Unaware of Wildlife Act, city schools in dock for hoarding plant, animal specimens for study

Schools in the city could be unintentionally violating the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 by hoarding animal and plant specimens in their laboratories.

Owning any of the hundreds of specimens protected by the Act, such as the Banded Duffer butterfly, is punishable by up to seven years in jail.

However, completely unaware of the Act, many schools have been storing specimens for educational purposes.

One such school, Apex Public School, Burari, had kept a cobra, a turtle, a frog and several other animals on display to teach students about wildlife.

"We never knew it was against the law," school Chairman Geoff Jonathan said. "We were using them for educational purposes."

However, in an effort to help Delhi's 3,000 private and public schools that could be breaking the law unintentionally, the Department of Wildlife and Forests has issued notices asking school authorities to declare their specimens. Instead of prosecuting, the department is confiscating all the incriminating specimens unless a school refuses to comply.

"Activists go with protesters to these schools and say they are storing wildlife illegally... we are trying to streamline the procedure," a top wildlife official said.

But the official said only about 20 schools had submitted their lists so far since the notice was issued in May.

In the last year, animal rights activists too have turned in several violators.

A trustee with the NGO, People for Animals (PFA), said the organisation had reported Apex Public School and others to police because holding protected specimens is unlawful and disrespectful.

"It is important to teach children the value of life. Animals being treated as objects for learning tools is not the meaning of life. They are given a completely wrong lesson," PFA Trustee Ambika Shukla said.

The Act lists hundreds of animals, insects and plants that cannot be hunted, picked, collected or harmed. The most commonly overlooked species in laboratories include butterflies, moths, frogs, snakes and fish, a wildlife official said.

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