Where the Indian government has displayed apathy, others have shown assiduity. Brazil has built a billion-dollar dairy and meat industry largely on the backs of Indian bulls like the Gir, Kankrej and Ongole, which they first took from India as far back as 1950. Every few years its cattle breeders look for fresh infusions of cattle germplasm from India and, in keeping with this, Brazil recently made an official application to India to import 5,000 units of Ongole bull semen.

Brazilian cattle breeders have repeatedly imported live cattle, semen and embryos of the Ongole bull from India. In many cases, these transactions have been done covertly through middlemen. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002, makes it illegal to export any biological resource without the prior approval of the National Biodiversity Authority, the body that Brazilian officials have approached this time around. In March 2012, airports and seaports across India were even put on high alert to watch for Ongole bull trafficking.

The Ongole bulls are so much in demand in Brazil that cattle bought for a few lakhs in India are sold for a few crores in the South American nation. It is a giant among farm animals and much sought after internationally. It is known to be a solid draught animal, a magnanimous milk provider and is resistant to many diseases, including mad-cow disease, a strong selling point for its meat.

The Ongole bull germplasm might be the most high-profile application that the NBA has received. NBA approval is mandatory for access to any biological resource, whether for research or commercial use, if any of the parties involved has a foreign connection. The authority came down strongly on the University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad and Maharashtra-based company Mahyco, whose US partner was the agrochemical giant Monsanto, when they failed to take its nod to develop insect-resistant BT Brinjal. The heads of the university faced criminal prosecution.

But the authority has been slow to move on other fronts, dawdling for years before it finalised last August guidelines, by which it might collect royalty from sales of products from Indian biological resources. The delay is reported to have cost the National Biodiversity Fund close to Rs 25,000 crore annually.

The authority will now consider Brazil’s application based on the conservation status of the animal, how economically important it is to the local community in Andhra Pradesh and with the assent of the state government. The NBA can also charge 2-5% royalty that will go towards conserving the species.

The authority has given only 22 approvals since 2006 and has another 84 pending. Here are some that have received the authority’s permission so far.

Dry seaweed
Tapping into the demand for edible seaweed in Southeast Asia, exporters including PepsiCo India have obtained permission from the NBA to send millions of tonnes of the plant to Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Nux vomica
The authority has allowed a Chennai-based company to export seeds of the plant nux vomica to China. The seeds contain bitter and highly poisonous alkaloids that are used in traditional Chinese medicine and painkillers.

Leopard faeces
In 2012, a Norwegian researcher had to go through the NBA to be allowed to study the eating behaviours of Indian leopards by sampling their diet and examining their faeces. The research went on to provide insight into why leopards began attacking humans in the Junnar valley in west India.

Indian wild ass hair and blood
While studying the Indian wild ass and comparing it to hybrid animals in 2006, a scientists from the Equine Museum of Japan applied to the NBA to obtain hair and blood samples of the animals from India.