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The majestic Golden Coin turtle has gone home to its native Hong Kong

26/02/2013 15:19:37

Golden coin turtle - Photo credit the Turtle Conservancy

Critically Endangered turtle going home to Hong Kong
February 2013. Five Critically Endangered Golden Coin turtles made their way from the Turtle Conservancy's renowned captive-breeding facility in California to their native Hong Kong.

The turtle is known as the Golden Coin turtle due to its golden head and incredible value; individuals of this turtle can be worth more than 15 (1 oz.) gold coins. This high value has driven this species to near extinction.

This event is the first repatriation of captive-bred turtles from the USA to their own country. "The return of these animals is part of our commitment to turtle conservation and completing the circle of captive breeding, returning and eventually releasing these animals in the wild," says the Turtle Conservancy's President Eric Goode. This effort comes at a critical time; presently more than half of all turtle and tortoise species are threatened with extinction.

"Efforts in Hong Kong to safeguard the future of this special turtle commenced more than a decade ago and KFBG, working with Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), is committed to seeing that this species remains a component of the local wild fauna" KFBG's Gary Ades explained.

AFCD's Wetland and Fauna Conservation Officer, Connie Ng, added, "Captive breeding is a critical part of the efforts to conserve our Golden Coin Turtle. The contribution made by the Turtle Conservancy to bring about a larger population of the turtle to our breeding program is of vital importance to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species in its homeland and is much appreciated."

Teetering on the brink of extinction
The Golden Coin Turtle, or Cuora trifasciata, is teetering on the brink of extinction due to the wildlife trade. Eating this animal in a jelly called Guilinggao is falsely believed to promote general wellbeing, but is also purported to be a cure for cancer. Because of these beliefs, the Golden Coin Turtle is the highest priced turtle in the trade, with prices for a single animal ranging from $10,000 to as high as $25,000! The joint efforts to save this turtle will culminate in releases in the not so distant future that will provide an important boost for the remaining wild population.

The Turtle Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the most endangered turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide. The Conservancy's Behler Chelonian Center is the premiere facility for breeding Critically Endangered turtles and tortoises in the United States. Since 2005 the Conservancy has combined this highly successful breeding program with conservation efforts in the wild.
This historic accomplishment came about through collaboration between the Turtle Conservancy, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG), and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

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