TRAFFIC Releases New Report On Jakarta’s Tortoise And Freshwater Turtle Trade
A new report released by TRAFFIC revealed that through the years thousands of threatened tortoises and freshwater turtles have been sold in Jakarta’s shops and markets; a tragic product of the wildlife illegal trade.
According to TRAFFIC, researchers found 4,985 individuals of 65 different species of tortoise and freshwater turtles in just seven locations over a four-month period. Nearly half of these were threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
This survey in 2015 found more turtles and tortoises on sale in Jakarta than previous TRAFFIC surveys carried out in 2004 and 2010. Between 92 and 983 animals were observed in any given week.
“If this trade and the open markets that sell species illegally are not made a priority for law enforcement action, many of the currently threatened species will be pushed closer to extinction,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
This study also found indications of a worsening situation with the discovery of higher proportions of non-native, CITES-listed and threatened species compared to earlier studies.
On the list were the Critically Endangered Ploughshare Tortoise Astrochelys yniphora and Radiated Tortoise Astrochelys radiata, both endemic to Madagascar and listed in CITES Appendix I (meaning all international trade is banned) since 1975.
Non-native turtles are not protected by Indonesian law and this includes the most commonly observed species in this study, the Indian Star Tortoise Geochelone elegans. This tortoise is also totally prohibited from harvest and trade in its range states of South Asia.
Researchers found no recent records of Indian Star Tortoise imports for commercial purposes or records of legal exports from range countries in the UNEP-WCMC² CITES database. There was also no information on specimens reportedly bred in captivity in other countries. The authors concluded that high levels of illegal import of these tortoises into Indonesia was still occurring as recently as in 2015.
This research deepens two concerns experts have held for some time: that high levels of illegal turtle trade occur in the country and that loopholes within national legislation continue to undermine the protection of local and non-native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles.
Indonesia is currently revising legislation relating to wildlife protection (Act No. 5, 1990) and the protected species list (Regulation No. 7, 1999). The report recommends that these laws are amended to include non-native, CITES-listed species and provisions for effective enforcement.
“For international agreements like CITES to be effective, Indonesia must move to protect not only its native species but also non-native ones, especially those that have been repeatedly shown to be heavily trafficked within the country, said Krishnasamy.
Last week, experts gathered at Night Safari Singapore for the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle IUCN Red List Workshop to assess the status of 90 South and Southeast Asian tortoise and freshwater turtle species, many of which are threatened by trade. Over half of these species are native to Southeast Asia, including over 20 that occur in Indonesia.
TRAFFIC’s findings contributed to the assessment hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore that supports TRAFFIC’s work on turtle trade in the region.