Turtle and Tortoise

Tortoise and freshwater turtle species diversity in the Southeast Asia Region is one of the greatest in the world with over 90 species, over 25% of all known tortoise and freshwater turtle species, occurring in the region.  Yet despite this high diversity and the importance of the Southeast Asia region for tortoise and freshwater turtles many of these species are amongst the most endangered in the world.  A 2011 review of global tortoise and freshwater turtle species placed 17 Asian species in the top 25 most endangered globally and 25 within the top 40.

Vietnam is home to 25 species of tortoise and freshwater turtles including two endemic species, the Southern Vietnamese Box Turtle (Cuora picturata) and the Vietnamese Pond Turtle (Mauremys annamensis). Both of these species are considered critically endangered with populations on the decline. The Vietnamese Pond Turtle is extremely scarce and only found in the central region of Vietnam, the Southern Vietnamese Box Turtle is found in Southern provinces surrounding Phú Yên and Khánh Hòa provinces.


The illegal trade of turtles and tortoises in Vietnam is considered to be the greatest threats to survival for all 25 species. There is high demand for turtles and tortoises in the Asian consumption market, for use as traditional medicine and for the international pet trade.

Habitat destruction forms another threat for turtle and tortoise species in Vietnam. In particular, the Vietnamese Pond Turtle is not believed to occur in any areas that are protected in Vietnam, leaving them susceptible to poaching and habitat destruction.

What do we do?

WCS Vietnam work at a high level with the Vietnamese authorities to build capacity and shape policy which enables effective oversight of illegal wildlife trade activities.

We build intelligence on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests.

This intelligence work regularly concludes with turtle specimens being confiscated from illegal wildlife networks.

WCS Vietnam is also committed to the recovery of the Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) turtle amongst other species. There are only 3 known living Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle, one in Vietnam and two at a Suzhou zoo in China. At Suzhou zoo efforts to breed the pair of turtles has so far been unsuccessful. In Vietnam WCS is working on a project to survey areas with reported sightings of these turtles to determine whether any other wild populations occur and can be conserved


Turtle Conservation Coalition [Rhodin, A.G.J., Walde, A.D., Horne, B.D., van Dijk, P.P., Blanck, T., and Hudson, R. (Eds.)]. 2011. Turtles in Trouble: The World’s 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles—2011. Lunenburg, MA: IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservancy, Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and San Diego Zoo Global, 54 pp.

McCormack, T., Stuart, B. & Blanck, T. 2016. Cuora picturata. (errata version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T163463A115303820. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 12 July 2017.

Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 2000. Mauremys annamensis. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2000: e.T12876A97370458. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 12 July 2017.

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