Posted by : sanne

Turtles and tortoises are part of a group of reptiles called chelonians (from the Greek word for these animals, chelona), which includes a third type, called terrapins. There is considerable interchange of the terms turtles and tortoises (as occurs for other reptiles, such as crocodiles and alligators), with "turtle" being the most commonly used generic for chelonians. Turtles are specially adapted to aquatic life, with a streamlined body shape and long feet with flippers; they spend most of their time in water. Some turtles live in the sea, others in fresh water. Tortoises, on the other hand, are land dwellers; they lack webbed feet, but have instead rounded feet suited for walking on land, though they live near bodies of fresh water. Terrapins (from the Indian word meaning "a little turtle") divide their time between land and water; they are always based in fresh water areas (rivers, ponds, lakes).

In China, turtles and tortoises have long been used for food and medicine, and their shells were once a critical part of divination (they would be heated and the cracks interpreted). For medicine, the top shell (carapace) or the bottom shell (plastron) is used, depending on the animal. Tortoises, and most of the turtles, have hard protective shells made up of about 60 bones covered by plates called scutes. However, there is a "leatherback turtle" from the sea (Demochelys coriacea) which doesn`t have the hard shell, but instead has a leathery skin supported by tiny bones (this is an adaptation that allows diving into deep sea water). There are also soft shelled land turtles, such as the widely used Far Eastern turtle Pelodiscus sinensis (also known as Amyda sinensis), which lives along rivers (it is considered by some to be a terrapin).

In Chinese medicine, several types of turtles and tortoises have been used in the past, though currently only two are extensively relied upon. In a 1982 book reviewing rarely used animal medicines (Zhongguo Yaoyong Dongwuhi), the following species were mentioned (these are primarily substitutes for the two main species):

Tortoises Turtles
Platysternon megacephalum (big-headed turtle)
Clemmys bealei (Beal`s eyed turtle)
Clemmys mutica (Asian yellow pond turtle)
Cuora flavomarginata (yellow-margined box turtle)
Cuora trifasciata (golden coin turtle)
Ocadia sinensis (Chinese striped neck turtle)
Testudo elongata (elongated tortoise)
Testudo horsfieldi (horsfield`s turtle; Russian tortoise)
Testudo impressa (impressed tortoise) Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle)
Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtle)
Eretmochelys imbricate (hawksbill sea turtle)
Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle)
Pelochelys bibroni (Asian giant softshell turtle)
Trionyx steindachneri (wattle-necked softshell turtle)

These have been phased out recently, though golden coin turtle, used in treatment of skin diseases, is still being weeded out of south China food and medicine products. The others have simply fallen into disuse; all are considered endangered. By contrast, the two main turtles used in Chinese medicine have been farmed for years and remain available, with shell material sold under the Chinese names guiban and biejia.

Under the common name designation "tortoise shell," with the Chinese name guiban (or Gui Ban), the plastron of the farmed Reeves` turtle (Chinemys reevesii) is used (it is semi-aquatic, so is often called a turtle and is usually classed as a terrapin). Under the common name designation "turtle shell," and the Chinese name biejia (or Bie Jia), the carapace of the farmed Chinese softshell turtle is the source (the old name, often found in the Chinese medical literature, is Amyda sinensis; the new name Pelodiscus sinensis, is used in most oological designations; a different species, Amyda cartilaginea, is restricted from collection and a major target of conservation efforts). The shells used for medicine are usually a byproduct of food production.

It is widely known that sea turtles are endangered, and, in fact, numerous chelonians are endangered due to loss of habitat and extensive use of the animals for food (in 1996, 7.7 million pounds of turtles were imported to Hong Kong alone for food consumption). In order to protect endangered species, their trade (import and export across national borders) is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). National organiations are responsible for regulation of collection and use of species within each country; for example, in China, the CITES Management Authority works to enforce CITES compliance and a variety of conservation organiations, both governmental (national and provincial) and private, work to monitor and manage the resources. Since 1998, China has been increasingly strict in monitoring trade in turtles and tortoises.

A report from the Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter (2000, 5:15-16, published by the Chelonian Research Foundation), described the situation with Chinese animals, in the article, Recent Actions by the People`s Republic of China to Better Control International Trade of Turtles. Members of the CITES Management Authority of China and the Wildlife Conservation Society International Program (U.S.) described the situation as follows:

The People`s Republic of China is the largest consumer country of freshwater turtles and tortoises (hereafter "turtles") in the world. The demand for turtles in China for food and medicinal purposes has fueled an enormous export of turtles from countries throughout Asia.This international trade has been implicated as the major conservation threat for most species of Asian turtles. As China is the largest consumer country of turtles, its demands ultimately determine the sie and dynamics of this trade.

In 1981, China became Party to CITES, and since 1988 some species of turtles have been afforded protection under national and provincial legislation in China. We optimistically report here that the Chinese government has become aware of the consequences of Chinese trade demands on wild turtle populations in Asia, and as a result has recently implemented new legislation and enforcement actions to improve control measures on the trade of turtles in China.

In 1998, the CITES Management Authority of China and the Customs Agency cooperatively implemented a new piece of legislation called the "Commodity Code of Wild Fauna and Flora for Import and Export," which required that all imported and exported turtles in China be accompanied by permits and be inspected by customs officials.

For three weeks in January 2000, national and provincial government authorities in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, and Yunnan carried out a special enforcement action called "No.2 Action." Under this action, 51,664 policing officials investigated illegal trade and transportation of wildlife at international airports, key roads, wildlife trading companies, large wildlife restaurants, and at least 8,370 markets. While this action dealt with wildlife trade in general, a special emphasis was placed on turtles and tortoises in Guangdong Province. As a result of the No. 2 Action, 264 cases of illegal wildlife trade were found, a number of illegal traders were fined or arrested, and 40,748 animals (of which many were turtles) were confiscated. As a precedent, the No. 1 Action was an enforcement action carried out in April 1999. It focused on the illegal trade of Tibetan antelope in the provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Tibet Autonomous Region.

In June 2000, the CITES Management Authority of China implemented the "Notice of Strengthening the Live Reptile Import and Export Management," which prohibited the export and re-export of all species of turtles from China, except the two farmed species Chinese soft shell Pelodiscus sinensis and Reeves` turtle Chinemys reevesii.

In June 2001, the CITES Management Authority of China implemented the "Notice of Strengthening the Trade Management on Turtle and Tortoise." This notice suspended the import of CITES-listed turtles from countries without export quotas, required each separate piece of cargo in a turtle shipment to carry a permit, and limited the number of ports that could import turtles. The notice also prohibited the import of all species of turtles from Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The CITES Management Authority of China recently sent several letters to range and transit countries in Southeast Asia requesting information on management regulations, laws, and trade control measures concerning turtles in those countries.Turtle imports were banned from Cambodia because the Cambodian Management Authority did not respond to these inquiries, from Thailand because Thailand has banned the export of all wildlife, and from Indonesia owing to confusion as to whether the Indonesian CITES Management Authority or a newly constructed aquatic resources department maintains jurisdiction over issuing export permits for turtles. Under this notice, the CITES Management Authority of China also affirmed a renewed commitment to verify the legitimacy of foreign permits that accompany imported shipments of turtles.

In April 2001 at Zhangjiajie Nature Reserve in Hunan Province, the CITES Management Authority of China and the General Administration of Customs cosponsored a training and consultation course for port officials to improve their inspection and enforcement abilities concerning wildlife, including turtles.

Presently, the CITES Management Authority of China is preparing an identification manual to approximately 80 of the most frequently traded species of turtles in Asia. The manual introduces the taxonomy, identifying characteristics, biological habits, conservation status, and trade status of these species using simple language and photographs. The manual will be distributed in China to wildlife management authorities and enforcement, port, and customs officials for assisting with on-site inspection and identification of shipments containing turtles. It is hoped that this manual will assist with the conservation and management of turtles in China and elsewhere in Asia.

Clearly, problems concerning the overexploitation of Asian turtles in China are not all solved. However, these recent actions are important first steps toward curbing the international trade of turtles in China. It is expected that China`s role in combating the conservation crisis of Asian turtles will continue to strengthen.

It is clear that the two farmed species, the ones used for guiban and biejia, are still being permitted for both domestic use and export from China, while severe restrictions are made on the collection and export of other species. In the recent CITES Meeting in Bangkok in October 2004, the section on Conservation of and Trade in Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles indicated that:

China has taken significant measures to reduce levels of authoried trade. The exportation for commercial purposes of all species of tortoises and freshwater turtle (except Pelodiscus sinensis and Chinemys reevesii) was suspended in June 2000. Since June 2001, the importation of CITES-listed tortoises and freshwater turtles has only been allowed from countries with annual quotas and through designated ports of entry, while imports from Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand have been suspended. Since July 2002, the import of specimens with carapaces of less than 10 cm have been suspended to control alien species and diseases. The commercial import and export of all live and dead specimens (the latter meaning fresh, cold, froen or dried bodies, carcasses and meat products) were suspended in 2003, with the exception of Trachemys scripta elegans, Macroclemys temminckii, and Pelodiscus sinensis. China also plans to consider submitting proposals to the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to include all its native tortoises and freshwater turtles in Appendix III in as far as they are not included in the other Appendices.

Thus, the Chinese control over the endangered species of turtles and tortoises has been acknowledged as tightening, and is being monitored by members of CITES. Among the species remaining in trade under the auspices of regulatory agencies are the ones that are being used for guiban and biejia.

According to Tortoise Trust, farming of Pelodiscus sinensis has been very successful in Asia. As an example, they mention that "softshell farms in Thailand have produced as many as six million hatchlings of P. sinensis in a single year." In a Chinese news report (June 29, 1999), it was noted that Ding Xiaoming, an official with the Fishery Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, would not rule out the possibility that overproduction in domestic turtle breeding centers has outstripped market demand, hence the fall in price. "The total number of turtle breeding farms in China is not known, but they have multiplied as a lot of farm households have rushed into the lucrative business over recent years," Ding said in an interview with China Daily. In fact, the number of farms had been counted, but was growing at such a rate that the old data were insufficient to determine the level of production. In a report in the Star Telegram, January 27, 2001, it was noted also that "U.S. turtles, some of them grown on farms, are legally shipped to China."

In a 1998 technical report on Sustainability of Wildlife Use in Traditional Chinese Medicine by China Biodiversity, it was noted that there were 548 farms for Chinemys reeves in four provinces in China. Two provinces were reported to have nearly 21,000 animals on 26 farms (over 800 animals/farm) with 5,000 animals reproduced annually. Two other provinces were reported to have a total of 260 metric tons of these animals in 522 farms (reproduction figures not available); the figures correspond to farms with more than 800 animals each, on average. Data was also provided on the average annual consumption of Chinemys reeves plastron by 13 major traditional Chinese medicine factories for the five year period 1990-1995: 430,880 kg (215 metric tons per year on average). Chinese exporters must obtain permits in order to export Chinemys reeves turtles or turtle parts.

After the rapid increase in turtle consumption during the 1990s, serious concerns were raised about conservation efforts. However, after a series of evaluations, disclosures (a video filmed by US turtle experts in 1997 in two south China food markets showed more than 10,000 turtles and tortoises, from 17 species, were traded in just two days), and meetings from 1996-2002, much greater control has been attained. The two Chinese medicine items used in the West, guiban and biejia, are obtained from farms and legally traded.

Conserving China`s Biodiversity: Sustainability of Wildlife Use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, by Guo Yinfeng, et al. (Endangered Species Scientific Commission, PRC):http://www.chinabiodiversity.com/tec/Tech34.html

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter (2000; 5:15-16): Recent Actions by the People`s Republic of China to Better Control International Trade of Turtles, by Meng Xianlin, et al.: http://www.chelonian.org/ttn/archives/ttn5/pp15-16.shtml

Turtles in Crisis: The Asian Food Markets by James E. Baryk, published by Tortoise Trust: http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/asia.html

China Daily: Low price hurts turtle breeding, June 29, 1999 (scroll down for article): http://www.people.com.cn/english/199906/30/chnmedia.html

ECES News: Endangered Species: Reptiles:

Asian Turtle Trade Working Group: Conclusions from the Workshop on Trade in Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Asia, December 1-4, 1999, Phnom Penh, Cambodia: http://www.traffic.org/turtles/

CITES 19th Meeting of the Animals Committee, Geneva, Switerland, August 18-21, 2003: Development of mid- to long-term conservation measures for tortoises and freshwater turtles: http://www.cites.org/eng/cttee/AC/19/E19-15-2.pdf

January 2005

APPENDIX 1: Golden Coin Turtle
A report dated April 27, 2002 by ECES News (Earth Crash Earth Spirit), noting that 67 of the 89 species of Asian turtles are threatened with extinction due to collecting for food and use in traditional medicine, described the problem with golden coin turtle collection for medicine:

Business is booming for makers of turtle jelly in Asia, and scientists and conservationists are increasingly worried the appetite in southern China for the gooey black substance is threatening the freshwater turtle population in much of Asia. One traditional recipe for the jelly-eaten as a snack and taken as a cure for various ills-calls for the shells and hard underbellies of an endangered species known as the "golden coin turtle" to be ground into a powder that`s stewed with medicinal herbs. "It`s good for my skin," said 18-year-old waiter Jeff Cheung. "I eat it whenever I have pimples." For centuries, the Chinese have regarded turtles as symbols of good fortune and as food. Now with China`s economy booming, people are consuming more turtle meat and soup as well as the jelly that-although there is no scientific proof for it-is believed by some to cure cancer and kidney failure.

The shrinking number of golden coin turtles, which grow to about 20 centimeters (8 inches), means they now fetch about 8,000 HK dollars (US $1,000) per kilogram. Scientists say because the turtle has trouble reproducing and is slow to mature, the golden coin is "ecologically extinct" in mainland China-meaning there are not enough to reproduce and maintain a healthy group.

Many other freshwater turtle species populations are shrinking, too. A "red list" of turtles in jeopardy prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists 67 of the 89 species of Asian turtles as threatened with extinction-compared to 33 threatened species 4 years earlier.

The popularity of turtle jelly can be seen in the success of Ng Yiu-ming. His chain of specialty stores has grown from one shop in 1991 to 68 today, in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. Ng also packs turtle jelly into portable containers sold at convenience stores. He insists no golden coin turtles are used. "They`re too expensive" he said. "Many people think golden coin turtles are great, of course, and I don`t disagree with that. But if you know how to choose the herbal ingredients, jelly made from other kinds of turtles will be just as good."

Although most turtles are farmed, experts say far too many are being taken from the wild in exploitation that is simply unsustainable. Of the 67 species on the red list of threatened turtles, 45 species are regarded as endangered or critically endangered. "There isn`t any species that has been left untouched-every species has been removed in large numbers from the wild," said Gary Ades, senior manager of the Fauna Conservation Department of Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, a research institute in Hong Kong.

It`s unclear how many turtles are consumed each year in Asia, but Hong Kong saw a 33-fold increase of live turtle imports in the 1990s. Despite a recent economic downturn that cut consumption, Hong Kong last year imported at least 8.7 thousand tons of live turtles-or about 5.8 million of them-for food. Turtles bound for China often pass through Hong Kong, where in December authorities made a record seiure of more than 7,500 smuggled turtles-most from 11 vulnerable or endangered species.

Higher prices mean more farmers and fishermen are trying to catch turtles. Millions of the creatures come into China each year, legally or illegally, from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. Even in affluent Hong Kong, about 700 turtle traps were found hidden in parks and streams last year, said Cheung Chi-sun of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Authorities have become more aware of the threat to turtles. In 1999, China prohibited imports of soft-shell turtles and last year it suspended imports of live turtles from countries that don`t control sales of turtles covered under a treaty protecting wild animals. But conservationists worry the craving for turtles will keep prices high and smugglers in business.

APPENDIX 2: Softshell Turtle Farming
In 1999, a conference on trade in tortoises and freshwater turtles in Asia was held in Cambodia, sponsored by World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and TRAFFIC USA. The Asian Turtle Trade Working Group issued a report, including the following information on the Chinese softshell turtle used as a source of biejia and as a substitute (along with guiban) for the golden coin turtle for making turtle jelly.

Large and small commercial operations to farm Chinese Softshell Turtles Pelodiscus sinensis exist in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Chinese Softshell is native to temperate East Asia but grows and breeds rapidly in tropical climates, making it the most productive and economically attractive species to farm there. The species is also extensively farmed in mainland China and Taiwan. At present, farms produce an estimated 5,000-10,000 metric tons per year, approximately matching or exceeding the amount of wild-caught softshells in trade. Farmed Chinese Softshells are rarely marketed on the domestic markets of Southeast Asia; virtually the entire production is shipped by air to East Asian markets. While softshell turtle farming obviously contributes to meeting demand and thus helps relieve pressure on wild populations, it also has negative effects on wild turtle populations when native populations of Chinese Softshells are exploited for additional founder stock.Wild-caught animals fetch much higher prices in the food trade and a market for wild-caught turtles will continue to exist alongside a market for farmed turtles.

In addition to live turtles as food, turtle shell is also traded to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry. These shells are usually by-products from the consumption of turtles, but there have been some reports of the specific collection of turtle plastron, after which the rest of the animal was discarded or perhaps used as food in crocodile farms. The limited quantitative data available suggest that the amount of turtle shell imported to Taiwan alone exceeds 100 metric tons per year, and the total trade may add up to several times this amount. Turtle shell represents about 5-20% of the weight of an average turtle; if the shell trade concerns plastron only, shell trade figures should be multiplied by a factor of 20 to estimate the total weight of animals affected. Turtle shell is used for the production of turtle jelly, a glue-like residue produced by long-term boiling of turtle shells and concentrated by evaporation. There are indications that this jelly is also manufactured outside East Asia in Indonesia and perhaps other source countries.

Since the conference in 1999, strict trade regulations have been imposed in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other nations that export turtles and tortoises, and by China as an importer of these animals.

APPENDIX 3: Tortoise Jelly (Turtle Jelly)
A recipe for homemade tortoise jelly-like the ones sold commonly in Hong Kong shops (called Gui Ling Gao) as a prepared jelly or as a powder that is to be boiled to make the jelly-is described:

300g tortoise plastron
80g rehmannia root
80g honeysuckle flower (lonicera)
80g smilax rhiome
80g Chinese mesona (jellywort) 40g abrus fruit
32g atractylodes rhiome
32g forsythia fruit 20g dandelion
20g dictamnus root bark 20g siler root
20g schionepeta spike
20g chrysanthemum flower
20g lysimachia

Cook the tortoise shell for 10 hours (simmering); wash all the herbs and boil them with 30 bowls of water. When the water boils, turn the heat down and remove the foam on top. Add the herb mixture to the tortoise shell and cook the tortoise shell with the herbs over medium heat until it is reduced to about 15 bowls, strain the essence and discard the herbs. Reserve 5 bowls of herbal essence and let cool; cook the remaining 10 bowls until it boils and turn the heat down. Combine the cooled herbal essence with 375 grams of rice flour and 80 grams of corn flour to thicken, divide it among 15 bowls. Pour the boiled herbal essence into the thick material in each bowl, which has been stirred well before pouring in the hot essence.

APPENDIX 4: Update on Turtle Farming in China
A report on the development of mid- and long-term conservation efforts for tortoises and freshwater turtles, from the CITES animals committee meeting in Geneva (August 2003), included the following section, starting with the historical development of farming efforts and depicting modern successes in farm production of both Pelodiscus sinensis and Chinemys reevesii, which has allowed greater enforcement of regulations on import and export of other species:

Commercial culture of freshwater turtles in controlled conditions was pioneered in Japan by a Mr. Hattori near Tokyo, who started with locally native Pelodiscus sinensis softshells in 1866. At the turn of the 19th century, softshell farming was still a very small segment of aquaculture activities in Japan, involving the Hattori business with about 13.6 hectares of pond devoted to the species and several minor turtle farms. The Hattori establishments were expected to produce 82,000 eggs in 1904 and expected to yield about 60,000 animals of market sie in 1907.

Softshell farming developed in Taiwan in the 1950s and was a small component of aquacultural activities until about 1970, when production increased quickly, to collapse during the early 1990s and increase exponentially again in the late 1990s. Farming of softshell and other freshwater turtles in mainland China developed with economic liberaliation in the 1980s. In the mid- to late 1980s, farming of Chinese softshells Pelodiscus sinensis also gained interest in tropical Asia. The origin of the initial founder stock is not clear, but is likely to have originated from Taiwan.In the 1990s, farming of Chinese softshell turtles expanded exponentially in both Malaysia and Thailand.By 1998, Thailand contained over 10,000 farming and rearing operations; the total number of turtle farms in Malaysia has not been reported but is likely to have been hundreds if not thousands.

Perception of regulations in effect has limited farming developments in Indonesia, where rearing of hatchlings imported from Thailand, Malaysia, or Taiwan was initiated in North Sumatra in 1997. In 1999, China imposed restrictions on imports of farmed softshell turtles because of contamination with Salmonella bacteria. This was followed by further restrictions on farmed softshell turtles as well as wild-collected turtles as part of China`s tightening of wildlife conservation and trade regulations. Around the same time, domestic supply of farmed softshell turtles reached peak levels and prices began to drop through normal market mechanisms. By 2000, prices for softshell turtles and other high-value freshwater aquaculture products had diminished by as much as 50 percent.At their peak, large farms in Thailand and Malaysia would each contain, at any particular moment, 10,000-25,000 turtles of marketable sie (400-600 grams).

Fewer farming operations concern themselves with hard-shelled freshwater turtles, mainly because most hardshelled turtle species grow and reproduce significantly slower than soft-shelled turtle species while fetching similar or lower market prices per kg. Farming hard-shelled turtles is thus a market that cannot compete directly against softshell farming in the general food trade. It is thus restricted to niche markets, such as the supply of turtles to the medicinal trade, for release at temple ponds and other waters for purposes of religious merit, and supply to the international pet trade. Species farmed in great quantities for these purposes are predominantly Reeves` Turtle (Chinemys reevesii) and the Chinese Pond Turtle (Mauremys mutica) in mainland China, and the Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Ocadia sinensis) in Taiwan.

Beyond these species there is a wide variety of captive breeding efforts for a wide variety of turtle species in a wide variety of locations.Species recorded in farming statistics and observed at turtle farms in China are listed in Table 1 (reformatted below; based on statistics from the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office of the People`s Republic of China).

Species of freshwater turtles involved in commercial farming in China.

Extensively farmed
[>10,000 hatchlings annually] Farmed in modest quantities
[1,000-10,000 hatchlings annually] Observed in farms, not confirmed to be bred in significant quantities
[less than 1,000 hatchlings annually]
Pelodiscus sinensis
Palea steindachneri
Chinemys reevesii
Mauremys mutica
Ocadia sinensis
Trachemys scripta elegans
Cuora trifasciata
Geoemyda spengleri
Chelydra serpentina
Macroclemys temminckii
Cuora amboinensis
Cuora flavomarginata Platysternon megacephalum
Lissemys punctata
Lissemys scutata
Cuora galbinifrons
Cyclemys species complex
Heosemys grandis, H. spinosa
Malayemys subtrijuga
Mauremys annamensis
Orlitia borneensis
Pyxidea mouhotii
Sacalia bealei, S. quadriocellata
Siebenrockiella crassicollis
Indotestudo elongata
Manouria emys
Chrysemys picta
Graptemys pseudogeographica
Sternotherus odoratus
Chelodina sp.

A noteworthy amount of applied scientific research is carried out in China on refining farming methodologies for hardshelled turtles.Traditionally, farmed Chinese softshell turtles produced in Japan and Taiwan were mainly used for domestic consumption as a delicacy, and very little exports occurred. Following the success of Chinese athletes coached by Ma Junren in the late 1980s and their widely-publicied diet including turtle blood, demand for turtle meat and `health supplements` containing turtle parts increased greatly in Eastern Asia.To meet this demand, imports from abroad increased, as did domestic farming of Chinese softshell turtles in mainland China. Demand also developed in Chinese communities elsewhere, as evidenced by the import into the USA of 28,683 units of medicinal preparations involving softshell turtle between 1989 and July 1994.

An important secondary market for farmed turtles is the demand for turtles as part of medicinal preparations. The full extent of the nature and preparation of turtles for medicinal purposes is poorly documented in western languages, but is known to involve jelly and powder preparations containing variously the shell bones of tortoises and hard-shelled freshwater turtles, shell bones of softshelled turtles, and whole tortoises and freshwater turtles. The Pharmacopoeia of the People`s Republic of China specifies the use of Chinemys reevesii for this purpose. However, [as recently as 1997] much of the demand for turtle shell bones is thought to be met by use of shells from a wide variety of wild-collected turtle species, which is partly a by-product of the consumption trade. Farming of Chinemys reevesii is extensive, as indicated by annual production of about 910,000 hatchlings per year, and increasing annual production values of 266 to 427 metric tons in the period 2000-2002. The percentage of reported production which is specifically destined for medicinal purposes is unknown. Ocadia sinensis also has significant potential for mass production to meet the demand for turtle shell bone as a component in Traditional Oriental Medicine, particularly in Taiwan where the Pharmacopoeia does not prescribe the exclusive use of Chinemys reevesii.

by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon