Vaste Turtle Slaughter In Bangladesh

Unsustainable turtle slaughter in Bangladesh

November 2011. Wildlife Extra recently became aware of the Kali Puja festival
in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of turtles are slaughtered annually.
To find out more about this festival, we asked Dr S. M. A. Rashid, chief
executive of CARINAM (Centre for advanced research in natural resources
& management
), a few questions. Dr Rashid very kindly gave the following
replies.

I have recently become aware of the Kali Puja Festival – I believe it
is an annual event? Is this a long standing event, and how many turtles do they
slaughter every year?

The Kali
Puja is an annual festival observed by Hindus, mostly living in West Bengal
(India) and Bangladesh. The Puja is a prayer on a holy occasion (like Christmas
or Eid). The Hindu religion is not linked to eating turtles but somehow it has
become a tradition among Hindus and almost every Hindu wants to eat turtles on
this particular day as it is considered an auspicious or ‘holy’ day, in much the
same way that turkeys are eaten on Christmas. Several hundred thousand turtles
are slaughtered every year all during Kali Puja.

Killing animals for festivals and food

Wildlife Extra does not have an issue with the killing of
animals for food – Most humans eat meat and fish at some stage, and many of us
do so as part of a festival (Turkey at Christmas & Thanksgiving, goats,
camels and others at Eid).

However the mass slaughter during Kali Puja
is of wild animals in completely unsustainable numbers endangers the syrvival of
some species. Turkeys and goats are farmed domestically specifically for food,
but the turtles killed and eaten during Kali Puja are all wild
caught.

Where do all the turtles come from, and are there any regulations
over what species and numbers that may be killed?

All the turtles
are captured from the wild. Collection of turtles is carried out all over
Bangladesh and the traders have a very strong multi-tier network and mobile
phones have made their work much more ‘productive’. The Bangladesh Wildlife
Preservation Act 1974 prohibits capturing killing of some species listed in its
Schedules. However the Act has been revised as The Bangladesh Wildlife Act 2011
and is now awaiting approval of the parliament. The revised act protects all
wildlife.

There is no quota as to how many turtles may be
captured/killed. No capture or killing is permitted under the Act/law but due to
weak implementation and enforcement such illegal trade continues.

 

Bloody shells of freshly killed turtles.
Photo
Credit: Bonnie
Rashid/CARINAM

Are
turtles eaten all year round, or just during Kali Puja?

Turtles are eaten round the year however the
numbers and volume of turtle trade increase many fold during the Kali puja.
Traders stock turtles expecting high price for this particular festival; this
year the prices ranged from $5 – $300 per kilogram depending on the species.

Is this sustainable?
No, this is not sustainable. All the
turtles are captured from the wild. Moreover the traders do not care about the
status of the species in the wild; in fact the rarer the turtle, the more money
that can be earned by the traders. Further more, pregnant females, under-sized
juveniles and adult males are all slaughtered irrespective of the breeding
season or status of the species. Such reckless killing will have a devastating
effect on the wild population. The freshwater turtles are also threatened by the
changing land use patterns where many of the wetlands are being converted to
agricultural land or for housing. These poor turtles are surviving in a very
precarious state.

What, if any, rules and regulations would you like
to see in place to control this festival?

I would like to see a
total ban on this trade. However considering the tradition of the fellow Hindu
citizens of Bangladesh several measures may be taken to regulate/control it if
it can not be stopped totally.

  • 1) The Hindu priests can play a major role by preaching the followers
    (Hindus believe turtles to be an incarnation of their god);
  • 2) Massive and intensive awareness programs must be undertaken;
  • 3) Implementation and enforcement of the law should be strengthened as the
    turtle traders are known and they can be located;
  • 4) The rich businessmen and middlemen who support this business by giving
    advances to collect turtles should be brought to law;
  • 5) Captive/commercial farms involving selected species may be set up for
    turtle breeding;
  • 6) The government may give licenses to some traders to collect specified
    numbers/species annually by quota system (this is hard to implement or
    monitor).

Read more about Centre for
advanced research in natural resources & management

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/kali-puja.html

Photo: Wikipedia

Full resolution‎ (2,200 × 1,650 pixels, file size: 3.49 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
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~ by narhvalur on November 15, 2011.

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