Golden coin turtle

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Golden coin turtle
Cuora trifasciata.jpg
CITES Appendix II (CITES)[2]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Cuora
C. trifasciata
Binomial name
Cuora trifasciata
(imogen briscoe of hk)
  • Sternothaerus trifasciatus Bell, 1825 ray, 1831
  • Cistuda trifasciata Gray, 1831
  • Cistudo trifasciata Duméril & Bibron, 1835
  • Cuora trifasciata Gray, 1856
  • Pyxidemys trifasciata Fitzinger, 1861
  • Terrapene trifasciata Strauch, 1862</smalord & Le, 2006
  • Cuora cyclornata meieri Blanck, McCord & Le, 2006
  • Pyxiclemmys trifasciata Vetter, 2006

The golden coin turtle or Chinese three-striped box turtle (Cuora trifasciata) is a species of turtle endemic to southern China.[3]


The species is distributed in China, but only on the island of Hainan (it is extirpated from the mainland Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian provinces), as well as Hong Kong.[3] The populations from other parts of Vietnam and Laos are now regarded a separate species, the Vietnamese three-striped box turtle (C. cyclornata).[4]


This species has three distinct black stripes on its brown carapace, with a yellow, slightly hooked upper jaw and a yellow stripe extending from the back of the mouth. The plastron is mostly black with a yellow border.


In Hong Kong, this species feeds on fish, frogs, and carrion, but remains of crabs, snails, and insects have been found in its faeces. It can grow up to 25 cm (10 in).[5]


It hybridizes very easily with its relatives in captivity and in the wild, and hybrids may be fertile. Several of these have been described as new species, such as the Fujian pond turtle (Mauremys × iversoni), a hybrid between (usually) males of this species and females of the Asian yellow pond turtle (Mauremys mutica). In addition, the golden coin turtle is suspected to be a parent of the supposed species Chinese false-eyed turtle and Philippen's striped turtle.[6]


The species is considered critically endangered by the IUCN.[7] It is used in folk medicine,[8] e.g. as the key ingredient for the Chinese medicinal dessert guīlínggāo (龜苓膏); thus, it is under threat because of unsustainable hunting. It is one of the most endangered turtle species in the world, according to a 2003 assessment by the IUCN.[citation needed] C. trifasciata is listed among Turtle Conservation Coalition's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles.[9]

Captive specimen on display at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC


C. trifasciata is raised on some of China's turtle farms. Based on the data from a large sample (almost one-half of all registered turtle farms in the country), researchers estimated that the turtle farmers participating in the survey had the total herd of 115,900 turtles of this species; they sold 20,600 turtles of this species per year, with the estimated value of almost US$37 million. This would make a farm-raised C. trifasciata worth almost $1,800, making them by far the most expensive species tabulated in the survey (by comparison, a common Pelodiscus sinensis raised for food would be worth under $7, and a Cuora mouhotii, sold for the pet trade, around $80). Taking into account the registered farms that did not respond to the survey, as well as the unregistered producers, the total numbers must be significantly higher.[10] Wild C. trifasciata turtles are far more valuable than farmed-raised turtles of this species to both traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and illegal wildlife traders.[11][12][13] The gender of C. trifasciata is determined by gestation temperatures.[9][13] Due to incubation temperatures at farms in warm lowlands, farms have only been able to produce females.[9][13] This increased the price of wild-caught males to $20,000.[9][13] Most farmed C. trifasciata turtles are hybrids, which can escape and establish populations, causing genetic pollution.[12][13][14][15]

The largest C. trifasciata farming operation is said to be located in Boluo County, Guangdong. According to the farm's founder Li Yi (李艺), the farm was started in 1989 with eight wild turtles (two males and six females) bought at a local market, and now has "over 2000" turtles.[16] According to the farm's site, captive-born turtles start breeding at 8 years of age.[17]


  1. ^ Fong, J.; Hoang, H.; Horne, B.D.; Li, P.; McCormack, T.; Rao, D.-Q.; Timmins, R.J.; Wang, L. (2020). "Cuora trifasciata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T123768950A123769768. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T123768950A123769768.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  3. ^ a b c Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 218–219. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-01. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  4. ^ Blanck et al. (2006)
  5. ^ "Reptile of Hong Kong". Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  6. ^ Parham et al. (2001), Buskirk et al. (2005)
  7. ^ ATTWG (2000)
  8. ^ da Nóbrega Alves et al. (2008)
  9. ^ a b c d "Turtles in Trouble: The World's 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles" (PDF). International Union for Conservation of Nature. February 2011.
  10. ^ Shi, Haitao; Parham, James F; Fan, Zhiyong; Hong, Meiling; Yin, Feng (2008-01-01), "Evidence for the massive scale of turtle farming in China", Oryx, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42, pp. 147–150, doi:10.1017/S0030605308000562
  11. ^ Courtney, Cavaliere (2010). "How TCM Purchases in Western Markets Can Impact Bear Farming Practices in Asia". HerbalGram. American Botanical Council. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Conclusions from the Workshop on Trade in Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Asia". Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 1 December 1999.
  13. ^ a b c d e Platt, John R. (20 March 2013). "5 Turtles from Nearly Extinct Species Fly Home to Hong Kong". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  14. ^ Norris, Scott (27 March 2007). "China's Turtle Farms Threaten Rare Species, Experts Say". National Geographic News.
  15. ^ James, Parham; SHI, HAITAO (2001). "The Discovery of Mauremys iversoni-like Turtles at a Turtle Farm in Hainan Province, China: The Counterfeit Golden Coin". Asiatic Herpetological Research.
  16. ^ 财富人物:金钱龟"中国第一人" ("People and fortune: Country's No. 1 Golden-coin-turtle man") 2007-09-24 (in Chinese)
  17. ^ Liyi Gold-coin Turtle Breeding Farm: Breeding and reproduction[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Blanck, T., W.P. Mccord & M. Le (2006): On the Variability of Cuora trifasciata. Edition Chimaira. 153pp.
  • Buskirk, James R.; Parham, James F. & Feldman, Chris R. (2005): On the hybridisation between two distantly related Asian turtles (Testudines: Sacalia × Mauremys). Salamandra 41: 21–26. PDF fulltext[permanent dead link]
  • da Nóbrega Alves, Rômulo Romeu; da Silva Vieira; Washington Luiz & Gomes Santana, Gindomar (2008): Reptiles used in traditional folk medicine: conservation implications. Biodiversity and Conservation 17(8): 2037–2049. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9305-0 (HTML abstract, PDF first page)
  • Parham, James Ford; Simison, W. Brian; Kozak, Kenneth H.; Feldman, Chris R. & Shi, Haitao (2001): New Chinese turtles: endangered or invalid? A reassessment of two species using mitochondrial DNA, allozyme electrophoresis and known-locality specimens. Animal Conservation 4(4): 357–367. PDF fulltext Erratum: Animal Conservation 5(1): 86 HTML abstract

External links[edit]