Washington, DC -- About half of the world's turtle species face possible extinction -- due in large part to a growing demand for turtles as a popular dining delicacy and a source of traditional medicines. Sixty of the world's leading experts on freshwater turtles reached that conclusion at a special gathering in Nevada this month.
The phenomenon described as a "turtle survival crisis" was the most urgent topic at a prestigious international conference held in Laughlin, Nevada, August 13-15. The Powdermill IV conference (named after the site of their first gathering in Pennsylvania in 1980), also discussed freshwater turtle ecology, behavior, systematics and conservation.
"We are on the brink of losing a group of animals that has managed to survive the upheavals of the last 200 million years, including the great extinction episode that eliminated the dinosaurs," said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and an expert on turtles.
"Turtles are apparently at comparable risk as the world's declining amphibians yet they have not received the same level of attention," said Dr. Jeffrey Lovich, spokesperson for the researchers, co-organizer of the workshop, and a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Nearly half of all known species of turtles are considered to be at risk and threatened," he said.
"We have done a good job of education the public about the plight of amphibians, but like them, reptiles such as turtles, need protection too," said Dr. Whit Gibbons of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. "Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) has begun to address this whole class of threatened animals. If turtles are to be saved, it will have to be through cooperative efforts, such as PARC.?
"While many people are aware that sea turtles are endangered, few realize that
many freshwater turtles and tortoises, several with very restricted geographic
ranges, face an even more critic
Contact: Rosemary Forrest
DOE/Savannah River Ecology Laboratory