Quantifying the Asian turtle crisis: market surveys in southern China, 2000–2003



  • 1.A total of 950 251 individuals of 157 turtle species were recorded during a 35-month survey of the turtle trade in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, southern China. All but two of the 157 species were encountered in Hong Kong; Guangzhou ranked second in diversity (113 species) and Shenzhen third (89 species). Together, these turtles made up around 60% of the global chelonian fauna; 124 (∼80%) of them were freshwater turtles.
  • 2.Seventy-two globally threatened species were traded in southern China during the survey: 13 classified by the IUCN as critically endangered (CE), 29 as endangered (EN), and 30 as vulnerable (VU). Thirteen species listed on CITES Appendix I and 64 species on Appendix II, as well as eight species nationally protected in China, were traded.
  • 3.The majority of species traded had natural ranges that included China and neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, or Southeast Asian countries other than China. These non-Chinese Asian turtles (primarily Bataguridae) constituted around two-thirds of the 77 species in the food trade, and turtles sold as food accounted for 73% of individuals encountered during the survey. Most species sold as food were also traded as traditional Chinese medicine, and nearly all turtles (155 of 157 species) were sold as pets. Eighty-one species were traded only as pets.
  • 4.Large numbers of Cuora galbinifrons (CE; CITES-II) were traded (>15 000 individuals) and even greater quantities (>210 000 individuals) of C. amboinensis (VU; CITES-II), as were significant numbers of other CR, EN and VU batagurids. Observed levels of exploitation of wild populations appeared unsustainable.
  • 5.Enforcement of relevant CITES regulations during the survey seemed limited and globally threatened Asian species remained in trade in Hong Kong without the relevant licences. Trade within China is not subject to CITES, but could be regulated by enforcement of existing national laws and expansion of protected-species lists.

Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.