SCMP, January 22, 2003 By Heike Phillips Hong Kong gourmets should think twice about eating turtle soup and jelly - or Asia's wild turtles may go the way of the dinosaur, conservationists warn. In an effort to avert the demise of Asia's critically endangered turtles, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens, in the New Territories, has launched a publicity campaign to alert consumers to the threat of the reptiles' extinction. 'We want people to think about what they are doing when they consume turtles. We're talking about a crisis,' senior fauna conservation manager Gary Ades said. Dr Ades said the threat was fuelled by an unprecedented demand for turtle products from increasingly affluent consumers in China and elsewhere in Asia. 'Hong Kong is mainly a transit point [for the illegal trade in wild turtles], but there are quite a few turtle soup outlets and also pet shops selling turtles here. It's possible that some come from farms, but if people aren't sure they shouldn't eat it,' he said. Dr Ades said it was difficult to tell the difference between wild and farmed turtles. Consumers should therefore ask the vendor for proof that turtles or turtle products they sell were obtained through legitimate channels. 'There definitely is consumption [of wild Asian turtle] in Hong Kong and they have been found in raids on pet shops,' he said. Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens was given first-hand experience of the threat facing Asia's turtles when it co-ordinated efforts in December 2001 to save about 10,000 wild turtles that had been seized by Customs. All but one of the 12 species of turtles from the confiscated shipment - believed to be destined for mainland diners - were rare or critically endangered. A rescue operation involving more than 100 local volunteers was launched to save the turtles. 'We haven't seen any major busts since then, except for 100 star tortoises from India, probably destined for the pet market. But we're worried there will be another big seizure,' Dr Ades said. 'We know there are barges getting through and getting to markets on the mainland.' Conservation group Traffic East Asia said the turtles were mainly being traded for food, traditional medicine and tonics, as well as for decorations and pets. The group's programme officer, Samuel Lee, said wild turtles were already extinct in some parts of China, adding once the populations in Southeast Asia had been depleted sourcing was likely to shift to the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Americas. 'We can't just say to the public they have to stop consuming turtles, but we encourage people to reduce their consumption of turtle jelly and soup. If they are cold, they should instead put on warmer clothes [rather than have turtle soup],' he said. Glossary go the way of (idiom) to suffer the same fate as, or follow in the footsteps of Example: It quickly became apparent to me that China would not go the way of its Asian neighbours. For China, the endgame was daunting but simple - reforms. (SCMP, January 6, 2003) avert (v) to ward off, prevent demise (n) (formal use) death. In the article, the demise of a species means its extinction confiscate (v) to seize by authority bust (n, slang) a police raid, an arrest deplete (v) to reduce in number Example: Authorities say that illegal fishing in the region is on the rise as pirate boats deplete fish stocks in neighbouring waters and turn their attention south. (SCMP, January 15, 2003) Discussion points - Have you ever tried turtle jelly or soup? - Why is the dish popular? What are the ingredients? What is its medicinal value? Can you design a dish free of animals that can also help to promote health?