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Evidence for the massive scale of turtle farming in China

  • Shi Haitao (a1), James F. Parham (a2), Fan Zhiyong (a3), Hong Meiling (a1) and Yin Feng (a4)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2008

One of the main threats to the survival of Asian turtles is the demand in China for turtles for use as food and medicine products. As the demand for turtle products escalated over the past 20 years entrepreneurs initiated commercial breeding facilities for profit. To gain a better understanding of the scale of the captive turtle trade we conducted a survey of the 1,499 large turtle farms known by branch offices of the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office and the Provincial Forestry Bureaus. The results from the 684 respondent farms (46%) indicated that a total of >300 million turtles are sold per year and are worth c. USD 750 million. Although the bulk of these figures comprise the common Chinese softshell turtle Pelodiscus sinensis many other species are also farmed, including Critically Endangered species and even species native to North America. As 54% of known farms did not respond to our survey we suggest that the trade in captive turtles is probably a multi-billion dollar industry. This is likely considering that many Chinese turtle farms operate covertly and are thus impossible to survey. The large scale of turtle farming in China raises questions about the impact of so many threatened turtles being bred and sold for profit. Because the commercial breeding of these species is so well developed and large in scale, the deleterious impact is serious and difficult to control.

Corresponding author
§Department of Biology, Hainan Normal University, Haikou, 571158, Hainan Province, China. E-mail
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S. Gong , J. Wang , H. Shi , R. Song & R. Xu (2006) Illegal trade and conservation requirements of freshwater turtles in Nanmao, Hainan province, China. Oryx, 40, 331336.

IUCN (2007) 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland & Cambridge, UK [, accessed 6 November 2007].

J.F. Parham & H. Shi (2001) The discovery of Mauremys iversoni-like turtles at a turtle farm in Hainan Province, China: the counterfeit golden coin. Asiatic Herpetological Research, 9, 7177.

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