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The chelonian trade in the largest pet market in China: scale, scope and impact on turtle conservation

  • Shi-Ping Gong (a1), Alex T. Chow (a2), Jonathan J. Fong (a3) and Hai-Tao Shi (a4)

Abstract

China is the largest consumer of turtles in the world and international trade has been cited as the greatest threat to Asian turtles. Two main types of trade in live turtles occur in China: for food and traditional Chinese medicine, and for pets, including those for release by Buddhists. The food trade involves the largest quantities of turtles. In recent years, however, the international pet turtle trade has increased dramatically. Yuehe Pet Market in Guangzhou is the largest pet market in China. selling live chelonians and other animals. To understand the potential impacts of the pet trade on chelonians we conducted seven surveys in Yuehe Pet Market from August 2006 to March 2008. Over 39,000 individual chelonians of 61 species were recorded (19.1% of the global total of 319 species). Fifteen (24.6%) of these species are native to China and 46 (75.4%) are native to other countries. Two are designated as grade II key state-protected species in China. Thirty-eight (62.3%) are CITES listed species (four in CITES Appendix I, 26 in CITES II and eight in CITES III). Four are categorized on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, 16 as Endangered and 19 as Vulnerable. Our surveys indicate that increasing demand and the illegal international pet trade could be having a severe impact on chelonian conservation, and we make recommendations for law enforcement and conservation.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Guangdong Provincial Public Laboratory for Wild Animal Conservation and Management, South China Institute of Endangered Animals, No.105, Xin'gang West Road, Guangzhou 510260, P.R. China. E-mail gsp621@163.com

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