Mccord’s box turtle (Cuora mccordi)

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Captive Mccord's box turtle
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Mccord’s box turtle fact file

Mccord’s box turtle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyBataguridae
GenusCuora (1)

Mccord’s box turtle is only known from Chinese markets, where it is becoming increasingly scarce, and may already be extinct in the wild (4). The turtle has an elliptical, domed carapace, which is a reddish-brown with dark edging (2) (5). The yellow plastron is so flexible that the turtle is able to completely close its shell, protecting its withdrawn head, limbs and tail (2). The yellow, narrow, pointed head is marked with a bright, black-edged, yellow stripe extending backward from the snout, through the eye, to the neck (2) (5). Limbs are also yellow, apart from the large, reddish-brown scales that cover the front surface of the forelegs and the brown colouration on the hindfeet. The yellow tail is characterised by a brown to olive stripe running down its upper surface, and is longer and thicker in males (5).

Also known as
McCord’s box turtle.
Size
Maximum carapace length: 13.4 – 16.5 cm (2)
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Mccord’s box turtle biology

Mccord’s box turtle is poorly understood, with no information available on its reproductive or mating behaviour (4). In captivity, the species is nocturnal and prefers a carnivorous diet over vegetation, although no information exists about the species’ feeding habits in the wild (2).

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Mccord’s box turtle range

Mccord’s box turtle is known only from a small area in China’s Guangxi Province (2) (5).

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Mccord’s box turtle habitat

This species’ habitat in the wild is unknown. In captivity, the turtle appears to be aquatic, and hides during the day by digging itself into the ground (2).

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Mccord’s box turtle status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Mccord’s box turtle threats

Like many of Asia’s turtle species, Mccord’s box turtles are dangerously close to extinction because they are being over exploited by the Asian turtle trade for meat and traditional medicine (4). In addition, the turtle has suffered from capture for the western pet market and from habitat loss and degradation. The species has become increasingly scarce within the Chinese food markets, indicating that populations in the wild are declining. Furthermore, the extremely high prices paid in the western pet market by turtle enthusiasts, with individuals reaching up to US$ 2000, signifies the rarity and difficulty of obtaining these animals (2). It has been estimated that perhaps no more than 350 specimens remain, possibly considerably fewer, all within private or zoo collections (6). Although no direct studies have been made, it is assumed that this species’ habitat must have been drastically affected by the large-scale deforestation experienced within southwest China. Additionally, pollution is a major problem in the area’s waterways. Indeed, the China Environment Report ranks China as the highest producer of sulphur dioxide in the world, with Guangxi and Guangdong belonging to the areas most affected by acid rain (2).

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Mccord’s box turtle conservation

As a native Chinese species, Mccord’s box turtle is protected by the Wildlife Protection Law of 1988, which requires that capture, transport and trade in wild animals is by official permit only. China’s National Environmental Protection Agency (1998) has recommended that the species be listed as ‘major protected wildlife’ in order to prohibit capture and trade completely. This would help the survival of this critically endangered turtle, but only if such laws could viably be enforced, something that is notoriously difficult. Over 51 nature reserves and two ‘scenic areas’ have been established in Guangxi, where Mccord’s box turtle may occur, but quantitative surveys of the species’ population size and distribution are needed to better determine the benefits of these protected areas for the species (2). The current outlook for Mccord’s box turtle in the wild is pretty grim, but the species’ prospects for continuing survival are nevertheless hopeful, largely due to its ability to adapt well to captivity and successfully reproduce (6). However, there have been no plans for releasing captive-bred individuals into the wild, and until the current climate of the Asian turtle trade, western pet market and ongoing habitat destruction change, it would seem unsafe to do so. Until such time, captive-bred individuals can serve to buffer against total extinction, but nevertheless remain a poor substitute for a self-sustainable population in the wild, where this turtle belongs.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on Mccord’s box turtle see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Carapace
In reptiles, the top shell of a turtle or tortoise.
Carnivorous
Flesh-eating.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Plastron
In reptiles, the lower shell of a turtle or tortoise.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2008)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. CITES - Proposals for Amendment of Appendices I and II. Prop. 11.36 (March, 2006)
    http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/11/prop/36.pdf
  3. CITES (September, 2008)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Pro Wildlife - Asian Turtles Are Threatened by Extinction (March, 2006)
    http://nytts.org/asia/ProWildlife.htm
  5. Turtles of the World (CD-ROM), by Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. & Barbour, R.W. (March, 2006)
    http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/turtles.php?selected=foto&menuentry=inleiding&id=1
  6. Tortoise Trust - Turtles in Crisis: The Asian Food Markets (March, 2006)
    http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/asia.html
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Image credit

Captive Mccord's box turtle  
Captive Mccord's box turtle

© Mark Klerks

Mark Klerks
Waalwijk
markklerks@gmail.com

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