Cuora galbinifrons

Bourret, 1939
Indochinese box turtle

The carapace (to 19.8 cm) of Cuora galbinifrons is high domed, widest just behind the middle, and smooth bordered. A vertebral keel is present in juveniles but disappears entirely in adults. The 1st vertebral is wide anteriorly and overall is as long as or a little longer than wide. The 2nd to 4th vertebrals are as broad as or broader than long, and the 5th is much broader posteriorly than anteriorly. Pleurals are wider than their corresponding vertebrals; lateral marginals are downturned. A narrow, yellow to cream-colored stripe runs the length of the vertebrals. On each side of this, covering the rest of the vertebrals and upper portions of the pleurals, is a wide, dark-brown to olive stripe often containing a mottled pattern of small dark marks. The lower 2/3 to 3/4 of the pleurals is usually plain white, cream, yellow, or orange-reddish, although the extent of this light pigmentation may be reduced or bear dark mottlings in some individuals. Upper surfaces of the marginals are brown to olive with lighter mottlings. This series of alternating light and dark longitudinal areas serves to effectively break up the outline of the carapace. The plastron is large and can completely close; the posterior border of the anals is rounded and unnotched. Axillary and inguinal buttresses are short. The plastral formula is usually: abd > an > pect > gul > fem > hum. The plastron is dark brown or black, but some yellow pigment may occur along the seam connecting the carapaceandplastron, and the undersides of each marginal may bear a yellow spot or border. The head is somewhat pointed with a short snout. Triturating surfaces are narrow and smooth, and the upper jaw lacks a strong medial hook. The head is yellow to pale green, gray, or brown and may have dark speckles, especially in juveniles; sometimes the dorsum is entirely black. A narrow dark stripe may occur on each side of the snout. Chin and throat are yellow to cream colored; De Bruin and Artner (in press) reported many specimens from Hainan have a red neck. The limbs and tail are olive to gray; the anterior surface of the forelegs is covered with enlarged yellow, red, or black scales.
There is little sexual dimorphism, although the male has a slightly thicker tail.

Cuora galbinifrons is known from Tonkin and Annam, Vietnam, Yunnan and Guangxi provinces and Hainan Island, China.

Geographic Variation
Four subspecies are currently recognized. Cuora galbinifrons galbinifrons Bourret, 1939, the Vietnamese box turtle, is found in north Vietnam, on Hainan, and in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, China, and is essentially as described above. The Huinan box turtle C. g. hainanensis (Li, 1958) is a poorly known form, known only from Diaulo Shan and Chien Fung Ling, Hainan Island, China. It is very similar to C. g. galbinifrons, and probably will prove to be that subspecies. It appears to differ from the nominate race only in lacking either a notched or hooked upper jaw. The Hainan serrated box turtle C. g. serrata Iverson and McCord, 1992b, a dark race from Tainhfien, central Hainan Island, has a serrated posterior carapacial rim, a distinctly tricarinate carapace, and predominately black pleural scutes. Shiu (in De Bruin and Artner, in press) claims it also occurs in northern Vietnam. C. g. bourreti Obst and Reimann, 1994, Bourret's box turtle, occurs in central Vietnam, southeast Laos, and northeast Cambodia. It is characterized by an oval shell and a horn-colored plastron with dark spots at the rim. This subspecies was described after re-investigation of types at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris and plates in Bourret (1941). However, Ernst has examined Bourret's MNHN series of C. galbinifrons and several other specimens from Vietnam, and concludes that the characters used by Obst and Reimann to differentiate C. g. bourreti fall within the normal variation of the Vietnamese population of C. g. galbinifrons Bourret, 1939.
Fritz and Obst (1997) proposed species status for C. g. serrata, based on a number of differences between (and a lack of intergrades with) the other galbinifrons subspecies.

Although it readily enters water, C. galbinifrons is probably one of the least aquatic species of Cuora. Its habitat appears to be bushy, upland woodlands and forests at rather high elevations (Bourret, 1941). De Bruin and Artner (in press) could not confirm its occurrence on the coastal plains of Hainan, as reported earlier by Weiss (1989).

Natural History
De Bruin (1994a) described a copulation attempt in captive animals: while bobbing his head, the male approached the female from her side, followed immediately by a wild chase. The male tried to capture the female by biting her head and forelegs, inflicting serious wounds on her limbs.
In captivity, a clutch comprises 1-3 eggs (Ron de Bruin, pers. comm.). The eggs are hard-shelled and oval, measuring 56.9 x 27.6 mm. Incubation of two successfully hatched young lasted 65 and 72 days (at 28-29°C). These hatchlings measured 4.5 and 5.0 cm in plastron length and weighed 15 and 24 g respectively. At the age of two, the plastral hinge still was absent (De Bruin, 1994a).
Captives feed on a variety of animal foods including earthworms, fish, pieces of beef, and canned dog food.

De Bruin and Artner (in press) recently visited Hainan and examined 150 Cuora galbinifrons collected by the local Li people from the following locations: Jianfeng, Xinzheng, Tongzha, and Qiongzhong. Although they observed a large variation in coloration of carapace, plastron, head and extremities, all animals fitted the descriptions of C. g. galbinifrons (and—if considered a valid subspecies—C. g. hainanensis). Among the many Indochinese box turtles that were offered by collectors were no specimens of C. g. serrata. De Bruin and Artner (in press) conclude that much more research needs to be done before anything definite can be said about the validity of any of the subspecies occurring on Hainan Island.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Lower risk: near threatened.