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Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

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Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

Post Number:#1  Postby timyang » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:58 am

Singapore, 1st March 2011—A meeting of experts on freshwater turtles and tortoises from around the world is reporting dire findings for species in Asia, most of which are bearing the brunt of years of illegal and unsustainable trade.

Seventy experts who gathered in Singapore last week for the Conservation of Asian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles Workshop to evaluate the current status of these species in Asia found the vast majority of are nearing extinction in the wild, and very little has been done to address the problem.

The meeting reported that illegal and unsustainable trade was the greatest threat to the survival of this highly threatened group of species and found that laws and conventions in place to protect these animals were simply not being enforced.

Tortoises and freshwater turtles are among the world's most threatened groups of animals. Perhaps nowhere is the situation more critical than in Asia. In a recently released report, Turtles in Trouble: the World’s Top 25 Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, from the Turtle Conservation Coalition, 68 percent of those that made the list were native to Asia.

Seventy-two of Asia’s 86 species of tortoises and freshwater turtles were assessed at the Singapore meeting, which was hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, San Diego Zoo Global and the IUCN SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group.

The Malaysian Giant Turtle Orlitia borneensis, one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world and found only in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra, is now listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal collection and export for its meat. The Burmese Star Tortoise Geochelone platynota, endemic to Myanmar, is thought to be possibly extinct in the wild due to relentless poaching for the international pet trade.

Another key finding of the meeting was the need for research to be carried out on wild populations to understand their status in the wild, natural history and current distribution better.

Experts also highlighted the need for increased monitoring of the trade that is considered the leading threat to all of these species. The urgent need for rescue centres and ex-situ assurance colonies was also raised.

Alarm bells were first sounded for Asia’s freshwater tortoises and turtles following a meeting of experts in 1999, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, alerting the world to what was dubbed the Asian Turtle Crisis.

Asia’s tortoises and freshwater turtles were being harvested in massive quantities to supply the demand for meat and use in traditional medicines, mostly in East Asia. These species are also in demand as pets. Much of the trade is carried out illegally.

Approximately ten years later, experts again met and found the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Of Asia’s 86 species, close to 70 species (approximately 80%) are considered threatened. This is a dramatic increase since these species were assessed in 1999—a 90% increase in the number of Critically Endangered species alone.

While there have been some successes over the past decade, overall the battle is still being lost, said experts who also discussed current threats and prioritized actions necessary to save species from extinction.

“At the current rate of decline, we will lose many of Asia’s tortoises and freshwater turtle species forever, if international and national laws and conventions are not enforced,” said Chris R. Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group.

“Trade is the single greatest threat to tortoises and freshwater turtles – a species group that has been around since the days of the dinosaurs. Their future is now in the hands of policy makers, enforcement agencies and conservation bodies. To date, efforts to protect these species have been far from adequate. If effort and motivation to save these species is not greatly increased, we are going to lose many of these species .”

Shepherd urged authorities to make full use of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under which many of Asia’s freshwater turtle and tortoise species are protected.

“The last ten years has shown that while it is possible to save these species from extinction, the threat of trade is still present and ever-growing,” said Colin Poole, Director, WCS Regional Hub.

“Of particular concern is the increasing impact of the pet trade on a number of tortoise species and the growth of the demand for dried carapace from softshell turtles sourced primarily in South Asia.”

Notes:
• The status of tortoises and freshwater turtles, as well as other useful information can be viewed by species at the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, at www.iucnredlist.org
• The report, Turtles in Trouble: the World’s top 25+ most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, can be downloaded at http://www.turtlesurvival.org/
timyang
 
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Re: Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

Post Number:#2  Postby nanda666 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:56 am

Most probably the convention is held in a hotel in Spore that still serves Sharkfin soup or worse.....turtle soup!! (Yup! That's the kind of respect that all the conservationists get!! :angry4: :angry4:)

In Vietnam, I saw turltes/tortoises served up as meat as often as any other meat or seafood. Heard the same in Cambodia and Laos too.

These are countries where Bear bile, snake blood and all other exotic stuff is served freely.

The world really needs to come up with better ways of conservation soon as all these methods listed in this article will be forgotten after the discussion.

But in a world where Oil, money, political reform, earthquakes and so many other things going on, animal conservation (Be it turtles, sharks, tigers, etc, etc) are having to take a sad back seat. :crybaby2: :crybaby2:
Good education leads to good conservation!!
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Re: Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

Post Number:#3  Postby dp » Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:13 pm

nanda666 wrote:
In Vietnam, I saw turltes/tortoises served up as meat as often as any other meat or seafood.



Ah, that must have been in one of the seafood restaurants in Vung Tau you were at, Nanda.  ;)

In all fairness, the Vietnamese Govt have started taken some itsy bitsy steps towards the conservation of its marine life - by making it illegal to serve exotic concoctions and dishes.

Few other tiny steps they are taking is also designating and regulating marine parks at popular spots the likes of Nha Trang and Phu Quoc whereby dive operators have to register (daily) and be told which sites are open or closed on that particular day. And of course, ensuring that no dive boats are seen lurking around the island(s) after 2pm (this is in Nha Trang, not too sure about Phu Quoc).

One can only assume and hope that the steps taken were to "preserve" the corals which have been extensively damaged by fisherman employing bombs to catch their haul in days of old.

So scare is the amount of reef fish, that divers will get super excited with a lone cuttlefish sighting.  :D

Having said that, it isnt a bad place if you are into macro and muck diving - with offerings of Mantis shrimp sightings, Ghost pipe fish, stargazers, not-so-shy fire gobies, sea moths, frogfish etc. But still cannot fight Lembeh lah.

So coming back to this "conservation" effort, it will take a while before we see the results of this, but there is hope still.
One woman brings you into this world crying.
The other ensures you continue to do so for the rest of your life...
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Re: Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

Post Number:#4  Postby nanda666 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:08 pm

The problem with small steps is that they have no impact! That's the honest truth.

The only guys I've actually seen really successful with conservation is the Sea Shepards that fight with Whaling vessels to the point that governments get involved to sort it out.

Why don't we ban sharkfins and all associated activities? :angry4: :angry4:

Why don't we make sentencing of criminals caught for illegal trade of endangered species as stringent as laws for illegal drugs? :angry4: :angry4:

Why is E at the end of HSE (Health, Safety & Environment)?  :angry4: :angry4:


And the turtle soup I saw was in HCM City in what was called "forest restaurant".......My PTSC/PetroVietnam friends wanted us to try some "interesting" food......I shall not elaborate.... :crybaby2: :crybaby2:

On another note....Dp...love your tag line...

One woman brings you into this world crying.
The other ensures you continue to do so for the rest of your life...
  :D :D
Good education leads to good conservation!!
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Re: Marine experts discuss threat to Malaysian and other Asian turtles

Post Number:#5  Postby dp » Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:18 pm

Couldn't agree more with you on that. Having said that, if we were to do a Sea Shepard here, they would probably re-open the old prisons in Cong Dau and throw us all in there. (Heck, to even have a group of people gather and distributing leaflets warrants a term in jail)  :D

Again, to see that they are actually trying (at least to the places where i have been) is an improvement from the days of old. Its not often we see this in an up & coming nation. And one can only hope that the momentum continues. As with the VND getting weaker and weaker by the day (to the USD), priorities might just change.

I am just looking forward to the day when i actually get to see some reef life on these shores, never mind a lone greenback surrounding me underwater.

as for my tagline - it IS true, innit? ;)
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The other ensures you continue to do so for the rest of your life...
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