Japan Concerned About Safety of Rare Turtle

At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Japan has submitted a proposal for the first time to provide protection to the rare Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle. The turtle is found only in three islands of the Okinawa group.

Japanese Government is proposing for listing the turtle in Appendix II of CITES after it was discovered that the animal was sold in illegal markets in Mainland China, Honk Kong and online.

At home, under Japanese law, the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle is designated as a “natural monument” and cannot be captured, transferred or traded without permission from the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs.

But the online trade and trade outside Japan suggests that the turtle might be threatened by illegal trade. The convention chose to consider Japan’s proposal and award a higher protection to the species.

It was first a TRAFFIC market survey, a WWF initiative, that first led to the discovery of small numbers of protected Japanese reptiles in the Asian pet trade.

According to the WWF, 31 Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtles were found in four shops in Hong Kong, plus one in neighbouring Guangzhou, southern China. The shop owners said that they received orders for the species.

TRAFFIC has released a new report at CITES, Trade in Japanese Endemic Reptiles in China and Recommendations for Species Conservation, recommending that the Japanese government propose the listing of the turtle.

“The proposal to list the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle is a small but significant step for Japan,” said Kahoru Kanari, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC and an author of the report. “We hope it signals Japan’s intention to place more importance on the conservation of wild species found in international trade.”