February 23, 2009

Indonesia’s Box Turtles Threatened

According to campaigners, millions of Southeast Asian box turtles are being wiped out from parts of Indonesia, where they are butchered for their meat or sent to pet shops in the U.S. and Europe.

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

"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."

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

Indonesia's officials annual export quota for the box turtle was just 18,000 a year, but that unregulated trade might 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.

There are 18 traders dealing box turtles illegally in Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan, the study found.


Image Caption: Being driven to extinction in Indonesia by unregulated trade: the Southeast Asia Box Turtle. © Chris R Shepherd / TRAFFIC


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