Photo: Uday Kiran
Photo: Uday Kiran
Countering wildlife crimes is an immense task. And India has generally focused on large, iconic species. But lesser-known, less-charismatic and relatively abundant species may form a large part of illegal wildlife trade. Another conservation concern is the use of wildlife in religious and superstitious practices that have given rise to national and international online markets. In a new study, scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society–India, University of Florida (USA), Ashoka Trust for Ecology and the Environment, Wildlife Conservation Trust, National Centre for Biological Sciences, James Cook University (Australia) and Conservation Initiatives find that golden jackals in India are threatened by poaching and trade, driven by religious beliefs in sorcery and superstition.
The scientists collected publicly available information from government seizure data, news reports, social media posts, blogs and e-commerce platforms to create a repository of jackal hunting, poaching and trade incidences from 2013 to 2019. The study revealed that 126 skins, 8 tails, more than 370 ‘jackal horns’, 16 skulls and two live jackals were seized by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (Government of India). The analysis brought to light a widespread demand for a talisman that appears to be derived from the jackal skull, known as ‘jackal horn', locally known as ‘siyar singhi’ in Hindi and ‘nari kombu’ in Tamil/Kannada/Telugu. The ‘jackal horn’ trade is fueled by extensive online endorsement and unsubstantiated claims made by religious practitioners. Demand based on superstitious and ritualistic beliefs points to a largely ignored threat to India’s wildlife that similarly targets monitor lizards, pangolins, leopards, musk deer, snakes, owls and other species.
“Our preliminary assessment is an important first step to understanding the type and nature of poaching threats to a relatively common but often overlooked species. The database of open-source reports could fill knowledge gaps related to the jackal trade in India," says Malaika Mathew Chawla, the lead author of the study.
Co-author Arjun Srivathsa explains, "Many aspects of the trade, such as demand and supply chains, remain unknown and require further investigation and research. The illegal wildlife market driven by sorcery and superstitious practices potentially threatens a wide range of rare as well as common wildlife species."
The study titled “Do wildlife crimes against less charismatic species go unnoticed? A case study of Golden Jackal Canis aureus Linnaeus, 1758 poaching and trade in India” was conducted as part of the Wild Canids–India Project (www.wildcanids.net), and published in Journal of Threatened Taxa. The authors include Malaika Mathew Chawla (James Cook University), Arjun Srivathsa (Wildlife Conservation Society–India and University of Florida, USA), Priya Singh (National Centre for Biological Sciences), Iravatee Majgaonkar (Ashoka Trust for Ecology and the Environment), Sushma Sharma (Wildlife Conservation Society–India), Girish Punjabi (Wildlife Conservation Trust), and Aditya Banerjee (Conservation Initiatives).
(As shared by the Wildlife Conservation Society - India)