Cuora galbinifrons 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Geoemydidae

Scientific Name: Cuora galbinifrons Bourret, 1940
Common Name(s):
English Indochinese Box Turtle , Flowerback Box Turtle
French Tortue-boîte à front jaune
Spanish Tortuga caja de Indochina
Cistoclemmys galbinifrons (Bourret, 1940)
Cuora galbinifrons ssp. serrata Iverson & McCord, 1992 - in part [hybrid]
Cyclemus flavomarginata ssp. hainanensis Li, 1958
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: Cuora galbinifrons previously included the taxa bourreti and picturata as subspecies; the latter two were elevated to full species rank by Stuart and Parham (2004) (though see Fritz et al. 2006 for dissenting perspective) and reconfirmed as full species by Spinks et al. (2012) and accepted by TTWG (2014). Cuora serrata is generally accepted to be a hybrid between C. galbinifrons and C. mouhotii (Parham et al. 2001, Shi et al. 2005). Cuora hainanensis (Li 1958), once considered a full species, later a galbinifrons subspecies, is now viewed as so similar to C. galbinifrons as to not require a separate designation (Stuart and Parham 2004). The common name in Vietnamese is Rua hop tran vang.

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., Shi, H. & Stuart, B.
Reviewer(s): Rhodin, A.G.J., van Dijk, P.P., Horne, B.D. & Lau, M.W.N.
Contributor(s): Roberton, S. & Blanck, T.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): van Dijk, P.P. & Rhodin, A.G.J.
Cuora galbinifrons 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. C. galbinifrons was assessed as CR in 2000, at that time including the taxa C. bourreti and Cpicturata as subspecies (now each assessed as separate species).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Cuora galbinifrons is confirmed to occur in Hainan and Guangxi in PR China, in northeastern Lao PDR, and in northern Viet Nam at least as far south as Nghe An province (Iverson 1992; de Bruin and Artner 1999; Stuart et al. 2002; Stuart and Parham 2004; Stuart and Platt 2004; Fritz and Havas 2007; Shi et al. 2008a; Wang et al. 2011; Blanck 2013; Som and Cottet 2016).
Countries occurrence:
China (Guangxi, Hainan); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):200
Upper elevation limit (metres):1800
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Wang et al. (2011) calculated a population density of 0.7862 Cuora galbinifrons per sq. km at Diaoluoshan Nature Reserve in Hainan, based on surveying six sampling areas with 424 baited traps over 6,360 trap-days. Elsewhere for C. galbinifrons, only anecdotal relative population density data are available. 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 at the order of one turtle per three months in the field for a herpetologist, and one C. 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 C. galbinifrons. Anecdotal information from interviews throughout the range inferred 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. Corresponding increases in wholesale prices paid have been documented during interviews throughout the species range in Viet Nam (McCormack, unpubl. data). Whereas C. galbinifrons was observed in substantial quantities in illegal trade shipments in the 1990s and early 2000s, only sporadic animals are observed in recent years, even though hunter interviews indicate that collection effort has not decreased, but the encounter rate has dropped precipitously. The conclusion that remaining populations have declined steeply (estimated over 90%) is reasonable.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Cuora galbinifrons inhabits upland, moist, closed-canopy forest, usually between c. 500 and 1,000 m altitude (Blanck 2013). The species is predominantly terrestrial and is not specifically associated with forest streams, though animals can swim relatively well and can be seen, at least in captivity, wallowing in shallow water or swampy areas. It is considered a cool forest turtle, with temperatures exceeding 28ºC often resulting in stress and poor incubation success in captive animals (Wang et al. 2011; McCormack, unpubl. data). Cuora galbinifrons is a medium-sized turtle, reaching up to 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. galbinifrons 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. The species appears to be omnivorous; its recorded diet includes bamboo shoots, fruit, earthworms, and carrion. Research on movement patterns, microhabitat use and other aspects of natural history have been carried out at the population of Diaoluoshan in Hainan, China (Wang et al. 2011). Slow growth to maturity (10–15 yrs) is combined with low fecundity; clutch size in the wild in Hainan was 1–2, with shelled eggs found in April and oviposition from late May to early July (J. Wang et al. unpubl. data). In captivity a single clutch of 1–3 eggs is seen each year in Cuc Phuong National Park where a small group is maintained (McCormack unpubl. data). Similar clutch sizes of 1–3 eggs have been reported from long-term captive animals kept in Europe and North America (de Bruin 1994; Struijk 2010). Generation time is conservatively estimated as 20 years.

Generation Length (years):20
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Historically Cuora galbinifrons 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. These turtles are readily collected with the assistance of hunting dogs, but difficult to find without them (Stuart and Timmins 2000). 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 C. 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 as net and gross exports during the period 1998–2014. 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 C. galbinifrons 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 alive 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, making it the fourth most traded turtle species at 4% of total; comparing this to the total of 73 live 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, in litt. to Viet Nam CITES Management Authority). Although legally protected in Lao PDR, trade continues almost unabated due to the porous border with Viet Nam and limited resources and capacity of law enforcement personnel (Stuart et al., 2011). 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). IUCN and TRAFFIC noted that reported seizures involving C. galbinifrons provide evidence of illegal activities involving this species, although it is unclear whether any/all of these shipments were destined for international markets. In 1998, Vietnamese authorities reported having seized an estimated 700 (800 kg) of turtles and tortoises of 13 species, of which a small number were C. galbinifrons, from a public bus destined for Hanoi. The trader claimed that the animals were raised on farms in southern Viet Nam, but information provided to the authorities suggested they were collected from the wild in Viet Nam, Lao PDR, and possibly Cambodia. The cargo was for possible onward shipment to the Chinese market. In 1999, an estimated 150 C. galbinifrons were among specimens seized from a truck travelling from Central Viet Nam to Hanoi, which, at the time, was the largest number of specimens of this species observed in a single trade seizure (Hendrie 1999). In 2004, 277 kg of turtles were seized en route to Vinh City, Viet Nam, of which an unknown number were C. galbinifrons; police suspected that the turtles came across the border from Lao PDR.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary threat to Cuora galbinifrons has been collection for trade. The species continues to be 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). Habitat loss and degradation are considered a significant but more localized threat to the species (Stuart and Timmins 2000; Hendrie 2000).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Cuora galbinifrons was included in CITES Appendix II on 19 July 2000. A zero quota was imposed for C. galbinifrons effective 12 June 2013. The genus Cuora, including C. galbinifrons, is included in Annex B of European Union 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. Since 10 May 2006, imports of wild specimens of C. galbinifrons from China have been subject to an EU import suspension (implemented on the basis of Article 4(6)(b) Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97). EU import suspensions have been in place for imports of wild specimens of this species from Viet Nam and Lao PDR since 26 November 2010.

P.R. ChinaCuora galbinifrons is included in the list of National Protected Terrestrial Wild Animals that are Beneficial, or with Important Economic and Scientific Research Value, which was published by the State Forestry Administration in 2000; these listed species form part of the People’s Republic of China Wild Animals Protection Law (1989). The specie occurs in a protected area on Hainan (Wang et al. 2011).

Lao P.D.R.: Cuora galbinifrons is listed under Prohibited Category I of the Wildlife and Aquatic Species Law (No07/NA 24 December 2007), the highest protective category, banning hunting and collection year-round.

Viet Nam: Cuora galbinifrons is protected from commercial exploitation as a Priority Protected Rare, Precious and Endangered Species under Decree 160/2013/ND-CP of the Government.

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 galbinifrons, and several records of these turtles originate from inside protected areas (Stuart and Platt 2004; McCormack et al. 2006). However, designation as a 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.

Range-wide improved enforcement of existing laws and regulations to combat illegal collection and trade of this species, accompanied by local community awareness, engagement and alternative livelihoods provisions, are desperately needed if Cuora galbinifrons is to survive in the wild.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Unknown
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:High Impact: 9 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.3. Harvest & Trade Management Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.3. Trade trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

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Citation: McCormack, T., Shi, H. & Stuart, B. 2016. Cuora galbinifrons. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T97357437A3078734. . Downloaded on 18 August 2018.
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