Smooth-coated Otter Current Affairs - 2020

CoP18 of CITES held in Geneva

The 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was recently held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Highlights of COP18 CITES

Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) was moved from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I, giving it highest level of international protection from commercial trade. Indian star tortoise was also moved to CITES Appendix I. Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) will be included in CITES Appendix II.

The proposal to prohibit commercial international trade in species of otter native to the subcontinent and some other parts of Asia was put by India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Smooth-coated otter: It is considered to be facing high risk of extinction and is detrimentally affected by international trade, as well as habitat loss and degradation and persecution associated with conflict with people (and fisheries). Its numbers in wild has fallen by at least 30% over the past 30 years.

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

It is as international agreement aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Its text was agreed in Washington, DC, in 1973 (So it is also referred to as Washington Convention) and entered into force in 1975.  It now has 183 parties. It is legally binding on Parties i.e. they are committed to implementing it. However, it does not take place of national laws of parties, but obliges them to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals. It is administered through United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its secretariat is located in Geneva, capital of Switzerland.

CITES Appendix: It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on level of threats faced by them. CITES also restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, medicine, clothing, and souvenirs etc.

Appendix I: It includes species threatened with extinction. CITES completely bans commercial trade in specimens of these species. But is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix II: It provides a lower level of protection.

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.

Uttar Pradesh Begins Otter Census

For the first time, Uttar Pradesh is taking a census of otters in its protected areas. The census has begun in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR).

Otters

Otters live on fish and spend much of its time in or close to water bodies. A thriving population of otters means a healthy ecosystem. A growing or healthy population of otters means the water bodies are pollution-free. Clean water bodies mean a healthy ecosystem of the forest. Otters thriving and getting sufficient food to eat means the water bodies in the reserve are in a fine state and the aquatic life in them is healthy.

India is home to 3 of the 13 species of otters found worldwide. These are :

  • Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – IUCN status: Near Threatened.
  • Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perspicillata) – IUCN status: Vulnerable.
  • Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) – IUCN status: Vulnerable.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve spreads across Pilibhit district, Lakhimpur Kheri District and Bahraich District of Uttar Pradesh. The Northern edge of the reserve lies along the India-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is home to habitat for over 127 animals, 326 bird species and 2,100 flowering plants. The reserve is home to a myriad of wild animals including the endangered tiger, swamp deer, Bengal florican, hog deer, leopard, etc. The large carnivores are supported by a very large prey base consisting of cheetal, sambar, wild boar, hog deer, swamp deer, blue bull, etc. The bird life is very rich and diverse and hundreds of species of birds can be seen around.