Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Native U.S. Turtles Gain International Protection

December 16, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The alligator snapping turtle and all species of map turtles, which are native to the United States, are being given international protection, effective June 14, 2006, by their addition to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. The listing, which will allow the Service to work with States to regulate exports, marked the first time the U.S. has used Appendix III to protect native species.

The alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the world, is found in Alabama , Arkansas , Florida , Georgia , Illinois , Indiana , Iowa , Kansas , Kentucky , Louisiana , Mississippi , Missouri , Oklahoma , Tennessee and Texas . The species is protected on State endangered species lists in Indiana and Illinois . The alligator snapping turtle is a species of concern due to several factors including: loss of habitat and collection from the wild for human consumption and for export as pets.

There are 12 species of North American map turtles, which range from Florida to Texas , as well as North Dakota , South Dakota and parts of Quebec , Canada . Two species of map turtles are on the Federal list of threatened species and a third map turtle is a candidate species for Federal listing. Several other map turtle species are on State endangered and threatened lists. Map turtles are vulnerable for many reasons; some currently known threats to the species include loss of habitat, exposure to contaminants, and collection for the pet trade.

Some 168 countries, in addition to the United States , are signatories to CITES, which provides for a system of permits and certificates to monitor and regulate international trade in wild animals and plants. A CITES member nation may include a native species in Appendix III if it determines that cooperation of other CITES countries is needed to monitor and control trade.

"Wild populations of these turtles continue to decline, in part because of their popularity as both food and pets," said Service Director Dale Hall. "Working in close partnership with the States, we determined that an Appendix-III listing would allow us to reinforce State protections for these species and provide key trade information to better conserve these vulnerable species."

The Appendix-III listing of these species, published in todays Federal Register, requires a CITES export permit issued by the Service for all shipments of live specimens or products containing the turtle species. An export permit may be issued only for turtles collected in accordance with all Federal, State and local laws. Other CITES countries will only allow imports from the United States when shipments are accompanied by a valid U.S. export permit, and will only allow re-export of certified shipments. The CITES listing has no direct effect on any activities taking place within a State.

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