Vietnamese Golden Coin Turtles sent to Europe to enter conservation breeding programmes

Nature Conservation

A group of Vietnamese Golden Coin Turtles (Cuora cyclornata) were transferred from Hong Kong to Munster’s Allwetter Zoo in Germany on 19th April, 2012. Some of these turtles have been under the care of Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) for over 15 years; a number were confiscated from the Traditional Chinese Medicine and illegal pet trade, while others were discovered as strays in the Hong Kong countryside having been released perhaps as a compassionate act in rituals. The animals were in a healthy condition when they arrived at the zoo and they have been distributed to other institutions in Europe participating in turtle conservation breeding programmes for the species.


Vietnamese Golden Coin Turtles are a different species from the Golden Coin Turtles (Cuora trifasciata) that originate from Hong Kong and China but share similar physical features. The local turtles are thought to be slightly smaller with a higher domed carapace and a much brighter yellow head colouration while the chin colour of Vietnamese animals tends to be either orange or white.

As a talisman of good luck, prosperity and long-life in oriental belief, these turtles are not getting their share of good fortune in the wild. The whole group of Cuora are under threat because of over-collection for the pet, food and medicinal trade. As they are often marketed and claimed to be a cure for cancer, market prices have soared and this has further increased poaching of these turtles.

In fact, the ecology of Vietnamese Golden Coin Turtles is virtually unknown, and for many years no official record exists of these animals being found in the wild in Vietnam. Human intervention is, therefore, required to ensure the survival of this species. They are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Category and cited in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to protect endangered species from over-exploitation through international trade restrictions.

KFBG advises the public not to buy illegal pet species and to report any suspicion about endangered species being offered for sale. If you participate in Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, choose from the many sustainable alternatives that exist rather than using medicinal ingredients from exotic or endangered species.

You can help by reporting suspicion about illegal wildlife trade activities to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department at (852) 2150 6978 or