According to trade records, people plucked more than 400,000 Central Asian tortoises from the wild to sell internationally between 2012 and 2021, mainly for the pet trade. About half of the animals across that decade were imported into the United States, where the going price for the reptiles — also known as Russian tortoises — is a mere $100-200.

These same tortoises, according to scientists, could have provided priceless climate benefits to the planet in the wild. A study published last year identified many animals with a high potential for protecting and enhancing carbon storage in natural landscapes. Tortoise species who make their homes in semi-arid places, such as Central Asian tortoises, were among them.

Examples like this illustrate why several organizations attending the most recent United Nations climate conference, COP28, called on policymakers to include wildlife conservation in climate action plans due to the critical role wild animals can play in climate mitigation.

To continue reading this story, please follow this link to The Revelator, which originally published the article.

Image via Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media (non-commercial use)