The Turtle Conservation Centre in the Ninh Binh-based Cuc Phuong National Park is tending over 200 Annam leaf turtles (Mauremys annamensis) for the purposes of genetic resources conservation, breeding and data collection for scientific study.
Recently, the centre received 71 more turtles sent from Rotterdam zoo (the Netherlands) and Munster zoo (Germany).
The Turtle Conservation Centre is located 120 kilometers southwest of Hanoi in Cuc Phuong National Park in Nho Quan District, Ninh Binh Province. Each year, the centre receives thousands of international and domestic visitors to learn about Vietnamese tortoises and freshwater turtle species.
Do Thanh Hao, the Manager of the Cuc Phuong National Park’s Turtle Conservation Centre acknowledged that the centre had rescued and was currently housing nearly 700 turtles representing 20 of Vietnam’s 25 native species.
The centre has released many adults and hatchlings back into the wild. In November 2000, 500 Elongated Tortoises were released in Cat Tien National Park. In May 2007, it released 196 turtles from four species including yellow-headed temple turtle (Heosemys annandalii), black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis), keeled box turtle (Heosemys grandis) and Asian box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) to their natural habitats nationwide.
The Annam leaf turtle is close to extinction due to illegal hunting and trading. Fortunately, the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park is keeping over 200 of these turtles in semi natural enclosures for the sake of scientific study and genetic resources conservation. These turtles were confiscated from smugglers, voluntarily brought by locals or were successfully hatched at the centre.
The centre is also cooperating with the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) of Vietnam National University-Hanoi to carry out research on the genetic system of the Annam leaf turtle in order to breed and conserve this rare endemic species of turtle.
The 71 returned individuals are expected to live with more than 200 others rescued in the conservation centre with the final aim to release all of them into the wild in Quang Ngai Province after they are able to adapt to life back in the wild. This is also part of the Mauremys annamensis Project (MAP) affiliated to the Asian Turtle Programme (ATP).
Annam leaf turtle is a species of turtle in the family Geoemydidae (Bataguridae). It is a valuable and rare species only found in inundated areas, ponds and rivers in the central region. This species was reportedly abundant in the 30s, but all field surveys after 1941 had failed to locate any individuals in the wild.