Dozens of freshwater turtle and tortoise species won greater protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Several U.S.-led proposals to restrict trade in 44 Asian turtle and tortoise species and three North American pond turtle species were today adopted under CITES.
“We are extremely heartened by today’s vote to give greater protection to these highly imperiled species,” said Bryan Arroyo, head of the U.S. delegation to the CITES 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16). “More than half of the world’s freshwater turtles are threatened with extinction, yet they continue to be traded, unsustainably, for food, as pets, and in traditional medicines. We’ve taken a significant step forward today to begin managing that trade.”
Demand for turtle meat and products in Asia had led to severe population depletion in many Asian countries, shifting harvesting to the United States. The new measures aim to manage turtle harvesting in the U.S. before it becomes a bigger problem.
Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 25 most endangered turtles are found in Asia, according to a 2011 report published by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Conservation Coalition.
Freshwater turtle in Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting runs through March 14. It is being held in Bangkok.