The 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.
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.”