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Demand for pet turtles may be contributing to species’ global decline

The illegal trade of rare turtles is on the rise, and conservationists are concerned about the impact this will have on turtle populations.

Wildlife trade experts believe that the demand for turtles as pets in the US, Asia and Europe is driving the poaching of rare species. According to The Associated Press, one study found over half of the 360 living turtle and tortoise species are at risk of extinction.

Freshwater turtles are one of the world’s most trafficked animals, and poachers tend to target rare species. Many turtle species, which can live for several decades, don’t reach reproductive maturity for a decade or more, the AP reported.

“The loss of large numbers of adults, especially females, can send turtles into a spiraling decline from which they cannot recover,” Dave Collins, director of North American turtle conservation for the Turtle Survival Alliance told AP.

In November, the 184-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will meet in Panama to review proposals that could ban or limit commercial trade of more than 20 mud turtle species, according to The Guardian.

The AP reported that the commercial export trade for mud turtles in the United States increased from 1,844 in 1999 to nearly 40,000 in 2017. In that same period, the export of musk turtles rose from 8,254 to more than 281,000.