KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7, 2014:

Malaysian authorities have been told to be on the alert against the trafficking of the vulnerable pig-nosed turtle, according to TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitoring network.

In a new report, TRAFFIC stated that the protected freshwater turtle species was suffering from the combined impacts of high international demand, organised global wildlife trade and poor enforcement in Papua province, Indonesia, where its study was centred.

According to the study, villagers collect the eggs from river banks and incubate them in hatcheries before selling the hatchlings into the global traditional medicine and pet trades.

Villagers who had previously collected the eggs for self subsistence are also doing it now in exchange for cash and barter with middlemen, contributing to over-harvesting.

TRAFFIC estimates that 1.5 to 2 million eggs are collected each year, although the authors believe current figures may be considerably higher and are continuing to rise, according to their report entitled “Assessing The Trade In Pig-Nosed Turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) in Papua, Indonesia”.

Regional director of TRAFFIC in South-East Asia, Dr Chris Shepherd, in a statement, said urgent enforcement action in Papua province targeting middlemen operating in rural communities was needed.

“We also recommend monitoring ports such as Agats, Merauke, Timika, Jayapura and Jakarta, and increasing enforcement at international points of the trade chain in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, mainland China and Hong Kong.”

Besides the Papua province in Indonesia, the pig-nosed turtle is found only in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The turtles are endangered species according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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