Cuora yunnanensis(Boulenger 1906)

Cuora yunnanensis was described in 1906 from Yunnan Province in southern China. After its initial description, it all but vanished from scientific view for the next nearly 100 years. This predominantly brown colored turtle reaches carapace lengths of 12–19.5 cm, males being smaller, flatter and with a larger and thicker tail. Presumed to have vanished forever in the 1920s, C. yunnanensis was the first freshwater turtle species to be officially listed by IUCN as extinct in 2000. However, in 2004, color photos of a female specimen appeared in China. Only a few months later, an adult male appeared in the local Chinese pet trade. This pair was the first to reproduce in captivity. In 2006 another female specimen was found in a local Yunnan market and after extensive searching, in 2008 the habitat of the species was finally found by a research team.

This population has over the years largely been transferred into a local assurance colony, where about 50 specimens are maintained and some breeding success has been achieved. Seemingly, at least one other population has been located by collectors in recent years due to the increasing demand for this rare and consequently high-priced species. About 20 specimens having been sold to private Chinese turtle collectors. No living specimens of C. yunnanensis are held outside of China. While the species was able to survive for nearly a century undetected, its recent rediscovery, combined with escalating value for native turtle species in the Chinese trade, places any extant C. yunnanensis population in urgent danger. Furthermore, human development in Yunnan combined with severe droughts and ongoing habitat destruction have led to a potential habitat decrease of more than 98%.

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© Cuora.org

© Cuora.org