The plight of our planet’s tortoises and turtles has never been worse according to a newly released report, “The World’s 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles – 2011.”
The report highlights the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, explaining that they will all become extinct in the next few decades without concerted conservation efforts.
Authored by the Turtle Conservation Coalition, the report was released at a regional workshop hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Number one on the list is the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii), which is in fact the rarest reptile in the world. Sadly only a single male of this species, ‘Lonesome George’, remains alive today.
Close behind is the Red River giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) of China and Vietnam. With only four animals left, the threat of extinction hangs over this species.
Of the 25 most endangered turtles, over two-thirds (17 species) are from Asia, due to decades of massive exploitation in the region. Although evolutionary marvels, their armoured shells no longer ensure their survival against intensive collection.
“Turtles are being unsustainably hunted throughout Asia,” said co-author Brian D. Horne of WCS.
“Every tortoise and turtle species in Asia is being impacted in some manner by the international trade in turtles and turtle products. 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.”
Worldwide, the hunting of turtles is at vastly unsustainable levels. Furthering the problem is a lucrative international black-market trade in pet turtles and tortoises, which has escalated prices of some of the rarer species into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Better enforcement of existing trade laws, together with habitat protection and captive breeding are all crucial in bolstering existing turtle populations and preventing turtle species from going extinct.
To read and download the report, visit Turtle Survival Alliance.
Explore ARKive’s turtles and tortoises.
Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author