Cops shut down illegal marine life exhibition at Matunga's Poddar College

The five-day exhibition that was showcasing rare aquatic species at Matunga’s Podar College, had not acquired requisite permissions from the Animal Welfare Board of India

Visitors at the exhibition

A five-day marine exhibition, which was displaying rare aquatic species at Poddar College in Matunga, has been discontinued after the police found that the exhibitors had not acquired the requisite permissions from authorities concerned.

The police pulled the plug on the Aqua Life 2016 Show after Meet Ashar, emergency response coordinator for PETA, visited the exhibition on October 10 to know first-hand what kind of marine species were on display, and whether they were endangered or not.

One of the exhibits

A few days before his visit, he had also written to the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) claiming that he suspected that some rare species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, were on display at the event, and whether the board had provided the necessary permissions required for an exhibition of such nature. On October 8, he received a reply from the board stating that no-permission had been granted for the exhibition, and neither had an application been made for the same.

“After AWBI confirmed that the event was organised without their permission, we met and shared a letter with deputy commissioner of police, Zone IV (Mumbai), and senior police inspector BM Kakkad of Matunga police station, urging them to stop the exhibition,” said Ashar.

On October 11, a day before the exhibition was scheduled to end, Kakkad visited the spot and told the organisers, Laukik Creations, to discontinue the event.

The exhibition, which had an entry fee of R80 per person, had displayed over 800 marine species, including the 3.5 feet-long-arapaima fish, blue damsels, mata tank, moon wrasse, lionfish, trekker fish among others.

According to the Performing Animals Registration Rules (PARR), 2001, which is framed under PCA Act, if any person is exhibiting an animal, it is mandatory for them to register animals with the AWBI. Capturing protected wildlife is also prohibited under WPA 1972 and keeping custody of any wildlife is illegal without having a valid Ownership Certificate issued by the chief wildlife warden of the state.

Speaking to mid-day, range forest officer Santosh Kanka said that the forest department had received a tip-off about the exhibition, after which they contacted the wildlife control bureau in Belapur, sending them images of the species on display. “They told me that none of the species are listed in Schedule 1 endangered species. Therefore, no action was taken."

When contacted, Laukik Soman, organiser of Aqua Life 2016 show said, “They (PETA) took objection to the fact that all the press articles about the exhibition, termed the fish being displayed as ‘rare and endangered. But, none of them fell in those categories."

However, Soman, who has been organising exhibitions for the last six years, admits to not have procured permission from AWBI. “I didn’t know that we had to take permission from them. We always take permission from the agriculture department,” he said.

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