Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Feds to Seek International Trade Protection for U.S. Turtles

Would Help End Runaway Harvest of Turtles in Eastern United States
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will propose three species of U.S. freshwater turtles for protection at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Thailand in 2013. Today’s announcement responds to a 2011 petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity that asked the Service to help end the destructive international trade in American freshwater turtles. Millions of wild freshwater turtles are caught in the United States every year and exported.

“Turtle traders are depleting U.S. turtle populations at a frightening rate. It’s got to stop soon or we’re going to lose these incredible animals from the wild,” said the Center’s Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney and biologist who works to save endangered reptiles and amphibians. “Commercial harvesting only compounds the daily problems native turtles already face from habitat loss, water pollution and road mortality.”

More than 2 million wild-caught, live turtles are exported from the United States each year. Most are used to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia, where turtle consumption rates have soared despite the fact that native turtle populations have already been killed off. Adult turtles are also taken from the wild to breed hatchlings for the international pet trade.

Overharvest has caused population declines in almost all turtle species, with many now either protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act or under consideration for such protection. For example, the beautiful spotted turtle — one of 53 species of amphibians and reptiles included in a recent Endangered Species Act listing petition filed by the Center — has suffered sharp declines because of overcollection for the pet trade.

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