'Mercy Killing' of Wild Animals May Be Allowed to Save Crops

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), June 7, 2017 | Go to article overview

'Mercy Killing' of Wild Animals May Be Allowed to Save Crops


NEW DELHI, June 7 -- India is considering "mercy killing" as a method of controlling the population of wild animals for the first time. The proposal is part of a draft of a new government plan that focuses on wildlife conservation.

Even as traditional habitats and migration routes for wild animals are deteriorating, the National Wildlife Action Plan says that the population of some wild animals, such as nilgai, are increasing. With numbers that are unsustainable for their diminished ecosystems, some animals - including, the report says, nilgai, elephants, and rhesus monkeys - have undertaken new forms of crop raiding.

These changes in environment and behaviour are leading to a rise in conflict, often violent, between humans and animals.

The Action Plan, which provides a roadmap on wildlife conservation from this year to 2031, mentions a variety of potential solutions. It suggests studying how to devise human "land-use practices" that would reduce the number of conflicts, and it recommends constituting a workforce within state forest departments that would be devoted to addressing conflicts as they occur.

The plan also recommends the "scientific management of wildlife populations" and refers to the need to "define" and "identify the relevant procedures" for "mercy killing".

This language is meant to signal need to "establish a practical and legally binding protocol on the subject of mercy killing and euthanasia of wild animals based on the advice of a committee of experts drawn from the wildlife and the veterinary sciences," said a senior official at the environment ministry.

While euthanasia denotes only the killing of animals that are already terminally ill, mercy killing involves killing animals "for reasons of space, lack of proper centres, resources and personnel," according to the draft of the policy.

Last year, the environment ministry designated nilgai, wild boars, and rhesus monkeys as "vermin" in three states. This is the classification given to animals like rats and crows that allows for limited periods of culling under the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act.

Mercy killing is common in a variety of places around the world. Bison in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, badgers in the United Kingdom, kangaroos in Australia, and elephants in South Africa are all culled in order to maintain a healthy and safe population size.

"In the western countries culling is done keeping in mind only the scientific management," said one wildlife conservationist. "In India, apart from scientific management, we also have to keep in mind the socio-cultural aspect."

In India, the religious sentiments associated with some wild animals make it challenging for the government to support the mercy killing of those species. …

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