Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Contents:

Information:

  • Access

Actions:

      • Send article to Kindle

        To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

        Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

        Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

        What's in a name? Wildlife traders evade authorities using code words
        Available formats
        ×
        Send article to Dropbox

        To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

        What's in a name? Wildlife traders evade authorities using code words
        Available formats
        ×
        Send article to Google Drive

        To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

        What's in a name? Wildlife traders evade authorities using code words
        Available formats
        ×
Export citation

Footnotes

*

Also at World Animal Protection, London, UK

Where rare species are concerned, including those with restricted range, their use for traditional medicine can have disastrous impacts on local populations already under pressure (UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2016, http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/wildlife/World_Wildlife_Crime_Report_2016_final.pdf). Difficulty in monitoring such illegal activity has been illustrated by enforcement raids across India since June 2017 (National Geographic, 7 July 2017, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/wildlife-watch-india-monitor-lizard-poaching-plant-root-hatha-jodi/), with authorities seizing supposedly rare Himalayan plant roots referred to as hatha jodi.

Hatha jodi (Plate 1) is purported to have magical powers to ward off bad luck and change lives, bringing wealth, power and contentment. These qualities make it an attractive purchase on Hindu tantric stores and websites. However, laboratory examinations in India and the UK in May 2017 have confirmed that hatha jodi is actually the dried hemipenes of Indian monitor lizards (Bengal monitor Varanus bengalensis and yellow monitor Varanus flavescens). The penalty for killing these species or dealing in their body parts is equivalent to doing so with a tiger in India (Wildlife Protection Act 1972 of India) and internationally (CITES Appendices, 2017).

Plate 1 Monitor lizard (Varanus spp.) genitalia, sold as Hatha Jodi, a Himalayan plant root, by major online retailers. Image © Neil D'Cruze.

This raises the question of whether customers and traders really believe they are dealing with plant roots. Is this, rather, a cover to disguise trade in protected lizards through the deliberate use of a code word? The latter would seem likely, as we documented hundreds of such advertisements carried by online retailers during a search made over a 4 week period in June 2017. The retailers included Amazon, eBay and Alibaba, which presumably did not realise they were involved in illegal sales, at prices of up to USD 250 apiece, of a species protected across Asia, Europe and North America.

Perhaps exaggerated respect given to spiritual myths thickened the smoke screen by trading unscrupulously on the religious connotations of hatha jodi (Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2015, 13, 325). Either way, when it comes to illegal trade, the Shakespearian question ‘What's in a name?’ reveals more loopholes than a knitted scarf. We believe that, for effective enforcement of wildlife trade laws, in addition to a standardized naming policy based on up-to-date taxonomic classification (Conservation Letters, 2016, 9, 313), creation of a readily accessible list of colloquial names used as codes to sell globally protected species is essential.