By Bradley R. Reynolds and Thomas P. Wilson
Turtles are heavily exploited in Asia, not only for the pet trade, but also as a food source and for use in traditional Asian folk medicines. Along with habitat destruction, increased urbanization, and pollution, such over-exploitation is driving what conservationists are calling the Asian turtle crisis, a precipitous decline in Asian turtle populations. Currently, over half of Asia’s ninety turtle species are classified as endangered or critically endangered.1 While it is true that the life history and reproductive strategy of the turtle plays a major role, the Asian turtle crisis is also a function of culture and geography. When considering the role played by cultural geography in the disappearance of Asian turtles, it is perhaps most helpful to consider China as a separate entity, along with Southeast Asia (e.g., Việt Nam, Cambodia, and Laos). In this article, we will highlight both areas and explain in some detail how one influences the other.