Illegal harvesting for meat consumption and the pet trade remain the main threats for musk turtles. Today, CITES Parties adopted by consensus to include musk turtles (Sternotherus species) in CITES Appendix II. This will ensure future international trade in musk turtles will be evaluated to determine it is legal and biologically sustainable.
During 2013-2019, almost 1.5 million live Sternotherus turtles were exported from the United States, with the majority of specimens (60.1 percent) sourced from the wild and exported to East Asia for commercial purposes. Without a complete picture of the population size of these species, it is difficult to determine if this level of harvest and export is biologically sustainable.
Musk turtles are native to the freshwaters of North America, ranging from southeastern Canada to southeastern Florida. Their preferred habitat is slow-moving, permanent, freshwater with soft substrates for burrowing, and fallen trees, overhanging banks, and submerged logs and rocks for shelter and basking.
The name of this turtle refers to the musky smell they secrete from two glandular openings on each side of their body near their carapace. These small aquatic turtles rarely leave the water, though some emerge to bask.
Photo: Musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) by Leah/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.