Many species of turtles and tortoises may become extinct in the next decade

Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Image: Shutterstock

Armour is no longer good protection from all of the risks out there.

A report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Survival Coalition has listed the 25 most endangered turtle species in the world, including 17 from Asia, 3 from Africa, 3 in South America, 1 in Central America and Mexico, and 1 from Australia.

The report says illegal hunting of turtles for pets, food and medicine is a particular problem. Prices for a rare turtle or tortoise in the black market trade can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“Every tortoise and turtle species in Asia is being impacted in some manner by the international trade in turtles and turtle products,” co-author Brian D. Horne, WCS announced in the press release. “In just one market in Dhaka, Bangladesh we saw close to 100,000 turtles being butchered for consumption during a religious holiday, and we know of at least three other such markets within the city.”

The most endangered species on the list is the Pinta Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii), with only a single male, “˜Lonesome George’, alive today. Next is the Red River Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) from China and Vietnam, which only has four animals (three males and one female) left.

Some species may even disappear before scientists can work out where they have come from. Zhou’s Box Turtle, the 6th most endangered species, has occasionally been spotted in the turtle markets of China, but no one has managed to locate a wild population.

Liz Bennett, Vice President of WCS’s Species Program, said in the press release “turtles are wonderfully adapted to defend themselves against predators by hiding in their shells, but this defense mechanism doesn’t work against organized, large-scale human hunting efforts. The fact is that turtles are being vacuumed up from every nook and cranny in Asia and beyond.”

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  1. Does that mean if I keep two tortoises as my pets, I’m endangering their species?

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