A three-month grace period granted for returning wildlife artefacts like tiger claws, animal skulls and other prohibited materials by the public in Karnataka will begin on January 16, Forest Minister Eshwar Khandre has declared.
In October last year the forest authorities started a crackdown on celebrities in possession of materials such as elephant tusks, deer antlers, and tiger claws which is prohibited under law. The department later decided to award a one-time opportunity for the return of wildlife material before resuming the crackdown.
“Many people are unaware that it is illegal to be in possession of the prohibited materials. We are giving three months’ time from January 16 for anyone in possession of wildlife parts to surrender them to the department. Anyone who continues to be in possession of such materials after three months will face legal action,” Minister Eshwar Khandre told reporters on Wednesday.
On the instruction of Khandre, a high-level committee headed by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) was formed on October 25, 2023 to submit a comprehensive report on the measures which need to be taken to prevent the sale of products and items made from the parts of wild animals including tiger claws and teeth.
In the same month, the forest authorities arrested a businessman and Big Boss show participant Varthur Santhosh after he was seen wearing a locket made with a tiger claw during the reality show aired on television.
Following Santhosh’s arrest, the forest department received complaints against Karnataka Rajya Sabha MP Jaggesh, JD(S) leader Nikhil Kumaraswamy (both actors-turned-politicians), actor Darshan, and producer Rockline Venkatesh for wearing pendants with tiger claws in violation of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
In the wake of these incidents, Minister Khandre decided to give a last chance to surrender the articles to the government.
“There are regular complaints against those who are in possession of artefacts made from tiger claws…Against this background, the opinion of legal experts will be taken to give clemency for the last time for those illegally keeping wildlife products,” Khandre said in October last year.
He added that in rural areas people were in possession of deer skin, ivory artefacts, stag horns, unaware that this was a crime.
“The objective behind offering one-time relief is that the Wildlife Protection Act is a stringent law and the government has to take people into confidence so that there won’t be a chaotic situation. Those who are in illegal possession of such products should return it to the government to avoid any trouble,” the minister said.
Khandre also urged actors and dignitaries to refrain from wearing fake tiger claw lockets as they may tend to inspire ordinary individuals to possess the original artifacts, he said.