Posted: November 9, 2021

Understanding which turtles are most preferable and the types of consumers that engage in the trade may be critical in making recommendations for more sustainable and ethical practices.

Collecting wild turtles has long been used to meet the demand for the pet turtle trade around the world. However, wild turtle populations are unable to remain stable in the face of this harvesting, leading to their endangerment. Paris Werner at Penn State University is currently studying the U.S. pet turtle market. Turtles comprise one of the most threatened major vertebrate groups in the world, and the harvesting of wild individuals for their use in the pet trade exacerbates this issue. Turtles provide many benefits to their local ecosystems and the removal of long-lived adults from the population will cause upend the delicate balance of those ecosystems. This research aims to identify key drivers of the pet turtle trade in addition to providing data to inform policy.

 This research explores the product (pet turtles) and the person (consumers) through distinct approaches. Each species of turtle was defined by a specific suite of traits (shell pattern, skin color, etc.). These traits will be built into a model to determine the influence of these traits on prices and a consumer’s willingness to pay (WTP). Furthermore, an online survey was conducted to measure consumer knowledge, attitudes, and preferences regarding pet turtles. The data gathered from the survey will be used to recognize any knowledge gaps and promote sustainable and ethical practices.

 There is a continuing need to highlight the pet turtle trade and understand its drivers. Turtles are oftentimes overlooked as species of global concern, which underappreciates their status as one of Earth’s most evolutionarily ancient organisms. The unique research described above seeks to do its part to protecting turtle populations around the world. Findings will be submitted for publication in a research journal.