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 accounting for  over 25% of all known tortoise and freshwater turtle species.  Yet despite this high diversity and the importance of the Southeast Asia region for tortoise and freshwater turtles, many of these species are among the most endangered in the world.  A 2011 review of global tortoise and freshwater turtle species from The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) placed 17 Asian species in the top 25 most endangered globally.

Viet Nam 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) with populations on the decline. The Vietnamese Pond Turtle is extremely scarce and only found in the central region of Viet Nam, the Southern Vietnamese Box Turtle is found in Southern provinces surrounding Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa provinces. 


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

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

What are we doing? 

WCS Viet Nam works with the Vietnamese government agencies to build capacity and inform policy which enables effective oversight of wildlife trade activities. We conduct research on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests. 
WCS Viet Nam is also committed to the recovery of the Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) among other species. There are only 3 known living Yangtze giant soft-shell turtles, one in Viet Nam 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.