Turtle and Tortoise

Tortoise and freshwater turtle species diversity in the Southeast Asia Region is one of the greatest in the world with over 90 species accounting for  over 25% of all known tortoise and freshwater turtle species.  Yet despite this high diversity and the importance of the Southeast Asia region for tortoise and freshwater turtles, many of these species are among the most endangered in the world.  A 2011 review of global tortoise and freshwater turtle species from The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) placed 17 Asian species in the top 25 most endangered globally.

Viet Nam is home to 25 species of tortoise and freshwater turtles including two endemic species, the Southern Vietnamese Box Turtle (Cuora picturata) and the Vietnamese Pond Turtle (Mauremys annamensis) with populations on the decline. The Vietnamese Pond Turtle is extremely scarce and only found in the central region of Viet Nam, the Southern Vietnamese Box Turtle is found in Southern provinces surrounding Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa provinces. 

In 2015, WCS Vietnam began to participate in the conservation of critically endangered Hoan Kiem Turtle. The Hoan Kiem Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) — also known as Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle— is one of the world’s most endangered species, with only three known individuals alive today_a male in China and two in Viet Nam of unknown gender, age, health and breeding status.  This presents an extreme challenge to conservationists tasked with saving the species. Time is running out for the species and we must take urgent action to ensure the species does not disappear forever. 


 Hunting and habitat loss have been major factors that have led to the decline of this culturally revered species, which is a symbol of Viet Nam’s majestic history. 

What are we doing? 

In an effort to find more individuals of Hoan Kiem Turtle, WCS has conducted exploration in many natural lakes of Vietnam and recently developed real-time and on-site environmental DNA test kit of Rafetus swinhoei, bringing a new hope for this species. WCS is currently working with Ha Noi Department of Fisheries and the Indo-Myanmar Conservation to implement the Hoan Kiem Turtle Conservation Plan of Hanoi People's Committee for the period of 2018-2020, with a vision to 2030.


Turtle Conservation Coalition [Rhodin, A.G.J., Walde, A.D., Horne, B.D., van Dijk, P.P., Blanck, T., and Hudson, R. (Eds.)]. 2011. Turtles in Trouble: The World’s 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles—2011. Lunenburg, MA: IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservancy, Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and San Diego Zoo Global, 54 pp.

McCormack, T., Stuart, B. & Blanck, T. 2016. Cuora picturata. (errata version published in 2017) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T163463A115303820. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 12 July 2017.

Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 2000. Mauremys annamensis. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2000: e.T12876A97370458. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 12 July 2017.