Illegal Trade Threatens Box Turtles: Watchdog

KUALA LUMPUR ~ Southeast Asian box turtles are being wiped out from parts of Indonesia, where millions are butchered for their meat or sent to pet shops in the US and Europe, campaigners said this week.

The wildlife monitoring group Traffic said the massive illegal trade has caused the turtle to disappear from areas where they were once common, with an estimated 2.1 million creatures being traded each year.

“The turtles are used for meat and in traditional Chinese medicine, with major markets in Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Malaysia, mostly supplied from Indonesia,” it said.

“Box turtles are also in demand as pets in the US, Europe and Japan.”

Traffic urged Indonesian authorities to crack down on illegal trade, and set limits on how many can be safely harvested each year.

It said that Indonesia’s official annual export quota for the box turtle was just 18,000 a year but that unregulated trade could be between 10 and 100 times the legal level.

“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 centers,” said the report’s author, Sabine Schoppe.

The study found at least 18 traders in Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan dealing illegally in box turtles, which are listed on the CITES convention that regulates international trade in wild animals and plants.

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