The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 empowers the state governments to constitute an area into a wildlife sanctuary after following the prescribed procedure for enquiry and hearings into the existing rights and concessions if any. This act states, “the state government may by notification declare any area to be a sanctuary if it considers that such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife and its environment”. There are about 368 sanctuaries in India.
The main legal provisions regarding wildlife sanctuaries are given below:
1. After the state government declares its intention to constitute a sanctuary, the collector enquires into and determines the existence, nature and extent of rights of any persons in or over the land proposed to be included in the sanctuary area.
2. A fresh notification is issued once the rights have been settled by the collector.
3. No person is allowed to move freely inside a sanctuary except with permission form the concerned authority.
4. Permanent residents may continue to do so in specified settlements but they are bound to perform certain duties such as help in the event of fires, detection of offences, to report about dead and dying wild animals and to render assistance in apprehending the offenders.
5. The Chief Wildlife Warden of a state may authorize any person to enter the sanctuary for the purposes of study, research, tourism or related activity either free of charge or on payment of a prescribed fee.
6. Carrying of weapons or explosives in a sanctuary area is not allowed except with the permission of the competent authority.