by Howard Goldstein
2017 is poised to be another great year for the Turtle Survival Center (TSC), as a second Cuora Complex moves ever nearer to completion.
The genus Cuora, or Asian Box Turtles, comprises some of the most critically endangered turtle species in the world, as its members are highly sought for the international pet trade, traditional medicine, and food markets. Due to this genus’ extremely precarious status, Cuora is among the top conservation priorities for the TSA and TSC.
In addition to many other turtle and tortoise species, the TSC has already demonstrated great success in breeding several critically endangered Cuora species, including the Yellow-headed Box Turtle (Cuora aurocapitata), Bourret’s Box Turtle (Cuora bourreti), and Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons). Now, a second complex will greatly expand the number of outdoor habitats for breeding Asian Box Turtle species.
In October 2016, the TSC team and trusted volunteers under the leadership of Nate Haislip, Facilities Manager and Lead Keeper, broke ground on the second Cuora Complex at the TSC. As of January 2017, the team has completed the drainage installation, exterior walls, interior dividers for the enclosures, and a majority of the concrete ponds. Nate reports 65% of this project to be complete with the last major components being a shade structure frame, stucco work, and backfilling the enclosures with nesting material for the turtles.
This complex will add 90 enclosures for critically endangered box turtles, including 75 specifically designed for mostly semi-terrestrial species such as Cuora galbinifrons, Cuora bourreti, and Cuora picturata.
The facility will accommodate pairs of animals, following established genetic management guidelines with a goal of maintaining a high genetic diversity of these species over the next 100 years. As many species of Cuora near extinction in the wild, it is imperative to species survival that soundly genetically managed captive populations expand and proliferate. The second Cuora Complex will allow the TSC to further this mission to preserve these magnificent species, with the hopes that one day, their descendants will provide conservation options for the future, including reintroductions to the forests of Asia.
The new Cuora Complex is expected to be completed in time for the 2017 spring breeding season of these rare species, and the TSC looks forward to another productive year of captive breeding Cuora!
The funding for this project was made possible by a very generous donation from the Barbara B. Bonner Charitable Fund. The late Dr. Bonner was passionate about saving Asian turtles and had a special fondness for Cuora galbinifrons.