ENDANGERED TURTLES RETURN HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME : The Majestic Golden Coin Turtle has Come Home to its Native Hong Kong, China, The First Ever Repatriation of US Captive-bred Turtles

Nature Conservation

On January 21st 2013, 5 Critically Endangered Golden Coin Turtles made their way from the Turtle Conservancy’s renowned captive-breeding facility in California to their native home Hong Kong. This historic accomplishment came about through collaboration between the Turtle Conservancy and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG), and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

This event is the first repatriation of captive-bred turtles to their home country from the USA.  “The return of these animals is part of our commitment to turtle conservation and completing the circle of captive breeding to 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.

The Wild Golden Coin Turtle is teetering on the brink of extinction due to the illegal wildlife and pet trade. Eating this animal in a jelly called Guilinggao is believed to promote general wellbeing, but is also thought to be a cure for cancer despite the lack of any scientific support. The threat faced by the wild turtles remains high while hunting continues in order to feed the ever growing demand. 

“Efforts in Hong Kong to safeguard the future of this special turtle commenced more than a decade ago and KFBG working with AFCD is committed to seeing that this species remains a component of the local wild fauna” KFBG Head of Fauna Conservation Department, Dr. Gary Ades explained.

AFCD’s Forestry Officer from the Wetland and Fauna Conservation Division, Ms. 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 programme is of vital importance to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species in its homeland and is much appreciated.”

The Golden Coin Turtle is believed in Chinese culture to bring good luck, perhaps the return of these animals to Hong Kong and the eventual re-establishment of healthy populations in the wild may bring luck across the territory.