International trade in tortoises and tortoise products - impact on wild populations


Report no: VKM Report 2024: 01

Published: 20.03.2024

Key message:

Most species of tortoises imported to or exported from Norway are not threatened by trade. This is the conclusion of a new risk assessment from the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM). For some species, however, international trade reduces their ability to survive in nature.

The risk assessment is commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency to be used for processing permits on import and export of tortoises and tortoise products to and from Norway.

VKM has assessed whether international trade in tortoises is detrimental to the survival of the species, i.e., poses a threat to the survival of the species in the wild. VKM has assessed the twelve species of tortoises that have been imported to or exported from Norway since 2010, as well as two additional species that are subject to significant international trade.

VKM concludes that international trade is not detrimental for eight of the species. For four of the species international trade is detrimental, while VKM does not reach a conclusion for two of the species.

Trade is not detrimental: Aldabrachelys gigantea, Centrochelys sulcata, Chelonoidis carbonarius, Chersina angulata, Stigmochelys pardalis, Testudo graeca, Testudo hermanni, and Testudo marginata),

Trade is detrimental: Chelonoidis denticulatus, Indotestudo forstenii, Kinixys homeana, and Manouria emys)

Inconclusive: Kinixys spekii and Testudo horsfieldii

The VKM assessment is based on criteria provided in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). For each of the 14 species, VKM has assessed whether international trade poses a threat to the species' continued survival in the wild based on information on the species' biology, environment, usage, and management.

"There is some uncertainty associated with the assessments for species where the size of wild populations, the level of illegal trade, and management in the range countries are unknown," says scientific leader Eli Knispel Rueness, who has led the work.

VKM proposes that the NDF for the species be valid for five years unless the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were to provide new assessments of the species' conservation status.

Project group

The VKM project group consists of:

Eli K. Rueness, VKM Panel on CITES (Chair of the project group)
Hugo de Boer, VKM Panel on CITES
Berit Gehrke, VKM Panel on CITES
Matthew Grainger, VKM Panel on CITES
Jo Skeie Hermansen, VKM Secretariat (Project Manager)
Daniel Flø, VKM Secretariat

The risk assessment is subject to approval by the Panel on CITES with supplementation.


Eli K. Rueness

Medlem av faggruppen for CITES. Dr.Scient.

M: 99 22 59 24

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