Palea steindachneri has been listed on CITES Appendix II since 2013. It was declared a National Protected Wild Animal Category II in China’s Wild Animals Protection Law. It is not specifically protected under Vietnamese legislation, although the Forest Protection Law should offer a modicum of habitat protection. The species likely survives within suitable habitat in protected areas in Viet Nam.
The primary conservation measure needed for P. steindachneri (and many other species and their ecosystem) is the creation of secure, adequately managed protected areas with suitable habitat. Surveys to evaluate the status and occurrence of populations can be integrated into broader biodiversity surveys. Research on natural history and ecology, and evaluation of genetic and morphological variability, are desirable.
Palea steindachneri occurs in southern China (Guangdong, Guizhou, Yunnan and Hainan), and in east-draining river systems of northern and central Viet Nam and adjacent Lao PDR. Introduced subpopulations are known from Mauritius, Hong Kong (China) and Hawaii (USA).
China, Hong Kong, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mauritius, United States of America, Viet Nam
Virtually no population information has been recorded for Palea steindachneri. Participants of the Singapore 2011 and 2018 workshops (Fong, Ha, McCormack and Timmins) reported that P. steindachneri still occurs in the wild in China in small fragmented populations, and occurs in or near some protected areas in Viet Nam. Observations throughout the range indicate substantial, but unquantified, declines over the past few decades. While in decline, populations in remote forest areas of Viet Nam, some of which include protected areas, are known to continue successful reproduction and presumably recruitment. Very few, if any, reliable records from the wild have emerged from China in recent years (B. Horne pers. comm. 2018).
A very rough estimate is that the species has disappeared from parts of its original distribution range (EOO) and remaining populations are understood to have been severely depleted over the past decades, with a total reduction estimated at well over 80% of total mature animals over the past half century, and the decline continuing.
Palea steindachneri is highly valuable in food trade; some populations may also be affected by forest loss and hydropower development. The species is captured with hooks, traps, electrofishing, explosives, probing and noodling in streams. There are multiple registered commercial farms breeding the species, and alongside the legal captive production there are indications of trade in wild-caught animals to supply farms or laundered through them.