Tortoises and freshwater turtles remain one of the most highly traded vertebrate groups globally, despite an increase in focus on conservation and improved protection. The Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) in Cuc Phuong National Park is co-managed by the government of Vietnam and the Asian Turtle Programme. It is the country’s only specialised ex situ centre for threatened tortoises and freshwater turtles and leads on several globally important conservation breeding programmes. Large confiscations of threatened tortoises and freshwater turtles are not uncommon in Vietnam; these are animals confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade by the government and then transferred to the TCC for veterinary treatment and captive care. Priority species are included in globally important conservation breeding programmes. However, responding to these confiscations is challenging as they are unpredictable and when they do occur, require significant and specialised resources, which may not be available. In 2023, TCC received several confiscations of Bourret’s Box Turtles, Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle, and nearly 100 Asian Yellow Pond Turtles. A complication is that some of the confiscated turtles came from commercial farms and their species identity is impossible to confirm visually. Confirming which are purebred will be important for identifying which could be used for TCC’s conservation breeding programmes. Purebred individuals are needed to maintain the long-term viability of the conservation breeding programmes for all three ASAP Species.
ATP will support the TCC in Cuc Phuong National Park to build an additional quarantine block that can hold up to 250 animals. This will enable the TCC to provide adequate captive care to the large number of confiscated turtles received in 2023, and to respond better to any future, large, confiscations of illegally trade turtles and tortoises, particularly any priorities for conservation breeding. There will be genetic testing to confirm the species identities of the turtles confiscated from commercial farms and any purebred individuals will be incorporated into TCC’s globally important conservation breeding programmes.
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Photo credit: Asian Turtle Programme