18th Conference Of Parties Of CITES


  • The 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held between 17-28 August in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Originally, it was planned to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May, 2019.But due to the unfortunate terrorist attacks that occurred in Colombo on 21 April 2019, it was cancelled and rescheduled to occur in Switzerland.
  • CoP 19 will be held in Costa Rica in 2022.

Key Decisions regarding Indian Wildlife

Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

  • It was moved from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I. Now it enjoys the highest degree of protection as there will be a complete international ban enforced on their trade.
  • This species is found in Java, Sumatra and Borneo, northward to south-western China, east through Nepal and Bhutan and India to Pakistan, excluding the Indus Valley.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • Threats: Poaching, habitat loss, pet trade, pollution,deliberate trapping for fur in India, Nepal and Bangladesh mainly for export to China.
  • Ecological Role: It plays a vital role in balancing the freshwater ecosystems as a top carnivorous and therefore significantly influences the overall spatio–temporal dynamics of the Eco region.

Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)

  • Indian star tortoise was also moved to CITES Appendix I. Now it prohibits international trade of these species except when the purpose of the import is for scientific research.
  • They are found in three geographic areas: northwestern India (Gujarat, Rajasthan) and adjoining southeastern Pakistan; eastern and southern areas from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and eastern Karnataka to Odisha and throughout Sri Lanka.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • Threats: Habitat loss, illegal collection for utilization by local people for pet and collection for the international wildlife trade mainly to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as other countries in Southeast and East Asia.
  • Ecological Role: Being herbivores, Indian star tortoises may act as dispersal agents for various plants via consumption of seeds and fruit and other kind of vegetation.

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko)

  • It is included in CITES Appendix II.
  • They are found in northeast India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Indonesia, and to western New Guinea in Melanesia.
  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • Threats: High demand for use in traditional medicines mainly in China and Vietnam and other South East Asian countries.
  • Ecological Role: Tokay Geckoes help in pest control as they usually feed on grasshoppers, mice, locusts which are considered major threats to standing crops.

Other Animals which got Special Attention

  • Sharks: 18 species of sharks threatened by the scale of international trade in their fins and meat, were included in Appendix II of the Convention.
  • African Elephants: Parties vote to restrict trade from Zimbabwe and Botswana.
  • Giraffes: It accorded protection from trade for the first time and has been placed in Appendix II of CITES. Now it prohibits its uncontrolled trade.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES)

  • With 183 Parties, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of trade.It is also known as Washington Convention.
  • It was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975.
  • Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES Appendix

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system
  • The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.
  • Appendix I: It includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II: It includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  • Appendix III: It contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other, CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.

Significance

  • Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
  • Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

Echidna


Why is it in News?

Scientists at CSIR-CCMB have isolated protein from Echidna that can serve as an alternative to antibiotics used in livestock.

About Echidnas:

  • Echidnas are mammals and are also called spiny anteaters.
  • Echidnas are one of the world’s oldest surviving mammals.
  • They are egg-laying mammals and are covered with coarse hairs and spines.
  • It is listed as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List.
  • Echidnas are found only in Australia and Papua Guinea.

Habitat of Echidna:

They are found in woodlands, shrubs, debris, canopy of forests etc. as these mammals cannot tolerate high temperature.

Komodo Dragon


Why is it in News?

Indonesia has decided to shut down the Islands which is inhabited by Komodo Dragons in order to fix the problems created by mass tourism and smuggling.

About Komodo Dragons:

  • The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world. These wild dragons typically weigh about 70 kilograms, but some of them can weigh up to 166 kilograms too.
  • Komodo dragons have venom glands that are loaded with toxins.
  • Komodo dragons are limited to a few Indonesian islands of the Lesser Sunda group, including Rintja, Padar and Flores.
  • Their IUCN status is ‘Vulnerable’.

Source: TH, National Geographic

3D Printed Artificial Reef


Why is it in News?

Scientists are studying the pros and cons of the world’s largest 3D Printed Artificial Reef in Maldives.

About the Initiative:

  • The 3D printed reef in Maldives was developed using the computer modeling which resembled the reef structure typically found in Maldives.
  • The reef structure was made up of ceramic which has properties similar to Calcium Carbonate (Caco3) of which natural reefs are made up of.
  • Live corals were then planted on these reefs and with passage of time, corals will colonize the structure.
  • The main objective is to create a coral ecosystem artificially.

Related Terminology:

Artificial Reef:

  • It is a man made structure that resembles the natural coral reef ecosystem with an ambition to protect and preserve the corals.
  • The most common material used for the purpose is shipwrecks, lighthouse, and bridges etc. which are submerged in the water body; in conducive conditions and with passage of time it gets colonized by the corals.

Does India have an Artificial Reef Ecosystem?

  • Yes. In 2017, the Tamil Nadu Government in collaboration with IIT Madras initiated the Artificial Reef Installment Programme to save its sinking island (Vaan Island) in the Gulf of Mannar.

How will Artificial Reefs restore the Sinking Vaan Island?

  • Vaan Island was getting eroded by the ocean currents, waves etc. so the installment of corals, seagrass will hinder the flow of waves and ocean currents in turn will have positive impact on the restoration process.

Coral Reefs:

  • Corals are the living polyps that are in symbiotic relationship with the ‘Zooxanthella’. Zooxanthella is an algae that provides the food to the polyps through photosynthesis and in turn the polyps provide them the place to stay i.e. reefs.
  • Corals are a bit like trees in a forest – they create most of the complex structure that provides a habitat for a diverse range of species.
  • Coral reefs only occupy 0.1% of the area of the ocean but they support 25% of all marine species on the planet, hence are referred to as the ‘Tropical Rain Forest of Ocean.’

What Do Coral Reefs Need to Survive?

  • Coral reefs are very sensitive to conditions like temperature, salinity, sunlight etc. They need a temperature of 20-21 degree, salinity of 27-40 ppm (parts per million) and depth of 60-70 meters of water to survive.
  • Coral needs the shallow continental shelf as they need sunlight for the photosynthesis.

What is 3D Printing?

  • It is an additive process where in the object is created layer by layer. Each of these layer can be seen as thinly sliced horizontal cross section of the final object.
Source: TH, Down to Earth

Pangolin


Why is it in News?

The third Saturday of February (16th February this year) is celebrated as the World Pangolin Day.

About Pangolin:

  • Out of the 8 extant species of Pangolin (4 African, 4 Asian), the Indian Pangolin and Chinese Pangolin occur in India. The pangolins are shy nocturnal mammals that rely on termites and ants for their food. It is the only mammal that is fully covered in scales. They curl themselves into a complete ball when threatened.
  • Indian Pangolin is listed as ‘Endangered’ as per IUCN and is listed under the Appendix II of CITES. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Threats to Pangolin:

  • Pangolins are most trafficked mammal on the Earth. They are in great demand due to the medicinal value of their scales and due to its meat delicacies.
  • Another threat to Pangolin is due to their habitat loss.
Source: TH