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Despite legal protection, Indian turtles are poached for restaurant trade

Despite being accorded the highest level of protection under Indian law, soft shell turtles are regularly trafficked in Kerala for the restaurant trade, report researchers writing in in the journal Tropical Conservation Science.

Conducting a survey in Punnamada (South India), K. Krishnakumar, Rajeev Raghavan and Benno Pereira found that Indian pond terrapins and Indian Flap-shelled turtles are poached from Vembanad Lake and the Punnamada wetlandsto meet demand from local restaurants and toddy shops. Buyers believe their consumption of turtle meat is effective in controlling arthritis and curing other disorders.

The authors note that “Despite being listed at the highest level in the Indian wildlife protection act, very little law enforcement takes place and turtles are exploited and traded regularly in this region.”

Krishnakumar and colleagues conclude by urging the immediate launch of awareness programs aimed at local fishers, turtle collectors, and restaurant owners to “sensitize them on relevant wildlife laws as well as on the biological and socio-economic impacts of turtle exploitation and trade”.

Krishnakumar, K., Raghavan, R. and Pereira, B. 2009. Protected on papers, hunted in wetlands: exploitation and
trade of freshwater turtles (Melanochelys trijuga coronata and Lissemys punctata punctata) in Punnamada, Kerala, India
Tropical Conservation Science Vol.2 (3):363-373.

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