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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on November 18, 2000 at 09:47:50:
CHINA POST (Beijing) 10 November 00 Conservationists urge for an end to turtle killing.
Conservationists at Taipei's Trade Record Analysis of Flora&Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC), a wildlife trade monitoring program, yesterday urged residents to join them in stopping the illegal trade and the brutal killings of Asian freshwater turtles and tortoises, since half of them are now considered endangered from excessive hunting.
For centuries, practitioners of Chinese medicine have been using turtle shells as part of medicinal ingredients to treat various illnesses. It is also said that a special jelly made from the turtle shell has the ability to fight cancer. And since many young turtles often can fetch up to US$1,300 each on black markets in parts of southern mainland China and Hong Kong, thousands of them have been butchered before they have even had the opportunity to mature and reproduce.
According to officials at TRAFFIC's Taipei office, due to the threat from excessive capturing in recent years, the number of endangered turtle species native to Asia has more than doubled from 10 species four years ago to 24 species today.
TRAFFIC officials pointed out that, on average, Taiwan imports from other countries, such as Indonesia, mainland China, and Singapore, approximately 100 tons of turtle shells each year. Yet in order to meet such a high demand for this particular high-market-value good, at least one to two million turtles would have to be killed to provide their hard outer coverings, said wildlife trade monitoring officials.
Moreover, according to studies done by the World Conservation Union's Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, of the 90 species of Asian freshwater turtles and tortoises, 74 percent of them are considered threatened. Among the threatened species, 18 of them were thought to be critically endangered.
Meanwhile, to help save the fast disappearing reptile, officials from various international environmental groups, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and The World Conservation Union, have decided to hold regional conferences in hopes of coming up with conservation plans.