May 31, 2006

Market Survey Indicates that Farmed Species Dominate Chinese Markets but?

In early March 2006, Peter Paul van Dijk of Conservation International carried out informal surveys of four major turtle markets in Guangdong Province, southern China.  These included Qing Ping and Chatou markets in Guang zhou, the Guangzhou pet market, , and the West Gate (Dong Men) market in Shenzhen. Important outcomes of the surveys include:

  • Most of the turtles in Chinese markets appear to be of farm origin.  Farmed species present in large numbers included Trachemys scripta, Pelodiscus sinensis, Ocadia sinensis, Mauremys mutica, and Chinemys reevsii.

  • The volume of farmed species was estimated to be between 70-75% of the turtles observed.  Farmed turtles comprised the bulk of the turtles in all four markets surveyed, including the pet market, both by volume and by numbers of individuals.

  • Less than a quarter of the traders in the markets stocked wild-caught animals.  However, the approximately 25% that did, had substantial volumes.

  • A total of 40 species were observed during the collective survey.  Of this total, 34 species were observed in the pet market and 28 species observed in Qing Ping market.

  • Approximately 1/3 of the number of species observed were turtle species native to the United States.  In addition to the thousands of red-eared sliders observed, alligator snapping turtles, common snapping turtles, and Florida soft-shell turtles comprised the bulk of the U.S. natives.

Turtles that were observed of particular conservation concern include:

  • Hundreds of Morenia ocellata, endemic to Myanmar and listed on Appendix I of CITES.

  • Smaller numbers of Lissemys scutata, also endemic to Myanmar.

  • A few live Cuora bourreti and Cuora picturata, endemic to Vietnam and listed on CITES appendix II.

  • About 15 adult Mauremys annamensis, also endemic to Vietnam.

  • Almost 1000 adult Indotestudo elongata, were observed in Quing Ping market, and about 100 adults in Shenzhen. , and smaller numbers of Manouria impressa, Platysternon megacephalum, Hieremys annandalii, and Pyxidea mouhotii in Qing Ping. All these species are listed on Appendix II of CITES

The dominant presence of farmed species in Chinese markets is almost certainly a positive sign for turtles.  However, wild caught turtles, particularly endemic species from neighboring Myanmar and Vietnam, as well as other critically endangered species are still openly sold in wildlife markets. 

For more information contact:

Peter Paul van Dijk
Director, Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program,
Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International