Ecological knowledge and value of traded species: Local awareness of native turtles in Hainan, China

Heidi Ma, Sarah Papworth, Tianbei Ge, Xiaohan Wu, Chuyue Yu, Hanxue Zhang, Fanrong Xiao, Daniel Gaillard, Jon Bielby, Samuel T Turvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wildlife trade is driving species extinctions globally, and the Asian Turtle Crisis is posing a threat in China as turtle species are collected from the wild and sold at high prices. Local ecological knowledge is increasingly used to determine the status of threatened taxa, but there is little understanding of wider relationships between indices of ecological knowledge and other conservation-relevant factors such as market values of traded species. To assess whether local people's awareness of potentially traded turtles might indicate direct interaction with trade in these species, we conducted 185 interviews in rural villages around Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Hainan, China. Interviewees were asked to free-list native turtles to determine species salience and then were shown photographs of the species to assess recognition and knowledge. We investigated relationships between species' salience, whether species were recognized, named and/or perceived to be traded by more people, and independently obtained market prices. Indices of species awareness varied among interviewees, but all species were reported to be traded by at least some people. There was no correlation between indices of awareness and market value, indicating that more valuable species were no more likely to be well known. However, the perception that turtles are traded irrespective of species is a concern for conservation because all species are then vulnerable to exploitation. Our results highlight that local communities should not be assumed to have accurate knowledge of traded species, with implications for the management of wildlife trade and conservation at the community level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-812
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number6
Early online date27 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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