Poaching incidents for consumption and local trade have more than doubled during the lockdown period, according to a recent study. Also Read - Bengaluru Lockdown Today: Please Don't Ask For Exceptions, Tweets Top Cop | List of Dos and Don'ts

A report published by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network with WWF India support, indicated that despite consistent efforts of the law enforcement agencies, wild animal populations in India are under “additional threat” during the lockdown period. Also Read - 'Secrecy, Deception And Cover-Up': Donald Trump Again Accuses China of Spreading Coronavirus

The highest increase in poaching was reported to be of ungulates mainly for meat, and the percentage jumped from nearly eight out of 22 per cent pre-lockdown to 44 per cent during the lockdown period. Also Read - Amarnath Yatra 2020 News: Only 500 Pilgrims Will be Allowed Per Day by Road From Jammu

The second group which showed a marked increase was poaching of ‘small mammals’, including hares, porcupines pangolins, giant squirrels, civets, monkeys, smaller wild cats.

Although some have always been in high demand in the international markets, most hunting during the lockdown period is presumably for meat or for local trade. Cases for these rose from 17 per cent to 25 per cent between the pre-and lockdown periods.

Among the big cats, leopard poaching showed an increase during the lockdown period as nine Leopards were reported to have been killed compared to four in the pre-lockdown period.

A total of 222 persons were arrested in poaching related cases by various law enforcement agencies during the lockdown period across the country, significantly higher than the 85 suspects reported as arrested during the pre-lockdown phase, the report stated.

Incidences related to wild pet-bird seizures, however, came down significantly from 14 per cent to 7 per cent between the pre-lockdown and lockdown periods, presumably due to a lack of transport and closed markets during the lockdown period.

Larger birds such as Indian Peafowls and game birds such as Grey Francolins, which are popular for their meat, were reported to be targeted during the lockdown.

There was less reporting of poaching and illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles, with almost no seizures of these species during the lockdown period.

Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India Office said, “The more than doubling of reported poaching cases, mainly of ungulates and small wild animals for meat is doubtless placing additional burdens on wildlife law enforcement agencies. Therefore, it is imperative that these agencies are supported adequately and in a timely manner so they can control the situation”.

Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India added, “If poaching of ungulates and small animals remains unchecked it will lead to depletion of prey base for big cats like Tigers and Leopards and a depletion of the ecosystems.”

He said that it will lead to higher incidences of human-wildlife conflicts and will undermine the significant successes that India has achieved in the field of wildlife conservation.