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tortoiseshell Tortoiseshell souvenirs, made from hawksbill turtles are still on sale in many tropical countries despite international laws banning the trade.

Slaughter for souvenirs

Products such as combs, ash trays and small boxes sold as "tortoise shell" are made exclusively from the beautiful shell of the hawksbill turtle. Over the past thirty years the international trade in these products have threatened this sp ecies more that any other turtle. The hawksbill is now categorised as critically endangered. Under the UN convention on endangered species (CITES) it is illegal to export tortoiseshell products and thankfully many countries have begun to clamp down on dealers who sell shells to tourists.

At many destinations though, hawksbill shell is still openly available and tourists who buy it are breaking national and international laws when they return home. Recently, huge quantities of turtle shell souvenirs were seen on sale at th e duty free shop at Vietnam's international airport. A survey in Sri Lanka in 1996 revealed that hawksbill products were available in every major tourist resort.

swimming turtle

(D Perrin)

Trouble spot

In the past twelve months tortoiseshell products have been offered to tourists in the following countries: Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sao Tome, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam.

Turtle friendly tourism

  • Tourists should be reminded that tortoiseshell is made from a critically endangered species and that it is illegal to take any such products home with them.

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WSPA's campaign booklet - Turtle Alert! has been adapted for the WWW by EuroTurtle, which is a Web based project by MEDASSET International (Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles), Exeter University (UK) and the Biology Department of King's College,Taunton, UK. EuroTurtle is Europe's first Sea Turtle Biology & Conservation Web Site for Science and Education.

Copyright © 1997, WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals).
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Permission to copy these materials must be obtained from WSPA.