Keeled box turtle

It is late afternoon. We are tired, hot, and sweaty. All we want to do is to get back to camp and rest—but the route is not easy. To get there we have to machete our way through dense secondary growth. Every step is a struggle. I am watching the ground for snakes when I see an extraordinary sight: a small turtle slow-scuttling across our path. It’s rare to see turtles in the forest. Indeed, turtles are one of the most endangered taxon in all Southeast Asia. Instantly my fatigue melts away. As I pick up the turtle and snap photos Thien asks me why I am so happy. I’m beaming, though I hadn’t noticed it. I’m happy because this is a unique find. It is another one of the jewels that the forest will offer if you spend enough time exploring its mysteries. A herpetologist I know has identified it as the keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhoutii). It is listed by the IUCN as Endangered. To find and hold one of the last of its kind is truly a soul-shaking experience. After several pictures I watched it crawl back into the jungle. I can only hope that it will find others and breed. The hike back to camp after that was still difficult but I didn’t seem to notice as much.

Keeled box turtle
Keeled box turtle
Keeled box turtle
Keeled box turtle

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