December 4, 2007- Animal skins and body parts worth millions of pounds have been ceremonially burned in the Indian state of Kashmir.
The destruction of the skins from some of India’s most endangered species was the latest phase of a campaign to stamp out the illegal trade.
Eight truckloads of pelts from animals including snow leopard, leopard, tiger, black bear, otters and wolves, were thrown onto the bonfire.
Ashok Kumar, trustee of the Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) partner, lit the pyre. “This is a hugely significant moment. Going up in flames was the largest single agglomeration of wildlife skins anywhere in the world.”
All species are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, the Jammu & Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act of 1978 and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The destruction was ordered by the High Court.
Kashmir has historically been the centre of the illegal animal skin trade. Recently traders in the Kashmir Valley agreed to surrender their stockpiles in return for compensation from the government.
The first truckload of skins was burnt in Srinagar in October. The latest bonfire was the second stage in the destruction of 127,326 items, mostly pelts, held in storage by the Forest Department.
The haul included tiger (45 skins, 44 heads and 14 manufactured items), snow leopard (104 skins, one head and 25 items), black bear (120 skins and five mounted heads), leopard (422 skins, 115 heads and 435 items), jungle cat (33,235 skins and 6,255 items), one lion head and one Tibetan antelope skull.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, witnessed the burning and said: “Like Kenya’s burning of stockpiled ivory in 1989, I hope these flames send a strong message to consumers around the world that the trade in endangered species is illegal and totally unacceptable in today’s society.”