Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 4:26b
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Seeking breeders of Cuora and Cistoclemmys

Seeking breeders of Cuora and Cistoclemmys. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) recently appointed me North American Regional Studbook Keeper for Asian box turtles (Cuora and Cistoclemmys). I am beginning to compile information for the studbooks and need your help.

As you are no doubt aware, turtle populations of Asia are in perilous decline, and the situation has reached crisis proportions. The primary reasons for decline include unsustainable and unregulated harvesting and exploitation for food markets and traditional Chinese medicine. It is expected that a number of these species may soon become extinct in the wild, and will likely depend on captive populations for their survival. The situation is, to say the least, time-critical. We must begin developing well- managed captive breeding populations now in order to head off this disaster.

Asian box turtles were recently placed on Appendix II of CITES and have become largely unavailable. This simply means that we must responsibly manage the wild stock already in captivity and reduce our acquisition of wild collected specimens. Accurate studbook data is necessary for this effort to be successful and is fundamental to a long-term breeding program for any endangered species. In years to come, this studbook will provide a recorded history of our efforts with these particular species, while providing much needed information such as age and sex specific rates of fecundity, maturity, longevity, and mortality. Due to the low numbers of wild-caught potential founders for some of these Cuora, it is important that they be more intensively managed than some of the more common species. Finally, given the fact that the private individuals hold most of the rare Cuora in captivity, it is imperative that we encourage cooperation from this sector. We hope you will join us in this collaborative endeavor.

This is how being a studbook participant works: If requested, private individuals participating in this studbook can be assigned a code identifing you and your turtles and protecting your anonymity! There are guidelines for identification and monitoring that I will be following as Studbook Keeper. The information you provide will become part of a confidential database so you and your animals are protected. Participating in a studbook in no way obligates you to do anything with your animals that you donít want to. It is simply a management tool that, in years to come, will be able to select the most valuable pairings to improve the genetic health of the overall captive population. Those pairings are recommendations only. Studbook participation implies accurate record keeping and permanent specimen identification, i.e. shell notch, PIT tag, scans, and photos.

The species in my realm of responsibility are Cuora aurocapitata (Yellow-headed Box Turtle), C. flavomarginata (Yellow-margined Box Turtle), C. galbinifrons (Indochinese Box Turtle), C. mccordi (McCordís Box Turtle), C. pani (Panís Box turtle), C. trifasciata (Three-striped Box turtle), C. zhoui (Zhouís Box Turtle), and C. serrata (Serrated Box Turtle).

If you are in touch with other keepers of Asian species that are of special concern, please feel free to have them contact me and I will forward the names to the appropriate studbook program.

Thank you very much for taking the time to help me with this very important project. This is the only hope that many threatened Asian species will have in the future.

Sincerely, Annabel Ross, Fort Worth Zoo, 1989 Colonial Parkway, Fort Worth, TX 76110. Email: