28 August 2013

Two of the rarest turtles in the world have hatched here at Chester Zoo.

They are the first golden coin turtles to be bred in the UK this year. Golden coin turtles, which are native to China and Vietnam, are critically endangered in the wild with their numbers in huge decline due largely to their over-collection for the southern Asian food markets.

Herpetology keeper Ruth Smith said: “Asian turtle species have undergone massive declines in recent years. They are overexploited and hundreds of thousands of them are traded annually for human consumption. The golden coin turtle has suffered particularly badly and the species is now right on the very edge of extinction.”

Also known as Chinese three-striped box turtles, the species is also hunted for its use in traditional medicines and is highly sought-after by the pet trade due to their striking colours.

Ruth added: “Golden coin turtles have a bright pinkish-orange underside and a colourful head, making them one of the most attractive of all species of turtle. But their beauty has made them incredibly valuable to the pet trade and this has sadly, yet inevitably, led to their over-collection from the wild.

“Whether or not we can now save this stunning species is touch and go but at the very least, the skills and techniques our keepers are developing by breeding these turtles here and the intensive care they are giving them will go a long way towards helping conserve other similar species that thankfully do have a better long-term chance of survival.”

 

Turtle facts

• The Latin name for the golden coin turtle is Cuora trifasciata • The species is classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species • The Chinese three-striped box turtle is omnivorous, feeding on a range of animals from earthworms and crabs to fishes and frogs, as well as fruit