Notable New Hatch!

On Monday, October 16, 2022, the first Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata) hatched at Turtle Survival Alliance’s Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina. Weighing just under 12 grams, this first hatchling there brings the total number of Cuora (Asian box turtles) species successfully reproducing at the Center to 10.

As of November 2022, twelve Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles have successfully hatched from eggs laid between July and August; six others should hatch soon. In their first year residing at our Center, seven of ten recently-acquired (2021) female Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles laid clutches of eggs, the majority of them fertile. This high reproductive output is a testament to how incredibly adaptable, hardy, and prolific this Critically Endangered species can be, given proper care. Their reproductive success is not only important for Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles, but it also enhances Turtle Survival Alliance’s assurance colonies for 12 of the 13 species of Asian box turtle we maintain at our Turtle Survival Center—the flagship genera there.

Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle Hatchling

The Chinese Three-Striped Box Turtle is a Critically Endangered species native to streams and their associated forests of mainland China and Hainan Island. It is among 11 species of Asian box turtle—all native to East, South, and Southeast Asia—to be regarded by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. In its native China, the Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle’s wild population has been largely extirpated due to rampant collection for the food, pet, and Chinese Traditional Medicine trades, as well as habitat loss. Because the species is highly valued in trade, it is commonly referred to by the moniker: “Golden Coin Turtle.” It is estimated that fewer than 500 Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles now persist in the wild across their range; a number that is still in decline though the species is captive bred in large numbers in China to supply commercial trades.

Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle, Joel Sartore
The Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle has for decades been subject to captive mixing of its two subspecies, the Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata trifasciata) and the Hainan Three-striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata luteocephala), as well as with its close relative, the Vietnamese Three-striped Box Turtle (Cuora cyclornata). It is also known to breed with other species of turtle, creating additional hybrids. Because of this history of mixing, genetically pure individuals of Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle are of high conservation value. As such, Turtle Survival Alliance initiated a genetic study on Chinese and Vietnamese three-striped box turtles with Dr. Natalia Gallego-García and Dr. Brad Shaffer at the University of California, Los Angeles. This study will help us verify whether or not the purity of Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles we maintain in our collection is clearly defined. The knowledge gained from the study will allow us to make informed decisions on which turtles are the best genetically matched for captive breeding efforts.