New enclosure for the Endangered Big-headed Turtle in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam

Despite temperatures reaching almost 40°C on some days, the construction has been completed on 21 new deep-water enclosures for the Big-headed Turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) at the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) in Cuc Phuong National Park, northern Vietnam. The centre, co-managed by the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo Myanmar Conservation (IMC) and the National Park, supports the rescue, rehabilitation, conservation breeding and release of tortoises and freshwater turtles, and is home to 22 of Vietnam’s 26 native species.

The endangered Big-headed Turtle is a species which has been seen in large numbers in the illegal wildlife trade since 2014, with 458 animals confiscated. Together, the TCC and ATP/IMC have released 224 Big-headed Turtles back into the wild at a number of protected areas in Vietnam. 107 turtles are currently held at TCC and we hope some more of these can be released next year.

The outer cage for the enclosures will protect this precious population from poachers. Photos credit: Nguyen Thu Thuy – ATP/IMC

The new enclosures are designed to house a breeding population for the species and are made up of more specialised enclosures than those for other species, due to their aggressive nature and need for cool, clean, and ideally flowing water. A breeding population for the Big-headed Turtle will form a safety net for the species and will help raise turtles which can be released back into the wild in the future to boost wild populations.

We are grateful to Cuc Phuong National Park, the Fondation Segré Conservation Fund, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and a number of private donors for supporting the construction of this new enclosure at the TCC, and to all of our other donors who support our work at the TCC.

Date: 20th December 2021
Press release by: Timothy McCormack & Nguyen Thu Thuy ATP/IMC

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