Breeding turtles in captivity

Captive breeding of tortoises

The degree to which captive husbandry succeeds with Asian turtle and tortoise species varies widely. Cuora galbinifrons, Morenia petersi, Pyxidea mouhotii and perhaps to a lesser degree Geoemyda spengleri have histories of high mortality. Stress, dehydration and parasite infestation, play a large role in the demise of the "pets". It is very important to note that Asian turtles imported into Europe and the USA for the pet and collector trade, come out of the food markets and as such, long term survivability of the specimens was never an agenda. However, many survive and now these animals can and do play a role in captive propagation.

To date, Cuora amboinensis, C. aurocapitata, C. flavomarginata, C. galbinifrons galbinifrons, C. galbinifrons bourreti, C. mccordi, C. trifasciata, Chinemys reevesi, C. nigricans (= kwangtungensis), Geoclemys hamiltonii, Geoemyda spengleri, Heosemys grandis, H. spinosa, Indotestudo elongata, Indotestudo forstenii, Manouria emys phaeryi, Mauremys annamensis, M. japonica, M. mutica, Ocadia sinensis, Pyxidea mouhotii, and Sacalia bealei have all reproduced in captivity in zoos or private collections. However, many of these are isolated instances.

Recent advances in drug protocols have helped tremendously in the eradication of detrimental, potentially fatal, parasite infestations typically associated with Asian food market turtles. Increasing survivourship of imported specimens, especially the more sensitive species, is helping tremendously in establishing founder stock for ex situ captive reproduction programmes.

The American Zoological Association is finalizing plans for a studbook for the genus Cuora. These plans consider inclusion of private breeders and collectors.


Captive breeding should become the goal of anybody keeping more than a few threatened species of turtles. Conservation and responsible herpetoculture can no longer afford to condone the typical collection consisting of a few specimens of numerous species or individual "trophy" specimens. Every effort should be made to maintain these species in sexually and genetically diverse groups of a minimum of six or eight specimens. This could well be the last best hope to ensure survivability of many of these species, especially when one considers the low reproductive rate and the long time required for many turtles to reach sexual maturity.

Farming turtles
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions