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The begining of a new breeding group of Annam turtle, Annamemys annamensis

Jose María López Sánchez*, Dr. Juan Manuel Gómez de Berrazueta*, Andrea González Pardo de Santayana **



** Fundación Zoo de Santillana (

Originally from Vietnam, Annam turtle, Annamemys (Mauremys) annamensis, is a little known species of turtle that is among the 25 most endangered chelonian species in the world according to data from the IUCN (1).

For 65 years it was considered extinct in the wild, not knowing any wild population from 1941 to 2006, when it is discovered in the province of Quang Nam, the last stronghold of the species (2). Probably this is the origin of all subsequent exports to Europe and America, which would further decrease their numbers in the wild, but because of them there is a small number of breeding groups of this species in captivity both in zoos and in private collections (1).

Surprisingly, in the years that were not known wild populations, this turtle appeared with some frequency in turtle shipments destined for pet trade, usually mixed with Cuora amboinensis kamaroma despite the clear difference due to the presence of hinge in the genus Cuora. However due to the similarity of the two species in terms of coloration of the carapace and head, with yellow bands very similar in both, many specimens were misidentified by inexperienced sellers and buyers.

Though it is a protected species, currently in Annex II of CITES (3) as happens with most Asian turtles, remaining populatons in the wild are decimated by the unstoppable appetite of China market and the traditional pharmacopoeia in Vietnam (1).

In addition, illegal trade of it for private collectors also exists to the point that there has been a special case, since it has been detected an attempt of illegally bringing specimens of this species in China, but not from Vietnam, but from Europe, in this case from Valencia (Spain).

In December 2011 the SEPRONA (Spanish Service of Nature Conservation) was advised by the post office in Quart de Poblet (Valencia), than in the routine inspection of a package to Hong Kong had been located two turtles.

Fortunately both animals were in good health and were deposited by the SEPRONA on the Bioparc facilites, pending the determination of the species, in which the association SOHEVA collaborated. It was an adult couple of Annamemys annamensis. A small story on this even was issued on "Guamipi", a program of RTVV (4) .

Two months later, in February 2012, and without knowledge of these facts, a member of SOHEVA located in Santander (Cantabria), made contact for private purposes with an advertiser, who was located in Bilbao, that was offering a specimen of Cuora amboinensis on a website. Although photography was not clear, there were some differences that call into question that identification.

New photographs provided by the seller showed that the animal was not really a Cuora amboinensis, but a specimen of Annamemys annamensis that was in the seller facilities since 2000.

CITES authorities in Bilbao (SOIVRE) authorized its acquisition by a document of transfer, but only for its maintenance, not been possible its inclusion in a breeding group by a particular due to the lack of official documentation of the origin of the animal. Despite this impediment and without more specimens of this species, to prevent the loss of the animal, this member of SOHEVA traveled from Santander to Bilbao for its acquisition. It turned out to be a large female and in good health.

Meanwhile, the two specimens from the confiscation of SEPRONA in Valencia were transferred from the Bioparc, who could not take care of them, to the deposit facility of exotic animals of Valencia Town Hall, pending a final destination.

During this waiting period, which lasted a year, the female came to lay eggs, but the facilities have not allowed their incubation.

So the SOHEVA finds two females and a male from one of the most endangered species of turtle in the world and virtually disappeared in the wild.

These three specimens are not related to none of the currently existing breeding groups and its genetic importance for breeding made SOHEVA to contact the breeding program of IUCN and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to report them and ask for assistance in the formation of a new breeding group.

Peter Paul van Dijk and Harald G. Artner offered to prepare accurate reports to inform of the importance of these animals, but finally it was not necessary, since the SOHEVA contacted with the different administrations and SOIVRE of Valencia authorizes the transfer of the animals to a zoo, but not to a particular facilities.

Because of this condition, in Santander aid was requested from the Santillana Zoo Foundation who gives one of its facilities for maintenance a breeding group. This facility was provided by the Zoo only if it is the SOHEVA who keeps the monitoring of the breeding group. This work will be carried out by biologist Dr. Gomez de Berrazueta, who privately acquired the specimen from Bilbao .

Meanwhile SOIVRE Bilbao, given the importance of captive breeding of this species, authorizes the inclusion of the female acquired in Bilbao to the breeding project.

Having completed all the legal paperwork, all animals were deposited in the Santillana Zoo Foundation facilities in mid-December 2012 for start the Annamemys annamensis breeding project, overseen by SOHEVA following the recommendations of Dr. Harald G. Artner, experienced breeder, inter alia, of the species (5) .

We can only hope that this new breeding group will allow us to give you good news in the shortest possible time.


Download this press release PDF here: English pdf


(1) Turtle Conservation Coalition (Rhodin, A.G.J., Walde, A.D.; Horne, B.D.; van Dijk, P.P., Blanck, T. and Hudson, R. (Eds.). 2011. Turtles in Trouble: The World's 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles—2011. Lunenburg, MA: IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservancy, Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and San Diego Zoo Global, 54 pp.

(2) Asian Turtle Network: Mauremys annamensis recorded in natural habitat after 65 years.

(3) Reglamento (UE) 101/2012 de la Comisión, de 6 de febrero de 2012, que modifica el Reglamento (CE) 338/97 del Consejo, relativo a la protección de especies de la fauna y flora silvestres mediante el control de su comercio.

(4) RTVV: Guamipi nº274 ( http:// )

(5) Artner, H.G. 2007. Chilling the eggs during incubation as the key to successful breeding of the Annam Leaf turtle Mauremys annamensis (SIEBENROCK, 1903). Emys 14.1. 19–32.




From SOHEVA we want to thank the collaboration of all staff of Santillana Zoo Foundation, for the transfer of its facilities and the work they will face in this project; thank all the inspectors and staff of Bilbao and Valencia SOIVRE without whose legal and documentary help this project could never begin, thank to the staff of the deposit facility of exotic animals of Valencia Town Hall for taking care of the couple for a year, and finally thanks to the IUCN and Turtle Survival Alliance for its cooperation.


For more information please contact:

Jose María López (



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