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Wednesday, 27 August, 2003
Rare tortoises escape hand-luggage hell

Vigilant Indian airport officials have found nearly 1,000 endangered star tortoises crammed into three pieces of hand luggage aboard a flight to Singapore.
Star tortoise
Star tortoises are a delicacy in the far-east

They believe the 960 rare animals were destined to become delicacies served up by restaurants in the far-east.

Airport officials acting on a tip-off discovered the tortoises in the overhead locker of a plane that was about to leave the southern Indian city of Madras.

Two Indian men were arrested for attempting to smuggle the rare species out of the country.

Starry humps

According to wildlife warden K. Reddy, the men confessed to having caught the tortoises in forests in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Mr Reddy said each tortoise could be expected to fetch a million Indian rupees, or roughly 22,000 US dollars, amongst far-eastern consumers who value them as culinary delicacies and household pets.

He said over 2,100 star tortoises had been seized at Madras airport during the previous month and four arrests had been made.

The animals, which are indigenous to India, are protected by international conventions against hunting endangered species.

They get their name from the star-like patterns on the pyramidal humps along their shell.

22 August, 2002
Indian tortoises fly home

More than 1,800 endangered star tortoises are being flown home to India from Singapore.

Star tortoise
Star tortoises are used as food in parts of India

Airport officials in the southern Indian city of Madras said the smuggled tortoises were expected to land on Thursday evening.

The Singapore authorities decided to repatriate the tortoises following discussions with their counterparts in India.

Singapore Airlines are laying on the flight free of charge.

The star tortoises are reported to have been confiscated in three smuggling cases this year.

According to the AFP news agency, 1,092 of the 1,830 tortoises were seized from an Indian national at Singapore's Changi Airport late last month.

The man was fined nearly US$3,000, jailed for eight weeks and ordered to pay more than $10,000 towards the "care and repatriation of the creatures", AFP said.

Threatened species

Although the star tortoise is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, they are sold openly in many pet shops in Asia.

They are also a source of food in parts of India.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is contributing $2,500 towards other expenses incurred during the repatriation.

Nearly 2,500 star tortoises are reported to have been smuggled into Singapore in the last four months.

About 600 died before they could be sent back to India.

Two kinds

There are two distinctive types of star tortoises in India.

Those found in northern states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are very large and have a relatively dark colour.

But in the south — Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka — they are much smaller and coloured creme-yellow with jet black markings.

In India, the tortoises are consumed almost exclusively by people on very low incomes — often members of tribes.

Fast depleting forest reserves and high consumption of the species have led to concerns that the species may soon become extinct in India.

Wednesday, 10 August 2005
Mexico vow after turtle killings
Olive Ridley turtle
The Olive Ridley has been protected by Mexican law since 1990

Mexico is to increase protection for its sea turtle population after about 80 were found slaughtered.

The remains of the Olive Ridley turtles were found — in the middle of nesting season — on Escobilla beach in the southern Oaxaca state last weekend.

Poachers are thought to have killed the turtles for their eggs, which are renowned locally as an aphrodisiac.

The area is one of the most important nesting grounds for the turtle in Mexico, say local environmentalists.

The poachers left behind valuable turtle meat weighing 1,800lb (800kg), and carcasses were visible over the beach and shoreline.

"They killed them with blows to the head and machetes.   It is very brutal, the beach would have been covered in blood," said Homero Aridjis, one of Mexico's leading environmental campaigners.

Protected species

In response to the killings, the government sent two navy boats to the area to patrol off the beach.

The environment department described the attacks an "act of vandalism" and pledged to work closely with the navy to prevent further killings.

The Olive Ridley sea turtles have been protected under Mexican law since 1990 with a penalty of up to nine years in jail for anyone caught killing or capturing them.

The eggs of the turtles are often eaten raw with salt and lemon and can be bought for less than 10 US cents each, says Mr Aridjis.

The turtle is the smallest species of sea turtle in the world and has grown in number thanks to the anti-poaching actions of countries such as Mexico.

International efforts to prevent them being captured accidentally by fishing nets have also helped numbers recover.

Tuesday, 25 May, 2004
Sea turtle decline 'costs millions'
The loggerheads predate the dinosaurs <i>(Image: Alan F Rees/ARCHELON)
Loggerhead under water by Alan F Rees/ARCHELON

Coastal communities around the world are losing millions of tourist dollars a year through the destruction of rare sea turtles, a report claims.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says living turtles are worth nearly three times as much as dead ones because of the tourism they attract.

Of the seven marine turtle species, three are critically endangered and a further three are endangered.

Campaigners hope the WWF findings will encourage better conservation methods.

Sea turtles are killed for their meat and shells, with money also earned through the sale of leather and eggs.

The leatherback turtle, which can grow up to 2.75m (9ft) long, has declined by 90% over the last 20 years.

Ocean wildlife
Developers, politicians and community leaders should start to see marine turtles as generating revenue and jobs
Carlos Drews, WWF

The WWF report, Money Talks: Economic Aspects Of Marine Turtle Use And Conservation, draws an economic comparison between killing turtles or collecting their eggs with money generated through tourism.

After studying 18 sites in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, it says that marine turtle tourism is an investment in livelihoods and far more profitable both financially and for the future of ocean wildlife.

Half the sites which killed the species for money produced an average annual income from sea turtle products of $582,000 (£332,000).

The other half where turtles have been a tourist attraction had an income of $1.65m (£975,000).

'Valuable asset'

Sea turtle tourism has become increasingly popular since the 1980s, and currently 175,000 people take turtle tours each year to more than 90 sites in 40 countries — the biggest is in Costa Rica.

Populations of sea turtles have been in decline because beaches where they usually nest have been transformed into tourist resorts, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs for food, and accidental deaths in fishing nets.

Carlos Drews, WWF's coordinator for marine turtle conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean, has said the report's findings should encourage stronger conservation measures.

"This study confirms what we've suspected all along, sea turtles are worth more to local communities alive than dead.

"Developers, politicians and community leaders should start to see marine turtles as a valuable asset generating revenue and jobs."

The BBC's environment correspondent Tim Hirsch says that poor communities in the developing world will only be convinced of such a wildlife balance sheet if they get a fair share of the profits earned from ecotourism.

Leatherback on beach   Matthew Godfrey
Leatherbacks can grow to 2.75m (9ft) (Image: Matthew Godfrey)

Pacific turtles 'gone in decade'

A report by the US group Conservation International says leatherback numbers there have fallen by 97% in 22 years.

Five of the six other species of sea turtle are also at risk of extinction, though not necessarily as acutely.

Threats include fishing practices and the poaching of the turtles' eggs, but scientists say they can still be saved.

One in three dies

CI released its report on the plight of the Pacific leatherbacks at the 24th annual symposium on sea turtle conservation and biology, meeting in Costa Rica.

It says their numbers have fallen from about 115,000 breeding females to fewer than 3,000 since 1982.

James Spotila, professor of environmental science at Drexel University, said: "The Pacific leatherbacks currently face an annual mortality rate of up to 30%.

"That rate is clearly unsustainable, and without dramatic intervention we can expect to see them disappear in as soon as a decade."

Of the other species, the Kemp's ridley and hawksbill turtles are also both classified by IUCN-The World Conservation Union as critically endangered, the designation given to the leatherbacks.

Green, olive ridley and loggerhead turtles are classed as endangered, and only northern Australia's flatbacks are not thought to face extinction.
Leatherback hatchlings on beach   Conservation International
One hatchling in 1,000 is likely to reach adulthood (Image: Conservation International)




For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.