Archive for September 21st, 2010

Freshwater Turtle Decline

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

People have been eating freshwater turtles for years.

Now, research suggests turtle populations have declined in Texas and the legal practice of harvesting turtles as food is the likely culprit.

In one of the regions which had the highest harvest in the state, there are far fewer turtles than in adjacent counties.

Texas State University professor Dr. Michael Forstner leads the research that is tracking the change in turtle populations over the past thirty years.

He says researchers can’t tell if current harvesting is contributing to the decline, but many people put the blame on the high number of turtle exports ten years ago.

If the data they are relying on for how much is harvested is correct, then the differences we are seeing in the turtle populations is still present ten years after the harvest. So it’s not a short term effect on the populations, but one that has changed those populations fundamentally.

Forstner was also surprised that even common species like the red-eared slider have been affected.

We have demonstrated that in a really short time, thirty years, we can significantly decrease the number of red-eared sliders. I wouldn’t have predicted that to be possible.

He says turtle harvesting isn’t bad as long as healthy populations can be maintained.

That’s our show… we had research and writing help from Gretchen Mahan…the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration program supports our series… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.