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No. 129, 2nd May 2014

1. China: Jail for eaters of endangered wild animals in China

DATE: 25th April 2014

People caught eating rare wild animals in China could be jailed for up to 10 years, state media report, under new measures passed on Thursday, 24th of April 2014. Those who knowingly buy wild animals illegally hunted could also face a sentence of up to three years. There are 420 species of animals considered endangered by the government, including giant pandas, Asian black bears, pangolins, and virtually all Chinese turtle species. The rules came into force as a new interpretation of China's criminal law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The practice of eating wild animals or their products has fuelled poaching. “ Buyers are a major motivator of large-scale illegal hunting, ” said Lang Sheng, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress. Sheng argued that China has repeatedly attempted to crack down on poaching, but had little success because demand remains strong. China is hardly alone in an appetite for threatened species, but as the largest consumer actions there could be the difference between survival and disaster for many species. Those who consume rare animals or their products in China and other parts of Asia believe the practice helps to strengthen the body or ease symptoms of illnesses.

ATP NOTE: Of 30 tortoise and freshwater turtle species native to China 2 species (Asian giant softshell - Pelochelys cantor ; Horsefield ' s tortoise- Testudo horsfieldii) are listed in Category I of the Chinese Wildlife Protection Law (1989) while 5 more species (Wattle-necked softshell turtle - Palea steindachneri ; Chinese three-striped box turtle – Cuora trifasciata ; Impressed tortoise – Manouria impressa ; Black-breasted leaf turtle – Geoemyda spengleri ; Yunnan box turtle – Cuora yunnanensis) are listed in Category II , However, under the same law 9 more TFT species are listed as a Nationally Protected Terrestrial Wild Animal that are Beneficial, or with Important Economic and Scientific Research Value (2000). Under the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife, the national and local governments are required to designate rare or threatened species for special protection under the law. The type of legal protection that a particular species in China enjoys may depend on the locality of administration. So even if a species is not among Class I or Class II protected species designated by the national government, it can still be listed in a certain province as Class I.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed species are protected under Chinese national law in the category corresponding with the Appendix listing (e.g. Appendix I listed species are automatically protected under category I of the Chinese Wildlife Protection Law). According to this, 1 more TFT species is listed as under category LI and 9 TFT species under category LII. This means that literally every turtle species native to China (including marine turtles and even hybrid species) are protected by law. However, it remains to be seen if the law will be enforced, but the decision gives hope that some of the world's most beloved species will be better protected in the future.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

Link 3 to this web article online (English)

Cuora trifasciata, more commonly known as "golden coin turtle," is traditionally used in making a medicinal jelly. Nowadays, both wild and farmed turtles are very expensive and less commonly used in mass-marketed medicinal turtle jellies. The high cost involved in feasting on endangered species means the meals are a status symbol. Now, those hungry for a taste of the wild will have to think twice before taking a bite.
Photo by © Turtle Conservancy

In traditional Chinese medicine, pangolin scales are thought to help detoxify the body
Photo by© BBC

Asian black bears can be kept on farms where their bile is milked. This one was rescued from a farm in Chengdu in 2009
© Peter Parks

2. USA: Talk Turtle for Earth Day

DATE: 24th April 2014

In honour of Earth Day, John Leguizamo, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Ted Danson and other celebrities came together in a new public service announcement (PSA), to promote awareness for the plight of endangered turtles and tortoises. The PSA was organised by The Turtle Conservancy, an organisation that is dedicated to protecting the most endangered turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide. Turtles are the most threatened vertebrates on earth. Turtles were on this planet during the dinosaur age and managed to outlive these great creatures, but now they are facing their own extinction crisis. Hopefully, these magnificent creatures will be saved before they no longer grace this earth.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

© Turtle Conservancy

3. Phu Dien Commune, Phu Vang District, Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam: A rare marine turtle found in Tam Giang lagoon

DATE: 29th April 2014

On the 28th of April 2014, Mr. Ho Phu, a fisherman in Phu Dien commune, Phu Vang district, Thua Thien Hue Province caught a rare Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) when he was fishing in Tam Giang lagoon. The turtle was 60 centimetres in length, 50 centimetres in width, and weighed 10.5 kilograms. Lepidochelys olivacea is listed in Vietnam ' s Red Book as endangered and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable. After receiving the report, the Thua Thien Hue ' s sub-department of Aquatic Resource Exploitation and Protection together with local authorities persuaded Mr. Phu to release the animal back to the ocean on the same day. Nguyen Quang Vinh Binh, chief of the province ' s Marine Resources Protection and Exploitation Agency, said his agency had rescued five other sea turtles discovered in the lagoon since the 7th of March. Another one had died as a result of local fishermen attempting to keep it in a shrimp farm. Mr Binh said that the agency had reported the the case of the dead marine turtle to superior agencies.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)


4. Europe: European Parliament adopts legislation to tackle invasive alien species at EU level

DATE: 16th April 2014

The European Parliament today adopted legislative plans to prevent the introduction and manage the spread in the EU of invasive alien species (IAS) of plants, animals or insects that cause ecological and economic damage. A prime example is the American red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), a freshwater turtle usually sold as a pet, and now introduced in several European countries where it represents an ecological threat for the indigenous fauna and flora. The legislation aims to tackle the threat through better, more coordinated action by member states, and provides for a ban on species declared to be of “ Union concern ” . According to the European Commission, invasive alien species are a major and growing cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction. They can cause health problems, damage infrastructure and facilities, hamper forestry or cause agricultural losses. Invasive species are estimated to cost the Union at least € 12 billion per year. The draft legislation is already informally agreed with EU ministers and is scheduled to be formally adopted by Member States in May. The parliamentary report also insists on the establishment of a dedicated scientific forum to advise on the scientific aspects of enforcing the new rules, a move welcomed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Link to this web article online (English)

© Riccardo Scalera

5. USA: Leatherback nests at Archie Carr for 20 years

DATE: 26th April 2014

The nation's first satellite-tracked leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), called ‘ China girl ' , just keeps coming back to Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA . Biologists first spotted the approximately 2m-long, 385kg leatherback 20 years ago at Archie Carr. After a three-year hiatus from the refuge, researchers this month have seen China Girl turn up twice already to dig nests at the refuge. Leatherbacks lay eggs about once every 10 days. China Girl's since been spotted at the refuge 38 times in 20 years, giving biologists one of the few long-term glimpses into the travel and nesting habits of the elusive species. Leatherbacks have traditionally been difficult for scientists to monitor because of the turtle's low numbers and the difficulty in attaching a tracking device to the soft shells. After nesting season, leatherbacks were long thought to migrate far offshore. But in 2000, China Girl was the first leatherback to be tracked by satellite along the coastal United States.

Link to this web article online (English)


6. Tho Son Commune, Hon Dat District, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam: Green sea turtles released back to the ocean

DATE: 25th April 2014

On the 23rd of April 2014, the Wildlife Rescue Centre, the Forest Protection Unit of Hon Dat District, and local authorities of Tho Son Commune, Hon Dat District, Kien Giang Province released 4 Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) back to the ocean. The turtles were confiscated from the illegal trade by the Cu Chi district ' s sub-department of Aquatic Resource Management.

ATP NOTE: Chelonia mydas is listed in Vietnam ' s Red Book and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)

© Amanda Sloterbeck


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