The United States and Madagascar have suggested to signatories of the Washington Convention that they curb trade in six kinds of Asian and African turtles that are sold as pets in Japan, it was learned Thursday.

The two countries asked other members to provide trading data on the turtles, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said. The member countries of the Washington Convention, which regulates international trafficking in animals in danger of extinction, will discuss the issue in an October meeting in Thailand.

In Japan, the six turtles are sold for high prices at pet shops and on Internet auction sites, Japanese pet dealers said. Observers said the latest developments could prompt the government to probe whether such trading is legal.

Of the six species, the U.S. proposed designating five Asian turtles, including the pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) and the Asian softshell turtle (Amyda cartilaginea) as species subject to Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, under which trade of the species must be authorized by an export permit.

Madagascar proposed trade in the Madagascan spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoids), which lives in and near the island, be totally banned because its population is decreasing. Trade in the species is now possible with an export permit.

U.S. officials said these six species are also popular pets in Western countries.

Some Japanese are buying the Madagascan spider tortoise for more than 100,000 yen from domestic vendors on speculation that it will become more expensive after trading regulations become tightened, Japanese environmental organizations said.

The secretariat for the Washington Convention said Japan imports more than 50,000 live tortoises annually and is the biggest importer of the animals in the world.

Some turtle species are sold for nearly 2 million yen each, and while most of them are traded with assurances that they have been legally caught or bred, environmentalists say the actual state of turtle transactions and where the animals come from are often obscure.

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