Cuora picturata 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Geoemydidae

Scientific Name: Cuora picturata
Species Authority: Lehr, Fritz & Obst, 1998
Common Name(s):
English Southern Viet Nam Box Turtle
Cistoclemmys galbinifrons ssp. picturata (Lehr, Fritz & Obst, 1998) -- Bour 2002
Cistoclemmys picturata (Lehr, Fritz & Obst, 1998) -- Vetter 2006
Cuora galbinifrons ssp. picturata Lehr, Fritz & Obst, 1998
Taxonomic Source(s): Spinks, P.Q., Thomson, R.C., Zhang, Y.P., Che, J., Wu, Y. and Shaffer, H.B. 2012. Species boundaries and phylogenetic relationships in the critically endangered Asian box turtle genus Cuora. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63: 656–667.
Taxonomic Notes: Elevated from a subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons by Stuart and Parham (2004); species status was contested by Fritz et al. (2006a), and reaffirmed by Spinks et al. (2012) and accepted by TTWG (2014). The common name in Vietnamese is Rua hop viet nam.

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. & Blanck, T.
Reviewer(s): Rhodin, A.G.J., van Dijk, P.P. & Horne, B.D.
Contributor(s): Roberton, S.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Rhodin, A.G.J. & van Dijk, P.P.
Cuora picturata is restricted in its occurrence to a small area in southern Viet Nam, where it remains subject to intensive collection pressures for human consumption, pet and farming / aquaculture trades. Documented trade volumes indicate a collapse of populations over the past three decades of over 90% which is extrapolated back to cover the past 60 years (three generations), and collection pressure for the last remaining individuals is likely to continue if not increase in the next 20 years. The species therefore qualifies for listing as Critically Endangered (CR). Cuora picturata was assessed in 2000 as Critically Endangered as part of Cuora galbinifrons, of which it was considered a subspecies at that time.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Cuora picturata is apparently restricted to the eastern slopes of the Langbian Plateau, being known only from Khanh Hoa and southern Phu Yen provinces of southern Viet Nam (Ly et al. 2011; Struijk and Blanck 2016; Blanck et al. 2016). May also occur in eastern Dac Lac and northern Ninh Thuan provinces. By analogy with the biogeography of better-surveyed syntopic primates, Ly et al. (2011) postulated that the Cuora galbinifrons-bourreti-picturata group inhabits three discrete, disjunct hill forest areas, of which the range of C. picturata matches that of the Yellow-cheeked Gibbon (Hylobates gabriellae) and Black-shanked Douc Langur (Pygathrix nigripes) in being restricted to the eastern slopes of the Langbian Plateau. This region covers an area of less than 250 x 100 km (25,000 sq. km). Cuora picturata was originally, at the time of its description in the late 1990s, speculated to possibly occur in eastern Cambodia, as no confirmed field localities were known and specimens only showed up in turtle trade in southern Viet Nam, at points known to be part of the trade routes from Cambodia to Viet Nam and onwards. However, surveys in Cambodia have failed to find any indication of the species there, while the discovery of wild specimens on the Langbian Plateau (Ly et al. 2011) explains how specimens would be part of turtle trade in southern Viet Nam.

Countries occurrence:
Viet Nam
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:3000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:25000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Lower elevation limit (metres):300
Upper elevation limit (metres):600
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Population density of Cuora picturata is considered to be low. Ly et al. (2011) carried out field surveys throughout representative periods of the year, and required 15 days of a 4-person team with three trained hunting dogs (60 man-days, or 480 man-hours; 45 dog days or 360 dog hours) to encounter eight turtles, translating to 60 man-hours and/or 45 dog-hours per turtle. During a field survey in May 2012 in Deo Ca–Hon Nua Special Use Forest (a traditional collecting area in Phu Yen province, Viet Nam), a team of five dogs (four local hunting dogs and one trained survey dog) found only a single C. picturata and two C. mouhotii during a week of searching in which dogs were actively used over 21.7 km of transects (McCormack, unpubl. data; Blanck et al. 2016). Assuming that a team of dogs works a strip of a minimum width of 100 m, and finds half of all exposed and hidden turtles, this calculates to an estimated density of less than one C. picturata per sq. km, or one turtle per 280 dog hours. 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 concluded that historic quantities of the species available for collection in the forest have been greatly reduced, with many hunters stating that while these box turtles were common 7–15 years ago, they are now increasingly difficult to find. The overall extent of occurrence (EOO) of C. picturata is less than 25,000 sq. km, of which much is likely unsuitable as a result of being below or above suitable altitude, as well as large areas of suitable habitat at suitable elevation having been converted to agricultural purposes. The remaining area with suitable habitat (area of occupancy) for the species (AOO) is only about 3,000 km². The global surviving wild population is probably below 25,000 individuals, likely no more than 3,000-10,000 at best.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:3000-10000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The only habitat details available in the literature are based on the locations of nine animals in three surveyed localities: these animals were encountered on the forest floor of broadleaf evergreen forest mixed with bamboo forest, at altitudes between 346 and 561 m elevation (Ly et al. 2011; Blanck et al. 2016). Cuora picturata is a medium-sized turtle, reaching at least 19 cm carapace length at a weight of up to 1100 grams (Ly et al. 2011; Blanck, unpubl. data). 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. picturata in the wild; most observations on diet, growth and reproduction derive from animals maintained in captivity, either within or close to the species’ natural range, or in artificially manipulated captive conditions such as terrariums. Mature females of C. picturata can produce a single clutch of 1–3 eggs each year, with large eggs measuring up to 60 x 35 mm (Blanck, unpubl. data).
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 picturata has been consumed locally for food as part of a subsistence diet; in the last decade, however, 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) (McCormack, unpubl. data). Local residents collect and sell C. picturata to commercial traders; the species is readily collected with the assistance of hunting dogs, but difficult to find without them (Ly et al. 2011; McCormack, unpubl. data). The UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database records a total of 2,377 live specimens and 17 specimens of C. galbinifrons as net and gross exports during the period 1998–2014. The UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database does not specify subspecies; thus it cannot be used to elucidate trends in the trade of picturata as distinct from galbinifrons sensu lato. Most trade in C. picturata has been recorded as part of C. galbinifrons, without differentiating subspecies. Visible trade in C. galbininfrons at Hanoi’s principal wildlife market, Don Xuan, stopped by about 2006 due to better market enforcement. Prior to this, dozens of C. galbinifrons 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. The species was present in nearly every reported market survey that looked at turtle trade in China and Hong Kong since recording began in 1993. 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 recorded over 15,000 C. galbinifrons 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 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). Cuora picturata has not been evident in visible retail trade in China or Hong Kong recently (P.P. van Dijk pers. obs.). Of particular significance is that commercial turtle farms in East Asia create a specific demand for animals collected from the wild, being considered the primary purchasers of wild-collected turtles and driving the collection of the last remaining wild animals through increased trade prices (Shi et al. 2007). 


Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The primary threat to Cuora picturata is collection for trade. The species is in high demand in the international pet trade and the Asian consumption trade. Collection efforts are targeted and occur mainly as searches for turtles involving trained dogs. 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; McCormack et al. 2010; Ly et al. 2011). Habitat loss and degradation are considered a significant but more localized threat to the species (Ly et al. 2011).  Large areas of forest on the Langbian Plateau are being rapidly converted to coffee plantations and other agricultural lands. Only one of the three localities where C. picturata was found (Deo Ca Protected Forest) was protected at the time (Ly et al. 2011). Most animals end in the Chinese pet and TCM trade. Current prices in China are $150 for an adult, compared to $20 in 2005.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Cuora picturata 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. Cuora galbinifrons picturata was included in CITES Appendix II 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. The genus Cuora, including C. picturata, 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.  Only one of the three localities that was found to harbor C. picturata is currently protected (Deo Ca Protected Forest). Additional field surveys on the Langbian Plateau are needed to determine whether C. picturata occurs within any additional established protected areas that will safeguard it from deforestation and overharvesting, and if not, what can be done to mitigate its extinction in the wild (Ly et al. 2011). However, Deo Cao only protects the forest itself but not the animals living in it. Extensive timber logging was reported during a visit in 2012 showing that legal designations seemed to have little effect (Blanck et al. 2016).

Errata [top]

Errata reason: This errata assessment has been created because the map was accidentally left out of the version published previously.

Citation: McCormack, T., Stuart, B. & Blanck, T. 2016. Cuora picturata. (errata version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T163463A115303820. . Downloaded on 29 May 2017.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided