Cuora bourreti 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Geoemydidae

Scientific Name: Cuora bourreti
Species Authority: Obst & Reimann, 1994
Common Name(s):
English Bourret’s Box Turtle
Cistoclemmys galbinifrons ssp. bourreti (Obst & Reimann, 1994)
Cuora galbinifrons ssp. bourreti Obst & Reimann, 1994
Taxonomic Source(s): Fritz, U., Petzold, A. and Auer, M. 2006. Osteology in the Cuora galbinifrons complex suggests conspecifity of C. bourreti and C. galbinifrons, with notes on shell osteology and phalangeal formulae within the Geoemydidae. Amphibia-Reptilia 27: 195-205.
Taxonomic Notes: Elevated from subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons by Stuart and Parham (2004), this elevation was rejected by Fritz et al. (2006), but supported by Spinks et al. (2012) and TTWG (2014). The common name in Vietnamese is  Rua hop bua-re.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2bd+4bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-07-01
Assessor(s): McCormack, T. & Stuart, B.
Reviewer(s): Rhodin, A.G.J. & van Dijk, P.P.
Contributor(s): Roberton, S. & Blanck, T.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): van Dijk, P.P. & Rhodin, A.G.J.
Cuora bourreti has been subject to intensive exploitation since the 1990s across its range, primarily for consumption and secondarily for the pet and farming / aquaculture trades. Trade volumes have collapsed in recent years and field surveys indicate the species to be rare; an estimated population collapse of over 90% over the past 60 years (three generations, at 20 years per generation time), and predicted to continue for the next 20 years, is likely an underestimate. The species qualifies for listing as Critically Endangered (CR) under criteria A2bd and A4bd. Cuora bourreti was part of the assessment of Cuora galbinifrons as CR in 2000, at that time being considered a subspecies.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Cuora bourreti is known from central Viet Nam (Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, and Kon Tum provinces), as well as from adjoining Savannakhet Province in Lao PDR (Obst and Reimann 1994, Nguyen et al. 2009, Stuart et al. 2011).
Countries occurrence:
Lao People's Democratic Republic; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):300
Upper elevation limit (metres):1800
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No absolute population size numbers or estimates are available for Cuora bourreti, and only anecdotal relative population density data. All recent indications are that the species requires extensive search effort to encounter. During field surveys in Lao PDR in 1993–1999, encounter rates were on the order of one turtle per three months in the field for a herpetologist, and one Cuora galbinifrons per day when working with a trained turtle hunting dog in prime turtle habitat (Stuart and Timmins 2000). A great deal of survey work has been undertaken in Viet Nam between 2009–2012 focused on determining the range and priority habitat for the C. galbinifrons group, with a focus on C. bourreti and C. picturata. Anecdotal information from interviews throughout the range has found that historic quantities of the species available for collection in the forest have been greatly reduced, with many hunters stating that while the species was common 7–15 years ago, it is now increasingly difficult to find. During surveys in 2006 in and around Song Thanh Nature Reserve, Quang Nam province, local hunters at that time claimed that numbers of C. bourreti had already been seriously depleted, from being able to catch 20 animals a day in the in the mid 1990s to only a few animals a week by 2006. However, the increasing economic value of the species by 2012 to an average of US$15.00 per kg is an increase from 2006, when surveys found an average value of US$9.00 around Song Thanh Nature Reserve, Quang Nam province. Similar reports of reductions in wild populations, and corresponding increases in wholesale prices paid, have been documented during interviews throughout the species range in Viet Nam (McCormack, unpubl. data). Most specimens end in the Chinese pet and TCM trade, where the species currently reaches prices of $150, compared to $20 in 2005.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Cuora bourreti inhabits upland, moist, closed-canopy evergreen forest, usually between 300 and 700 m altitude. The species is predominantly terrestrial and is not specifically associated with forest streams (Stuart and Platt 2004, Stuart et al. 2011; McCormack unpubl. data). Cuora bourreti is a medium-sized turtle, reaching up to 19-20 cm carapace length at a weight of about 800 to 1,200 grams. Males and females reach about the same size. Hatchlings measure about 45–50 mm and weigh 15–24 g. Extremely little is known of the biology of C. bourreti in the wild; most observations on diet, growth, and reproduction derive from animals maintained in captivity, either close to the species’ natural range, or in artificially manipulated captive conditions such as terrariums. Slow growth to maturity (10–15 yrs) is combined with low fecundity; in captivity a single clutch of 1–3 large eggs (55 x 30 mm) is seen each year in Cuc Phuong National Park where a small group is maintained (McCormack unpubl. data; T. Blanck unpubl. data). Similar clutch sizes of 1–3 eggs have been reported from long-term captive animals kept in Europe and North America (Fiebig and Lehr 2000, Struijk 2010). 

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):20
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Historically Cuora bourreti has been consumed locally for food as part of a subsistence diet; however, in the last decade consumption has largely ceased, with most animals now sold into the trade due to the high economic incentive. Juvenile animals are often kept at the village level in attempts to raise them to sell on into the trade (often unsuccessful, with animals dying). The species does not have specific local medicinal uses, but bones are often sold to traders for production of bone glue. In some areas turtles of all species are consumed as broad “health invigorators”. The Cuora galbinifrons group represents the second most valuable type of turtle in trade in Viet Nam and Lao PDR after the C. trifasciata complex. The UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database records a total of 2377 live specimens and 17 specimens of Cuora galbinifrons as net and gross exports during the period 1998–2014. The UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database does not specify subspecies; thus its data cannot be used to elucidate trends in the trade of C. galbinifrons sensu stricto, C. bourreti or C. picturata. Searches of internet fora and bulletin boards occasionally yields offers of C. bourreti for sale, often claimed to be bred in captivity; the veracity of such claims is often difficult to confirm without contacting the studbook keeper. All turtle shells are bought in Viet Nam by traders to make into a generic bone glue, plastrons are normally preferred. In some areas shell fragments are discarded. In many areas shells considered beautiful are kept as household decorations. Visible trade in C. galbinifrons at Hanoi’s principal wildlife market, Don Xuan, stopped by about 2006 due to better market enforcement. Prior to this, dozens of C. galbinifrons, including the taxon bourreti, were regularly available each week, these were often juvenile animals and intended for the pet market, not food. It is believed that most Cuora traded in Viet Nam are exported to Chinese markets. Cuora galbinifrons was present in nearly every reported market survey that looked at turtle trade in China and Hong Kong since recording began in 1993, with bourreti usually present if precise taxonomic identification was recorded. All these animals appeared wild caught and most were offered in the food markets (Lau et al. 1995; Artner and Hofer 2001; Wang et al. 2004; Gong et al. 2005, 2006, 2009; Cheung and Dudgeon 2006; Wu 2007). Cheung and Dudgeon (2006) recorded over 15,000 C. galbinifrons (including bourreti) traded in Hong Kong markets alone during the period 2000–2003; comparing this to the total of 905 C. galbinifrons that were recorded in the CITES trade database as exported during this same period worldwide (see above) suggests the scale of illegal and unrecorded trade. The volume of C. galbinifrons in visible trade continues to be highly significant in recent years; market surveys by Wildlife Conservation Society during 2008–2011 in Guangzhou, China, documented 1826 animals observed in food markets, and another 1944 animals recorded in the local pet trade (S. Roberton pers. comm. 2012), but with no numbers provided for the proportion of bourreti animals.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary threat to Cuora bourreti is collection for trade. The species is in high demand in the international pet trade and the Asian consumption trade. Collection efforts include both targeted searches for turtles involving trained dogs, or occasionally pitfall traps, as well as capitalizing on casual turtle encounters when collecting other forest products. Turtles, of any species, are collected whenever and wherever encountered in the region, regardless of legal protection status or location inside protected areas. Collected turtles are traded, mostly illegally, through a network of local middlemen before being exported or consumed locally. Increasing economic value has ensured that hunting pressure is sustained despite the increasing rarity of the species (Hendrie 2000, Stuart and Timmins 2000, McCormack et al. 2010, Stuart et al. 2011). Habitat loss and degradation are considered a significant but more localized threat to the species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Cuora bourreti was listed in CITES Appendix II (as C. galbinifrons bourreti) under Criteria B i and B ii., by unanimous adoption at CoP 11 (CoP11 Prop.36), which came into effect on 19 July 2000. A zero quota was imposed for Cuora galbinifrons (including bourreti and picturata as subspecies) at CoP16 (CoP16 Prop.32), effective 12 June 2013. Cuora bourreti is protected from commercial exploitation in Viet Nam as a Priority Protected Rare, Precious and Endangered Species under Decree 160/2013/ND-CP of the Government. In Laos, Cuora galbinifrons is listed under Prohibited Category I, the highest protective category, banning hunting and collection year-round, of the Wildlife and Aquatic Species Law (No07/NA 24 December 2007). The genus Cuora, including Cuora bourreti, is included in Annex B of EU Commission Regulation no. 709/2010 (amending EC Regulation 338/97), which requires that a corresponding import permit must be issued by the country of import before a shipment of the species can enter the European Union. Habitat conservation, in the form of National Parks, Special Conservation Areas, and other protected areas, is in place across much of the range of Cuora bourreti, and several records of these turtles originate from inside protected areas (Stuart and Platt 2004, McCormack et al. 2006, Stuart et al. 2011). However, designation as protected area does not necessarily lead to effective restrictions on the collection of turtles and other ‘forest products’, and is insufficient by itself to safeguard viable populations of the species in its natural habitat.

Citation: McCormack, T. & Stuart, B. 2016. Cuora bourreti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T163447A1009344. . Downloaded on 20 February 2017.
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