Animal welfare groups are calling on tourists to stop buying turtle products as it encourages poachers to kill more of the animals. Too Rare To Wear organization has seen Hawkbill turtles as one of the most exploited species of their kind in the world and found 90 percent of their population has been dwindling down through the years.
Though illegal, many souvenir shops sell hawkbill products like trinkets, necklaces, hair comb, sunglasses or wall decorations. Poachers have moved underground and have been caught mostly by government agencies.
According to a report by sea turtle biologist and conservationist Dr. Jeanne A. Mortimer, "A relatively new threat is the massive trade in large stuffed hawksbills, intentionally netted in Southeast Asian waters, preserved with formaldehyde aboard Chinese vessels, and sold intact as adornments in Asia."
In Japan, hawkbills are killed to make combs that are still used in wedding ceremonies. Meanwhile, Philippines have discovered about 500 turtleshells brought by Chinese fishermen in 2014 and Americans are said to patronize these items during their stay in Latin American and Caribbean Islands with a whopping 90 percent of shops found selling hawkbill shells in shops.
The Lonely Planet reports Campaign Director Brad Nahill saying, "We've witnessed how educating consumers about elephant ivory, rhino horns and shark fins can help reduce demand for wildlife products. We hope to bring attention to hawksbills up to the level of these other animals."
Too Rare To Wear would like tourists to be vigilant in buying souvenirs by identifying if whether it is genuine turtleshell, horn, plastic or coconut shell. Color patterns have a hue of dark and light brown, yellow or orange.
Souvenir items carved from hawkbills would appear rough, irregular and are heavier than its imitations. Too Rare To Wear campaign has an online pledge where travelers can sign up and promise to only buy in turtle-friendly establishments.
As of writing, there are 2,500 pledges made. If you would like to help the group in their shout of saving the turtles, you can visit their platform here.