Five Chinese yellow-headed box turtles have hatched at the WCS Bronx Zoo. The hatchings are a part of WCS’s strategy to save some of the most critically endangered turtle species in the world.
Chinese yellow-headed box turtles are considered to be one of the 25 most endangered turtles in the world, with fewer than 150 individuals remaining in the wild.
The WCS strategy to save turtles draws on all of the resources and expertise across the institution – from its zoos and aquarium, Wildlife Health Program, and Global Conservation Programs. The plan involves preventing the extinction of at least half of the species appearing in a 2011 report by WCS and other groups that listed the 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises.
WCS will breed and reintroduce some species, develop assurance colonies (groups of animals maintained in our zoos or aquarium so that no genetic diversity is lost) for others, and protect another subset with field work. The recent hatchings at the Bronx Zoo will become a part of an assurance colony kept at the zoo.
“The success we are seeing in the early stages of this program is encouraging,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President of Zoos and Aquarium and Bronx Zoo Director. “Over time, we hope to expand our turtle propagation work to extend to many of the most endangered species of turtles and tortoises. In implementing this strategy we will draw on the expertise found throughout the entire WCS organization as well as various partner organizations with whom we work.”
Chinese yellow-headed box turtles require the artificial manipulation of specific environmental and climatic conditions in order to be stimulated to breed. Experts at WCS’s Bronx Zoo were able to successfully recreate these conditions in propagation areas in the zoo’s Reptile House.
“The biology of the species requires the adults to hibernate prior to breeding,” said Don Boyer, Curator of Herpetology at WCS’s Bronx Zoo. “We carefully monitor the environment and gradually reduce the temperature in order to induce a natural state of hibernation. Following hibernation, turtle pairs are introduced and carefully monitored to watch for evidence of courtship and breeding activities.”
The Chinese yellow-headed box turtle once thrived in streams in the highlands of the Anhui Province of eastern China. The population collapsed due to human consumption, use in traditional medicine, pollution, habitat loss, and pet trade.
More than half of the world’s approximately 330 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises are threatened with extinction due to illegal trade and habitat loss. Most of the world’s turtle trade is driven by demand from China, specifically for human consumption, traditional medicines, and the pet trade.
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Adult admission is $16, children (3-12 years old) $12, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $14. Parking is $13 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit here or call 718-367-1010.