|released turtles, credit Katala Foundation|
An illegal trove of protected turtles destined for the market in China is only a small part of a much broader problem in Asia now reaching into Africa and South American. Hordes of Chinese with new-found wealth are demanding previously luxurious foodstuffs, creating a demand than unscruplous traders are willing to supply at high prices. Turtles are found in rural areas where poverty is common, so if a trafficker offers people money for turtles, they are going to take it. So far there has been little effective law enforcement. It may be too late for the turtles, if humans decide to get serious about saving them from extinction.