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Animal Stories: A rescued juvenile Big-headed Turtle arrives at KFBG with poachers hook still attached

Posted Date: Thursday 13 June 2019    

A member of public discovered an endangered juvenile Big-headed Turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) with a poachers hook attached to its mouth in late April 2019. The turtle was then sent to our KFBG Wild Animal Rescue Centre (Rescue Centre) and received radiographic examination. The X-ray clearly shows the hook was swallowed by the turtle and is evidence of illegal trapping activities in Hong Kong. Dr Alex Grioni the Rescue Centre veterinarian carefully removed the hook and the turtle was placed on medication during its treatment and rehabilitation. It successfully recovered and was released in suitable habitat in early May 2019.

The Big-headed turtle is categorized as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Its populations are declining across most of its distribution in Southeast Asia due to unsustainable harvest for pet, food, and traditional medicine markets. The main threat the species faces in Hong Kong is illegal trapping, and they are more scarce in the wild now than in the past. Hong Kong is a significant remaining wild locality for the Big-headed turtles so KFBG continues to assist in the conservation of the species by protecting its habitat and supporting relevant research for the species.

The Big-headed Turtle is native to Hong Kong and has an oversized skull and jaw that can give a powerful bite for self-defense and its nocturnal feeding on fish, fruits and crustaceans. During the day, its flat body allows the turtle to fit in rock crevices. With strong claws and a muscular tail for support, the turtle is an excellent climber.

How can you help?

Trapping and trading of wild caught turtles is illegal. If you come across traps or suspicious activity please report to the AFCD at the Hotline 1823. Report any cruelty or illegal sales of turtles to the Police. Do not buy endangered animals as this increases demand from the wild.

Legal Protection

All wild turtles in Hong Kong (HK) including Big-headed Turtle are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170). Hunting, willful disturbance, possession, sale or export of wild turtles including their nests and eggs are subject to a maximum fine of HKD100,000 and to imprisonment for 1 year.

The Big-headed Turtle is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and regulated under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap. 586) in HK. Import, export, re-export or possession of Big-headed Turtle in HK would require a licence issued in advance by AFCD. Commercial trade in an Appendix I species of wild origin is not permitted. Any person contravening the requirements of Cap. 586 will be prosecuted and are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$ 10,000,000 and to imprisonment for 10 years. The seized specimens would be forfeited to the government.