New Delhi: India remains a "lucrative target" in the USD 20 billion illegal trade of wildlife articles per year, an official document says.
"The most serious and immediate risk to many species is poaching for wildlife trade. ...South Asian countries account for 13 to 15 per cent of the world`s biodiversity and so remain a lucrative target of the trade," says the report prepared by the Environment Ministry.
Wild animals are killed for the flourishing illegal international trade in their skins, bones, flesh, fur, used for decoration, clothing, medicine, and unconventional exotic food, says the Environmental and Social Framework Document for "Strengthening Regional Cooperation in Wildlife Protection in Asia".
Victims of the trade include the iconic tiger and elephant, the snow leopard, the common leopard, the one-horn rhino, pangolin, brown bear, several species of deer and reptiles, seahorses, star tortoises, butterflies, peacocks, hornbills, parrots, parakeets and birds of prey, and corals, it says.
"The primary market for many of these products is outside South Asia, often in East Asia for items of presumed pharmacological utility," says the document is prepared for financial assistance from the World Bank under regional International Development Association (IDA) window.
Noting that the wildlife trade is "big business", it said due to the clandestine nature of the enterprise, reliable estimates of the composition, volume and value of the trade remain elusive.
"The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) suggests that the global value of the illegal wildlife related trade exceeds USD 20 billion per year and probably ranks third after narcotics and the illegal weapons trade," it said.
The report says that poaching techniques are "extremely gruesome".
"The more egregious methods include skinning or dehorning live animals, and transportation of live creatures in inhuman conditions," it says.
Particularly damaging is the banned trade in tiger parts much of which is used for its presumed pharmaceutical benefits.
"The World Chinese Medicine Society has declared that tiger parts are not necessary in traditional medicines and that alternatives are available and effective. Yet the illegal trade still flourishes.
Poaching has become so intense that tigers have disappeared from many parks throughout Asia.
"Nowhere has the impact been greater than in India and Nepal which remain the bastions of tiger conservation," says the document and added that Nepal has emerged as the transit hub for the trade in illegal wildlife commodities destined for consumption in East China.
"Laos is recognized as both a source and transit country while Viet Nam is a transit hub for illegal wildlife trade," it says.
The economic value of the illegal wildlife trade is determined primarily by cross-border factors. Wildlife are poached in one country, stockpiled in another, and then traded beyond the South Asia region.
"Lack of uniformity in enforcement can result in migration of the trade to other countries with less stringent enforcement. The trade is controlled by criminal organizations which have considerable power over the market and the prices paid to poachers and carriers, making control of the trade even more challenging," it says.