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Investigating the tortoise and freshwater turtle fauna of Xuan Nha Nature Reserve in the highlands of northern Vietnam

From the 15th to the 28th of August 2011 a field survey focused on tortoise and freshwater turtles was completed in Xuan Nha Nature Reserve, Son La province, Vietnam. The surveys are part of a joint project of research and conservation on the critically endangered Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons) by the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo working with the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) of Hanoi University.

Interviews from the 15th to 19th of August found five specimens of four turtle species in the buffer zone to the reserve with a total of eight species described as occurring in the heavily forest reserve. Field surveys were conducted in the hope of confirming some important species as present in the reserve and to gain a better understand of range and habitat preference.

Surveys near Bún village located close to the core zone of the nature reserve were undertaken using three techniques, timed transect search, non-lethal aquatic trapping and hunting/survey dogs. During the first day of survey the team were excited to find one endangered Black Breasted Leaf Turtles (Geoemyda spengleri) and an endangered Big Headed Turtle (Platysternon megacephalum). The teams luck continued during the next five days, with an additional Platysternon megacephalum, another Geoemyda spengleri as well as an Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) all being found. Although the Indochinese Box Turtle was not seen in the wild during this survey its believed the elevation the team surveyed (700 to 1,100m) was too high for this species. In villages around the nature reserve the team observed additional specimens of other species. Including the Four Eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata), Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons) and the Keeled Box Turtle (Cuora mouhotii).

These first surveys proved very exciting and clearly indicate that Xuan Nha Nature Reserve has excellent diversity in its turtle species and potentially maintains good populations.


Press release by: Le Mai Thanh Tram & Tim McCormack – Asian Turtle Program

Date: 5th October 2011


Download this press release PDF here: English pdf

Good first day – A Geomyda spengleri was found just visible under a bush

Le Thanh Tram – ATP explaining to Đặng Thị Lý - a volunteer student form Vietnam Forest University how to measure a Platysternon megacephalum before release

In some areas conversion to farm land in Xuan Nha Nature Reserve

Juvenile Manouria impressa in the wild

A Big Headed Turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) back at base camp to complete a field record

A view down the valley from Xuan Nha Nature Reserve


Thank you:


We would like to thank the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Birdlife International and Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) for supporting this project.

This project was also conducted in partnership with the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRESS) of Hanoi University.

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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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