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Green Sea Turtles Die on Farm – Do Meat-Trade Turtles Aid Conservation?

Green Sea TurtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  An accident that caused the deaths of 299 endangered Green Turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm has raised concerns about the facility’s operation. The incident brought other issues to my mind as well.  I was first inspired by the legendary herpetologist Archie Carr, and have since been involved in several field studies of Green, Leatherback and other marine turtles (please see article below).  I see the value in organizations such as Cayman Turtle Farm, which raises turtles for the food market while also racking up important “firsts” in breeding and research.  However, many disagree with me.  What’s your opinion?  Any comments you may wish to post below would be much appreciated.

Conservation through Commercialization

Whatever your personal feelings concerning the consumption of turtles or other animals may be, it is clear that commercial farming can play a role in Chinese Softshellconservation. The classic US example is the American Alligator.  Legal protections helped, of course, but large scale breeding for the meat and hide trade made a huge difference in that species’ future.  Read More »

Turtle Conservation Update, with a Focus on the USA’s Native Species

Diamondback TerrapinsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Eleven years ago, I traveled to Florida to assist folks from the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and other groups in rehabilitating thousands of turtles seized in southern China (please see this article for details).  The event marked my introduction to what is now known as the “Asian Turtle Crisis”. Sadly, the situation remains dismal today.  Recent studies show that turtles in the USA also face an extinction crisis.  Yet the scale of the problem is largely unappreciated…for example, many conservation-minded people would be surprised to learn that over 12 million turtles were exported from the USA in the last 5 years (please see article below).

Year of the Turtle

2011 was designated as “The Year of the Turtle” by the Partnership for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and affiliated groups.  Happily, North American species seemed to get a bit more attention than usual.  A recent article in Herpetological Review (2011: 42(2) 199-204) provided a comprehensive – if chilling – summary of the turtle-related concerns that PARC and others have been focusing on.  The very informative article is not available online, so I’d like to highlight some key points here. Read More »

12 Million Turtles Exported from USA in 5 Years – Here’s How to Help

Ringed map turtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The plight of the USA’s freshwater turtles has taken a back stage to what has been labeled the Asian Turtle Crisis (a tragic situation, please see below)However, a full-blown crisis is in progress here as well.  In the past 5 years, over 12 million wild caught freshwater turtles were sent from the USA to food and pet markets abroad, while untold numbers were sold in-country.  Fortunately, you can make a real difference in their future by taking one simple step.  Please read on to learn how to take action to support CITES (Committee on International Trade in Endangered Species) protection for the USA’s freshwater turtles.

US Turtle Diversity and Conservation

It comes as a surprise to many people that the USA is home to more species of freshwater turtles than any other country.  Unfortunately, several of the states that support the greatest diversity and largest turtle populations offer little or no protection, despite strong evidence that many species are in sharp decline.  Food markets in China and Southeast Asia are the main importers of US turtles, but rarer varieties wind up in the pet trade the world over. Read More »

The Asian Turtle Crisis – a Sobering Update – Part 2

Chinemys reevesiiHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Asia’s freshwater turtles face an unprecedented extinction crisis, which may soon result in the loss of 90 or more species.  In 2001, I joined other turtle enthusiasts in south Florida to help process nearly 10,000 turtles of many species that had been confiscated on route to food markets in China.  The magnitude of the response to their plight heartened me, but today, unfortunately, we are still fighting an uphill battle.  Please see Part 1 of this article for details.  Following is a bit more on this sad situation. Read More »

The Asian Turtle Crisis – a Sobering Update – Part 1

Cuoras Species HeadshotsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The term “Asian Turtle Crisis” was coined in 1997, when photos of thousands of rare turtles being slaughtered in a Guangzhou, China food market propelled the tragic plight of Asia’s freshwater turtles into the conservation spotlight.  The private turtle-keeping and zoo communities were quick to take action, and a number of fine organizations and programs resulted.  In 2001, I traveled to south Florida to help rehabilitate and place 7,500-10,000 turtles that had been confiscated in China.  

Hard Work Pays Off

In south Florida I worked day and night alongside dedicated folks from the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and other herp-oriented organizations, internationally-known turtle biologists, private turtle fanciers and zoo colleagues.  The marathon effort was a grand success, with more turtles saved and placed in good homes than anyone would have dared hope upon first seeing their wretched condition.  Given the passion, funds and other support that the situation aroused, the future looked promising.  Unfortunately, 9 years later, the situation remains very bleak.

90+ Species Face Extinction

Recent studies by Conservation International (please see this article) reveal that at least 1/3 of the world’s 280 turtle species, including most of those found in Southeast Asia, are in imminent danger of extinction.  Two photos on the homepage of the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society, taken 12 years apart in Guangzhou, China food markets, illustrate, graphically and tragically, that little has changed. 

Red River Giant SoftshellSeveral turtle species are represented by single populations numbering 12-50 individuals; only 4 specimens of the Red River Giant Softshell (Rafetus swinhoei, please see photo) are known to exist, the status of many Asian Box Turtles (Cuora spp., please see photo) can not even be determined, but several species have not been seen in years…the list goes on.

In Part 2 of this article we’ll take a look at the causes of the recent catastrophic declines in turtle populations and what is being done to reverse the trend.  

Further Reading

Excellent article on the status of Asia’s turtles along with disturbing photos from food markets in China – READ THIS!

Turtle Survival Alliance Programs

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 
Cuoras Species Headshots image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Torsten Blanck

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