Asia is the large market for reptiles. Millions of these animals are shipped from the US to Asia for food or pet purposes. These turtle species fetch handsome prizes thus making the trade more appealing. The parties involved in this trade have no idea about the effects or are simply ignoring the issue at hand. These turtle species have biological and environmental restrictions which limit their population. Commercial harvesting possess more life threats. Reducing the number of turtles in an ecosystem also means limiting the life of other animals. This is because a state of balance is disrupted by tampering with the food chain. There is no accountability when it comes to turtle trade. Most of these turtles are poached in Louisiana while many of them get exported without restrictions.
Conservation groups are now trying to cut down the turtle trade especially in Louisiana. They are doing this by filling a petition which will also serve the purpose of sensitizing parties involved about the life of turtles. Many Kelly Madison states have embraced wildlife laws, hopefully Louisiana will learn from them. This is a wake up call for the state to act before all species become extinct out of human greed.
Sixteen million turtles from 20 species have been legally harvested in Louisiana over the last five years. These animals were shipped alive to Asia where they are sold as meat, pets and even medicine. The red-eared slider which is the common species, is offered for a dollar or less than a pound. The other large and rare turtle species such as the alligator snapping turtle have fetched thousands of dollars each. Other affected species are the southern painted turtle, the Mississippi river turtle, the river cutter and the map turtles.
Louisiana is the only state in the US that allows people to harvest these turtle species without any restrictions. This state has started to request reports from commercial harvesters about all harvesting done in the last two months. This means the number of turtles caught in the state annually is unknown. The only reports which look better but not good enough, come from the federal data. These reports only indicate the number of wild animals shipped out of the country. They don’t indicate any turtles sold within Louisiana or any number poached by unlicensed harvesters. Also, it does not indicate the number of animals which die after being captured.
Turtles are vulnerable to commercial exploitation because they take long to mature sexually. There eggs and hatch-lings also have a lot of predators. This means they cannot be replenished when harvested at a high rate. A decline in turtle population also affects the large ecosystem in which they live. Turtles are known to connect many terrestrial ecosystems since they eat things both in water and on land. Other animals also depend on them for food. This means many other animal species in the ecosystem are affected too.
Some of these captured turtles may even pose life threats to other coupon wildlife if they are released or escape into incompatible environments. For instance, the red-eared sliders specie is considered one of the worst invasive species. This is because of their veracious appetite, aggression and prodigious breeding. They also pick up diseases while being traded which are then carried back to the wild.