Conservation International has announced that over a third of approximately 280 species of freshwater turtles throughout the world are threatened with extinction, reports the BBC. The freshwater turtle populations are being destroyed by a combination of habitat loss, hunting and a profitable pet trade. In particular, river dams make clear water foggy which stops the turtles from seeing what they’re eating, and/or flood their nests at vulnerable times. As well, the collection of turtles for food, partly for Asian medicinal beliefs, also poses a serious threat to the turtle’s populations.
Freshwater turtles take 15-20 years to reach their full maturity, then live for another 30 to 40 years, laying eggs in the ground each year. The offspring’s survival is really a matter of luck, since they must escape predators. If the turtles do not survive long enough, they never reproduce and will vanish permanently.
On their website, Conservation International has posted information about the 10 most endangered freshwater turtles. Some of the turtles, such as the Red River Giant Softshell Turtle which only has 4 members left in the world, are doomed to extinction. Some of the other turtles have more hope. There are captive breeding programs for the Myanmar River Turtle and Roti Snake-necked Turtle.
Solutions include the international community establishing a holistic view of rivers and freshwater sources, and considering all factors before damming a river or converting wetlands to agricultural or development land, says Conservation International. Not only the turtles need freshwater to survive – humans do, too.
Farming could satisfy the human appetite for turtles, as well as stop the march towards extinction that collecting from the wild creates.
Conservation International also has an online photo gallery of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles. It’s a tribute to animals that will not be with us on this planet for much longer, unless things change.