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Our Taste For Turtle Soup Nearly Wiped Out Terrapins. Then Prohibition Saved Them

By the turn of the 20th century, America's love affair with Diamondback Terrapin soup — a subsistence food turned gourmet fare — had left the turtle's population teetering. Booze ban to the rescue.
In less than a hundred years, thousands upon thousands of Diamondback Terrapins had succumbed to the American appetite, depleting the species. Source: Jesse D. Eriksen

In the mid-19th century, Americans developed a frenzied culinary affair with turtle. Almost overnight, the Diamondback Terrapin — a small coastal turtle found from Cape Cod to the Gulf Coast — went from subsistence food to luxury cuisine, showing up on menus from the White House to Gold Rush-era San Francisco.

The consequences were savage. By the turn of the 20th century, overharvesting had left the terrapin population teetering on the brink. Once available for a few dollars a dozen, the cost of the now hard-to-find terrapin skyrocketed. The future looked bleak for the Diamondback Terrapin. Then came the unlikeliest of heroes: Prohibition.

"Prohibition impacted the terrapin industry in the entire country in 1919 with the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," says Maria Cathell,

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