Cuora aurocapitata (Luo & Zong 1988)

  • Cuora aurocapitata aurocapitata

  • Cuora aurocapitata dabieshani (Blanck, Protiva, Zhou, Li, Crow & Tiedemann 2017)

Cuora aurocapitata is a highly aquatic Asian box turtle, reaching a carapace length of 10–19.5 cm. C. aurocapitata is noticeably sexually dimorphic - males are smaller than females and have a flatter carapace and longer, thicker tail.

In 2017, the species was split into two subspecies: the nominate subspecies C. a. aurocapitata from southern Anhui, and Cuora aurocapitata dabieshani from central Anhui. Like many of the recently described Cuora, its scientific description in 1988 tightly foreshadowed its demise. From that year, it took scientists until 2004 to find the species in the wild again. While collection and consumption by villagers in the region had befallen C. aurocapitata for centuries, the pet and medicinal trades subsequently became alerted to this colorful species, leading quickly to unsustainable collection from the wild. By the late 1990s, the population of this endemic and rare species collapsed due to over-collecting, and also pollution and destruction of its habitat. This trend has been ongoing due to sand mining for China’s ever growing building industry, river regulations, hydroelectric dams, and harmful fishing techniques. No specimens have been recorded in China since 2013, and it is feared to be extinct in the wild. Worldwide captive stock is estimated to have reached 600–800 specimens and breeding success is increasing. Potential future release projects are hindered by the lack of existing habitat.