Organized Poaching Decimating Madagascar's Sea Turtles

September 1, 2016

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The illegal hunting of Madagascar's sea turtles is reaching a crisis level as a result of organized trafficking networks, says a team of WCS conservationists.

The WCS team says the recent spike is being driven by increasing demand for marine turtle meat and oil both on the local market and in Southeast Asia and the participation of local villagers in the illegal hunting for monetary gain.

"The beaches of Madagascar are important nesting sites for four species of marine turtle—Green sea turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles, Loggerhead sea turtles and Olive Ridley sea turtles—so the increase in poaching is of great concern," said Alison Clausen, WCS's Regional Director for Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean. "These species are all protected by national and international laws, but the growth of organized trafficking is outstripping the country's enforcement capabilities."

Marine turtle hunting has always existed at low levels throughout Madagascar, but over the last several years hunting levels, particularly for illegal international trade, appear to have increased dramatically.

All marine turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and any international commercial trade in their parts or products is illegal. To address the issue conservationists and government agencies have increased enforcement and are trying to raise awareness in local communities of the importance of protecting sea turtles.

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