Turtle exports from Ishigaki to be banned

According to officials at the Ministry of Environment, a large number of Yaeyama Ishigame (Mauremys mutica kami) or Asian brown pond turtles, which is an endemic and rare turtle species found in Yaeyama Islands, has been exported since June 2013.

Ministry officials estimate that about 6,000 turtles were exported between June 2013 and February 2015, which is about 20 % of their whole population on Ishigaki estimated at 30,000 turtles.  Yaeyama Ishigame is listed on the prefectural red data book as an endangered species.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, the main destination for the export is Hong Kong, where they are used as food and pets.  Yoshio Mochizuki, the Minister of the Environment, announced at a press meeting on Mar. 3rd that he would ban at an early date this year the export of Yaeyama Ishigame on the basis of the Washington Convention a.k.a. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This marks the first time for a land animal in Japan to be banned from export based on the CITES.  According to the Ministry of the Environment, Yeyama Ishigame is naturally found in Ishigaki, Iriomote and Yonaguchi Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.