Wildlife includes all living organisms - plants and animals - that make up the world's biodiversity. These plants and animals are indispensable parts of the ecosystem and are crucial for the sustenance of life on earth. The UN General Assembly, thus, declared 3 March, the day on which Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) 1973 was signed, as the World Wildlife Day. Apart from CITES, other international instruments such as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals 1979, the Biodiversity Convention 1992, the Ramsar Convention 1971 and the World Heritage Convention 1972 also aim at protecting the natural habitat of wild flora and fauna. The protection of biodiversity is also included in the Sustainable Development Goal as SDG 15.
This year's theme for World Wildlife Day is "Sustaining all life on Earth" which encompasses all wild animal and plant species as a component of biodiversity, as well as the livelihoods of people, specially those who live closest to nature. The theme incorporates UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 14 and 15, and their commitments towards alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life both on land and below water to halt biodiversity loss.
Bangladesh is party to all the aforementioned Conventions and is also obligated to protect the biodiversity and environment under Article 18A of the Constitution. Therefore, in line with its obligations, the Government has enacted the Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012. The preamble of the Act recognises the constitutional duty to protect wildlife and natural resources. The Act creates prohibitions on hunting without license, unregistered trade and transfer of wildlife products etc. Under the Act, the Government is empowered to enlist species as vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered. A notable aspect of the Act is that it recognises the traditional and cultural norms of indigenous communities by including protection for any tree or forest which is special religious or cultural value to them. Import and export of endangered species are to be conducted only with a CITES license.
Another Act which is relevant in this regard is the 2017 Biodiversity Act. The Act acknowledges the State's obligation under the Constitution as well as the Convention on Biodiversity. The objects of the Act are protection and sustainable use of biodiversity, and equitable distribution of the benefits derived from biodiversity and traditional knowledge. The Act lays down the rules regarding access to biological resources and traditional knowledge and lawful transfer of the same.
While the 2012 Act contains appreciable provisions, the effectiveness ultimately depends on its implementation. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to the changing climate, and the protection of biodiversity and global environment is a matter of paramount importance for the country.
From Law Desk.