regions, close to all 'types' of forests, grasslands, plateaus, rivers, estuaries and islands makes this country unique and rich in biodiversity. Truly, it is a treasure trove of a large portion of the world's animal and plant species. During ancient times, Indian religious teachings and socio-economic ideology considered nature to be sacred and humans to be the guardians of natural wealth. Over the years, as humans came to be at par with nature, the fundamental code of ethics was to live in peace and harmony as man and nature were interdependent; destruction or damage to one, is the destruction of self. It was ethically implied to not destroy forests, keep the water bodies clean and the air pure. Human civilization continued to maintain peace and tranquility among all living creatures.

Times changed as man advanced in his thinking and his actions. The very famous 'Chipko Andolan’ showed a movement in rural India where villagers hugged trees to save them from being cut for the benefit of logging companies. While in the village of Kherjariilli of Rajasthan, Amerita Bai and her family of 4 members also staged a protest against the Maharaja of Jodhpur to save the trees intended to be cut down for the construction of the new palace. She, her 4 family members and other 363 individuals sacrificed their lives to save trees of the village. This demonstrated how mankind fell apart in differences, one started exploiting the environment and the other was keen on conserving the natural resources, yet the morality of people staged a strong movement towards co-existence of man and nature. It displayed a battle between the rightfulness and dutifulness of the people of that village against man-made selfish societal norms. The important question, however, is how ethical conduct can be fortified by the other elements in the society. Are people blinded with selfish desires or simply ignorant? The standard of living of an individual, a family, a group of people, a community or a nation is another concerning factor affecting the environment and destroying natural vegetation. The extensive needs and wants have taken a toll on the survival of the other living beings to an extent that moral values towards natural habitation hold no good in the way of development.

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Man is to live by the rules of nature, but in actual practice, he rules over nature for his own motives and habits. There is a need for stronger establishment of laws and ethics to co-exist. Law controls and regulates human conduct in situations of conflict of interest and ensures justice to all. But for its effective and successful implementation, it must depend upon the will of mankind as a whole. An ethical action from the conscience of men will act as a springboard for prevalence of what is right.


The biggest sign of threat in the wildlife has been the dangers of species becoming critically endangered and rapid extinction. To further substantiate the concerns of the prevailing ethical issues, the following are cases of endangered species and situations which throws light on the sad tale of wildlife and brings out the issues which limit ethical action in the conservation of wildlife.

Ganges River Dolphin

The Ganges river dolphin is virtually blind. But the eyes of those who live beside the Ganges are being opened to the plight of this endangered aquatic mammal. The number of threats that the dolphin is facing currently from humans could lead to its extinction. Unfortunately, the Dolphin inhabits one of the world's densely populated environments where its twin needs - sufficient unpolluted water and food, either compete or conflict with the needs of human neighbors.

The Ganges water quality is declining. Chemical plants, oil refineries, and other industrial plants on the river banks leak pollution daily into the Ganges and its tributaries, along with untreated sewage. Pollution has also reduced the number of fish, upon which the dolphin prey. Noise from increasing numbers of large ships, such as oil tankers, interferes severely with its echolocation system. Despite legal protection, some dolphins are still caught for food, even more so, are killed for oil which is used by fishermen to attract different fish. Others become entangled in fishing nets and perish. Dam building has also had a grave impact on the river dolphin because dams block their annual migration. The morally unethical act of excessive unchangeable religious beliefs, of dumping the idols, bathing, etc, also add to the plight of this poor mammal.

The Ganges river dolphin has been legally protected in India since 1972, yet its population continues to decline by 10 percent. The dolphin's problems have been known for some time, but attempts to help have so far been ineffective. For instance, a 1986 Indian government initiative to clean up the river has had little impact- despite the fact that it would not only benefit the dolphins but also the people.

Asiatic Elephant

The Asiatic elephant occupies the world’s most densely populated regions where human numbers are rising. It is on the brink of extinction in the wild. Their living territory is cleared and made into farming lands, which has also disturbed their traditional migratory routes. With no other option, they have moved to the human occupied territories, ransacking crops leading to conflicts with farmers and mounting political pressure to eliminate them near populated areas. Elephants are also illegally poached for ivory. Veerappan, a notorious Indian bandit alone has poached over 2000 elephants and smuggled millions of dollars of ivory.

There is a serious issue of escalating man-elephant conflict. But aren’t elephants respected in India? No significant work begins without invoking Ganesha. The horror of the present is framed when a massive elephant was killed by enraged villagers. This occurred in Sonitpur district, one of the most severe man-elephant conflict areas.

“In Western Ghats, past few years, more than 50 elephants around protected areas have met a grisly end from high voltage electricity illegally connected to farm fences to stop crop-raiding”, according to wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi. The only forests they know are now tea gardens, and paddy fields, or submerged by dams or devastated by mines. Homeless and starved, the elephants maraud crops, destroy huts. In retaliation, people poison, electrocute or blow-up elephants, by placing crude bombs, in elephant delicacies like jackfruit.

The Royal Bengal Tiger

Once common throughout Asia is now restricted to small areas of India and the surrounding countries. These tigers are found in the unique environment of the Sundarbans. The main threats are loss of habitat, poaching, loss of prey and the trade in tiger parts for eastern medicine. Most of these big cats now live in protected areas of India. Lack of funds, equipment and most of all political will is turning the reserves into a risk-free zone for poachers. Ravaged by mining, infrastructure projects, and floods, the barely 5% of India's land that constitutes its reserve forests can only be saved by proactive legislation, tighter implementation of laws and by the immediate creation of a Special Protection Force for the 1400 tigers left in the wild.

Rare Butterflies - the Blue Mormom, Malabar Bander Peacock, Pale Jezebel, Kaiser-i-Hind

The Indian forests regions on the western and the eastern ghats are main hunting grounds for smugglers of rare Indian butterflies. They are in great demand internationally for private collection, butterfly parks, traditional medicine, and also to be encased into jewelry. This is a case of smuggling in the global market. Svach's is one of many websites that promises to supply customers rare insects. Kucera, an entomologist, and his companion, were booked under the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972 on two charges: illegal entry into the protected area, and removing its wildlife without the permission of chief wildlife warden.

Critically Endangered Plant Species - Orchids

Orchids are considered to be the enchantress of the plant world. They have been known to Indians since the Vedic period. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac, the ultimate ingredient in a love potion. Unfortunately, this belief hasn't been good news for the orchids. The wild population has been plundered ruthlessly for commercial purposes, depleting many orchids to the point of no return.

Orchids are widely distributed in the Himalayas, followed by the northeastern regions, the Western Ghats, the Deccan Plateau and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It’s ornamental and medicinal use has attracted illegal traders, collectors and breeders, who could be clearing out many orchid species before we even know that they exist.

Case of Sanctuary of Bharatpur

Bharatpur had no water, no fish, no birds. Hope had almost died, at the sanctuary of Bharatpur, starved of water and life for nearly five years. Worse, the waters of the Ajan dam, fed by the Gambhir and Banganaga rivers- the wetland's lifeline- was denied to the sanctuary, thanks to agitating farmers and water politics. Over the 4 years, rainfall has been low, and farmers demanded water for their fields. Rajasthan’s then CM Vasundhara Raje stated in 2005 that, “people, not parks were a priority here'. Not understanding that denying water to the wetlands would mean that the groundwater for the nearby farmers wouldn't be replenished, the powers-that-be succumbed to political pressure and diverted water meant for the swamp to farmlands. The Result? Devastation. The Siberian cranes were already history; from 400-odd species the park boasted, the numbers crashed to 48. The park that saw hundreds of thousands of birds in a normal season now barely held 4000. Other species suffered too. The endangered fishing cat dwindled to negligible numbers, otters and turtles vanished.

Taken for a Ride - Captive Tourism

Wildlife tourism is a massive industry accounting for 10- 20% of the global tourism industry. People go on vacation and pay money to either view shows or enjoy rides and interactions with the animals. Social media too has set a trend and has a huge role in the tourism industry to have these experiences patronized in the eyes of the public. Most people have no idea what is the reality behind the scenes. Elephants in India have been part of its history and traditions for thousands of years. Capture and trade of elephants are now illegal, but captive elephants are still considered profitable business and it continues to flourish. The temple elephants in Kerala and the Amber Fort in Jaipur are two of the famous places where tourists go for elephant rides.

Gajender K Sharma, World Animal Protection country director of India, says, “The cruel trend of elephants used for rides and shows is growing—we want tourists to know that many of these elephants are taken from their mothers as babies, forced to endure harsh training and suffer poor living conditions throughout their life”.

Inadequacy of Laws for Protection of Wildlife

Law gives protection to life, liberty, and property and brings to books those guilty of the violation. But the question is whose life? Is it only man's? Can a man destroy natural resources and the lives it inhabits? Environmental protection in India has been on the agenda since 1960' yet it was only in 1980 that the seriousness of environmental degradation was realized. Here are few of the important laws enacted by the Indian government: the Indian Forest Act (1927), the Forest Conservation Act (1980), the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and the Environment Protection Act (1986).

There are several more environmental protection laws in place. But still, we find that environment clearance is on the rise. We have industries prioritized over environment protection in the name of development. Shortcomings in the age-old laws, corruption, and political influence have taken over ethical practices. India has a population of 1.38 billion, yet the main problem we face today is the ignorance among the population in knowing the importance of environmental laws and the role, rights of the public in protecting the environment and wildlife. Such ignorance has played in favour of politicians to give away forest lands recklessly to industrial tycoons who are making millions of dollars of profits off the natural wealth which belongs to all of us and to the future generation.

To illustrate this further, let me take an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which is an assessment done to check on the consequences of any proposed plan, policy, program on the environment prior to giving approval for the proposed program. India took up EIA, almost 20 years back, in the year 1976-77, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, disseminated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion or development of any activity or for setting up of new projects. While the overall spirit of the notification seemed to enforce a strong foundation, over the years the government, the authority have themselves failed to comply and have overlooked all sorts of assessment for industrial expansions. The private industries have also been able to figure out loopholes to keep the authorities happy and also break the law without questions asked.

The industries have fearlessly been able to violate laws, reaping huge amounts of profits, exploiting invaluable resources and walking away by paying insignificant penalty charges. Here is how much industries pay as violation penalties: 20,000 crore worth projects like coal projects, hydro projects end up paying only Rs. 5,000 a day as penalties, which adds up to 1.5 lakhs a month - 18 lakhs violation charges against 20,000 crore revenue. In simple terms, all they need to do is, not comply with the law, set up projects and pay environmental damages worth nothing.

It is not enough that we create a structure of legislation. We must also create a structure of administration to implement laws as well and it is very important for people to be knowledgeable about the high-level manipulations and voice their concerns to the court of law.


There are several conflicts between the conservationist and the local people in imparting the ethical perspective in unethical scenarios. The ethical issue lies in the fact of not questioning the data(false) given, like we did for an over-inflated tiger number. The wealth of exotic insects, beetles, rare species of animals, medicinal plants, continues to lure unscrupulous traders and scientists who clandestinely sell their rich hauls to the world market, at an exorbitant rate. All the reasons or threats to wildlife mentioned in the cases seems to be irrevocable acts that cannot be changed even if it is morally wrong. In this poor and crowded part of the world, wildlife conservation rarely gets the proper attention from public or government resources it needs. These prove to be a challenge for ethical intervention as the conflict lies between the needs and wants of human beings backed by excessive corruption. A major setback also is not enforcing the laws since the development of the country has always come first in comparison with the protection of wildlife.

The wildlife habitat is in danger, there is an urgent need and responsibility to adopt certain specific strategies to protect it. Broad approaches to the solution of wildlife problems are likely to include one or more of the following elements:

  • Changes in the attitude and behavior of individuals;
  • Independent and unbiased committee to carry out investigation on compliance of the laws;
  • The assessment and control of science and technology;
  • Specific reforms in society, decision-making process;
  • Radical political-economic changes.

Individual actions might be regarded as an essential building block to raise awareness in social processes. The only answer to the wildlife crisis is the united will of people to work together in finding a feasible solution to co-exits. In the end, each individual must feel responsible for the present and future welfare of all living beings. However, if no political, social or cultural awareness concerning protecting the natural environment is happening and no value system has been accepted then it's time to call for a change in the decision-making process. Humans do not have the right to destroy nature. What is required is a strong movement that would help create and generate the required spirit to protect the environment.

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Essay on Ethical Issues in Conservation of Wildlife in India. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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