Faculty in the News In the News

September 1, 2016 at 11:46 am

Roosenburg Quoted on Terrapin Business, Risk of Poaching

Dr. Willem M. Roosenburg, Professor of Biological Sciences, was quoted in an NPR interview on “America’s Biggest Terrapin Business Thrives During Ban on Capture.”

The Diane Rehm Show interview aired on WYPR.

Photo of terrapin by Willem Roosenburg on Maryland.gov website

Photo of terrapin by Willem Roosenburg on Maryland.gov website

Diamondback terrapin are a proud symbol of Maryland: a handsome turtle with a white neck spotted with black that is uniquely adapted to swimming in the mix of salty and fresh water in the Chesapeake Bay.

Almost a decade ago, news stories about the sale of thousands of captured ‘terps from an Eastern Shore turtle dealer to brokers to who sold them in China sparked outrage among Maryland legislators, who passed a 2007 law banning the commercial trapping — and even possession — of terrapin….

But, oddly enough, nine years after the ban, the Eastern Shore turtle breeding and dealing business that triggered the state action is not only still in business, but has more than doubled in size, according to state records….

R. & R. Aqua Farms LLC of Preston, Maryland, now has 12 one-acre ponds full of turtles, as well as eighty 150 gallon tanks and six 1,200 gallon tanks in three buildings on a 100-acre turtle farm, state documents indicate….

A leading terrapin expert, biologist Willem Roosenburg of Ohio University, said that Maryland’s allowing of an ongoing turtle-selling business amid a ban on commercial possession can make it hard to tell which terrapins are being legitimately hatched on the farm and which could be secretly caught from the wild and then sold.

“I think clearly whenever you have a species that has a wild component and also a farmed component that you always run the risk of poaching,” Roosenburg said. “To the extent that that is happening?  I have no idea.”

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