Photo credit: Getty Images
The world’s 25 most endangered turtle species, some of which have populations numbering less than five individuals, have just been named in a report issued this week by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Turtle Conservation Coalition.
Illegal hunting, habitat loss and the pet trade have drastically reduced numbers of tortoises and freshwater turtles in recent years, such that many species could go extinct in the next decade, according to the report.
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“Turtles are being unsustainably hunted throughout Asia,” said co-author Brian D. Horne of the 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.”
“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,” Liz Bennett, Vice President of the WCS Species Program, added. “The fact is that turtles are being vacuumed up from every nook and cranny in Asia and beyond.”
Perhaps the most well-known turtle on the list is “Lonesome George,” believed to be the world’s only Abdington Island giant tortoise. Another species very close to extinction is the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, represented now by only four known individuals. The last known male/female pair reside at Suzhou Zoo in China, where it’s hoped that they will mate one day.
Here’s the list of the Top 25 Most Endangered Turtles:
(One of the last of its kind: A Yangtze giant softshell turtle, Rafetus swinhoei, surfaces in a lake in Vietnam. Once occurring in the river basins of China and Vietnam, the turtle, which can weigh up to 250 pounds, has been decimated as a result of wetland destruction, water pollution and poaching. Only four individuals are known to exist. Photo credit: Brian D. Horne/Wildlife Conservation Society.)
(The Burmese star tortoise, Geochelone platynota, is characterized by well defined, symmetrical star patterns that radiate across the reptile’s carapace or shell. Very little is known about the species, which is threatened by both the pet trade and a demand for meat. The Burmese star tortoise is listed as “Critically Endangered.” Photo credit: Brian D. Horne/Wildlife Conservation Society.)
(The red-crowned roofed turtle, Batagur kachuga, is one of 25 species listed in a new report issued by the Turtle Conservation Coalition today in Singapore. The species is limited to a few isolated pockets along the Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins in India and Bangladesh and is listed as “Critically Endangered” on IUCN’s Red List. Photo credit: Brian D. Horne/Wildlife Conservation Society.)
Habitat protection, captive breeding and better enforcement of existing trade laws are all key to the survival of these species, along with others. You can read the entire full-color report, which includes additional photos and information, by clicking here.