Hundreds of sea turtles wash up on Bournemouth beach

Monday, May 4, 2009
(Bournemouth, 4 May 2009) - Hundreds of sea turtles came ashore on Bournemouth beach this weekend - helped by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to raise awareness of the impact of the wildlife souvenir trade on endangered turtles and other threatened species.
Two hundred life-size cardboard hawksbill turtles appeared on the shore as though they had just crawled out of the sea to lay their eggs. In the wild, this is when the creatures are at their most vulnerable as they can easily be targeted by hunters who slaughter them and turn their shells into trinkets for tourists.

The UK Director of IFAW, Robbie Marsland, said: "This turtle invasion may look out of place on an English beach but unfortunately many endangered species have their final resting place in this country – as tokens of exotic holidays abroad.

"We hope this spectacle will highlight the truth behind this deadly business. Many people are unaware about the origins of wildlife souvenirs or that it can be illegal to bring them into the UK. We urge tourists to remember if they don’t buy, turtles won’t die."

Each year UK customs officials seize thousands of wildlife items - including ivory ornaments, coral jewellery and sharks’ teeth - at airports and seaports around the country, many of which are tourist souvenirs that have been brought back by unwitting tourists.

In a recent survey, IFAW discovered that just one in four* people knew that items labelled as 'genuine tortoiseshell' are actually made from the hard shells of sea turtles. Trade in all wild marine turtles and their parts is banned under international law**. 'Tortoiseshell' items which can be commonly found in tourist markets in the Caribbean and South East Asia include combs, hair-slides, sunglasses and ornaments.

ENDS

*Yougov poll carried out in April 2009 that found of the 1979 people surveyed 25% correctly identified sea turtle shell as the material genuine tortoiseshell products are made from, 32% incorrectly identified it as from tortoises, 4% plastic, 3% stone, 3% glass, 1% other, 32% don't know.

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