Monday, February 28, 2011

One of the Top Ten Rarest Turtles? With A Price on its Head


Annam Pond Turtle, Annamemys annamensis 
(Siebenrock, 1903) Photo: © CITES 
Management Authority of China

The VietnamnetBridge is reporting the story below. The turtle in question is the Vietnamese Pond Turtle, also known as the Annam Leaf Turtle, Annamemys (Mauremys) annamensis (Siebenrock, 1903) (family Geoemydidae) the species is known only from one extant population in near Hội An in Quảng Nam Province which was discovered in 2006. Prior to this rediscover no one had seen it in the wild since 1941, but it did occasionally turn up in markets and in the animal trade and it is being bred in captivity (see references below).


Rare turtle hunted to brink of extinction
Hunting the highly endangered Annam pond turtle has become popular in the central province of Binh Dinh after the price of a kilogramme of its meat skyrocketed from a few hundred thousand dong to upward of US$1,000.

Seeing the huge profits that the reptile – known as rua dong in Vietnamese – is fetching, many people in Phu My, Phu Cat, An Nhon, and Hoai Nhon districts have taken to it.
Tu and his wife, farmers in Phu Cat, went turtle hunting and did not have time to care for their 2,000-square metre cucumber field. As a result, the entire crop died, but after two months of hunting, the couple have yet to trap a single animal.
Dao, a turtle trader in Phu Cat, said she sold the animals she buys to an agent in the north who had been willing to buy even small rua dong weighing less than 200 grammes.
Local traders said the agents in the north in turn sold the turtles to China for medicinal and other purposes. 
Rua dong, also called rua Trung bo, is an endemic species found only in some central Vietnamese provinces.
It has been listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species since 2005.
Nguyen Huu Hao, deputy director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said few animals were caught.
Asked why the reptile had not been protected, he said: "It is hard to ensure effective prevention because people mostly go to catch [it] at night and do so stealthily."
Nguyen Hieu Hoa, head of the province's Forest Protection Sub-department, however, claimed: "We are taking measures to prevent [it] and protect the endangered turtle."


Literature

Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 2000. Mauremys annamensis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org.

Buskirk, J. R.; J. F. Parham and C. R. Feldman. 2005. On the hybridisation between two distantly related Asian turtles (Testudines: Sacalia × Mauremys). Salamandra 41: 21-26.

Parham, J. F., B. W. Simison, K.H. Kozak, C. R. Feldman, and H. Shi,  2001. New Chinese turtles: endangered or invalid? A reassessment of two species using mitochondrial DNA, allozyme electrophoresis and known-locality specimens. Animal Conservation 4(4): 357–367.

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