China's Booming Turtle Trade

On April 24th, Turtle Conservancy representatives Torsten Blanck (Science Advisory Board; Germany) and Dr. James Liu (Asian Programs Manager) traveled to Shunde, China to present to the Shunde Turtle Breeder's Association. This turtle expo and conference was host to over 160 different breeding operations and 10,000 visitors. The two were accompanied by the Turtle Survival Alliance's Ben Anders and Beijing University's Dr. Danny Gaillard. The group was invited by the renowned turtle biologist, Professor Ting Zhou. They presented on husbandry techniques to improve the welfare of farmed animals in China and conservation initiatives by the Turtle Conservancy to help turtles and tortoises worldwide. Turtles are farmed at a massive scale in China due to demand for the pet and food trade, but conditions and information are rapidly improving. Farming may prove to be the only way to save many species in Asia from extinction, as wild animals are heavily poached throughout their range. Torsten and James also took this time to evaluate trends in the market regarding species traded, prices, and imports from the United States.

The last day of their trip, Torsten and James were able to visit Kadoorie Farms and Botanical Garden in Hong Kong. There, the two were able to evaluate the Golden Coin Turtles (Cuora trifasciata) sent from the Turtle Conservancy's conservation center in California in 2013. These turtles will hopefully be released back into the wild once a protected site can be established. Kadoorie Farms' senior conservation office, Paul Crow, is optimistic that a release will be possible within the next year, but many obstacles remain. At Kadoorie's rescue facility, the team had the chance to see the many recent confiscations of U.S. turtles that have recently turned up in the Hong Kong black market - including wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) and Eastern Box turtles (Terrapene carolina). Asian Demand for US species is increasing at an alarming rate in Asia, and without proper education and enforcement, many native species are at risk of becoming endangered with extinction.