Turtle farming is the practice of raising turtles and tortoises of various species commercially. Raised animals are sold for use as gourmet food, traditional medicine ingredients, or as pets. Some farms also sell young animals to other farms, either as breeding stock, or more commonly to be raised there to a larger size for subsequent resale.
Turtle farms primarily raise freshwater turtles (primarily,
Only three serious attempts are believed to have been made to farm sea turtles. Only one of them, in Cayman Islands, continues to operate. The one in Australia's Torres Strait Islands folded after a few years of operation, and the one in Réunion has been converted to a public aquarium (Kélonia).
Japan is said to be the pioneer of softshelled turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) farming, with the first farm started by Kurajiro Hatori in
According to the report of the Japanese zoologist
Hattori's company has survived into the 21st century, as the Hattori-Nakamura Soft-Shelled Turtle Farm, operating in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. According to a 1991 report, Japan's turtle farm industry continued to be mostly based in central Japan, but was expanding to the warmer southern parts of the country.
The majority of world's turtle farms are probably located in China.[
According to a study published in 2007, over a thousand turtle farms operated in China. A later report by the same team (Shi Haitao, James F. Parham, et al.), published in January 2008, was based on an attempt to survey all 1,499 turtle farms that were registered with the appropriate authorities of the
According to the responses obtained from 684 of those farms, they had a total of than 300 million animals, and sold over 128 million turtles each year, with the total weight of about 93,000 tons. Extrapolating from this sample, the researchers estimated that about 300 million farm-raised turtles are sold annually by China's registered turtle farms, worth (presumably, at the wholesale prices) around US$750 million. They note that a large number of unregistered farms also exist.
According to more recent Chinese statistics, annual production just of Chinese softshelled turtle amounted to 204,000 tons in 2008.
The most common species raised by Chinese turtle farmers is the Chinese softshell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis), accounting for over 97% of all reported sales, both in terms of head count (124.8 million in the 684-farm sample) and weight. and by 2009, to merely CNY 15-16 per Chinese pound. Other species bred and raised in large numbers (in excess of 10,000 per year, each) in China are the wattle-necked softshell turtle (Palea steindachneri), Chinese pond turtle (Chinemys reevesii), yellow pond turtle (Mauremys mutica), Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Ocadia sinensis) and red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans).
Numerous other species are farmed in smaller quantities.
In a report from a Tunchang County, Hainan, turtle farm, published by James F. Parham and Shi Haitao in 2000, the researchers give a general idea of such an enterprise. According to the owner, the farm, established in 1983, had around 50,000 animals of over 50 different aquatic and terrestrial species. The majority, 30,000, were the common Chinese softshell turtle.
There were also 7,000 to 8,000 yellow pond turtles, and at least 1,000 of the prized golden coin turtle. The adult turtles lived in an 8 hectares (20 acres) outdoor breeding area, while the young ones were kept in indoor raising ponds.
Hybridization between various turtle species often occurs on the farms. This has often been unintentional, and was especially characteristic of the early days of the industry. Sometimes, however, hybridization is encouraged, e.g. to produce the hybrids of the valuable golden coin turtle and the more common yellow pond turtle. These hybrid turtles, known as the Fujian pond turtle (Mauremys iversoni), are sold to customers as pure-blood golden coin turtles.
P. sinensis is fairly extensively farmed in Thailand, as well, with the (around the late 1990s) estimate of 6 million turtles hatching on Thai farms annually.
Turtle farming is undertaken in
Van Hung Village, in Cat Thinh Commune (
Turtle farming in the United States started in the early 1900s, with farms in
Since the 1960s, a number of turtle farms have operated in several states, including Oklahoma and Louisiana. According to Louisiana agricultural scientists, Louisiana had around 60 turtle farms in 2007, producing some 10 million turtles a year. In 2004, 72 turtle farms were licensed by the State of Louisiana. The industry is said to have started "70-some years" ago (i.e., in the 1930s) with farmers collecting eggs laid by wild turtles, getting them to hatch, and selling the hatchlings as pets.
The US turtle industry suffered a serious setback in 1975 when the US Food and Drug Administration prohibited interstate trade in small turtles, specifically those with carapace lengths of less than 4 inches, to prevent spreading Salmonella infection. The FDA ban does allow for farmers to sell turtles within the US to be used for legitimate educational, scientific, or exhibitional purposes, and to sell turtles outside the US clearly marked as "Export Only".
To export any turtles, farmers are required to obtain an export permit by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Louisiana requires additional testing for farmer licensing: an anti-salmonellosis prophylactic treatment regimen developed at Louisiana State University by Ronald Siebeling and later enhanced by Mark Mitchell.
Because of the domestic ban and emphasis on exporting them internationally, the size of US turtle industry's volume can be surmised from recorded export data. The cumulative data includes both farmed and wild-caught turtles, but the farmed component is usually predominant. According to a study by the 
Over one-half of all turtles exported from the United States over the study period were
In the 2010s, the US turtle farming industry reports dropping exports, perhaps due to the reduced demand for turtle hatchlings from Asian countries, whose own turtle farms are becoming more self-sufficient. According to one report, the US turtle production dropped from 13.4 million animals in 2004 to 4 million in 2013.
Due to the lack of CITES certification, turtle products cannot be exported outside of the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom. However, the farm claims on its website that "even the sale of turtle meat has a positive conservation impact because it greatly reduces poaching in the wild, which is often otherwise uncontrollable, both in terms of numbers and indiscriminate in terms of age and sex".
Effect on wild populations
As the conservation expert Peter Paul van Dijk noted, the farmed turtles gradually replace wild-caught ones in the open markets of China, with the percentage of farm-raised individuals in the "visible" trade growing from around 30% in 2000 to around 70% around 2007. However, he and other experts caution that turtle farming creates extra pressure on the wild populations, as farmers commonly believe in the superiority of wild-caught breeding stock and place a premium on wild-caught breeders, which may create an incentive for turtle hunters to seek and catch the last remaining wild specimens of some species. 
Even the potentially appealing concept of raising turtles at a farm to release into the wild (as done with some numbers of sea turtles at the Caymans establishment) is questioned by some veterinarians who have had some experience with farm operations. They caution that this may introduce into the wild populations infectious diseases that occur on the farm, but have not (yet) been occurring in the wild.
- Alligator farm
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- Links from Declared Turtle Trade From the United States - breakdown by species
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