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Cuora flavomarginata, 035

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Cuora flavomarginata (Gray 1863) –
Yellow-Margined Box Turtle

Hidetoshi Ota1, Yuichirou Yasukawa2, Jinzhong Fu3, and Tien-Hsi Chen4

1Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus,
Nishihara-cho, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan [[email protected]];
2District Office Okinawa, Takada Reptiles and Wildlife Research Institute,
1-15-3 Teruya, Okinawa City, Okinawa 904-0011, Japan [[email protected]];
3Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada [[email protected]];
4Ching Kuo Institute of Management and Health, Keelung, Taiwan [[email protected]]


Summary. – The yellow-margined box turtle, Cuora flavomarginata, (Family Geoemydidae), is a small species (carapace length to 190 mm), that occurs in eastern and southern continental China, Taiwan, and the southern Ryukyus of Japan. The species is mainly terrestrial and is found in and around primary and dense secondary forests, feeding on both small animals and plant materials, such as insects, earthworms, and berries. Clutch size usually ranges from one to four, and the female tends to be larger in body mass than the male, sometimes exceeding 1000 g. The yellow-margined box turtle is threatened by deforestation in its natural habitat, and large numbers have been exploited for food and traditional Chinese medicine and also exported from continental China for pets. This exploitation has caused the decline of many populations of this turtle. Capture and trade in Japanese and Taiwanese populations are currently regulated by national laws, but habitat destruction progresses in both countries. There is thus urgency that areas of habitat be set aside and protected. In order to devise effective conservation measures, it is also important to undertake research on life history and population status of the species; information on these aspects is insufficient, especially for the non-Taiwanese populations.

Distribution. —China (Continental), China (Taiwan), Japan. Distributed on Ishigakijima and Iriomotejima islands of the southern Ryukyu Archipelago (Japan), Taiwan, and Minjiang, Fuchun, and Yangtze River drainages of eastern continental China.

Synonymy. — Cistoclemmys flavomarginata Gray 1863, Cuora flavomarginata, Terrapene flavomarginata, Cyclemys flavomarginata, Geoemyda flavomarginata, Cyclemys flavomarginata sinensis Hsü 1930, Terrapene culturalia Yeh 1961.

Subspecies. — Two currently recognized by us: Cuora flavomarginata flavomarginata (Common Yellow-Margined Box Turtle) (synonymy: Cyclemys flavomarginata flavomarginata, Cuora flavomarginata flavomarginata, Cistoclemmys flavomarginata flavomarginata, Cyclemys flavomarginata sinensis, Cuora flavomarginata sinensis, Cistoclemmys flavomarginata sinensis) and Cuora flavomarginata evelynae (Ryukyu Yellow-Margined Box Turtle) (synonymy: Cuora evelynae Ernst and Lovich 1990, Cistoclemmys flavomarginata evelynae).

Status. — IUCN 2009 Red List: Endangered (EN A1cd+2cd) (assessed 2000); CITES: Appendix II (as Cuora spp.).


Ota, H., Yasukawa, Y., Fu, J., and Chen, T.H. 2009. Cuora flavomarginata (Gray 1863) – yellow-margined box turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 035.1–035.10, doi:10.3854/crm.5.035.flavomarginata.v1.2009, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Cuora flavomarginata flavomarginata, adult female from Nantou, central Taiwan.
Photo by Tien-Hsi Chen.


Distribution of Cuora flavomarginata in continental China, Taiwan, and the southern Ryukyu Archipelago of Japan. Cuora f. flavomarginata shown with red locality points, C. f. evelynae with purple points. Points = museum and literature occurrence records based on Iverson (1992), Fong et al. (2002), plus more recent and authors’ data; green shading =  projected distribution based on GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al., in press), and adjusted based on authors’ data. The occurrence of C. f. flavomarginata in the Minjiang River drainage in Fujian in southeastern continental China has not been confirmed by detailed, specimen-based locality data. Localities representing assumed introduced populations in southern continental China and the Ryukyu Archipelago are indicated by color-coded squares.