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Hong Kong environmental issues

Hong Kong is second largest market in the world for smuggled endangered black spotted turtles, report finds

Wildlife trade monitoring network states city was second only to India for trade in the black spotted turtle, driven partly by demand for the animals as pets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2018, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 10:55am

Hong Kong has become the second largest market for smuggled endangered black spotted turtles, according to an international report published on Monday.

Customs and police officers in Hong Kong seized 1,775 black spotted turtles – 17 per cent of the overall number seized globally – between April 2014 and March 2016, the report released by wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic showed.

The highest number of confiscations occurred in India, where 3,001 turtles, or 29 per cent of the overall figure, where seized.

The species, which is mainly black with small yellowish spots, is primarily sourced in South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and subsequently transported to Hong Kong and mainland China, the report said.

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Listed as threatened with extinction in Cites, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, this is supposed to prohibit all commercial international trade. The turtle is also protected by national laws in its habitats in South Asian countries.

The overall number of turtles seized in the two-year period from 2014 to 2016 was more than five times the total during the six years from 2008 to 2014, when the last report of this kind was conducted by Traffic.

The illegal trade is largely driven by East Asian demand, the report concluded. Shifting trends in China and Hong Kong now indicate the animals are desired as pets, where previously they were mainly sought after for their meat. These trends are partly confirmed by the fact that all recorded seizures involved shipments of live animals.

“The alarming escalation in seizures in such a short time span is a reminder that enforcement actions must be scaled up,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, acting regional director for Traffic in Southeast Asia. “Otherwise, it is unlikely wild populations can take the strain, while criminals continue to profit.”

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The illegal trade chain appears to start in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the spotted reptiles are collected, and subsequently sent for wholesale in Thailand, before eventually emerging in retail markets in Hong Kong and mainland China, the report said, citing information received by Traffic from anonymous sources and analysis of seizure data.

The market value of the animals rises when sent to retail centres such as Hong Kong, it added.

Formal agreements between governments of countries and territories along the trade chain – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan – should be signed to improve cross-border enforcement, the report said.