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Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 1:12-13
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Excerpts pertaining to turtles from the November 18, 1999 Federal Register announcement:

The United States’ Final Submission For April CITES Conference

Patricia Fisher
United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is calling for global attention to the impacts of unsustained trade in marine species, reptiles, amphibians and plants as it submits its final proposals and papers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and head of the U.S. delegation to CITES, Donald J. Barry announced today. CITES is an international agreement designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.

These proposals and papers will be considered during the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) to CITES in Nairobi, Kenya, in April 2000. Currently, 146 nations including the U.S. belong to CITES. Members meet approximately every two years to discuss improvements to the treaty and to review trade protections for wildlife.

“As we prepared the U.S. submissions, the Service worked closely with State wildlife agencies,” Barry said. “More than ever before, they have been our partners in gathering the best scientific, trade and harvest information available on various species, especially native wildlife species.”

A CITES-regulated species may be included in one of three appendices to the Convention. Any listing of a species in either Appendix I or II requires approval by two thirds of the CITES party countries. App. I includes species where it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in App. I species. Noncommercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species’ survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of App. I species.

App. II includes species where it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits.

App. III includes species where there is some question as to the potential negative impact of commercial trade. Permits are used to monitor trade in native species. Any member may place a native species on App. III.

In addition to proposals the United States itself is submitting, there are several it is co-sponsoring with other countries. For example, the U.S. is joining with Australia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Georgia, India, Nepal and Madagascar to propose or discuss protection for species such as sharks, tortoises, dolphins, tarantulas and Musk deer.

“Because Americans purchase great quantities of foreign wildlife and wildlife products, it is our responsibility to work with other countries to make sure that this trade in no way jeopardizes the future health of their native wildlife,” Barry said....

Reptiles and Amphibians
While environmental factors recently have been highly publicized in declines of reptiles and amphibians around the world, overharvest for human food and the pet trade is contributing to this decline. This trade impacts both U.S. and foreign species. Therefore, the U.S. is proposing several of these species for protection against trade.

“The legal international trade in reptiles has increased significantly in the last decade,” Clark said. “At the same time, reptile smuggling has become a high-profit criminal enterprise which we cannot tolerate.” According to statistics collected by the Service, in 1997 the United States imported 1.8 million live reptiles worth more than $7 million and exported 9.7 million valued at more than $13.2 million ...

Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
The spotted turtle is another North American species which the U.S. considers to be in need of Appendix II protection. Native to southern Ontario, Canada, and in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Upper Midwest U.S., the species’ survival is threatened by over-collection; habitat fragmentation, alteration, and destruction; as well as road mortality. Human population growth and development, the disappearance of wetlands and pollution are some of the factors contributing to population declines. Also, illegal commercial collecting threatens the turtle’s survival. From 1995 through 1997, substantial numbers of spotted turtles were exported from the United States.

Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora spp.)
The United States and Germany are co-sponsoring a proposal to include the nine species of Southeast Asian box turtles (Cuora) in Appendix II (p. 9). Many of these species are heavily exploited for food throughout southeast Asia. After consulting with other CITES countries where the turtles are found such as Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, China and Bangladesh, the U.S. and Germany determined that threats to the survival of these turtles warranted their protection.

Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)
Along with Kenya, the U.S. is seeking to transfer the Pancake tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I. Native to Kenya and Tanzania, this tortoise’s habitat is limited to thorn-scrub and savannah areas with rock crevices and outcroppings. The species was listed in Appendix II in 1975 and in 1981 Kenya banned its trade. Immediately following the ban, there was a marked increase in exports from Tanzania. Recent surveys indicate that pancake tortoise numbers have become depleted in much of its Tanzanian range. Increasing collection, the turtle’s low reproductive rate and its habitat requirements all factor into this decline...

Future Notices
A Federal Register notice announcing the preliminary agenda for COP11 is expected to be published in mid-December. At the same time, another Federal Register notice will be published announcing the final U.S. submissions for COP11. The U.S. proposed negotiating positions on other countries’ COP11 submissions is expected to be published in early February 2000. At the same time, the Service will also announce a public meeting to be held later that month to discuss these submissions. On April 1, the Service will publish the final U.S. negotiating positions on other countries’ submissions.

For copies of all Federal Register notices and to learn more about CITES, U.S. submissions, what other countries are proposing, fact sheets, COP11 updates and the latest news, check the Service’s internet address: http://international.fws.gov/cop11/cop11.html.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Editors note: In addition to the above changes, France is proposing to transfer the Sulcata or African Spurred tortoise, Geochelone sulcata, from Appendix II to Appendix I. This is the only other change being proposed for freshwater turtles and tortoises.