India’s Pitch For Greater Protection Of The Jeypore Hill Gecko From Trade Gets COP19 Backing

India’s Pitch For Greater Protection Of The Jeypore Hill Gecko From Trade Gets COP19 Backing

by Karan Kamble - Tuesday, November 22, 2022 06:29 PM IST
India’s Pitch For Greater Protection Of The Jeypore Hill Gecko From Trade Gets COP19 BackingA Jeypore ground gecko on a rock (Photo: GnanaeswarCh/Wikimedia Commons)
  • The Jeypore hill gecko (Cyrtodactylus jeyporensis), endemic to the Eastern Ghats, is classified as endangered by the IUCN.

    Acceptance of the proposal at COP19 would entail stricter regulations of the gecko species' trade, plus a lot more.

India’s call to accord a higher level of protection to the Jeypore hill gecko was met with overwhelming support at the ongoing World Wildlife Conference.

The proposal was voted in by consensus of the Parties (member countries) to CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. There are a total of 184 Parties to CITES globally.

Now, the Jeypore hill gecko will find a place in Appendix II to the convention.

“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,” CITES explains.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three appendices based on the degree of protection they need. The severity decreases from Appendix I through III.

CITES’ aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.

The Jeypore hill gecko (Cyrtodactylus jeyporensis) is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its most recent assessment for its Red List in 2019.

The Nineteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES — COP19, also known as the World Wildlife Conference, is underway in Panama City, Republic of Panama, a country in Central America.

Decisions are being made on more than 600 species of animals and plants during the period of the conference, from 14 to 25 November, which will ultimately shape global wildlife trade.

India made its pitch for the protection of the Jeypore hill gecko, which would lead to stricter regulations of its trade, at this conference.

The “attractive species of gecko… has been recorded from very few localities in the southern Odisha and the northern Andhra Pradesh,” the India representative said at COP19.

Endemic to the Eastern Ghats of India, the gecko has been recorded from only four localities, including one historical record. Little is known about the species, such as about its population status and biological characteristics.

“The extent of occurrence is highly restricted to less than 100 km2 of fragmented high elevation habitat,” the IUCN says.

Yet, “the species appears to have already found its way in the international pet trade,” as per the India representative at COP19.

India’s proposal to the convention carries documentary evidence of advertisements posted on social media for the trade of the Jeypore hill gecko. The species is said to be in demand especially among reptile breeders and traders internationally.

The nocturnal species is “handsome-looking, very docile, which makes it vulnerable to the international pet trade."

Aside from dangers of trade, the species is facing habitat loss on account of forest fires and tourism activities. IUCN additionally lists deforestation for mining, fuel wood, and conversion to plantations as a cause.

“Surveys indicate that the population of the species may be declining at a fast rate,” says India’s proposal document.

Inclusion of the gecko in Appendix II will help to control the illegal export of the species from India as well as generate trade data regarding international trade and demand for the species.

The Jeypore hill gecko was first discovered in 1878 by British military officer and naturalist Colonel Richard Henry Beddome.

The species was later thought to be extinct, before it was rediscovered in 2012 after a gap of 135 years.

It lives below rock boulders in the high hills of the Eastern Ghats. It inhabits semi-evergreen forests, primary as well as well-shaded secondary forests, and hills with coffee plantations (Agarwal et al, 2012; Mohapatra, 2021).

The Jeypore hill gecko does not reside in a protected area. It is proposed to be listed in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; the amendment is pending in the Indian Parliament.

For COP19, India is also batting for uplisting of Leith's softshell turtle (Nilssonia leithii) and the red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga) from Appendix II into Appendix I.

Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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