Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles (CCITT)

Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles (CCITT)
Photo by Gabrielle DeMeillon

CCITT formed in 2018 with the mission of advancing efforts to better understand, prevent, and eliminate the illegal collection and trade of North America’s native turtles. CCITT is comprised mostly of state, federal, and tribal agency personnel, with additional specialists from academia and non-governmental organizations. CCITT membership includes many state and federal natural resource law enforcement officers. It is a priority of the group to build bridges between the law enforcement and biological communities. In 2020, CCITT joined forces with PARC’s Turtle Network Team to work as efficiently as possible towards these shared goals.

Wildlife trafficking is a global problem that impacts many species, but an unfortunate confluence of factors make the illegal collection and trade of turtles a particularly troublesome issue. High demand from both overseas and domestic markets, coupled with life history characteristics that make populations susceptible to immediate and irreversible declines, put populations of turtles at extremely high risk. The illegal collection of turtles undercuts investments by natural resource agencies to conserve vulnerable species, and to keep common species common.

State and federal law enforcement officials and conservation biologists consider the illegal collection of turtles to be a conservation crisis occurring at an international scale. Many confiscations now involve hundreds or thousands of individual wild-caught turtles.

Recent Law Enforcement Cases Involving North American Turtles

On May 23, 2020, World Turtle Day, CCITT partnered with other conservation organizations to release the Call to Action Letter to Protect North America’s Native Turtles from Illegal Collection. The letter laid out why this is such a critical issue and provides five focused areas that require action:

  • Coordinate state regulations to help address current conservation risks to these species.
  • Provide additional resources for wildlife law enforcement to prevent illegal collection and trafficking.
  • Enhance public outreach that communicates the severity and scale of the crisis and works towards eliminating national and international demand for wild-collected turtles.
  • Increase resources for emergency housing and care of confiscated turtles to relieve strain on law enforcement organizations.
  • Implement science-based planning to guide temporary and final disposition of confiscated turtles.

Support for the letter made clear there is consensus within the conservation community that the illegal collection of turtles is an existential and significant conservation threat.

For inquires on how to join CCITT, please contact:

Scott Buchanan
Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife
Scott.buchanan@dem.ri.gov

Or

Jennifer Sevin
University of Richmond
jsevin@richmond.edu