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Turtles

Turtle JellyYou've got a couple of hours to kill waiting for your flight, so you amble over to a little curio-type shop tucked away from the main drag of the airport. You poke around. Hhhmmmm. What is in this jar? It looks harmless enough, like Vaseline. But you inspect the label closely, and realize that, in fact, it's a potential problem. It's turtle jelly. This jelly is a mixture of herbs, turtle shells, and other ingredients believed to be beneficial for your health if eaten (You cringe. Eaten how? On toast?)

You put the jar back and make a mental note to click onto WWF's Virtual Pharmacy site when you get home to check turtle jelly out. As it turns out, you made a wise decision. Once you get home, you look up turtle jelly and find that it is made from the shells of turtles, some of which are endangered. Between the demand for turtles as food and for medicine, hundreds of TONS of turtles are imported to China annually. Wow.

When you read about turtle jelly production, you blanch. Turtle shells are boiled until they break down into a glue-like residue and then the jelly is concentrated by evaporation.

Many turtles are severely threatened due to habitat destruction and trade. Also, because turtle jelly is so thoroughly processed, it is impossible for wildlife officers to verify the species actually in the products. So it's a really messy problem, from both an enforcement and consumer point of view!