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The Asia effect

April 7, 2013
Nick Buseman - Grundy County Conservation Operation Supervisor , Reinbeck Courier

As China and other Asian countries have grown they have diminished a lot of their natural resources. Their growth and desire for certain resources has resulted in them driving some of these resources to near extinction. One of these resources is their reptiles and mostly their turtle population.

The Chinese have basically destroyed their turtle population. Without a resident population, the Chinese have resorted to importing turtles for their citizens' consumption. With the increase in demand for live turtles and also turtle meat, the market in Iowa has seen a large increase. Like anything else if there is money to made, there are more people trying to make it. Many reptile experts in Iowa fear that the surging demand for turtle meat in Asia could jeopardize the future of native turtles. In 1987 Iowa commercial turtle trappers harvested around 29,000 pounds of turtle; where as in 2007 trappers harvested around 235,000 pounds of turtle. Also in those 20 years the number of licensed harvesters increased from 35 to 176. The increase in demand in turtle meat has driven these numbers to where they are today.

The increase in financial support to these trappers through the outside markets has thrown up a red flag of concern to many experts and also reptile enthusiasts throughout the state. Few states offer less protection for turtles than Iowa, and many experts feel that the freshwater turtles of Iowa do not have the reproductive capabilities to handle commercial harvests. Right now the Asia effect has had a huge impact on the native turtles of Iowa, with the increase in price has led to the increase in trappers trying to take advantage of the profitability in trapping one of Iowa's natural resources. Right or wrong, it's a fact we are dealing with here in Grundy County. As a staff, we have noticed a large increase in turtle trapping throughout the county.

Another effect Asia has brought to the U.S. and also right here in Iowa is their demand for furs. A less controversial topic, at least in my eyes, China and other Asian countries demand for fur and fur products has rekindled a once slipping commodity. Many ranchers and also fur handlers were merely in survival mode. As a trapper I have witnessed the rise and fall of the fur market in the U.S. With many special interest groups and the economy here in the states driving fur popularity to all time lows, China has stepped in and driven the market to all time highs, especially the mink market. China has become the largest fur producer and processor in the world. Chinese consumers' wallets fat with cash bought more than half of the fur coats sold globally in 2010 according to the China Leather Industry Association. Chinese fur retail sales estimated for 2012 could be as high as 6 billion dollars. China's homegrown furs have been marked low quality due to inbreeding and high feed costs resulting in poor nutrition, therefore increasing the U.S. grown furs even more.

The increase in ranch mink has drug along the wild mink, and muskrat (poor man's mink) along for the ride. As a trapper I have noticed the increase in prices over the last several years, rejuvenating trapping and fur taking throughout the United States. Hopefully the popularity in fur products will come back in the United States.

One of the biggest differences in the two effects stated in this article is the regulations that exist. Trapping and fur harvesting have been regulated for many years and are necessary to sustain a healthy population. Where as in the turtle harvesting there are so many unknowns, in Iowa we haven't ever seen the harvest numbers we are seeing today. So regardless of your feelings on the issues, China and other Asian countries are having their effect on our natural resources here in Grundy County.



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