Red-eared Sliders & Chinese Softshell Turtles are the most common edible turtles seen in Hong Kong Markets. We don’t want to discuss whether we should be eating turtles. Being a society about reptiles, we often take care of them, and when you see them sick, loaded with parasites, the dirty water they’re in and their smell, you would not want to eat them, believe me! However, due to those two species of turtles not being listed under CITES, the law does not protect them completely, so still we have some people cooking and eating them.
Everyday, we receive many cases about the abuse of turtles, where people will buy turtles from the market and then query how to take care of them, or give them to us. We handle a lot of turtles from the market, we find that they will have many health problems, and need prolonged medical treatment. Unfortunately, our resources are not enough to take care of all of them, our average monthly donation received being approximately HKD1,500, which is not enough even to maintain center operations, and that’s why we focus on the projects for endangered species.
We do not recommend buying any turtle from the market, as once you buy it, the seller will be sourcing more for selling later. However that does not mean we cannot do anything. Based on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, Cap. 169 and Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, Cap 586, if the rearing environment is within a small space, with a large number of animals causing mutual oppression, no clear water, and so on, the seller may already be committing an offence. If they are selling species of animals from the CITES list but can not provide the certificate of origin, they may be offending under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, Cap 586. So reporting to the authorities should have a deterrent effect.
The Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation received a Yellow-headed Temple Turtle from the public bought from the market. After receiving her, we have arranged veterinary treatment and testing immediately. The turtle is on the brink of extinction so we must save her at all cost, and the seller will be prosecuted for selling an endangered species without the certificate of origin. We transferred the Temple Turtle to Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden to save her and maybe arrange getting her over to a foreign conservation organisation captive breeding program, it may not be the best solution but still is better than her ending up as food.