Following increasing pressure from wildlife conservation groups, the state of South Carolina has finally passed legislation banning the commercial trade of native turtles, along with amphibians and other reptiles.
Signed by the state’s governor Henry McMaster, the new bill makes it illegal to trap, possess, trade, and ship native reptile and amphibian species, including striped mud, eastern mud, and eastern musk turtles.
“This Native Reptiles and Amphibians bill, known as the ‘Turtle Bill,’ is a great one, because we discovered over the years that people were taking our wildlife elsewhere — smuggling them out, smuggling in non-native species, and we had some tools to deal with it but not enough,” McMaster told WTLX.
The new legislation received a warm welcome from wildlife advocates who said that prior to its passing, South Carolina law allowed unregulated trapping and selling of several turtle species. Native turtles were often caught and exported to other countries, destined to be food or pets. This has had a negative impact on many turtle species, many of which have suffered a worrying decline in population.
“We’re thrilled that South Carolina has taken this meaningful step to protect its native turtles,” said Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This law will raise the state out of a morass of turtle trafficking and make it a safe haven for wild turtles. Finally, South Carolina’s native turtles get a fighting chance.”