Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 6:15b-16
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Results of Turtle Market Surveys in Chengdu and Kunming

Shi Haitao
Department of Biology, Hainan Normal University, Haikou, 571158, China;
Phone: 0898-66752479; Fax: 0898-65890520; E-mail:

Trade is currently the largest threat to turtles and China is one of the largest consumers of turtles in the world (van Dijk et al., 2000). Unfortunately, relevant data on trade, captive breeding, population number and life history of Asian turtles are lacking. This seriously hinders conservation measures. Published market surveys (e.g., Artner and Hofer, 2001) are valuable additions to our knowledge of turtle trade. This note reports on trade at two markets in China.

In March 2002, I surveyed the species and number of turtles at the Qingshiqiao market in Chengdu, Sichuan Province and Huaniao market in Kunming, Yunnan Province during late March.

Qingshiqiao market- There were 6 stands selling 11 species of turtles (740 individuals) at the Qingshiqiao Market. The majority (95%) were Trachemys scripta elegans with 91% of these hatchlings. The remaining 5% were Indotestudo elongata (3 adults), Cuora amboinensis (4 adults), Cuora galbinifrons (1 adult), Chinemys reevesii (2 adults) Hieremys annandalii (1 adult), Sacalia quadriocellata (1 adult), Carettochelys insculpta (1 subadult), Chelydra serpentina (1 subadult), and Pelodiscus sinensis (17 hatchlings).

Huaniao market- There were 10 stands selling 7 species of turtles (529 individuals) at the Huaniao market in Kunming. Once again, the majority (98%) were T. scripta elegans hatchlings (only 3% were adults). The other 2% include Manouria impressa (2 adults), I. elongata (1 adult), C. galbinifrons (1 subadult), Melanochelys trijuga (1 subadult and 2 adults), Ocadia sinensis (1 adult) and S. quadriocellata (5 adults).

Of the 14 species of turtles observed in these two market surveys, 5 do not occur naturally in China. Almost all of the turtle dealers claimed that T. scripta elegans came from local turtle farms, but they refused to reveal the exact location of these farms. The number of species and individuals observed in these two markets is much less than before. This may reflect increases in enforcement, education and limitations on imports. The following issues require additional attention:

1. Many turtle dealers illegally buy and sell CITES listed species, such as I. elongata and M. impressa. This indicates that markets, as well as customs, need to have increased enforcement for turtle smuggling and illegal trade.

2. Some of the trading is now done behind closed doors. Therefore, it is not possible to see all the species traded. Most turtle dealers know what species are legal to sell and hide the others far from their stands. This is true of S. quadriocellata, C. galbinifrons, M. trijuga and other species observed in this survey. In one case, the turtle dealer kept his turtles in a room behind the market. There were three doors leading into the room and I was only allowed to go into the first door. I was not allowed to take pictures. This illustrates that surveys and enforcement based on "surface counts" underestimate the trade, especially of putatively protected species.

3. Many of the turtles had serious injuries and infections and suffered from starvation and dehydration. One turtle dealer explained that the price of the turtle was the same if it was dead or alive because they would sell either the shell or the meat.


Artner, H. and A. Hofer. 2001. Observations in the Qing Ping Free Market, Guangzhou, China, November 2000. Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, Issue 3:14.

van Dijk, P. P., B. L. Stuart and A. G. J. Rhodin. 2000. Asian Turtle Trade: Proc. Workshop on Conservation and Trade of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises in Asia. Chelonian Research Monographs, No. 2.