Sunday, March 01, 2009

At Least the Turtles Are Happy

People across the Southeast have had to alter their weekend outdoor plans. Violent weather, including heavy rains, high winds and tornadoes, have swept through the southern states with over 2" falling in the past 12 hours on the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest. It's noon and still raining with snow predicted to our west. The frozen precipitation looks like it will stay west of I-95.

South Carolina is still in a drought, so the rain is welcomed by those dependent on the water, including the staff here in the swamp. We need the water to be higher as we enter our canoeing season, because water levels will drop rapidly as the weather warms and trees begin to leaf out and draw water. Although humans may be disappointed with outdoor plans that were washed away, our native turtles certainly won't complain about the additional moisture even if they are not as vocal in welcoming the water as the choruses of frogs. Unfortunately, our native turtles have greater worries than the amount of water in their habitat.

As noted in this month's National Geographic Magazine, "Turtles in Hot Water - China's appetite for turtle, served in soups or stews, has emptied rivers and streams across Asia of their terrapin populations. Since the 1990s, consumption rates have soared as newly affluent Chinese splurged on the reptile meat." To protect our native turtles, a bill (H. 3121) has been introduced in the South Carolina Legislature regarding the export of native turtles. The bill seeks to make it UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO REMOVE, OR ATTEMPT TO REMOVE, FROM THIS STATE MORE THAN TEN TURTLES OF CERTAIN NAMED SPECIES. Those species are listed as "yellowbelly turtle (Trachemys scripta), Florida cooter (Pseudemys floridana), river cooter (Pseudemys concinna), chicken turtle (deirochelys reticularia), eastern box turtle (Terrapene Carolina), eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera), Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox), and common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine)."

As we do not wish to see our state's turtle populations suffer the same fate as those across Asia, we support H. 3121 and ask that you contact your representative to express your opinion on this legislation.

Image by Mark Musselman

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