As many as 71 individuals of Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis), an endemic tortoise species of Vietnam , have been sent from zoos in the Netherlands and Germany back to their native land.

The Ninh Binh-based Cuc Phuong National Park ’s Turtle Conservation Centre received the turtle individuals on August 19.

According to the centre’s Director Bui Dang Phong, this is the first time a large number of Vietnamese turtles successfully bred abroad have returned to the country.

It marks considerable progress made by Vietnam in preserving this species in the context that individuals in nature are rapidly decreasing due to illegal hunting and trading and degrading habitats, he added.

He also affirmed Vietnam ’s responsibility of actively protecting the endemic turtle species from these acts.

Henk Zwartepoorte, an official in charge of reptiles and amphibians at the Rotterdam Zoo, voiced his belief in Vietnam ’s global initiatives and efforts to help its endemic turtles live and develop in nature.

Coordinator at the Asian Turtle Programme (ATP) Timthy Mc Cormack said the Annam leaf turtles, which are only found in the wild in Vietnam ’s central provinces , are recognised globally as the species in priority need of conservation.

The 71 returned individuals are expected to live with more than 200 others rescued in the Turtle Conservation Centre with the final aim to release all of them into the wild in Quang Ngai province.

Mauremys annamensis is a valuable and rare species only found in inundated areas, ponds and rivers in the central region. Since the late 1980s, the population of Annam leaf turtles in the wild has nearly disappeared due to poaching for trade.