Cuora flavomarginata - What do we do?
What is currently accepted as one subspecies, i.e. Cuora flavomarginata flavomarginata potentially consists of two subspecies actually, the nominate one occuring on Taiwan Island and the Chinese Mainland one, described as Cuora flavomarginata sinensis by Hsü in 1930. The Taiwan population is in a pretty healthy state, due to the better protection and less interest in TCM on Taiwan. The situtation on the mainland however is dire. A once huge distribution area covering up to a dozen central Chinese Provinces until a few decades ago has been heavily diminished due to habitat destruction and collection for food and medical reasons.
Early genetic studies from Taiwanese populations have already shown divergence on this rather small island, and three morphotypes from the north, south and east exist that fit the genetic data pretty well, yet the mainland populations have not been sequenced and considering their once huge range, variability, that can be seen morphologically likely also exists genetics wise. If this is the case, the threatened status of this species and its subspecies will change significantly.
Our team had the chance to study wild populations on the Mainland and on Taiwan as well as visiting the farms, where the species is bred in high numbers these days. Furthermore genetic studies are underway to get a clearer image in the variability of this Species.