The Asian turtle market is large and growing, leaving a heavy toll on
freshwater turtle populations worldwide. Many species in SE Asia are
threatened with extinction, and our own softshell, painted and spotted
turtles have been hit hard. The following two attachments came to me
through Allen Salzburg, who is a bit of a turtle-hugger (aren't we all to
some extent?) but is generally good about sticking to the facts. Ross
Kiester of USFS here in Corvallis is also big on this issue. If the EQC
agrees, I would like to draft a letter to appropriate parties in IUCN/CITES
and USFWS urging them to consider the German proposal to list several
species as Appendix 1 (=no international trade) and to encourage support of
monitoring and research efforts.
2 forwarded messages below
>SOUTHEAST ASIAN TURTLES-- ACTION ALERT
>The following is a document entered by Germany for consideration by the
>upcoming CITES convention (Nairobi, Kenya, April 10-20, 2000). The need for
>its discussion was agreed upon by several of the affected countries,
>including Indonesia and China. Whether all of this document will be
>accepted and acted upon, or is it enough to make a differrence, one has to
>wait and see. Enclosed with this document were three detailed charts that
>outlined the status of each of the species in question. Unfortunately I
>could not scan the documents into the compter. I hope to fix that
>soon. Needless to say its very grim, some turtle species like Ocadia
>phillippeni have only 9 known specimens.
>Instructions on how to make your voice heard on this issue to the USF&WS is
>at the end of this document.
>Publication and distribution of this document to all mailing lists,
>listservs, newsletters, magazines, media, e-mailing it to anyone you think
>should know about this will help.
>Until further notice, copies of the three charts are available by sending a
>self-addressed stamped envelope to Allen Salzberg/67-87 Booth Street
>-5B/Forest Hills, NY 11375.
>Löfflerstr. 5a, 80999 Munich, Germany, Tel.: ++49-89-81299-507, Fax:
>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 for the dramatic situation:
>>> Some of the Chinese species as Cuora mccordi are only known from the
>markets -- there is no information about their population status,
>reproductivity, etc. Cuora mccordi as well as Cuora zhoui have not been
>available in the markets for a couple of years (Barzyk, 1999), although
>there are huge amounts of money offered by Western herpetologists. It has
>to be feared that these species are already extinct.
>>> Of all chelonians Cuora trifasciata is the most demanded species which
>results in a tenfold price in comparison with other species (Jenkins, 1995;
>van Dijk, 1995, cited by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 1999).
>Meanwhile, the prices for one specimen has increased to $1,000 U.S.
>(McCord, cited by Behler, 1997).
>>> Softshell turtles have a central role in the traditional Chinese
>Medicine and are generally regarded as the most palatable non-marine
>chelonians within Southeast Asia (Jenkins, 1995). The populations of almost
>all softshell turtles are declining rapidly (for example, as described by
>Jenkins, 1995; Thirakhupt & van Dijk, 1995; Shrestha, 1997).
>>> Behler (1997) warns that Chitra Indica and Pelochelys bibroni might
>become extinct from the wild without heroic intervention.
>>> The Indian populations of Kachuga sylhetensis suffered a 90% decrease in
>the last decade. Kachuga kachuga is showing a similar decline: During the
>last 20 years there was a reduction of more than 80% (BCPP, 1997). All
>other species of the genus Kachuga are also decreasing - not only in India
>but also in Nepal and Bangladesh (Ernst et al., 1997; Sarker & Hossain,
>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:
>>> Bill McCord reported that in two Chinese food markets alone an estimated
>10,000 turtles are offered during a two-day period. He calculates that, "If
>China only had five or six markets, . . . this would add up to at least
>50,000 turtles on any given day. If the total replacement time was
>conservatively figured to be a full week (2-3 days given orally), then five
>or six markets would process at least 2.6 million turtles a year!"
>>> Salzberg (1998) estimates the number of markets to be a lot higher and
>therefore calculates that more than 12 millions of turtles are sold each
>year in China alone. Almost all animals are wild-caught. Facing the low
>reproduction rate of most species there is no doubt that this exploitation
>is not sustainable and that within a few years many of the affected species
>will be extinct from the wild. The situation continues to worsen with the
>increasing demand from growing human populations and affluence especially
>>> Wal-Neng Lau et al. (1998) described a dramatic trend in the import of
>food chelonians imported in the past few years: "In 1977, 139,200 kg of
>food chelonians was imported to Hong Kong. In 1991, 110,574 kg of food
>chelonians was imported and rose to 680,582 kg in 1993. In the first ten
>months of 1994, a record high of 1,800,024 kg of animals was imported." In
>1996 the import of turtles to Hong Kong was 3.5 million kg (Barzyk, 1999).
>>> Only about 10% of the turtles at Vietnamese markets are consumed by the
>domestic demand. The remaining 90% are to be exported to China and Hong
>Kong (Lehr, 1997). Most of the exported animals are alive, but there are
>also exports of pharmaceutical products.
>>> During an investigation by Yiming and Dianmo (1998) about 2.29 to 29.325
>tons of wildlife per day were exported to China from Vietnam. Because more
>than 61% of this volume are turtles and tortoises, this results in 1.84 to
>18.4 tons of turtles and tortoises each single day.
>>> 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 Asia's Turtles
>The Animals Committee is pleased to establish a working group on this issue
>and develop a conservation strategy to be supported by the CITES member
>states and NGOs:
>>> to realise and discuss the fatal extent of the trade in Southeast Asian
>turtles, which should also be an agenda item for CoP 11;
>>> to work with and assist range states and local conservationists to win
>protection for turtles and prevent their extinction in the wild, e.g.,
>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;
>>> to appeal to export countries to enforce national and international laws
>as well as IATA regulations (detailed declaration, conditions during
>>> to encourage and support range states to run education programs to
>reduce the demand in medical products made from endangered species;
>>> to bring up discussion of China s infractions: Western herpetologists
>report that Appendix I-species of turtles are offered in Chinese food
>markets that are non-native to China (Aspideretes gangeticus, A. hurum,
>Batagur baska, Geoclemys hamiltonii, Kachuga tecta, and Morenia ocellata).
>There are also several Appendix II species offered at the markets in high
>numbers (Callagur borneoensis, Cuora pani, Geochelone elongata, Geochelone
>platynota, Manouria emys, and Lissemys punctata).
>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",
>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
>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 1993-1996 and its control
>strategies", Biodiversity and Conservation, 7, 1998.
>CITES will be held at United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
>Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, April 10-20, 2000.
>There will be a public meeting for people to comment on this and other
>CITES matters on July 28, 1999, at 1:30 P.M.
>Written information and comments you submit concerning potential species
>proposals, proposed resolutions, and agenda items that the United States
>is considering submitting for consideration at
>COP11, and other items relating to COP11, if we receive them by
>September 7, 1999.
>ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held in the Large Buffet Room of
>the Department of the Interior at 18th and C Streets, N.W., Washington,
>D.C. Directions to the building can be obtained by contacting the
>Office of Management Authority or the Office of Scientific Authority
>(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, below). Please note that the room
>is accessible to the handicapped and all persons planning to attend the
>meeting will be required to present photo identification when entering
>the building. Persons planning to attend the meeting who require
>interpretation for the hearing impaired should notify the Office of
>Management Authority or the Office of Scientific Authority as soon as
> Comments pertaining to proposed resolutions and agenda items should
>be sent to the Office of Management Authority; U.S. Fish and Wildlife
>Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive; Room 700; Arlington, VA 22203, or
>via E-mail at: r9oma__cites at fws.gov. Comments pertaining to species
>proposals should be sent to the Office of Scientific Authority; U.S.Fish
>Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive; Room 700; Arlington, VA 22203,
>Date: Tue, 03 Aug 1999 18:34:52 -0400
>From: Allen Salzberg <x5245 at erols.com>
>Subject: UPDATE ON SOUTH EAST ASIAN/CHINA CRISIS
>X-Sender: Allen Salzberg x5245 at erols.com (Unverified)
>To: X5245 at erols.com
>Here's what happened at the Animals Committee meeting in Madagascor:
>concernig the South East Asian Turtle Emergency. And at the end is a
>suggestion of what you can do.
>1) The German government introduced the document on the Trade in
>Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises in Southeast Asia. Germany stated that it
>was considering cubmitting a discussion paper on this issue or proposals
>for specific species involved in the trade to COP11. Germany explained
>that they wanted to hear the views of the Committee on these plans.
>Germany explained that the paper was prepared by a German NGO, not the
>German government, but that the German governemnt supports the paper.
>2) Pro-Wildlife introduced the paper, highlighting some of the key aspects.
>3) China stated that their Management Authority is already paying
>attention to this issue. China said their Management Authority had already
>sent a faxed message to many countries to see what they can do to get
>cooperation on this issue. In the message, they asked what was in the
>other countries laws and regulations pertaining to the export of the
>species involved in this trade, and asked if the exporting countries could
>legally control the export. The China delegate explained that, in China,
>any import or export requires a permit to be issued by his office, so he
>has control but requires international assistance. The delegate stated
>that he has been to the markets where the animals are sold and sees the
>turtles but cant' identify them and he doesn't know where they come from.
>He said it is difficult to identify the species and this makes control a
>problem. The delegate explained that China supports the sustainable use of
>these species but they need cooperation in research on and identification
>of the species. China wants to know if the exporting countries have
>regulations to control the export of these species. He said it is
>difficult for China because if the species is not listed on CITES, then
>China has a difficult time to control trade in the species. China would
>like to control trade to support sustainable use of the species.
>4) Indonesia welcomed China's offer to have regional cooperation but
>stated that it would be better if there could be an extensive study of the
>issue and would like to draft a discussion paper for COP11.
>5) The Netherlands said they were glad that the matter came out into the
>open at the AC meeting. Herpetologists know that this trade is "informal",
>and that it has escaped CITES regulation because it is for food and does
>not go through the normal CITES channels. The delegate from The
>Netherlands was glad to hear of China's initiative to gather more
>information from exporting countries, and to learn of Germany's plans to
>submit a discussion paper and/or species proposals for consideration at
>COP11. The delegate expressed hope that this will be the beginning of a
>process that has been long overlooked.
>5) The US delegate (on behalf of North America) thanked the German
>government for submitting the paper. The US is well-aware of the problem
>and concurs that many Parties should cooperate to prepare a discussion
>paper for COP11. There could also be a cooperative proposal for listing
>certain species at COP11. The US has a large turtle farming industry. The
>US welcomes suggestions for bilateral cooperation, increased research, and
>increased training (identification) and looks forward to working on it.
>6) Cameroon noted that there is also a problem with the freshwater turtle
>and tortoise trade in Africa.
>7) Singapore expressed support for CITES looking into the subject and
>stated that humane transport and the manner in which the turtles are killed
>should also be examined.
>8) TRAFFIC-US expressed agreement that the issue of the turtle trade is an
>important one to consider. TRAFFIC has done a great deal of work on this
>issue in the past. TRAFFIC, WWF and WCS is developing a workshop to be
>held in Asia where experts from the region can work to develop an action
>9) DGHT (a German reptile hobby group, I think) stated the importance of
>developing a guide to help identify the species in trade, and offered the
>assistance of his organization in this.
>10) IUCN welcomed the discussion and stated that the IUCN/SSC on
>freshwater turtles and tortoises recognized the significance of this trade.
> The IUCN/SSC will be forming a Southeast Asian reptile and amphibian
>11) The Chairman of the AC stated that AC16 will look at the issue again,
>in light of what happens at COP11.
>That was the end of the discussiion, which could be summarized by stating
>that there was unanimous support for Germany, in cooperation with other
>Parties, to present a discussion paper and proposals for certain species
>found in the trade to COP11.
>My recommendation to those organizations working on this issue is to do
>everything you can to facilitate the preparation of the discusion paper and
>dialog amongst the Parties who expressed interest in participating in the
>preparation of the paper. Deadline for submission of the document to the
>CITES Secretariat is November 12th. Part of the paper needs to address
>actions that should be taken by CITES Parties; this could form the basis of
>a resolution or decision at COP11. Please find below a draft resolution
>that was prepared by a number of NGOs at AC15; it can be used as a starting
>point for discussion. I also recommend that, to the the extent possible,
>organizations should locate experts and funds necessary to prepare a basic
>identification guide to the more common turtles found in the markets,
>including their origin. Finally, it is crucial that everyone involved in
>this issue to be sensitive to cultural concerns and to acknowledge China's
>efforts and helpful stance on the issue.
>Here's the draft "resolution":
>CONSERVATION OF TURTLES AND TORTOISES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
> 1. This document has been prepared by _________________ [Parties].
> 2. The international trade in freshwater turtles and tortoises for food
>and medicine involves millions of animals each year, and 25 percent of all
>known turtle and tortoise species.
> 3. The trade to and in food markets in certain Asian countries has become
>one of the main threats to the survival of Southeast Asian turtles and
> 4. Turtles and tortoises are increasingly collected in countries that are
>far away from the main markets, which is an indication of the depletion of
> 5. The wild populations of many turtle and tortoise species found in such
>markets (e.g. Kachuga sylhetensis, Cuora aurocapitata, and Chitra indica)
> 6. It is of concern that many species of turtles and tortoises found in
>the marketplace are listed on CITES Appendix-I, such as Aspideretes
>gangeticus, A. hurum, Batagur baska, Geoclemys hamiltonii, Kachuga tecta
>and Morenia ocellata).
> 7. Research is urgently required to verify the species and quantities of
>freshwater turtles and tortoises in international trade for food and
>8. A regional workshop should be convened to develop strategies to conserve
>populations of turtles and tortoise and to regulate the international trade.
>AWARE that many species of turtles and tortoises are consumed in large
>quantities as food and medicine in certain Asian countries;
>RECOGNIZING the importance of ensuring that such trade should be conducted
>in a sustainable manner;
>CONCERNED, however, that some species of freshwater turtles and tortoises
>found in this trade appear to be over-exploited;
>NOTING that studies are urgently needed in order to determine the extent of
>the trade and its impact on wild populations of turtles and tortoises;
>CONSIDERING that the Conference of the Parties has competence to consider
>any species subject to international trade;
>THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION
>URGES those Parties that are range States of the species consumed as food
>and medicine to:
>a) encourage research to determine the species involved and their trade
>levels and to promote the sustainability of the trade through coordinated
>b) explore ways to enhance the participation of exporters, importers and
>consumers in the conservation and sustainable trade in these species; and
>c) review regulations controlling the take, export, and import of these
>species in accordance with the results of the research carried out under
>a) the CITES Secretariat to convene a technical workshop in order to
>establish conservation priorities and actions for the sustainability of
>trade in species of turtles and tortoises used in food and medicine
>b) the Animals Committee to provide scientific guidance for the
>implementation of this Resolution; and
>REQUESTS ________________ to coordinate the interested Parties,
>intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to provide funding in
>order to implement this Resolution, particularly referring to the
>scientific research and the technical workshop.
Dr. Selina Heppell heppell at mail.cor.epa.gov
USEPA - NHEERL (National Health
and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory)
Western Ecology Division
200 SW 35th PHONE: 541-754-4853
Corvallis, OR 97333 FAX: 541-754-4716
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