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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Chinese Three-Striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata)

Chinese Three-Striped Box Turtle
Cuora trifasciata (Bell, 1825)

Range: Southern China, Southeast Asia
Habitat: Montane Evergreen Forests, Streambeds
Diets: Earthworms, Crustaceans, Fish, Frogs, Fruit
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Breeding is usually very aggressive, with males fighting fiercely for access to females. Nesting normally takes place in May (captives may breed year round).  2-6 white eggs, long and tappered at one end, are incubated for 80-85 days.  Female become mature when they reach 1 kilogram in weight (farmed turtles breed at about 8 years of age)
Lifespan: 50 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Critically Endangered, CITES Appendix II

  • Shell length up to 20 centimeters, weight 300-400 grams.  Males have slightly indented plastron (bottom part of shell), thicker tail than female.  Plastron is hinged, allowing the turtle to close up the head, tail, and limbs inside if threatened.
  • The carapace (top part of the shell) is long, flat shell is red-brown with three long, black longitudinal stripes, some orange on the side.  Plastron is black but with yellow border.  Face is yellow or olive green with orange patches behind the eyes,  black line on side of face.  The skin at the base of the front legs is red or orange.
  • Semi-aquatic, capable of swimming well, but frequently being encountered on land
  • May hybridize with other related species in the wild and in captivity - there was once speculation that many of the Asian box turtles were hybrids of just a few species.  Genetic evidence now suggests that they are separate species.
  • Sometimes known as the "Golden Coin Turtle", since a local belief holds that possessing one will bring the holder wealth and luck
  • The species has been harvested for centuries, largely for food.  These turtles are now under pressure due to being heavily collected, both for meat and for medicinal value (the plastron is believed to cure cancer in some cultures).  This species is also very valuable in the exotic pet trade
  • This species is being farmed on some Chinese turtle farms, though consumers consider wild-caught turtles to be superior, more valuable than farmed ones.  Many farmed turtles are hybrids, making them useless for conservation programs.

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