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Keeled box turtle
(Cuora mouhotii)

 

IUCN Conservation status: ENDANGERED  

This species gets its name from the three large keels, or raised ridges, on its carapace. The body of the turtle is brownish in colour, ranging from tan to mahogany to dark brown (The Asian Turtle Consortium, 2007). As well as noticeable keels, the carapace is serrated at the rear, and occasionally also at the front. The plastron is yellow to light brown with a dark-brown smudge on each scute (Ernst, Altenburg and Barbour, 1997). Like other box turtles, the front of the lower shell is hinged, allowing them to fold it up when their head is withdrawn, and shut themselves in their protective ‘box' (The Asian Turtle Consortium, 2007). The head is brown with dark fine lines, and it has a short snout and a hooked, strong upper jaw. Males have longer and thicker tales than females, and often the sexes can also be distinguished by the colour of their irises (females tend to have orange or red eyes, whilst the irises of males are brown or black) (The Asian Turtle Consortium, 2007).

Distribution: The Keeled box turtle occurs in China,Vietnam, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand, Myanmar and in India (Ernst, Altenburg and Barbour, 1997; The Asian Turtle Consortium, 2007; EMBL Reptile Database, 2007).

Habitat: It is a terrestrial species that is found in forests (most likely in deep layers of leaf litter) of rocky, mountainous regions.

Threats: Despite its large distribution, it is thought that numbers of Cuora mouhotii have declined drastically in some areas, primarily because of over-collection for local consumption, and for the national and international food and pet trade. For example, between 1994 and 1999, 6560 Keeled box turtles were legally exported from Vietnam. This major threat is compounded by habitat loss and degradation, due to deforestation and shifting cultivation (CITES Proposals for Amendment of Appendices I and II, 2007).




Above: Because of the colour and the shape of the carapace Cuora mouhotii is perfectly camouflaged in leaf litter of its native habitat in limestone forests

Above: An adult Keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii) at the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park

 

 
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