Black Spotted Turtles
16, Oct 2018
Prelims level : Environment National Conservation & Mitigation Mains level : GS Paper – III Conservation
- India accounts for 29% of black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) seized from across seven countries in South Asia, states a recent report by TRAFFIC, an international network monitoring trade in wildlife.
- The report names India as the country with the highest number of seizures, accounting for 29% of all turtles seized, and lists Hong Kong second during the study period. Black Spotted Turtles are primarily sourced in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and subsequently transported to Hong Kong SAR and mainland China, often through Southeast Asian transit hubs.
- The attractive turtle, once wanted for its meat, is now an increasingly popular pet and favoured among wildlife smugglers with many turtles observed for sale in Asian markets or in online trade.
- It’s a major concern that illegal trade of Black Spotted Turtles is on the increase in the country. There was a significant jump was between 2013 and 2015 when the annual number of seizures and individual turtles seized tripled.
- The Black Spotted Turtle trade is largely driven by East Asian demand. This turtle is protected by national laws throughout its natural range and is listed in Appendix I of CITES, prohibiting all commercial international trade. Nevertheless, Asian demand continues to fuel illegal harvesting and smuggling of the species. Overall, although 55 suspects were arrested in connection with seizures between April 2014 and March 2016, confirmed convictions remained scarce, with only 20% of arrests resulting in a conviction.
- These trends highlight the urgent need for intelligence-led investigations and collaborative law enforcement across source, consumer and transit hotspots to dismantle organised criminal networks around the region.
- Asia’s illegal turtle trade has occurred at such a scale and pace that turtles have now become one of the world’s most threatened groups of animals.
- To stem this tide different groups, need to join efforts and implement multi-prong approaches.
- As one of the leading zoological institutions in Asia, WRS partners organisations like TRAFFIC in trade research to provide resource for law enforcement agencies.
- Enforcement efforts must be improved across the Asian region. Intelligence-led investigations, among relevant enforcement agencies will prove crucial, not only to the disruption of Black Spotted Turtle trade players, but also to the collection of accurate data for trade analysis.
- Reporting efforts should be improved on both national and international levels. On a national level, reporting between local (or regional) and national enforcement authorities will facilitate coordinated enforcement efforts.
- Intelligence-led investigations should be used to ensure strong prosecution, involving high penalties, against traffickers to deter future offenders.
- Public awareness concerning the deteriorating effects of the freshwater turtle trade in general, and the Black Spotted Turtle trade in particular, should be increased.
- Awareness initiatives to reduce demand and to increase knowledge about the illegality of the trade in Black Spotted Turtle should be carried out among consumers in destination countries and among local communities and hunters in source countries.
- Continued research into and monitoring of the Black Spotted Turtle trade should be conducted to improve our understanding of trade trends and dynamics.
- Further research into the status of wild Black Spotted Turtle populations and the conservation impacts of the trade in this species should be conducted.
- The spotted turtle is a small black turtle with distinct large spots on its carapace (upper shell) and orange-yellow markings on its head, neck and limbs. The spotted turtle is one species whose sex is determined by temperature during embryonic development. The spotted turtle is an active hunter: seeking out prey items in the water by pointing its head into aquatic plants.
- Spotted turtles live in small, shallow bodies of water, such as bogs, marshes, fens, coastal wetlands and small ponds. These turtles move short distances overland to lay their eggs or between overwintering and summer habitat. They usually hibernate communally in the mud at the bottom of wetlands, or in underwater burrows or cavities where the water is roughly 50 to 100 centimetres deep.