Some Asian turtle species have already been eradicated in the wild or are only available in small numbers. This fate also shares the representatives of the genus of hinge turtles (Cuora spp.), Which includes 13 species.
Above all, the loss of habitat, but especially the excessive trade as food or as supposed medicine, is very difficult for the hinge turtle population. Turtles, especially hinge turtles, have traditionally been part of Chinese medicine and cuisine. The few breeding facilities in Southeast Asia are far from meeting the steadily increasing demand. In the meantime, turtles have been taken from nature throughout the entire Southeast Asian region and far beyond - right down to South America and Africa - in order to meet the demand in the Southeast Asian markets. So many millions of individuals - including endangered species - are offered for sale in the markets every year. Almost all relevant species are close to extinction or are no longer found in their natural habitats.
To help these special animals, the box turtle was voted "Zoo Animal of the Year 2018".
The International Center for Turtle Protection (IZS) in the all-weather zoo in Münster gives many turtle species the chance of a last-minute rescue.
Turtles play a special role in Southeast Asian culture: they are considered good luck charms and symbols for a long life. These actually positive properties are doomed to the turtles, because in addition to the destruction of their habitats, they suffer above all from the fact that they are collected and sold in markets.
Their meat, the offal or ground bones and shell are part of traditional cuisine and medicine. Millions of individuals migrate to kitchens and pharmacies every year - an intervention that natural populations cannot compensate for.
Because of this situation, the private man Elmar Meier, the Zoological Society for Species and Population Protection (ZGAP), the German Society for Herpetology and Terrarium Science (DGHT) and the All-Weather Zoo Münster founded the International Center for Turtle Protection in 2003. The aim of the center is to save the acutely endangered species of hinge turtles from extinction.
Nine species and subspecies of the Cuora genus are currently being bred in the IZS. The IZS saved at least one of these species from extinction: Zhoui’s hinge tortoise (Cuora zhoui) was only known by a few individuals that were found in Chinese markets. The sustainable successful breeding of the species was only successful in Münster, so that today about 70% of the known world population in Münster hatched from the egg. Last year a very special offspring was born: the first individuals whose parents were born in the zoo hatched. This success shows that the species can be stabilized sustainably in human care, because it has not yet been thought of a release into the wild.
The Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) was founded in 2003 as one of the first species protection stations in Cambodia. Not far from the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat, it is dedicated to taking in and caring for selected local animals and, if possible, later releasing them in compliance with appropriate international standards.
It was originally founded as a sanctuary for individuals of endangered species. Today the center, with around 30 employees, is also dedicated to conservation breeding and environmental education. It serves as a training and education center for the local population, pupils, students, employees of the nature conservation authorities and visitors.
The aim is to increase environmental awareness and to develop skills in the field of nature conservation and environmental management, as well as to promote the sustainable use of natural resources. The implementation of in-situ nature conservation measures and nature conservation-relevant (field) research in Cambodia, as well as the provision of information for the future management of the nature conservation areas are among the tasks.
The Amboina hinge turtle is now very successfully bred in the ACCB in outdoor facilities under near-natural conditions. Since more than 100 young animals have already been raised, it can now be considered to release the animals from a scientific point of view in a well-protected area.
This is where the problems begin, because in addition to the correspondingly protected habitats, there is currently no experience in the release of hinge turtles. Telemetry studies should help to better understand the species and its requirements in the wild. This should not only collect data on preferred habitats, but also on emigration, the size of the territories and behavior.
These studies are important in order to increase the chances of success of later resettlements and thus the chances that the species will re-establish itself in the habitats there.
With the support of the “Zoo Animal of the Year” campaign, the best possible conditions for the release and subsequent monitoring of the animals are to be created in Cambodia.
More information is available on the Zoo Animal of the year homepage
Back to Conservation campaigns