AR-News: (US) South Carolina bans harvest of seven turtle species
Barry Kent MacKay
mimus at sympatico.ca
Fri Aug 1 17:15:04 EDT 2003
State bans harvesting of seven turtle species
COLUMBIA, S.C. - State wildlife officials have banned the commercial harvest
of seven of South Carolina's most common freshwater turtle species amid
fears a growing appetite for turtle meat in Southeast Asia could wipe the
The emergency regulations passed by the state Natural Resources Department
in June remain in effect for 90 days, then can be extended for another 90
days. The agency will ask the Legislature to approve similar permanent
regulations next year.
But the rules aren't making commercial turtle trappers happy, and some
constituents also have called to complain, said Sen. Larry Grooms,
"I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to some comments from one Louisiana
trapper in the paper," Grooms said. "In my opinion, we don't have a
Kurt Buhlmann disagrees. The director of the reptile and amphibian program
for Conservation International said a 2000 survey determined that 10 turtle
species are extinct in the wild and another 24 species are critically
endangered because of the growing desire for turtle meat in areas of Asia.
"South Carolina has a healthy population of a lot of our species, but it can
go downhill real fast," said Buhlmann, who works out of the Savannah River
Ecology Lab near Aiken. "In a period of 10 years, they've destroyed the
Asian turtle populations."
With their own turtle populations depleted, Asians traders are turning to
North American providers.
Some opponents of the regulations worry homeowners won't be able to have
nuisance turtles removed from their private ponds because trappers won't do
the job if they can't sell the turtles for profit.
While trapping the turtles isn't illegal under the new regulations, trappers
must relocate the turtles, not sell them for meat.
The regulations allow capturing a wild turtle to keep as a pet or killing
one for personal consumption because those actions hardly put a dent in the
overall population, said Natural Resources Department scientist Steve
Bennett, who asked for the regulations.
"I'd hate to see the day when a kid could not go out and pick up a turtle to
take home as a pet," Buhlmann said. "It's the commercial exploitation of
these animals that's going to cause the problems."
The regulations prohibit possession, capture or transport for commercial
purposes of yellow-belly sliders, river cooters, Florida cooters, chicken
turtles, snapping turtles, Florida soft-shell turtles and spiny soft-shell
Barry Kent MacKay
Senior Programme Coordinator: Canada
Animal Protection Institute
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