Box Turtles In Peril From Black Market Madness

A law enforcement arrest of an illegal box turtle smuggler in South Carolina crawled to the top of the headlines in September. 

“We work with 118 species of turtles and tortoises around the world, including 20 of the Top 25 most endangered turtles. The illegal trade of the Eastern box turtle is a hot topic right now, and South Carolina is at the epicenter of much of the discussion.” - Jordan Gray, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Turtle Survival Alliance

“The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) lives in 26 states, and S.C. is the only state to allow the common harvest of them for the pet trade,” said Gray. “An unintended consequence of this law is that turtle laundering is more likely to occur here because the laws are weak. It’s no coincidence that we see more arrests for turtle trafficking as prices surge, rivaling crime levels synonymous with drug dealing. We are hoping to raise awareness and educate South Carolina lawmakers about making changes to the laws that will decrease the chance for criminal activity.”

“Regarding the life history and reproduction of the Eastern Box Turtle, a female turtle may be around ten years old before they can lay eggs,” said Gray. “Each year after that, she may lay one to two clutches a year containing about five eggs each, but mortality rates are high, so it might take multiple years to merely increase the population by a few turtles. Evidence exists that removing several box turtles in a small area can cause that local population to crash. And the average age a box turtle can live is 50 to 80-years old.” Read more from The Colletonian HERE.