The Asian Turtle Program was established in 1998 and incorporated into the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo/Cleveland Zoological Society's Asia regional program in 2003. Since the ATP originated with the development of the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) at Cuc Phuong National Park together with our local partner NGO, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), we have been working on the conservation of tortoises and freshwater turtles (TFT) in southeast Asia with a focus on Vietnam.
The aim of ATP is to establish a safe and sustainable future for Asian turtles, and to ensure that no further turtle species become extinct in the region. We implement strategic interventions that directly contribute to the conservation of Asian turtles, helping to ensure efficient use of limited resources, as well as developing capacity, strengthening leadership, and ultimately effecting positive attitudinal and behavioural change within society.
Above: Mauremys annamensis in
Da Nang, Central Vietnam
15th December 2012 Turtles in Vietnamese culture
Turtles are an integral part of many legends in Vietnam. One legend tells how the Kim Quy Deity (Golden Turtle Deity) presented itself to An Dương Vương, who ruled over the kingdom of Âu Lạc (now Vietnam) from 257 to 207 BC, in answer to his prayers. The Golden Turtle gave a claw which was used to make the trigger of a crossbow which was the Vietnamese armies secret weapon in their victory against Zhao Tuo, a Qin general. Another 15th-century legend tells the story of King Lê Lợi who returned his sacred sword named Thuận Thiên (Heaven's Will) to the Golden Turtle in Lục Thủy lake after he had defeated the invading Chinese Ming army. The name of Lục Thủy lake was then changed to Sword Lake (Vietnamese: Hồ Gươm) or Lake of the Returned Sword (Hoàn Kiếm Lake).
In Vietnamese culture turtles have also traditionally being considered a symbol of longevity and everlastingness, 82 stone stele mounted on the backs of carved turtles can be found in Hanoi’s temple of literature where they record results from imperial examinations of the Lê and Mạc dynasties from 1442 to 1779.
24th February 2015
On the 19th of November 2014, Vietnam’s National Environmental Police raided three warehouses in the city of Nha Trang and discovered more than 4.3 tons of dead marine turtles. A month later local police raided three additional locations connected to the same criminal network and found 4,000 more marine turtles. The combined volume of turtles seized in both raids was more than an estimated 10 tons making this the single largest seizure of marine turtles in world history.
The raids came as a result of a three-year investigation by Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), a Vietnam based NGO which identified Mr Hoang Manh Cuong as the “kingpin” standing behind the network. The kingpin was protected by his brother who stepped up after the raids and accepted the responsibility. However, the story is not over. What remains to be seen is whether the justice system in Vietnam will deliver appropriate punishment to Cuong for his serious crimes, which have both national and international implications. This is an important opportunity for Vietnam to show that it can meet its global obligation to eradicate wildlife crime and the criminal organizations that engage in such activities.
A fisherman in Chau Thanh district of Ben Tre province (southern Vietnam) caught a large Asiatic soft-shell turtle (Amyda cartilaginea) weighing 23.5kg (81 cm long and 50 cm wide) on the 14th of December 2014. He claims to have been offered 20 - 30 million VND ($950 - $1,430) for the animal but has so far refused. Amyda cartilaginea is highly threatened in Vietnam, listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. ATP NOTE: Despite this the animal has still not been confiscated as it is not clearly listed as protected under Vietnamese law, unfortunately such cases are not unusual and highlights current gaps in legislation in Vietnam.
10th February 2014
Over the past year, Wildlife At Risk (WAR) staff at the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station have been working closely together with officers of the Forest Protection Department in Ho Chi Minh City to rescue and release approximately 50 individuals of different turtle species including Elongated Tortoises (Indotestudo elongata),Malayan Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis) and Yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii) in the Bu Gia Map National Park – Binh Phuoc Province and Lo Go Xa Mat National Park – Tay Ninh Provice.
Ever wondered what twin turtles look like? Check out the photos from Richard Struijk, the European studbook keeper for Cuora species, who was surprised to find two Lesser Indochinese box turtles (Cuora picturata) hatching from the same egg. The turtles were still connected by the umbilical cord and seem very healthy.
Thank you Richard for sharing pictures of your Cuora twins with us!
On 9th of August 2013, a female Impressed tortoise (Manouria impressa) was successfully released to Bach Ma National Park by the Forest Protection Department (FPD) of Nam Dong district, Thua Thien Hue province.
The turtle was going to be killed for food by a local man who bought it for 150,000VND (~ $7) in Huong Huu commune, Nam Dong district. Fortunately, it was saved by a young student named Phan Van Tien Loc who lives in the same commune as the man and who participated in the annual Asian Turtle Program Tortoise (ATP) Freshwater Turtle Field Skill Training Course for students in 2013. ATP in collaboration with Nam Dong FPD and Laguna company then released the lucky animal successfully back to the wild.
On the 30th of June 2013 a Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Mauremys sinensis) was handed into the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) after a former ATP Torotise and Freshwater Turtle Field Skill Training Course student convinced a local man in Da Nang of the turtle's endangered status. The turtle will be transferred to the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC).
Activities in Vietnam have focused on priority species including critically endangered and endemic species of greatest conservation concern. Project focus on the endemic Vietnamese Pond Turtle (Mauremys annamensis) and Indochinese Box Turtles (Cuora bourreti) and (Cuora picturata) in central Vietnam. And the legendary Hoan Kiem Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) also known as Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle in northern Vietnam, largely recognised as the most endangered turtle species in the world.
Training and awareness undertaken by the ATP include enforcement training for forest rangers, raising public awareness about the importance of protecting Vietnam's turtles, conducting conservation-focused research, and building the next generation of young scientists and professionals with expertise in Vietnam's turtles through a student training program.
The Asian Turtle Program would like to thank all of our partner and donor organisations. If you would like to contribute to the ATP please visit our support page or contact us at [email protected]
Above: Wild Cuora mouhotii in Cuc Phuong National Park
Above: Indotestudo elongata seen in the trade in Central Vietnam