International trade of Indian star tortoise and otters is now banned
In a boost to India’s bid to protect endangered animal species, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva on Monday banned illegal international trade of Indian star tortoise, smooth-coated otters and Asian small-clawed otters.
These proposals had been put forth by India in December 2018 for consideration at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the convention. The plan received a majority acceptance from world leaders.
Apart from the ban on commercial trade for some species, Tokay gecko and 18 shark species were upgraded to a higher protection level.
“It has been a remarkable success for us with almost all of our proposals receiving consensus from member states,” said MS Negi, additional director general of forest (wildlife), Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), who was present at the conference.
The Indian star tortoise was upgraded to CITES Appendix I (threatened with extinction) by full consensus among all member states (of CoP18 with 183 countries), giving it the highest level of international protection from commercial trade.
“This is a landslide win for this species. India’s admirable efforts to protect a national treasure have been fully backed by all other range states,” said Dr Neil D’Cruze, head (wildlife research), World Animal Protection, who helped draft the proposal for India.
Aniruddha Mookerjee, consultant wildlife advisor, WildCRU, University of Oxford, who co-drafted the proposal, said he welcomed the CITES decision. “Growing demand for star tortoises from the international illegal pet trade is so strong that more than 200,000 tortoises are estimated to be smuggled out of India and Sri Lanka annually,” he said.
HT reported in detail about the need to protect star tortoises in July, increasingly being smuggled out of the country. “The species is known to be widely trafficked, particularly within Asia, and the Appendix I listing should spur further enforcement efforts,” said Saket Badola, head, TRAFFIC India, a wildlife trade monitoring group.
Meanwhile, the global wildlife conference voted to ban international trade in smooth-coated and Asian small-clawed otters, both found in large numbers across India, especially along the Konkan coast. For smooth-coated otters, 102 member states voted in favour of up-listing their status to Appendix I, 15 were against it while 11 abstained.
Another 98 member states voted for enhanced protection of Asian small-clawed otters, 16 were against it and 14 abstained. Proposals for these species were by India, Philippines and Nepal. “An Appendix I listing will benefit otter species by sending necessary market signals, including to online and social media audiences, that trade (for their fur pelts) in them is detrimental to their welfare and survival,” said Sumanth Bindumadhav, wildlife campaign manager at Humane Society International (HIS) India.
The Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) was included for the first time under Appendix II. The gecko is used in Chinese traditional medicine and traded throughout south-east Asia in dried form or preserved in alcohol. Additionally, 18 shark species (see box) – Guitarfish, Wedgefish and Mako Shars, all found along the Indian coastline, were given increased protection from illegal shark fin trade as proposed by 34 countries.
The Maharashtra government welcomed international protection provided to star tortoise and otter species.
“Mumbai has been a major hub for star tortoise trade and heightened protection status will help conservation efforts,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of state forest (mangrove cell), who had represented India at CoP17.