Anyone for turtle soup?

China's taste for Texas turtle meat is being blamed for the scarcity of turtles in Texas where there are no limits on the collection of unprotected varieties.

Hundreds of thousands have been sold to dealers who ship the animals to Asia where the meat is considered a delicacy with health benefits. Some also fetch high prices around the world as pets.

Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request showed more than 267,000 wild turtles were exported to Hong Kong from Dallas from 2002 to 2005, said Chris Jones, an environmental attorney who has lobbied for turtle protections.

Although there are no state-wide statistics showing declines in Texas turtle population, Jones said abundant anecdotal evidence exists. For example in one section of the Rio Grande river that had been a trap site, an adult turtle has not been seen in 10 years.

Texas turtles ending up in China soup pots (Reuters, 23 July 2007)