Endangered Indian Star Tortoise gets bumped up to higher protection status: Report

The Indian star tortoise, an IUCN-listed vulnerable species, is being illegally trafficked despite restrictions on its trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals, has imposed regulations and demanded that tortoise-range countries, India included, do a lot more to protect and conserve the threatened species. To combat the stress (largely from trading) on star tortoises, range states like Sri Lanka and India, and other non-range countries, submitted a proposal at the ongoing CITES summit to move the star tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I status — and it was passed with a majority by nations participating in CITES.

While today, the Indian star tortoise is the single-most confiscated species of freshwater tortoise in the world, according to wildlife-trade watchdog TRAFFIC, that could change at the ongoing CITES conference, where a proposal to restrict the trade in star tortoise could change a lot for the threatened animal. They are native to India and found only in Sri Lanka, some parts of India and adjoining Pakistan.

 Endangered Indian Star Tortoise gets bumped up to higher protection status: Report

The Indian Star Tortoise on a stroll. Image: WFF

The tortoise, now protected under CITES Appendix I, got a big boost in its protection status, where the illegal international trade of the Indian star tortoises, as well as that of the smooth-coated otter and Asian small-clawed otter, was declared illegal. Now, trading in these animals will require registration and special permits. Appendix II still makes allowances for the regulated trade of captive-bred animals, which isn't something that applies to species protected under Appendix I.

Illegal collection for the international wildlife trade is by far the biggest threat to their low numbers, followed by increasing habitat loss for farmland. These factors, in combination with long reproductive cycles, make it almost certain that populations in the wild are shrinking. And this won't stop being a threat now that the wildlife is classified under a better-protected category of wildlife. If anything, it'll need more countries to participate and contribute to better protection of these species.

"... we hope that this new CITES listing will act as a call to action. We commend India, Nepal, the Philippines, and Bangladesh for bringing both the otter proposals forward and all the countries and conservation organizations that supported them,"

The proponents say they believe the star tortoise meets the criteria for Appendix I inclusion. But more than that, they say it will send a strong signal to the markets and make a necessary and important statement for the future of star tortoise protection.

Updated Date: Aug 29, 2019 10:07:51 IST