50

Yunnan Box Turtle

East Asia

50

Cuora yunnanensis

Endangered

  • Habitat pollution
  • Pet trade

The Yunnan Box Turtle from the Geoemydidae (formerly Bataguridae) family is an endemic turtle species of the Chinese Yunnan province. It was first described in 1906 and was suspected to be extinct until its rediscovery during a 2004 pet trade in Kunming City within the same province. Its subsequent genetic testing in 2007 proved that it wasn’t a hybrid but a pure Cuora Yunnanensis.

It is characterised as having high-domed, light-edged brown carapace with dark-edged individual shields. Its yellow plastron is flexible while its dark-hued long neck is also extendable. This non-migratory aquatic species is usually found near freshwater habitats. Though it is assumed to be omnivorous, it has a preference for meaty food such as fish, shrimp, and insects.

Its native habitat is now being surrounded by man-made settlements, tourism spots, and agricultural fields – all contributing to excessive pollution of both land and water areas. From insecticide residue and animal faecal matter up to monofilament fishing nets, all of these abound in and around the freshwater environments where the Yunnan Box Turtle is staying.

Pet trade of rare animals, though extremely forbidden, does not stop poachers from selling Yunnan Box Turtles in the international black market which could fetch up to $50,000.