Mass capture of Indonesian Box turtles driving them towards extinction11/03/2009 08:41:46 Box turtles knocked out by excessive trade
February 2009. Unregulated trade-at 10 to 100 times legal levels-has caused Southeast Asian Box Turtles almost to vanish from parts of Indonesia where they were once common, according to a new report by the wildlife trade monitoring network 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. Box turtles are also in demand as pets in the US, Europe and Japan.
2 million exported every year - Quota is 18,000
"The number of Southeast Asian Box Turtles currently traded is certainly ten times the official export quota, and probably nearer 100 times it," said Dr Sabine Schoppe, author of the new report, "Status, trade dynamics and management of the Southeast Asian Box Turtle Cuora amboinensis in Indonesia".
Thirteen of the 18 traders investigated were registered for some trade in reptiles, but not in box turtles, with the provincial offices of the Government's Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA), which is required to inspect such businesses regularly. TRAFFIC has previously presented the results of the study to PHKA.
Huge falls in Box turtle numbers
"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 centres, "said Schoppe.
"Authorities should concentrate on eradicating illegal trade, and in setting realistic limits on what numbers can safely be harvested," said Chris R. Shepherd, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
The Southeast Asian Box Turtle Cuora amboinensis is one of 29 native freshwater turtles to Indonesia. It has a low reproductive rate, making it susceptible to over-harvesting. The species is listed by IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction.
Weak enforcement of existing laws is a key problem, caused through a combination of factors including non-inspection of shipments, falsification of CITES export permits, and lack of training amongst enforcement officers.
The report recommends better training and more co-operation between Indonesian enforcement authorities and those in importing countries to tackle illegal wildlife trade, for example through initiatives like the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), and research into populations of box turtles.