In 1981, China became Party to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and since 1988, some species of turtles have been afforded protection under national and provincial legislation in China (reviewed by Lau and Shi 2000). We optimistically report here that the Chinese government has become aware of the consequences of Chinese trade demands on wild turtle populations in Asia, and as a result has recently implemented new legislation and enforcement actions to improve control measures on the trade of turtles in China.
In 1998, the CITES Management Authority of China and the Customs Agency cooperatively implemented a new piece of legislation called the “Commodity Code of Wild Fauna and Flora for Import and Export,” which required that all imported and exported turtles in China be accompanied by permits and be inspected by customs officials.
For three weeks in January 2000, national and provincial government authorities in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, and Yunnan carried out a special enforcement action called “No.2 Action.” Under this action, 51,664 policing officials investigated illegal trade and transportation of wildlife at international airports, key roads, wildlife trading companies, large wildlife restaurants, and at least 8,370 markets. While this action dealt with wildlife trade in general, a special emphasis was placed on turtles and tortoises in Guangdong Province. As a result of the No. 2 Action, 264 cases of illegal wildlife trade were found, a number of illegal traders were fined or arrested, and 40,748 animals (of which many were turtles) were confiscated. As a precedent, the No. 1 Action was an enforcement action carried out in April 1999. It focused on the illegal trade of Tibetan antelope in the provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Tibet Autonomous Region.
In June 2000, the CITES Management Authority of China implemented the “Notice of Strengthening the Live Reptile Import and Export Management,” which prohibited the export and re-export of all species of turtles from China, except the two farmed species Chinese softshell Pelodiscus sinensis and Reeves’ turtle Chinemys reevesii.
In June 2001, the CITES Management Authority of China implemented the “Notice of Strengthening the Trade Management on Turtle and Tortoise.” This notice suspended the import of CITES-listed turtles from countries without export quotas, required each separate piece of cargo in a turtle shipment to carry a permit, and limited the number of ports that could import turtles. The notice also prohibited the import of all species of turtles from Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The CITES Management Authority of China recently sent several letters to range and transit countries in Southeast Asia requesting information on management regulations, laws, and trade control measures concerning turtles in those countries. Turtle imports were banned from Cambodia because the Cambodian Management Authority did not respond to these inquiries, from Thailand because Thailand has banned the export of all wildlife, and from Indonesia owing to confusion as to whether the Indonesian CITES Management Authority or a newly constructed aquatic resources department maintains jurisdiction over issuing export permits for turtles. Under this notice, the CITES Management Authority of China also affirmed a renewed commitment to verify the legitimacy of foreign permits that accompany imported shipments of turtles.
In April 2001 at Zhangjiajie Nature Reserve in Hunan Province, the CITES Management Authority of China and the General Administration of Customs cosponsored a training and consultation course for port officials to improve their inspection and enforcement abilities concerning wildlife, including turtles.
Presently, the CITES Management Authority of China is preparing an identification manual to approximately 80 of the most frequently traded species of turtles in Asia. The manual introduces the taxonomy, identifying characteristics, biological habits, conservation status, and trade status of these species using simple language and photographs. The manual will be distributed in China to wildlife management authorities and enforcement, port, and customs officials for assisting with on-site inspection and identification of shipments containing turtles. It is hoped that this manual will assist with the conservation and management of turtles in China and elsewhere in Asia.
Clearly, problems concerning the overexploitation of Asian turtles in China are not all solved. However, these recent actions are important first steps toward curbing the international trade of turtles in China. It is expected that China’s role in combating the conservation crisis of Asian turtles will continue to strengthen.
We thank Michael Lau and John Thorbjarnarson for comments on this note.
Lau, M. and H. Shi. 2000. Conservation and trade of terrestrial and freshwater turtles and tortoises in the People’s Republic of China. pp. 30-38. In van Dijk, P. P., B. L. Stuart, and A. G. J. Rhodin (Eds.). 2000. Asian Turtle Trade: Proc. Workshop on Conservation and Trade of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises in Asia. Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1-4 December 1999. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 2. Chelonian Research Foundation, Lunenburg. 164 pg.
van Dijk, P. P., B. L. Stuart, and A. G. J. Rhodin (Eds.). 2000. Asian Turtle Trade: Proc. Workshop on Conservation and Trade of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises in Asia. Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1-4 Dec. 1999. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 2. Chelonian Research Foundation, Lunenburg. 164 pg.