Cuora galbinifrons


flowerback box turtle
Indochinese box turtle
hundred-flower box turtle
white-fronted box turtle
three-hill box turtle

Photo by Kimberly Collett

While several Cuora species are somewhat or highly aquatic, C. galbinifrons is not. In fact, at least two authors considered C. galbinifrons and C. flavomarginata to be so highly terrestrial that they felt these two species did not belong within the genus Cuora, and suggested a separate genus, Cistoclemmys, to accomodate this difference as well as some morphological differences. (Bour [1980a:158] and Hirayama [1984:147] cited in Iverson, 1992.) Other authors have not accepted this, and both galbinifrons and flavomarginata have retained the Cuora designation in most subsequent books and papers on the subject. (Iverson uses Cistoclemmys, while Lehr, Fritz & Obst prefer Cuora.)
Subspecies: Three subspecies are currently recognized,C. g. galbinifrons , bourreti & picturata. Cuora serrata has been elevated to full species. C. hainanensis, once considered a full species, later a galbinifrons subspecies, is now viewed as so similar to C. g. galbinifrons as to not require a separate designation. ( Lehr, Fritz & Obst. 1998. Die Unterarten von Cuora galbinifrons. [The Subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons ] Zoologische Abhandlungen, Staatliches Museum fur Tierkunde Dresden. 50 (6): 77-97.
Range and natural habitat:
The flowerback box turtle has a fairly small range around the Gulf of Tonkin in Southeast Asia, specifically in northern Vietnam and Hainan Island, China. It lives in high altitude woodlands of these locations, often keeping to the safety of the underbrush.
Cuora galbinifrons is a beautiful, distinctive turtle. A wide variety of carapacial patterns is possible but most include a dark brown area on the vertebral scutes with a cream colored line down the center. The pleural scutes are a contrasting light tan and may have a mottled design. The marginals are frequently a contrasting dark brown. The plastron is mostly black or dark brown. The head is a light color (cream, yellow, green or gray) and may have a narrow dark stripe on each side. Chin and underside of the neck is light buff. Sexual dimorphism is indistinct, but the male generally has a slightly thicker tail.

Captive care:
The flowerback box turtle is often very shy and difficult to establish in captivity. Anorexia is unfortunately common among wild caught flowerbacks. Creating conditions that are as comfortable as possible should aid with this problem. It is also important to keep these easily stressed turtles away from high traffic areas of the home. Provide a large terrarium with spagnum moss and a leaf/bark litter for burrowing. (Note: never use cedar or pine chips as these can cause illness in turtles.) Keep the moss misted, as galbinfrons need high humidity. Some owners report that this turtle is happiest if provided with plants in the terrarium. Plants would also serve to keep up the humidity. A small pool of water should be available for drinking and wading. The terrarium should have a cool, shaded area and a warm area with a basking light. A full-spectrum reptile light is recommended as it may have physical and psychological benefits for reptiles. Temperatures should range between 68 - 82 degrees F. In temperate areas, where a correct climate can be maintained, an outdoor enclosure would be preferred. Diet is primarily carnivorous. They will eat some fruits and veggies, but are fond of earthworms, crickets and baby mice. Live food may entice reluctant eaters. Small amounts of cat or dog food are also acceptable for this carnivorous animal, and this is often the first food to get anorexic turtles eating. One keeper finally got her galbinifrons to eat when she offered mushrooms. A turtle supplement with calcium should be added to the meal once a week. Cuttlebone may be left in the terrarium for the turtle to nibble at will.

 A herd of flowerback boxes in Malayasia:

Photo by
Louise Liew


For more on Cuora galbinifrons:

Julie Fear's Flowerback Box Turtle Saga

TortoiseTrust Care Sheet

2 pix & info at the Bigchelon website

2 pix from the Prague Zoo


Back to "Asian Box Turtles"

Malayan box turtle
Yellow-margined box turtle
Three-striped box turtle

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