Low Penalty for Big Wildlife Offenses

Low Penalty for Big Wildlife OffensesLow Penalty for Big Wildlife Offenses

One of the notorious professional wood smugglers in Gilan and Ardebil was arrested sometime ago for illegally hunting the Persian leopard. The offender, with a previous history of illegal hunting was sentenced to a 42-month term in prison and ordered to pay $1400 in cash penalty.

The animal’s skin was sold for $2000 by the hunter, said Keivan Hushmand, head of Iran’s environment and wildlife watch, quoted by Mehr News Agency.

At present, illegal hunting is the major cause for 80% of the country’s wildlife destruction.

“We don’t deny that development of roads and, as a consequence, destruction of animal habitats, contribute to decline in wildlife population, but the main reason is illegal hunting,” he said.

 He pointed out that the primary reason for the decline in population of 10,000 wild goats in Bisotoun, Kermanshah Province, and 17,000 wild ram and sheep in Bakhtegan, Fars Province, to only a few hundreds, is due to illegal hunting.

“Raising people’s awareness on the importance of wildlife conservation is a time consuming process; therefore we should consider other conservation strategies for quick results to increase public awareness. Increasing penalties for illegal hunting is a temporary solution, effective in the short-term only,” Hushmand said.

  High Rate

Hunting has a high rate in the country “as an illegal hunter might face arrest once after 10 instances of illegal killing of animals,” the value of which would be equivalent to $2850, while the hunter is charged a meager penalty of $550.

 Therefore we can conclude that the hunter would repeat the offense even after being arrested or payment of penalties, since he stands to gain.”

“We suggest a steep increase in penalties. Also imprisonment is a greater deterrent.”

Determining imprisonment of illegal hunters is long process and is out of the Department of Environment’s (DoE) authority; but increasing cash fines is in the DoE’s jurisdiction.

The DoE is also agreeable with hiking penalties and is studying the matter.

There are only 2,500 rangers in the country, which means every ranger should confront at least 300 illegal hunters who have weapons. So arresting an offender is a tough task.

“Salary increase of rangers have not been considered in the next year’s budget bill (starts March 21); but we have decided to send some rangers to European countries for additional training,” says Masoumeh Ebtekar, head of DoE.