August 1 , 2006

The Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora bourreti) field mission in central Vietnam. 
The beginnings of a species conservation strategy.


From the 7th of June to 7th of July 2006, the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) field research team undertook its first field mission in Song Thanh Nature Reserve, Nam Giang District, Quang Nam Province, Central Vietnam.  The aim was to investigate the existence of the critically endangered Indochinese Box turtle (Cuora bourreti) in the large protected area (932km2) through interview and field survey techniques. 

ATP turtle ecologist Nguyen Xuan Thuan measures several captive Cuora bourreti observed at a local trader?s house.

Whilst conducting interviews, 16 specimens of Cuora bourreti (6 live and 10 remains) were observed. Five shells of Cuora mouhotii and a single live Cyclemys pulchristriata were also observed and information collected suggested that over seven species of turtle may occur within Song Thanh Nature Reserve. 

During time spent in the forest no Cuora bourreti were encountered, however the team did collect field records for a single Sacalia quadriocellata (a new record for the nature reserve) and a single Cyclemys pulchristriata.  A further three Palea steindachneri and single Cyclemys pulchristriata were also seen in possession of hunters within the protected area.

Despite not observing Cuora bourreti in the wild, the number of animals found in local communities indicates that the species still occur within the area.  Nevertheless, evidence of hunting, observation of turtles in villages and interview information suggests that remaining animals are under continued threat from collection.

The survey was the initial step in a conservation program that will focus on in-situ protection of wild populations of Cuora bourreti.   A conservation team will return to Song Thanh later this year to initiate project activities including training and closer cooperation with forest rangers in active protection of turtles at the reserve, awareness activities carried out in local hunting communities, and development of a research program that will involve participation from local residents, as well as students from nearby universities.

The survey was conducted by ATP field research coordinator Tim McCormack, ATP turtle research officer Nguyen Xuan Thuan, Tim Skelton, head of the reptiles & amphibians department of the Bristol Zoo, and rangers from Song Thanh Nature Reserve.  Funding was provided by Bristol Zoo and logistical assistance provided by the WWF MOSAIC Project.

Tim McCormack
Douglas Hendrie

This four-eyed turtle was recovered from a stream during surveys in Song Thanh Nature Reserve.  It was the first record of the species at the reserve

For further information please contact:

Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy
Asian Turtle Program
Tele.  04-775-3935

Douglas Hendrie
Asian Turtle Program Director
PO Box 222
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tele. 844-775-3935

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The Asian Turtle Program is a consortium of people and institutions dedicated to the protection of Asian turtles in the wild.  Principal support for the Asian Turtle Program comes from  the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Conservation International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Project activities are supported by a range of institutions across the globe including the Melbourne Zoo, Shellshock, Taronga Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Humane Society International, Wildlife Volunteer Fund of Japan, WWF US, Houston Zoo, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens, Bristol Zoo, Rufford Foundation, and AZA.