New Delhi : India’s proposal for transferring Leith’s Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia leithi) from Appendix II to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) has been adopted by the Conference of Parties (CoP) to CITES in its 19th Meeting at Panama.
The proposal was introduced by Shri Chandra Prakash Goyal, Director General of Forests & Special Secretary, MoEFCC on 23rd November 2022 when the Committee I of CoP took up the proposal for consideration.
Leith’s Softshell Turtle is a large fresh water soft-shelled turtle which is endemic to peninsular India and it inhabits rivers and reservoirs. The species has been subject to intensive exploitation over the past 30 years. It has been poached and illegally consumed within India. It has also been illegally traded abroad for meat and for its calipee. The population of this turtle species is estimated to have declined by 90% over the past 30 years such that the species is now difficult to find. It is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN.
The species is listed on Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which gives it protection from hunting as well as trade. However, poaching and illegal trade of protected turtle species is a major challenge in India with seizures of thousands of specimens reported every year. Species level identification of seized specimens is also a challenge. Tortoises and freshwater turtles are targeted for the international pet, meat and calipee trade, as well as for illegal domestic consumption in some areas.
The CITES Appendix I listing of this Turtle species would ensure that legal international trade in the species does not take place for commercial purposes. It would also ensure that international trade in captive-bred specimens only takes place from registered facilities and further that higher and more proportionate penalties are provided for illegal trade of the species.
The listing of the Leith’s soft-shell turtle, thereby, strengthens its CITES protection status so as to ensure better survival of the species.
The 19th meeting of the CoP to CITES is being held in Panama from 14th to 25th November 2022. India’s proposal for inclusion of Jeypore Hill Gecko (Cyrtodactylus jeyporensis) in Appendix II and the transfer of Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES have also been adopted by the CoP in this meeting.