The Critically Endangered Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is being hunted to extinction for its shell.
Colored in hues of gold, amber, and brown, the animal’s striking shell is carved into jewelry, combs, guitar picks, and other trinkets, andthen sold in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean. This demand for turtleshell products is driving the species towards extinction, conservationists say.
Now, a new campaign aims to end this demand by targeting tourists. The campaign, Too Rare to Wear, will help people learn about Hawksbill turtleshell souvenirs and how to avoid buying them while traveling in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Travelers can take an active role in the conservation of hawksbills with their purchases and help bring this turtle back from the brink,” Campaign director Brad Nahill, who is also the director of the sea turtle conservation organization SEE Turtles, told Mongabay. “These turtles are incredibly important for the health of coral reefs and for tourist economies in the tropics and it is everyone’s responsibility to help them recover.”
The legal trade of Hawksbill turtles and their products was outlawed by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) in 1992. Despite the ban, these rare turtles continue to be hunted for their shell due to both lack of enforcement, and a lack of awareness from buyers.
Nahill first got a sense of the scale of this illegal trade in 2015, when he was visiting the tourist town of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua with his daughter. He kept looking for stores and vendors that did not sell turtleshell souvenirs, but could find only one.
“That got me thinking about the issue,” Nahill said. “The conservation community has known about this for years but many people were assuming that there wasn’t a lot of sales of turtleshell products anymore since the international legal trade was shut down in the 90’s. But by digging in a bit deeper, it still seems to be a big issue in many spots and is preventing the recovery of the species. I also figured out that nobody was doing much outreach to the larger travel community and felt that was a niche we could fill since we’ve been working at the intersection of turtle conservation and travel for about a decade.”
Too Rare to Wear, which includes a coalition of conservation organizations, tour operators, and media partners, aims to help the travel community make informed choices about buying illegal turtleshell products.
The campaign website includes an introductory video to the issue, a pledge to avoid products made of turtleshell, and an infographic that can help travelers distinguish turtleshell products from those made of cow bone, plastic, or coconut shell. Several other outreach materials are alsobeing developed, Nahill said.
“Over the next few months, we will be developing a more user-friendly guide to recognizing turtleshell items, an infographic, an undercover video, and a regional report looking at more than 30 sites in 8 countries, which should be ready by April,” Nahill added. “We are asking tour operators to share these materials with their clients going to the region through their pre-trip materials, social media networks, etc.”
The campaign targets tourists for now, and hopes to reach the vendors through them.
“The ask is for travelers not only to not buy the items but to also not buy any products from vendors who sell them, and most importantly, to tell the vendors why they aren’t buying from them, to give them an incentive to forgo selling them,” Nahill said. “The vendors, for the most part, know that they are selling endangered animals and continue to do it anyway. We’re hoping to replicate the success we’ve seen focusing on the consumers, like the shark fin campaign by WildAid. If we can cut the demand, we can put a dent in the market.”
This article by Shreya Dasgupta was first published by Mongabay.com on 09 Jan 2017.
We invite you to share your opinion whether the Hawksbill turtle trade should be closed down? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page:
Thank you for voting.
Share this post with your friends
You may also like:
Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days
- POLL: Should the MOTV trophy hunting channel be closed down? [1692 Views]
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of lions be banned? [1470 Views]
- POLL: Should there be a tough crack down on the killing of raptors? [1232 Views]
- POLL: Should captivity for all killer whales be banned? [1204 Views]
- POLL: Should the keeping of dolphins in captivity be banned? [1179 Views]
- POLL: Should trophy hunting be banned? [1149 Views]
- POLL: Should the pangolin slaughter in Africa be banned? [883 Views]
- POLL: Should elephants be kept in captivity? [777 Views]
- POLL: Should the culling of Scotland’s mountain hares be banned? [715 Views]
- POLL: Should Praying Mantises be used for pest control? [686 Views]
Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months
- POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farms? [16946 Views]
- Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [9327 Views]
- POLL: Should Congress disband Wildlife “Killing” Services? [6734 Views]
- POLL: Should the sale of elephant ivory be legalized? [4084 Views]
- POLL: Should foxes be culled to protect domestic pets? [3792 Views]
- POLL: Should the cruel sport of bullfighting be banned? [2861 Views]
- POLL: Should Canada ban the hunting of seals? [2638 Views]
- POLL: Should the Tories be allowed to bring back fox hunting? [2570 Views]
- POLL: Should wild elephants be sold to Chinese zoos? [2315 Views]
- POLL: Should Japan’s “research whaling” program be closed down? [2150 Views]