|The following report was submitted by Pro Wildlife, with the support of the Government of Germany, to the fifteenth meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in July 1999.|
Pro Wildlife e.V.
Asian Turtles Are Threatened by Extinction
The trade to and in Southern Asian especially Chinese food markets has become the main threat to the survival of Southeast Asian turtles. While tortoises and freshwater turtles have been subjected to human predation for centuries, recent changes in Asian economics, spawned when Chinese currency became convertible, have opened direct access to foreign markets (Behler, 1997).
Tortoises and freshwater turtles are favored for their supposed medicinal value and consumed as food. China’s native turtle species already have been depleted dramatically. Therefore, the species present in Chinese markets are increasingly collected in countries further and further away. Besides Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, even species from New Guinea and the USA are now affected. Only a small portion of the turtles being observed in the markets in 1997 were native for China. This indicates a dramatic decline of the Chinese populations of all affected species. Wai-Neng Lau et al. (1998) described the situation in China: In the late 1970s the hard-shelled chelonian trade was dominated by Chinese species. Now there are more Southeast Asian species for sale than Chinese ones. The import of food chelonians from outside countries has increased more than tenfold since 1977. This reflects an increase in demand in Southern China and the depletion of Chinese chelonians in the wild.
2. Population Trends of Key Species
All Southern and Southeast Asian species of turtles have been rapidly declining in the past decade; many face extinction in the wild. The following data are serious indications of this dramatic situation:
3. Volume of Trade
Although not documenting the extent of trade in all details, the following data are definite indications of the tremendous threats to Asian turtles:
This trade is unselective; species protected by international or domestic legislation are involved as well as unprotected ones. The species presently affected represent about 25% of the world’s turtle species. The turtles that are imported for the Chinese food markets are often declared as “seafood”. This is one reason statistics are lacking that document the volume of the trade in separate species.
If this unsustainable trade continues, many Southeast Asian turtle species will be extinct within a few years. It is now vital to focus international attention on this issue and coordinate steps to reduce the trade in turtles to a sustainable level.
4. Conservation Strategy for Asias Turtles
The Animals Committee is asked to establish a working group on this issue and develop a conservation strategy to be supported by the CITES member states and NGOs:
i) to support current proposals for an Appendix-II listing of Asian turtles,
ii) to conduct field studies and assist in establishing in situ conservation projects in range states;
Barzyk, J.: Turtles in crisis: The Asian food markets, Tortoise Trust (www.tortoisetrust.org), April 1999.
BCPP: Taxon data sheets Kachuga dhongoka, Kachuga kachuga, Kachuga smithii smithii, Kachuga smithii pallidipes, Kachuga sylhetensis, Kachuga tentoria circumdata, Kachuga tentoria flaviventer, Kachuga tentoria tentoria, BCPP Reptile CAMP report, 1997.
Behler, J.L.: Troubled times for turtles, in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles An International Conference, New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, 1997.
Ernst, K.; Shah, K.B.; Schleich, H.: Schildkrötenschutz in Nepal, Reptilia 7/97.
Jenkins, M.: Tortoises and freshwater turtles: The Trade in Southeast Asia, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, 1995.
Lehr, E.: Untersuchungen zum Schildkrötenhandel in Vietnam zwischen 1993 und 1996., Mitteilungen der Zoologischen Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschulz, Heft 2, 1997.
Salzberg, A.: The Chinese Turtle Problem, Reptilia, June 1998.
Sarker, S.U. & Hossain, L.: Population and Habitat Status of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises of Bangladesh and Their Conservation Status, in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles An International Conference, New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, 1997.
Shrestha, T.K.: Status, Biology, Conservation, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles in the Himalayan Foothills of Nepal, in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles An International Conference, New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, 1997.
Thirakhupt, K. & van Dijk, P.P.: The Turtles of Western Thailand Pushed to the Edge by Progress, in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles An International Conference, New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, 1997.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Species assessment for Cuora trifasciata, information to the German Scientific CITES-Authority (March 1999).
Wai-Neng Lau et al.: Wildlife Trade in Southern China including Hong Kong and Macao, Cooter Farm & Botanic Garden Cooperation, 1998.
Yiming & Dianmo, L.: The dynamics of trade in live wildlife across the Guangxi border between China and Vietnam during 19931996 and its control strategies, Biodiversity and Conservation, 7, 1998.
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