Turtle Survival Alliance India

Lucknow, India

Turtle Survival Alliance India

Lucknow, India
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Mendiratta U.,Freeland India | Sheel V.,Freeland India | Singh S.,Turtle Survival Alliance India
Biological Conservation | Year: 2017

Illegal trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles (TFTs) for pet, meat and traditional medicine markets in East and Southeast Asia poses significant threats to wild TFTs globally. South Asian countries such as India are believed to be disproportionately large sources of wild TFTs in illegal international markets, but the nature and dynamics of this trade in India are poorly understood. Using data from 223 enforcement seizure reports obtained through systematic online searches, we show that at least 15 of India's 28 TFT species, including 10 IUCN Threatened species, are illegally harvested, with over 58,000 live individuals seized during 2011–15. Geochelone elegans, Geoclemys hamiltonii and Lissemys punctata were recorded in the largest number of seizures and comprised the largest numbers of TFTs seized overall. Nearly 90% of all seizures were from illegal commercial trade, and there were numerous reports of Indian TFTs being transported by road, rail and air within India, as well as to known pet and meat trading hubs in Bangladesh, Thailand, and four other East/Southeast Asian countries. Commercial trade of live TFTs now targets twice as many Indian species as reported in the 1990s. Alongside illegal harvests for local consumption and TFT body parts for traditional East Asian medicines, this illegal trade poses a growing threat to Indian TFTs. Our findings indicate that building awareness and capacity for handling TFT seizures among enforcement agencies, and strengthening international cooperation for law enforcement, are important steps needed for conserving India's endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd

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