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Field surveys find Bourret's box turtle (Cuora bourreti) in Sao La Nature Reserve Thua Thien Hue Province, Vietnam

From the 1 st to 9 th of June and 5 th to 10 th of December 2011, two intensive interview surveys focused on collecting information on the endemic and critically endangered Bourret's box turtle (Cuora bourreti) in Thua Thien Hue province, Vietnam. During the surveys by the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo 70 interviews were conducted in Hue city and eight districts of the province. Field records were completed for 42 turtles of nine species included eleven critically endangered Bourret's box turtles.

Bourret's box turtle (Cuora bourreti) is one of 13 species listed in the Cuora genus, one of the most threatened groups of turtles global with 12 of 13 species in this genus considered critically endangered by IUCN Red List 2011. Hunting and trade is largely to blame for the high extinction risk seen within the Asian Cuora's, many species of which are range restricted endemics.

With interviews in June finding strong evidence that a number of rare and important tortoise and freshwater turtle species including Bourret's Box Turtle occur in the new Sao La Nature Reserve, A Luoi District. The protected area was created in 2010 and remain relatively un-surveyed, based on this the ATP conducted a field survey in the Reserve from the 29 th of July to 06 th of August 2011 focused on confirming Bourret's Box Turtle in the protected area.

Non-lethal aquatic traps, detection dogs and time-searched were used during the survey. During the survey a single Bourret's box turtle (Cuora bourreti) was found on a stream bank under low brush in an open area while checking aquatic traps. The turtle was found by Nguyen Xuan Hoang – a student volunteer from Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry participating in the survey. Mr. Nguyen Van Luc from the ATP leading the team said “the team was ecstatic, jumping for joy, we knew to expect them in the reserve from interview surveys but this confirms them”. Importantly this confirms the species north of the Hai Van pass in the Annamite mountain range, a geographic barrier that some though was a physical division between Cuora bourreti and its northern relative Cuora galbinifrons.

Confirmation of the species in Sao La Nature Reserve will make it a priority for future research and conservation of the species with the need to creating a better understanding of distribution and threats within the reserve.

The survey was carried out by ATP team, rangers and three volunteers from Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry. The survey was a part of conservation projects supported by the Critically Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ) and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF).

Written by: Hoang Van Ha & Nguyen Van Luc – Asian Turtle Program

11th December 2011

Survey by: Hoang Van Ha, Nguyen Van Luc, Nguyen Tai Thang and Ha Thi Nga - Asian Turtle Program Field Officers
Le Thanh Huong – Sao La Nature Reserve, Scientific Department

Nguyen Ba Duong, Truong Thi Thu Thao and Nguyen Xuan Hoang - Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry







Above: This Bourret's Box Turtle (Cuora bourreti) was found near a stream in Sao La Nature Reserve

Above: Hoang Van Ha (ATP) collects morphometric data on the turtle while explaining the process to volunteer students from Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry

Above: Rangers and the ATP team completed a field record for the turtle before releasing back into the wild

Above: Sao La Nature Reserve is 12.105,9 ha with plenty of good habitat for the critically endangered Cuora bourreti remaining

Above: Footprints of wild ungulates were also recorded. Sao La Nature Reserve is one site WWF is working in the hope of confirming Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)

Above: Vogel's Pit Viper (Viridovipera vogeli) seen during the survey in Sao La Nature Reserve


Thank you:


We would like to thank Sao La Nature Reserve and Thua Thien Hue Province Forest Protection Department for support during the survey and WWF who provided useful information for the site and the rangers of A Tep Station and volunteers who participated in the survey. We would also like to thank the Critically Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF) for supporting the survey.

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For more information please contact:

Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metoparks Zoo,
Office: Room#1302, Thanh Cong Tower, 57 Lang Ha Street,
Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tel: +84 (0) 4 3514 9750
Fax: +84 (0) 4 3519 0383




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