As New Delhi grapples with last minute preparations for the Commonwealth Games due this October, wildlife bodies are concerned that illegal trade in wildlife products might see a spurt as thousands of tourists arrive here to participate in and see the coveted games.
A friend sent me prototypes of brand new public service announcements that are part of TRAFFIC India’s campaign advising tourists to exercise caution while buying souvenirs from India. Here’s a collage of the bright and creative posters that have messages like: “FREE!!! A pair of handcuffs and up to seven years in jail with every ivory product” and “FREE!!! Up to seven years accommodation in a prison cell with the purchase of any item made of protected reptile skins”.
A release accompanying the posters says the campaign is targeted at domestic and foreign tourists. The posters send a clear message that it is not only the poachers and traders of endangered wildlife who are liable for punishment under India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, but also those who purchase and use such items. Tourists inadvertently become a party to illegal trade in wildlife products.
The “Don’t Buy Trouble” campaign has been launched at vantage points — airports, hotels/resorts and other significant tourist hotspots.
The fear is not unfounded. Illegal wildlife trade has almost threatened the very survival of many species in India. TRAFFIC India lists some such products — mongoose hair, snakeskin, rhino horn, tiger and leopard claws, bones, skins, whiskers, elephant tusks, deer antlers, turtle shells, musk pods, bear bile, medicinal plants, timber and caged birds such as parakeets, mynas and munias.
The idea to reinvent the campaign, running since 2008, during the high tourist footfall period is well thought of. It will go a long way in ensuring the Commonwealth Games do not get a rap from the wild side, in the least.