New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) India's proposal for enhancing protection status to Leith's softshell turtle has been adopted at the ongoing world wildlife conference in Panama, the Union Environment Ministry said on Thursday.
The country also proposed to give a higher degree of protection to the red-crowned roofed turtle or 'Batagur Kachuga' and received wide support from other parties at the 19th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP 19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) being held in Panama City from November 14 to 25.
The transfer of Leith's softshell turtle from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I would ensure that legal international trade in the species does not take place for commercial purposes, the ministry said in a statement.
"It would also ensure that international trade in captive-bred specimens only takes place from registered facilities and that higher and more proportionate penalties are provided for illegal trade of the species," it said.
Leith's softshell turtle is a large freshwater soft-shelled turtle which inhabits rivers and reservoirs. It is endemic to peninsular India.
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 per cent over the past 30 years and the species is now difficult to find. It is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The species is listed on Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which gives it protection from hunting and 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 the 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 ministry also said that India's proposal for uplifting of Batagur Kachuga from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES received overwhelming support and was recommended for adoption with consensus.
CITES lauded and recorded India's works in the area of conservation of tortoises and freshwater turtles as well as efforts made in combating wildlife crime and illegal trade of turtles in the country, it said in another statement.
"The resolution documents submitted by the CITES Secretariat on tortoises and freshwater turtles specifically mentioned the commendable result achieved by the country in operations such as those initiated by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau namely Operation Turtshield, which resulted in nabbing many criminals involved in poaching and illegal trade of freshwater turtles and substantial seizures made by the agencies in different parts of the country," the statement said. PTI GVS SMN SMN SMN