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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

More protection for endangered mammals? UN panel to decide

The standing committee of United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora , a global treaty that regulates commercial trade for animals and plants, will meet between August 17 and 28, in Geneva, Switzerland.

mumbai Updated: Aug 16, 2019 11:30 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Scientists worry that the effects of rapidly warming seas on humpback whale feeding grounds are endangering the mammals
Scientists worry that the effects of rapidly warming seas on humpback whale feeding grounds are endangering the mammals (New York Times photo)
         

The 18th edition of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will decide the fate of a number of threatened mammals and reptiles in India. The standing committee of CITES, a global treaty that regulates commercial trade for animals and plants, will meet between August 17 and 28, in Geneva, Switzerland. It will consider India’s proposals to grant enhanced protection to smooth-coated otters, Mako sharks and the star tortoise, among other species.

In December 2018, India proposed Appendix I status for smooth-coated otters and small-clawed otters; 18 sharks including six species of Guitarfish, 10 species of Wedgefish and two species of Mako sharks; the Tokay gecko; and the star tortoise. Species listed under Appendix I of CITES’s international laws regulating commercial wildlife trade, are “threatened with extinction” and their trade is prohibited (unless it is for non-commercial purposes).

The CITES secretariat will decide on whether these Indian species will receive the enhanced protection offered by Appendix I. At present, they are all classified under Appendix II, which allows commercial trade. Both species of otters are found in Maharashtra and the Guitarfish may be found along the state’s coastline.

Wedgefishes have also occasionally been sighted in these waters. Mako sharks are usually found around the Andaman Islands and though found in Andhra Pradesh, the star tortoise is known to be traded widely across Maharashtra, which is a hub for illicit wildlife trade.

In July, the CITES secretariat recommended the rejection of the majority of India’s proposals. Only enhanced protections for Guitarfish and Wedgefish were approved.

MS Negi, additional director general of forest (wildlife), ministry of environment, forests and climate change said, “We submitted individual responses to the standing committee for arguments made by the CITES secretariat. The secretariat recommending rejection is not binding in any manner to the final outcome of this conference as they are not the final decision makers,” said Negi, who will be presenting India’s case at the convention.

To qualify for Appendix I, a species must show a rate of decline of 50% or more over 10 years or three generations.

According to the MoEFCC, both otter species have witnessed a 30% decline in their population over three decades. “Owing to habitat degradation and poaching activities, their numbers are declining rapidly and the need for an Appendix I status is necessary,” said Satish Pande, director of the Pune-based Ela Foundation. The two otter species are in demand internationally for their fur (pelt) and are listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

HT has reported on the need to protect star tortoises in July. Between 2000 and 2015, Indian star tortoises alone accounted for almost 12% of global seizures.

“Listing them as Appendix I will raise its global profile and strengthen international cooperation by enforcement agencies,” said Dr Neil D’Cruze, Head of Wildlife Research, World Animal Protection, non-profit based in London, UK.

First Published: Aug 16, 2019 00:09 IST

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