Exploitation and Trade
of Geochelone chilensis


Fundación Biodiversidad
San Martín 945, Piso 3 Oficina 23
(C1004AAS) Ciudad de Buenos Aires
e-mail: tomas@waller.com.ar
Maracas made from G. chilensis carapaces by the Ayoreo Indians from the Paraguayan Chaco region (Filadelfia).

       ABSTRACT:  Geochelone chilensis are collected for various purposes and to varying extents in certain parts of their range in Argentina.  Although the practice is not widespread, local inhabitants hunt them for food in some areas.  Since the 1950s hatchlings and young specimens of G. chilensis have been captured and sold as pets in major cities.  They have been in demand in foreign countries since the 1980s as replacements for other species that were progressively banned in international trade (i.e., European species of Testudo).  Despite protection by national and provincial laws, it has been estimated that from 20,000 to 50,000 tortoises, from only two provinces (Córdoba and Santiago del Estero), are taken annually within the domestic market, mainly in Buenos Aires.  In the past, annual exports accounted for 5–10% of this figure and were allowed because of the establishment of two hatcheries.  In 1989, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Management Authority stopped authorizing these exports after taking into account the suspect nature of these breeding centers.  In spite of restrictive administrative and legislative measures, conflicting interests with provincial states that allow hatcheries and the permanent establishment of a consumer market has lead to a continuous illegal domestic trade of thousands of specimens throughout Argentina.  Various institutions now discourage this market by promoting the release of captive and confiscated animals.  This practice could have negative consequences for wild populations (i.e., spread of disease, mixing gene pools, and the translocation of species).  The local impact of collecting activities, consumption as food, and release practices should be assessed, and new releases should be discouraged.

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