The Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) in Cuc Phuong National Park in central Ninh Binh Province on Monday received 71 endemic Vietnamese turtles that had been sent back after being bred for five years in two European countries.
The turtles, which were returned from the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands and the Munster Zoo in Germany, are the first to be bred overseas and returned to Vietnam, said Truong Quang Bich, director of the Park.
They are Vietnamese pond turtles (Mauremys anamnesis), one of three endemic freshwater turtle species in Vietnam, found only in lowland wetlands, rivers, lakes, and ponds in some central provinces.
These 71 turtles will join the more than 200 others already being rescued at the TCC. Most of them have been handed to the center by concerned agencies that seized them from illegal traders of wildlife, and by locals who voluntarily offered their turtles to the center. A small part of them have been born in the center, Bich said.
As part of the Mauremys Annamensis Project (MAP) managed by the Asian Turtle Programme (ATP), all the turtles will be released into their best habitat in central Quang Ngai province in the future, when their ability of adaptation to outside living environment is improved, said the TCC’s director, Bui Dang Phong.
The population of this turtle species in Vietnam is rapidly declining due to poaching, illegal trade, and lost habitats. Therefore, more efforts are therefore needed to protect them against extinction, Bich said.
The species is currently classified as critically endangered in both the Vietnam Red Book and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Cuc Phuong National Park, which is is Vietnam's first national park and is the country's largest nature reserve, is one of the most significant sites for biodiversity in Vietnam.
The Park’s turtle conservation center was set up in 1998 to be home to some of the most endangered turtles in Vietnam, including the Vietnamese pond turtles.