Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Illegal trading threatens Indonesian turtle

Southeast Asian Box Turtle © Chris R. Shepherd/TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

Illegal trading is decimating the population of one of Indonesia's native turtles, according to a new report by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

The study shows that numbers of the once common Southeast Asian Box Turtle are falling dramatically, with turtles being exported at at least ten times the legal export quota. The turtles are used both for meat and as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. They are also sold as pets to Europe, the US and Japan.

The study found at least 18 traders operating in Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan dealing illegally in Southeast Asian Box Turtles.

Each trader handled an average of just under 2,230 turtles a week, adding up to a combined total of 2.1 million Southeast Asian Box Turtles per year. The vast majority is destined for export, although Indonesia’s official annual export quota for this species is just 18,000 turtles—a figure set without a scientific basis.

“The current level of illegal exploitation will result in Southeast Asian Box Turtles being systematically wiped out across Indonesia, indications of which are already obvious at collection and trade centres,” said Dr. Sabine Schoppe, author of the report.

The Box Turtle was listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2000, but since this listing, illegal trade has increased.

The report blames weak law enforcement and recommends better training of authorities, and better cooperation between Indonesian authorities and those in importing countries to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

“Authorities should concentrate on eradicating illegal trade, and in setting realistic limits on what numbers can safely be harvested,” said Chris R. Shepherd, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

To read the report, click here.


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