By Elaine Giessel, Chair,. Sierra Club Kansas Chapter
The September, 2023 Waypoints article, Sierra Club Urges More Protection for Ornate Box Turtle, described how our State Reptile is in trouble. Surveys show that populations of the ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornate, are declining as habitat is destroyed, and turtles are captured from the wild for turtle races and poached to be sold for the overseas pet trade.
Wildlife biologists at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks recognized the problem and staff suggested lowering the possession limits for all reptiles and amphibians. Felix Revello, Kansas Sierra Club Conservation Chair, drafted extensive comments on the proposed changes which the Chapter submitted in the formal KDWP hearing process.
Given the difficulty in enforcement and the lucrative nature of the illegal pet trade, the Kansas Sierra Club recommended a more stringent regulation - a zero-possession limit on both box turtle species native to Kansas. Exceptions would be allowed only for permits issued by KDWP to educational and research institutions.
On September 7, 2023, the KDWP Commissioners voted to adopt the regulation as proposed by staff, but Sierra Club will continue efforts to better protect our State Reptile populations for future generations.