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Newly designed kitchen exhibit at Lon­don Zoo serves live turtles ……

pub­lished 05 May 2015 | mod­i­fied 05 May 2015

Annam leaf turtleThe Annam leaf tur­tles at ZSL Lon­don Zoo have got a brand new exhibit. Designed to repli­cate a Viet­nam restau­rant kitchen, it hope­fully hit a chord with zoo vis­i­tors. It should make them aware of the main threat to this Crit­i­cally Endan­gered species, which is con­sid­ered a tasty del­i­cacy in Viet­nam, the coun­try it is orig­i­nat­ing from.

The Annam leaf tur­tle or Viet­namese pond tur­tle is fac­ing extinc­tion in the wild due to over-​hunting for the restau­rant trade an habi­tat loss, while it is fac­ing a bub­bling soup pot, butcher­ing knives and woks from the kitchen sink — its pool at the new exhibit of Lon­don Zoo.

Annam turtle exhibit ZSLTwo Annam tur­tles swim hap­pily in their new home — an exhibit designed to look like a restaurant’s kitchen demon­strat­ing the species’ plight in the wild. (Credit: ZSL Lon­don Zoo)

We’ve gone to town on the new Annam leaf tur­tle exhibit here at ZSL Lon­don Zoo, as we want our vis­i­tors to really under­stand the threats fac­ing these animals.
Ben Tap­ley, team leader of the Rep­tile House, ZSL Lon­don Zoo »

Nor­mally, zoos try to cre­ate enclo­sures that resem­ble the species’ native habi­tat as much as pos­si­ble and pro­vide infor­ma­tion about the threats the species are fac­ing via pan­els at the exhibit. But this kitchen-​themed enclo­sure brings on the edu­ca­tional value dif­fer­ently. It is the kitchen itself that is the main threat to the tur­tles, thus the ‘tableau vivant’ is pro­vid­ing the mes­sage by paint­ing a very som­bre picture.

The Annam leaf tur­tle (Mau­re­mys anna­men­sis) is now clas­si­fied as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species and fac­ing the real threat of going extinct. The species is endemic to a small area in cen­tral Viet­nam. It can reach up to 30cm in length and has strik­ing look­ing striped necks and faces.

Pro­vid­ing a great habi­tat for these beau­ti­ful tur­tles, with water for them to swim in and a secluded nest­ing area hid­den behind a care­fully posi­tioned wok, the cre­ative exhibit tells a seri­ous story,” says Tap­ley. “It has been esti­mated that more than ten mil­lion tur­tles are being traded for food, tra­di­tional med­i­cine and the pet trade each year in Asia. Breed­ing pro­grammes and zoo pop­u­la­tions like ours here at ZSL Lon­don Zoo, are becom­ing increas­ingly impor­tant in guar­an­tee­ing the exis­tence of these ani­mals for the future.”

(Source: ZSL Lon­don Zoo News, 04.05.2015; Asian Tur­tle Con­ser­va­tion Net­work)

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