Indochinese box turtle (Cuora galbinifrons)

Indochinese box turtle
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Indochinese box turtle fact file

Indochinese box turtle description

GenusCuora (1)

The Indochinese box turtle is a strikingly mottled freshwater turtle. The high-domed carapace has alternating areas of yellowish cream and dark brown stripes that radiate out from the middle of the shell (2). The chin and throat are also yellow/cream, whilst the pointed head has a short snout and is yellowish grey. As with all members of this genus there are hinges at both ends of the plastron, which enable these turtles to fully seal themselves within their shell (4). This ability has given rise to the common name of box turtle.

carapace length: 19 cm (2)

Indochinese box turtle biology

Indochinese box turtles are one of the most terrestrial species of box turtles, and are able to survive long periods without water (5). The warm colours and diffusing pattern of the carapace provide effective camouflage on the forest floor (5). This species is fairly shy and nervous, retreating readily into its shell when disturbed (4). Very little else is known about the ecology of wild populations.


Indochinese box turtle range

This species has a fairly small range, encompassing north Vietnam and Hainan Island, China (1).


Indochinese box turtle habitat

Inhabits bushy, upland woodland and forests found at high elevations (2).


Indochinese box turtle status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR - A1d + 2d) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Indochinese box turtle threats

Freshwater turtles in South East Asia face a number of threats, principally habitat alteration and human exploitation. Forests are being cleared and watercourses altered in the process of cultivating the land for human use, which is often achieved at the detriment of the turtles' natural habitat (6). Another major threat to the survival of this species comes from the pet trade; between 1989 and 94 almost 33,000 specimens of the genus Corus (Asian box turtles) were imported into the United States (6). An additional threat may come from the increasing demand for turtles for food and medicines, especially in China (6).


Indochinese box turtle conservation

More information is urgently needed on the distribution and behaviour of this shy box turtle. The Indochinese box turtle is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3) but trade remains one of the key features of its decline. More data on distribution of this species is vital if a comprehensive conservation plan is to be established.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.
In reptiles, the ventral shell of a turtle or tortoise.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2002)
  2. Ernst, C.H. & Barbour, R.W. (1989). Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, London
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
  4. Alderton, D. (1988). Turtles and tortoises of the World. Blandford Press, London.
  5. Cogger, H.G. & Zweifel, R.G. (1988) Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Weldon Owen Pty ltd, Sydney.
  6. Klemens, M.W. ed. (2000). Turtle Conservation. Smithsonion Institution Press, London.

Image credit

Indochinese box turtle  
Indochinese box turtle

© Joe McDonald/AA /

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