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Conservation of Asian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles:
Setting Priorities for the Next Ten Years
Recommendations and Conclusions from the Workshop in Singapore, February 21-24, 2011
A three-day workshop on the plight of Asia's tortoises and freshwater turtles and their conservation was held in Singapore (February 21st – 24th, 2011) to detail how turtle conservation within the region has progressed in the last 10 years since the pivotal meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1999 where the first comprehensive evaluation of the Asian turtle crisis was conducted. Hosted by Wildlife Reserve Singapore, and organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Turtle Survival Alliance, San Diego Zoo Global and the IUCN Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, this workshop brought together nearly 70 delegates from 17 countries, including 14 Asian nations. Staff from the Asian Turtle Program and the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam, also participated in the workshop to assess seventy-two of Asia's 86 species of tortoises and freshwater turtles
By assessing the past eleven years, participants of the 2011 Singapore workshop were able to identify what actions worked well, which ones did not work as well as hoped, and which recommendations and priorities had not been adequately addressed. Next, the participants were asked to look forward to determine emerging trends and new developments and challenges in the continuously changing habitat impacts and market trade in turtles and turtle products.
In the report “Conservation of Asian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles: Setting Priorities for the Next Ten Years” the experts compiled recommendations which represent the immediate steps necessary for staving off extinction of Asia's most endangered turtles. The workshop participants highlighted key policy recommendations which should encourage participating countries to enforce existing laws and regulation or create new laws and regulations. Further, the experts identified two genera, Batagur and Cuora, as priority groups as they make up a large percentage of the most critically endangered turtles. The report also gives recommendation for dealing with emerging threats and details a number of emerging opportunities for turtle conservation in Asia. Additionally, the experts detailed species-specific recommendations for the 36 confirmed and proposed Critically Endangered Turtles and Tortoises in South and South-east Asia. Another key finding of the meeting was the need for research to be carried out on wild populations to understand their status in the wild, natural history and current distribution better.
Of Asia's 86 species, close to 70 species (approximately 80%) are considered threatened. This is a dramatic increase since these species were assessed in 1999—a 90% increase in the number of Critically Endangered species alone.
“At the current rate of decline, we will lose many of Asia's tortoises and freshwater turtle species forever, if international and national laws and conventions are not enforced,” - Chris R. Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group.
“The last ten years has shown that while it is possible to save these species from extinction, the threat of trade is still present and ever-growing,”
“Of particular concern is the increasing impact of the pet trade on a number of tortoise species and the growth of the demand for dried carapace from softshell turtles sourced primarily in South Asia.” - Colin Poole, Director, WCS Regional Hub.