India and Pakistan join forces despite political differences to save rare Indian Star Tortoise

The Indian Star Tortoise is widely trafficked for used as an exotic pet in the international market and India and Pakistan are joining forces to try and protect the species.

In May, the two neighbouring countries, which has often been in conflict with each other, are expected to demand the push of the tortoise to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention against International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna. CITIES, as it is known, accords species levels of protection. India and Pakistan are proposing to move the Indian Star Tortoise to Appendix I, the highest level of protection from its current status of Appendix II.

A third country, Sri Lanka is also planning to join in the efforts. Moving a species to Appendix I effectively prevents all commercial international trade. an Appendix II designation allows the tortoise to be traded under special permit conditions and only if the trade does not cause harm to them in the wild.

CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals. Roughly 5,800 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are covered by CITES in three Appendices according to the degree of protection they need.

If transferred to the Appendix I, the Indian Star Tortoise–a medium sized tortoise endemic to parts of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka-will get heightened protection. The species is deemed “vulnerable” by IUCN and their biological attributes make them extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation by humans because they are easily hunted, have a low reproductive rate, potentially occur at low densities, and do not survive or breed readily in captivity, India has said in its proposal to the COP.

According to the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, star tortoises fall in Schedule IV which grants them the least level of protection.

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