Robbing the Wild
An Animal Rights Article from

FROM Center for Biological Diversity
March 2020

How 10 states’ refusal to ban trapping is hurting America’s Wild Turtles

Also visit American Tortoise Rescue

Read the entire article here ROBBING THE WILD (PDF).


Executive Summary

Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles on the planet, with fossil evidence suggesting they were alive more than 200 million years ago. The ancestors of modern turtles survived the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and evolved into more than 350 species living today, 1, 2 ranging from the prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtle in the United States to the brilliantly patterned Indian star tortoise in India. But because of human pressures, turtles are one of the most threatened group of vertebrates in the world, with unrestrained commercial trapping and trade helping to drive their declines.

Turtles cannot withstand even low levels of commercial trapping because their survival depends on living long lives and having many opportunities to reproduce.4 One study of common snapping turtles found that removing as few as 10% of adults from a population could reduce the entire population by half in only 15 years.

Unfortunately the global demand for turtles for food, pets and traditional medicine is high, and the United States has exported millions of live turtles to meet this demand.6 According to federal export records, from 2011 through 2016, turtle dealers exported more than 17 million wild-caught adults and “farmed” hatchlings, whose parents may have been wild-caught. These turtles are shipped to overseas markets, principally in China, where turtles have been overharvested for food and traditional medicine to a point where native populations are depleted or even extinct in the wild.

If this unsustainable trade continues, wild turtle populations in the United States could also disappear from the landscape before wildlife managers even realize they’re in trouble. Because turtles serve important roles in their ecosystems—from food webs to mineral cycles—this loss would be devastating.

The Center for Biological Diversity has, for more than a decade, advocated for stronger state-level protections for freshwater turtles. The Center submitted legal petitions to 13 state wildlife agencies asking them to ban commercial harvest of wild turtles and advocated in support of state-initiated actions to protect the reptiles. These efforts led to five states banning commercial turtle trapping and three states adopting stronger protections. But it isn’t enough.

For this report we analyzed state laws across the country to determine how effectively they protect wild turtles from commercial exploitation. We then ranked each state’s laws as strong, moderate or weak based on whether the state allows commercial trapping of any native turtles in unlimited numbers.

Read the entire article here ROBBING THE WILD (PDF). 

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