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BD Press: Tortoise, turtle exports may be prohibited

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Posted by W von Papineäu on April 13, 2003 at 20:56:51:

INDEPENDENT (Dhaka, Bangladesh) 13 April 03 Tortoise, turtle exports may be prohibited - Policy makers meeting today (Kamran Reza Chowdhury)
The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) is holding a meeting today (Sunday) to decide the fate of a draft policy on the export of tortoise and turtle by raising these reptiles in the farms.
According to sources, the authorities might impose a ban on the export of tortoise and turtle raised in natural water bodies as their number has come down owing to indiscriminate poaching and export.
The meeting will also be attended by the officials of the Ministry of Commerce, and the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and other stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the environmentalist have expressed concern over the framing of the proposed policy on export of Flap Shelled Spotted Turtle (Lissemys punctata) as the exporters, they say, would export all species of tortoise and turtle collected from natural water bodies along with their raised ones. Because, they say, laws are not implemented in the country strictly and people are not conscious about the role of the turtle in the aquatic system.
EPB sources said the need for framing a special policy on the export of turtle arose when the America-based environment group ‘Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)’ expressed concern over the indiscriminate poaching of the punctata in Bangladesh. The CITES said punctata could be exported only in a restricted number.
The department of forest and EPB sources said the MOEF put restriction on the export of turtle in June 2000 although legally it was an exportable item. The EPB held a series of meetings with all stakeholders, including the exporters, to determine the fate of export of turtles. The bureau in November last year sent a proposal to the MOEF through the Ministry of Commerce to formulate a policy on the export of turtles by raising the same in the private farms.
The department of forest (DOF), which looks after the preservation of wildlife in Bangladesh, prepared a draft policy on export of turtles and sent it to the then Secretary, MOEF, on November 3 last year. On March 24 this year, the officials from the EPB and the DOF sat with the exporters to discuss the situation of export of turtles. DOF sources said some companies were given special permission to export turtle in June 2002 but it was withdrawn later.
"It would be almost impossible to restrain the poachers from exporting the brood turtles, turtle produced in private farms, as the vigilance system is not so effective in Bangladesh. Besides, the culprits might slip through alleged shady deals with the law enforcers," Abu Naser Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Environment Movement told The Independent.
Another environment activist said the earnings from export of turtle are very ‘meagre’. So, if we let them live, it will check pollution of water, save other aquatic resources, and help maintain balance in the food chain of nature.
The species of Lissemys punctata, known as Sundi Kachcchap, has been included in the red-book of the International Union of Conservation of Nature. The punctata is considered as an indicator animal for the aquatic system as it eats the debris of any water bodies and keeps the water bodies clean.
Monjurul Hannan Khan, in his book, said that the punctata is very tasty and its number has come down remarkably owing to indiscriminate hunting of this species of turtle.
However, the government, through the Sustainable Environment Management Project (SEMP), is running a programme at village Maluchi under Manikganj district to create awareness among the people about the role of punctata in the aquatic system.
CITES, in its meeting in Chile last year, tried to include Lissemys punctata in the schedule of endangered species but failed to do so because of opposition from some countries of South East Asia.
Exporters said, as the species of turtle was not included in the Bangladesh Wild Life (Preservation) Order-1973 and it was not a prohibited item, they should be given permission to export turtle. Sources say, the exporters are lobbying with the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) to take necessary measures to allow them to export turtles.
The exporters said they were being harassed by some officials of the concerned ministry though there was no legal bar to export the turtle. They also allege that they had received permission to export a specific number of turtles from the concerned agencies in exchange of money. They had to spend money for renewing the permission of export, they added.
Bangladesh earned Tk 1,81,42,000, in 2001-02 from exporting turtle, mainly to Hong Kong and China. The country first started exporting turtle in 1974-75 and earned Tk 1000 during that year. In 1996-97, Bangladesh exported the highest number of turtle amounting to Tk 3,79,1,52,000.

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