|More than 150,000 live Florida softshell turtles were exported in 2009, up from 20,000 in 2000 Photo credit: Vanessa Kauffman/USFWS|
International demand for turtles has risen dramatically and has raised concern about the future of some turtle populations.
We recently proposed to add four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). That means that exporters will have to obtain a permit before shipping these turtles overseas, so we will be better able to monitor the species.
These species are not threatened with extinction, but we are worried that rising trade could create a threat. For instance, about 3,100 live common snapping turtles were exported in 1990. More than 655,000 were exported in 2009.
In the following article from the winter 2013 issue of Fish & Wildlife News, Dr. Thomas Leuteritz and Bruce Weissgold of our International Affairs Program summarize the problems facing turtles. Proposals from the United States, China and Vietnam at the 16th Conference of Parties (CoP16) to CITES increased protection for 44 Asian freshwater turtles.
Tortoises and freshwater and terrestrial turtles are the world’s most endangered vertebrates, and the Service has been involved in CITES efforts to better monitor and regulate their international trade.
Global commerce in turtles in the last 20-plus years has followed a well-known pattern of boom and bust in international wildlife trade: Once a species is depleted or regulated, trade shifts to species not as threatened or less regulated.