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.

 

About the turtle

  • Leith’s Softshell Turtle is a large fresh water soft-shelled turtle which is endemic to peninsular India and it inhabits rivers and reservoirs.
  • Distribution — Restricted to southern peninsular India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu) in the Cauvery, Thungabhadra, Ghataprabha, Bhavani, Godavari, and Moyar drainages.
  • Threats —
    • 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.
  • Conservation Status —
    • It is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN.
    • It is listed on Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Benefits of listing in The CITES Appendix I —
    • 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.