25 Nov 2022
India’s proposal to increase the protection of Leith’s softshell turtle was approved at the 19th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP 19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is being held in Panama City from November 14 to 25.
About Leith’s Softshell Turtle
- Leith’s softshell turtle is a large freshwater soft-shelled turtle that is endemic to peninsular India.
- It has been subject to intense exploitation over the past 30 years for poaching and illegal consumption within India. It has been illegally traded to foreign countries for meat and its calipee.
- This species’ population has fallen by 90 per cent over the past 3 decades and is now very difficult to find.
- It is classified as “critically endangered” in the IUCN Red List.
- The turtle has been listed on Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which gives protection from hunting and trading. However, this protection failed to save the species from poaching and illegal trade. Seizures of thousands of specimens are reported every year.
- The recent shift from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I will help prevent commercial trade of this critically endangered species. It will ensure that the international trade of captive-bred specimens only takes place in registered facilities and that higher and more appropriate penalties are given for illegal trade.
What are the other key outcomes of COP19 of CITES?
At the conference, 52 proposals have been put forward to increase regulation of the international trade of sharks, reptiles, hippos, songbirds, rhinos, 200 tree species, orchids, elephants, turtles etc.
India also proposed induction of freshwater turtle Batagur kachuga, which gained widespread support from the parties in COP19 of CITES.
During the event, CITES lauded and recorded India’s efforts focusing on the conservation of tortoises and freshwater turtles as well as the efforts towards combating wildlife crime and the illegal trade of turtles. It specifically recognized the positive outcomes of Operation Turtshield, which resulted in the capturing of numerous criminals involved in the poaching and illegal trade of freshwater turtles and the large number of seizures made in different parts of the country.