One decade has passed since the last Cuora aurocapitata was captured in the wild.
Not only was this turtle poached for the Chinese pet trade, but its habitat was destroyed by sand mining to build China's cities, and also poisoned, dredged and channelized for dam construction.
We suspect that Cuora aurocapitata is extinct in the wild.
Cuora aurocapitata - So what do we DO ?
We first visited Jing County in Anhui in 2005, when we were lucky enough to find pristine, intact habitat, and found a female Cuora aurocapitata. We had hope that this remote valley and others nearby offered this species a place to hang on, but our hope has been undone.
We returned in 2012 and did not recognise the habitat - the sandbanks of the slow moving streams were gone, as was most of the aquatic life. We learned that the sand mining Industry had expanded to construct the new Chinese "megacities" along the Jangtse River, and for this, they needed lots of sand. Factories polluted and poisoned the streams, hydroelectric dams were being constructed, and other operations highly disruptive of the delicate natural streams were in place. Our surveys and interviews from th 2015 trip gave a grim result - the last wild C. aurocapitata specimen was captured two years before our visit.
We have plans to collaborate with Prof. Fang Zhang from the Anhui Normal University, to restore and protect a small area and reintroduce C. aurocapitata via release of captive bred offspring in the distant future. Further surveys in the Dabie Shan, where the newly described subspecies C. a. dabieshani occurs/occured are needed, but as always, funding is limited and resources are always spread thin among Cuora species.
The highlight of this particularly troubling scenario is that we and our Partners maintain successfully breeding captive assurance colonies of both C. aurocapitata subspecies, which preserve the opportunity for China's future generations to (hopefully) recover the original habitat and permit this enigmatic species to inhabit the beautiful highlands of Anhui once more.