World Turtle Day: May 23
They are in dire straits, most of them. ELIZABETH JOHN writes about the plight of turtles.
FOR slow movers, turtles are certainly moving fast – in trade that is.
Feasting on their eggs, taking them as pets, stuffing them for souvenirs and pulling apart their shells to make combs and bags – these are just a few in a long list of threats that have left turtles at their most precarious in living memory.
Leatherback Turtles have been declared functionally extinct in many areas where they were once common. Some populations in the Indo Pacific region crashed by over 90 per cent over the past two decades.
Many other marine turtles are heading down the same path.
Asian Box Turtles, popular for their meat and as medicine, are vanishing across much of Malaysia and other parts of their range.
The threats to turtles in Malaysia are many as evidenced by the 814 turtles that Customs officers rescued from traffickers last month, just as they were about to be smuggled across the northern border.
Though illegal in many states here, marine turtle eggs are still openly available in a number of markets in the country some sourced from waters off Sabah and others from the Philippines and Indonesia, as numerous seizures have shown.
Last November, Malaysian marine police seized 10,000 marine turtle eggs near Sandakan. They were smuggled in from the Philippines.
More recent news of turtle eggs served at a General Operations Force event last month in Sarawak, serves to underline the severity of the problem.
But the demand and cross border trade in turtles in this region poses as much of problem, shows a new report by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
The study on the marine turtle trade in Vietnam reveals how traders in there are reporting that they get their supply of raw scutes – the individual segments of the turtle shells – from Malaysia and Indonesia.
The populations of numerous species are also falling due to the international pet trade with a taste for the beautifully patterned species.