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Royal Caribbean wants Australians to give up their tortoiseshell products

In:
04 Dec 2020
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Are you an Australian that has tortoiseshell products? You can do your part to save the Hawksbill Turtle by giving them up.

Royal Caribbean Australia is parterning with the WWF and Australian Museum in a new campaign that seeks to save the Hawksbill Turtle by asking Australians to give up their tortoiseshell products so vulnerable populations can be traced through extracted DNA.

The new effort is called "Surrender Your Shell", which hopes to use cutting-edge technology to extract DNA from products to track the illegal trade of tortoiseshell.

Researchers will use this DNA to trace tortoiseshell products back to the turtles’ nesting beach and develop a database or “ShellBank” for the first time in the Asia-Pacific. This information will help identify vulnerable turtle populations, so WWF-Australia can work with local communities, governments and the tourism industry to improve turtle protection.

In order to facilitate this effort, the Australian Government has introduced a six month period of leniancy where Australians can send historically purchased tortoiseshell products to WWF-Australia, along with details of where and when they were purchased, without the risk of facing prosecution.

To participate, Australians just need to track down any tortoiseshell products they’ve collected, or been gifted, over the years.

Real tortoiseshell items are brown, orange, amber and yellow in colour and feature irregular patterns.

If people suspect a product is real, they can take the following steps to support the project:

  1. Visit www.wwf.org.au/surrenderyourshell to enter your details, including when and where the item was purchased, to retrieve a unique identification number. 
  2. Attach the unique identification number to your tortoiseshell product, package appropriately and either post through the Australia Post eParcel Returns portal or visit a Post Office with your surrendered tortoiseshell and post to WWF-Australia.
  3. Ensure you post your item between 1 December 2020 and 1 June 2021.

The first 100 items sent through the Australia Post eParcel Returns portal will be paid for by WWF-Australia.

“We’re proud to support the crusade to save this precious species, and to raise awareness with Australians, and our guests, on the part they can play in bringing these turtles back from the brink,” says Gavin Smith, Royal Caribbean International VP and managing director, AUNZ. “The ocean is our lifeblood and we are committed to preserving it — through our own innovation, our Save the Waves programme, and through important collaborations like “Surrender Your Shell.” 

It is estimated nearly 9 million hawksbill turtles have been traded for their distinctive shells over the past 150 years, bringing the species close to extinction. The Pacific Ocean's population has declined by more than 75% and now just 4,800 breeding female hawksbills are thought to survive.