Thua Thien Hue Province in central Vietnam is famous for its historic citadel dating from the 17th century, but the province also has spectacular forest habitat and important wildlife including Saola (Pseudoryc nghetinhensis), large antlered muntjac (Muntjacus vuquangensis), Truong Son muntjac (M. truongsonensis) and may even still support some of Vietnam’s last Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris). From the semi-arid coastal lowland the terrain rises to the west where the lush tropical forest of the protected areas of Bach Ma National Park and the new Sao La Nature Reserve are found.
From the 1st to 9th of June and from 5th to 10th of December 2011 two intensive interview surveys were conducted throughout the province by the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo focused on collecting hunting and trade data to identify potential habitat for critically endangered and endemic turtle species, priorities for conservation in the province.
Hue city and all eight districts of Thua Thien Hue province were visited and 70 interviews conducted with over 42 field records completed for nine species observed, including: Cuora bourreti, Mauremys sinensis, Platysternon megacephalum, Cuora mouhotii, Manouria impressa, Sacalia quadriocellata, Cyclemys tcheponensis, Cyclemys pulchristriata andPelodiscus sinensis. Information was also collected on hunting traditions, techniques and changes in wild turtle populations observed by rural communities.
Five of the species observed are considered endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN 2011 but of particular interest to the team were the two live individuals and seven shells of Bourret’s Box Turtle (Cuora bourreti) seen, this critically endangered and endemic box shell turtle is only found in a few provinces of central Vietnam although its range likely extends across into Laos. The species is a conservation priority for the ATP with these surveys indicating Cuora bourreti occurs north of the Hai Van Pass mountain range south of Hue, previous thought to be a geographic division with the northern Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons). Some hunters keeping shells of Cuora bourreti also reported the species is still common in Nam Dong district where local communities still catch and eat these turtles.
Chinese Stripped Necked Turtles (Mauremys sinensis)are an increasingly threatened species in Vietnam due to their occurrence in lowland wetland areas where habitat has been rapidly lost and the species is more often hunted. Phu Loc district was identified as a good site for future survey work where this species might still survive in the wild and would be of interest to the team.
The two live Cuora bourreti seen were kept in an aquarium store in Hue city. Following the survey Thua Thien Hue province Forest Protection Department (FPD) were notified about the animals which were successfully confiscated and released in the Sao La Nature Reserve in the west of the province.
Press release by:
Ha Thi Nga & Timothy McCormack – Asian Turtle Program
8th February 2012
The team would like to thank the Forest Protection Department (FPD) of Thua Thien Hue province for their assistance with the surveys and The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ), the Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).