Posted by: Pelodiscus on 2016/11/12 23:31:39 4665 reads

Freshwater turtles Will America's Turtles Be Eaten Into Extinction?

Will America's Turtles Be Eaten Into Extinction?
Anyone wanting a gourmet meal in the early 1900s in the United States could always count on finding one special dish: turtle.

Whether served as soup or steak, turtle meat made an appearance everywhere from presidential dinners to the first transcontinental trains. It became so desirable that trappers began wiping out diamondback terrapins, alligator snapping turtles, and other species from U.S. wetlands to satiate demand. But by the 1920s the turtle craze began to fade, and populations began a slow rebound.

Now turtle lovers have reason to worry all over again. Demand has soared in China, where they’re sought as pets, as food, and as traditional medicine, said to boost everything from the immune system to sexual prowess. By around the year 2000 China’s turtles had been decimated, and some 75 percent of Asia’s 90 freshwater turtle species—including the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, the largest freshwater turtle on Earth—became threatened with extinction.

During the past few decades freshwater turtle species in the U.S., where Southeastern states hold some of the world’s highest concentrations, have been making up the Chinese shortfall. This appetite for turtle has exacerbated the effects of U.S. demand for pet turtles and turtle meat, as well as habitat loss in parts of their range.

Photograph by Joel Sartor: Licensed harvesters bag a spiny softshell turtle at their farm in Holdenville, Oklahoma. Freshwater turtles are in demand in China for their meat, as pets, and for farming operations.

By Jani Actman
Source: National Geographic

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