Turtles teeter on brink of extinction

Shells don’t protect them against humans with knives

Turtles and tortoises have roamed the planet for about 220 million years, their shells protecting them from natural predators. But those shells are no match against humans armed with knives, and half their species are threatened with extinction, several of them more than ever before, according to a recent Turtle Conservation Coalition report.

The report identified 25 of the most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, many of which are hunted to be sold on the black market as pets and for their perceived medicinal purposes. In one market in Bangladesh, an estimated 100,000 wild turtles are butchered for a one-day religious holiday each year.

Of the 25 endangered species identified, 17 are from Asia. “Lonesome George,” a lone Pinta Island tortoise that is the last known Galapagos giant tortoise and considered to be the rarest animal in the world, is No. 1 on the list.