Spotlight on Turtles and Tortoises
Distant cousins of the sea turtle, freshwater turtles and land tortoises are also in decline worldwide. Their freshwater habitats are polluted, wetlands are drained, and these animals hunted for food and exploited for the pet trade. Turtles have long been a staple in the diets of many cultures, since “they come with their own cooking pot” and are easily caught.
The giant land tortoises of the Galapagos Islands were captured by sailors and kept alive in the holds of sailing ships as a ready source of fresh meat.
According to a 1994 report by the World Wildlife Fund, the collection and sale of wild turtles and tortoises and their eggs is a highly organized business in Vietnam, seriously threatening the survival of some species.
Ninety percent of the animals go to China where they are used for food and traditional medicines. At least 200,000 turtles (worth $1 million) are traded every year in Vietnam.