Ethical Issues in Conservation of Wildlife: Dolphins, Elephants and Tigers


India is home to a large portion of the world's animal and plant species. It has some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, such as the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, Sundaland and Indo-Burma region which are the richest biodiversity hotspots. India also is a vast diversified country with varied culture, faith, beliefs, languages traditions and compassionate to animate objects. The man was treated as a part of nature, not superior to it as per the religious practices, social and economic norms. Therefore, the fundamental ethics of conduct with each other was to live in peace and harmony because man and nature are interdependent and destruction or damage to one, is the destruction of self. It was ethically implied to not destroy trees, keep the water bodies clean and wholesome. India from its olden time was a country of peace and tranquility among all living creatures.

Times changed as man advanced. The very famous 'Chipko movement' of village Kherjariilli of Rajasthan, demonstrated the sacrifice of Amerita Bai, her family, and other 359 persons to save trees of the village shows how man divided and started ruling over, yet the morality of few people staged a strong movement towards co-existence of man and nature. This showcases a battle between the right and dutifulness of the people of that village against other man-made societal norms. The important question, however, concerns how the ethical part of human conduct can be fortified by the other elements in the society. Are people blinded with selfish desires? The Needs and wants have taken a toll over the survival of the other living beings to an extent, that moral values towards natural habitation hold no good in the way of development.

Man is to live by terms of nature. In actual practice, however, he yields to his own motives and habits. The lifestyle and careless mindset of an individual, a family, a community or a nation is another factor to dominate the environment and destroy natural vegetation. The relationship between law and ethics must co-exist. Law, controls and regulates human conduct in situations of conflict of interest and ensures justice to all. But for its efficient implementation, it must depend upon the determination of the people at large. An ethical action springs from the consensus of mankind’s desires and his duties.

Ganges River Dolphin

The Ganges River Dolphin is virtually blind. But the eyes of those who live beside the Ganges are being opened to the plight of this endangered aquatic mammal. The Ganges River dolphin is facing a serious threat from humans that could lead to its extinction. Unfortunately, the dolphin inhabits one of the world's densely populated area whose need for sufficient unpolluted water and food conflicts with the needs of human neighbors.

The Ganges water quality is declining. The dangerous water pollutants are leaked by oil refineries, chemical factories, and other industrial plants along with untreated sewage into the Ganges and its tributaries. Pollution has also reduced the number of fish, upon which the dolphin prey. Noise from increasing numbers of large ships, such as oil tankers, interferes severely with its echolocation system. Despite legal protection, some dolphins are still caught for food, even more, are killed for oil which is used by fishermen to attract fish. Others become entangled in fishing nets and perish. Their annual migration is also highly affected by the construction of dams. All these morally unethical act and excessive unchangeable religious beliefs, of dumping the idols, bathing, etc., has worsened the plight of this poor mammal.

The Ganges River Dolphin has been legally protected in India since 1972, yet its population continues to decline by 10 percent. The dolphin's problems have been known for some time, but attempts to help have so far been ineffective. For instance, a 1986 Indian government initiative to clean up the river has had little impact- despite the fact that it would make a difference to people’s lives and that of the dolphins.

Asiatic Elephant

The Asiatic Elephant occupies the world’s most densely populated regions where human numbers are rising. It is in the brisk of extinction in the wild. Their habitat is cleared and made into farming lands and this has also disturbed their traditional migratory routes. They have begun ransacking crops, leading to conflicts with farmers and in turn to political pressure to eliminate them near populated areas. Elephants are also illegally poached for ivory. Example- Veerappan, an Indian Bandit who has poached over 2000 elephants and smuggled millions of dollars of Ivory

There is a serious issue of escalating man-elephant conflict. But aren’t elephants respected in India? No significant work begins without invoking Ganesha. The horror of the present is framed when a massive elephant was killed by enraged villagers. This occurred in Sonitpur district one of the most severe man-elephant conflict areas.

“In Western Ghats, past few years, more 50 elephants around protected areas have met a grisly end from high voltage electricity illegally connected to farm fences to stop crop-raiding,” according to wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi. The only forests they know are now tea gardens, and paddy fields, or submerged by dams or devastated by mines. Homeless and starved, the elephants maraud crops, destroy huts. In retaliation, people poison, electrocute or blow up elephants, by placing crude bombs, in elephant delicacies like jackfruit.

The Bengal Tiger

Once common throughout Asia is now restricted to small areas of India and the surrounding countries. The main threats are loss of habitat, poaching, loss of prey and the trade in tiger parts for eastern medicine. Most Bengal tigers now live in protected areas of India. Lack of funds, equipment and most of all political will is turning the reserves into a risk-free zone for poachers. Ravaged by mining, infrastructure projects, and floods, the barely 5% of India's land that constitutes its reserve forests can only be saved by proactive legislation, tighter implementation of laws and by the immediate creation of a Special Protection Force for the 1400 Tigers left in the wild.

Rare Butterflies- Malabar Banded Peacock, Pale Jezebel, Kaiser-I-Hind

The Himalayas and the Western Ghats are a home rare Indian butterfly and now have become the primary hunting grounds of this unique creature. They are in greatly sought after internationally for butterfly parks, private collection, traditional medicine.

This is a case of smuggling in the global market. Svach's is one of many websites which promises supply customers rare insects. Kucera, an entomologist, and his companion, they were booked under Indian Wildlife Act, 1972 on two charges: illegal entry into the protected area, and removing its wildlife without the permission of chief wildlife warden.

Critically Endangered Plant Species- Snow Orchid

They are seen in Mahanada sanctuary: North Bengal. The orchid is supreme in the plant world. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac, the ultimate ingredient in a love potion. Unfortunately, this belief hasn't been a good news to the orchid kingdom. The wild population has been looted ruthlessly for commercial purposes, depleting many orchids to point of total disappearance.

Case of Sanctuary of Bharathpur:

Bharthpur had no water, no fish- no birds. There is no hope at the sanctuary of Bharathpur, starved of water and life for nearly five years. Thanks to the agitating farmers and politics over water, the sancturary was denied any water from the Ajan dam, which is fed by the Gambhir and Banganaga rivers. Over the 4 years, rainfall has been low, and farmers demanded water for their fields. Rajasthan then CM Vasundhara Raje stated in 2005 that, 'people, not parks were here a priority.' Not understanding that denying the wetlands would mean groundwater for the nearby farmer wouldn't be replenished, the powers-that-be succumbed to political pressure and diverted water meant for the swamp to farmlands. The Result? Devastation. The Siberian Cranes were already history; from 400-odd species the park boasted, the numbers crashed to 48. The park that saw hundreds of thousands of birds in a normal season now barely held 4000. Other Species suffered too. The endangered fishing Cat dwindled to negligible numbers, otters and turtles vanished.

For an ethical movement for the conservation of wildlife, there is several conflicts between the conservationist and the local people. The ethical issue lies in the fact of not questioning the data (false) given like we did for an over-inflated tiger number. The wealth of exotic insects, beetles, rare species of animals, medicinal plants, continuous to lure unscrupulous traders and scientists who clandestinely sell their rich hauls to the world market, at an exorbitant rate. All the reasons or threats to wildlife mentioned in the cases seems to be irrevocable acts that cannot be changed even if it is morally wrong. In this poor and crowded part of the world, wildlife conservation rarely gets the proper attention from public or government resources it needs.

These prove to be a challenge for ethical intervention as the conflict lies between the needs and wants of human beings backed by excessive corruption. A major setback also is not enforcing the laws since the development of the country has always come first in comparison with the protection of wildlife.

Inadequacy of Laws for Protection of Wildlife

Law gives protection to life, liberty, and property and brings to books those guilty of the violation. But the question is whose life? Is it only man's? Can a man destroy nature's life and property? Environmental protection in India has been on the agenda since 1960' yet it was only in 1980' that seriousness of environmental degradation was realized.

Laws enacted by the Indian govt-

  • Indian Forest Act 1927
  • Forest conservation Act 1980,
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972,
  • Environment protection act 1986, these are few of the important laws.

There are several environmental protection laws in our country. But still, we find that environmental degradation is on increase. It is not enough that we create a structure of the legislation. We must also create a structure of administration to implement laws as well. Indian social and moral ethics relating to conservation of wildlife protection and conservation has been accepted by the Indian court time and again


The Wildlife habitation being in danger, there is a need to adopt certain specific strategies to protect it. Broad approaches to the solution of wildlife problems are likely to include one or more of the following elements:

  • Changes in the attitude and behavior of individuals
  • The assessment and control of science and technology
  • Specific reforms in society, decision-making process
  • Radical political-economic changes.

Individual Actions might be regarded as supplying the essential building blocks of social processes. The only answer to the wildlife crisis is the shared insight of people that they would be better off if they could work together and care for each other. In the end, each individual must feel responsible for the present and future welfare of all mankind.

However, if no political, social or cultural awareness concerning protecting the natural environment is happening and no value system has been accepted then it's time to call for a change in the decision-making process. Men do not have the right to destroy nature. What is required is a strong movement that would help create and generate the required spirit to protect the environment.


  1. Code of ethics for wildlife in India.
  2. Wildlife templates of NAT GEO.
07 April 2022
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