It's hard for charities to get people to care and donate for their rescued animals, even when they care for cuddly critters. It's even harder to get sympathy for less-cuddly (but no less deserving) animals, and it's the Turtle Conservation Centre's job to look after 800 rescued turtles, not usually known for being cuddly and cute!
That's a lot of turtles, and as you can see, they are very beautiful creatures of all shapes and sizes across around 20 species. Located a short trip outside of Hanoi in Northern Vietnam, it's a popular location for both local and international nature-lovers to visit on their travels.
Cuc Phoung is home to all sort of animals wild and rescued, but why are so many species of turtles in need of help in Vietnam? The culprit is the same story across Asia: the wildlife trade supplies a demand for food and medicine, as well as for the pet trade.
It's easy to talk about the wildlife trade in Asia which is already well-known in the media, but it's harder to get a feel for how it has affected these animals. I didn't have to look far to see it for myself.
During my trip to Vietnam I visited a small mountain town with a market like any other. Prominently displayed were an number of species in jars and bottles but, on this occasion, only one live specimen. It was a leaf turtle, for sale and trapped in a plastic bottle.
This is the same beautiful species I had seen at the TCC enjoying the natural habitats created there for their rescued turtles to live.
A sign of just how far Vietnam has yet to go for it's wildlife, and also a sign of what great work the TCC provides.
Apart from rescuing turtles from the wildlife trade, the TCC also conserves and breeds endangered species.
The Vietnamese pond turtle is a flagship species of the TCC, classed as Critically Endangered as it is nearly extinct in the wild. The team at the TCC study and breed this rare species, conserving it for future generations to be release back to the wild and hopefully increase the wild population.
The breeding alone is no easy task, taking many years for the turtles to reach maturity, starting from just a few centimetres in length to up to 10 inches when fully grown.
But these are just a couple of the species in trouble. The TCC's current 800 turtles are from around 20 species of all shapes and sizes.
From snapping turtles to swimming turtles, the four-eyed turtle even has eye-like spots on the back of its head to warn potential predators that they have been spotted!
Between the big lumbering temple turtles and little black masked turtles is the box turtle which, unlike many species, can entirely close up its shell for protection after it has retracted its head.
Like the Turtle Conservation Centre on Facebook to show your support for their tireless work on behalf of these beautiful animals.
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