VietNam – Dangerous alien monsters that once appeared in Vietnam now flood China


In May 2021, a newspaper reported that a “rare crocodile turtle” was caught in Thi Complain lagoon (Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh).

But the Chinese press says the species, which originated in the American South, now floods southern China. Crocodile turtles are strong, aggressive, and the Chinese authorities are expressing concern about this situation.

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Dangerous crocodile turtles

Voracious monsters

Crocodile turtles, large, voracious predators have silently invaded the lakes and rivers of China, threatening native species.

Originally from North America, crocodile turtles have been imported in large quantities into China for many years, where they are raised for meat and sold to those who want to own “poisonous, strange” pets.

On Chinese e-commerce sites, one can buy young crocodile turtles for as little as 20 yuan ($3)/head. However, buyers often do not know that their new pet will later grow into a monster.

Crocodile turtles in large maturity reach large sizes, weigh up to 80 kg, have long claws, have a beak, the carapace has many sharp ledges. If threatened, they will attack, biting and tearing everything in sight. Their bite can cause us to lose our fingers immediately.

Now, these turtles seem to be adapting gradually, entering the natural ecosystem, raising concerns among Chinese authorities and biologists, according to the journal Sixth Qing (China).

Chinese media reported dozens of cases of crocodile turtles found in river regions over the past decade. A study published in 2020 found that the middle and lower Yangtze River are particular hotspots where crocodile turtles are most commonly encountered.

Scientists warn, if these turtles adapt and begin to breed outside the captivity, they are capable of seriously destroying local ecosystems. They are inherently famous for their voracity, being able to destroy everything from fish, frogs and smaller turtles, to any mammals that happen to be in the water. A variety of native Chinese species may be threatened.

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Crocodile turtles have entered the ecosystem in China

Crocodile turtles seem to be entering the ecosystem through several roads. In some cases, livestock farms suffer from flooding, causing captive crocodile turtles to come out in captivity. Tens of millions of turtles are kept in China each year for use as food, pets and for the preparation of traditional medicine, of which crocodile turtles are a popular choice due to their large size.

Last year, a Chinese angler caught a crocodile turtle from a river. In another incident, locals called the police after spotting a man dropping two crocodile turtles into the Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, in the southwest of chongqing city.

Chinese authorities are trying to control the ejection activity, which has resulted in a large number of non-native species being released into rivers and lakes, upsetting the balance of local ecosystems. Invasive species are considered a major threat to China’s biodiversity.

In 2020, government experts included crocodile turtles on a list of 17 non-native species that are dangerous to release into China’s freshwater ecosystems. The reasons given are that crocodile turtles eat large amounts of native fish, amphibians, turtles and birds, and can also bite people.


In March 2021, China began to consider the release of invasive species into the wild as an offense. Many lakes and rivers, especially those near temples, now have signs warning the public that emancipation is prohibited.

Chinese media in recent years have also published many stories, calling crocodile turtles “ecological killers” and reminding people not to keep them as pets or release them into the wild. Those who caught a crocodile turtle in the wild are recommended to slaughter the meat, not to release it back into the water.

Mr. Dudgeon agreed that preventing the release of alligator turtles should be a priority for Chinese law enforcement. “Preventing people from releasing alligator turtles is much more realistic than removing animals that have entered the wild,” he said.

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The crocodile turtles are for sale on the Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao. The inscription on the photos reads: “The farmer stands for sale, including the shipping fee” (left) and “Farming is terrible, eating is very critical”.

But preventing crocodile turtles from escaping into the natural environment is difficult due to the sheer scale of the turtle trade. More than 400,000 crocodile turtles are sold as pets each year on the Taobao e-commerce platform. These animals are also for sale on other Chinese platforms, for example the site. Plastic containers filled with baby turtles are also a common sight at pet markets across China.

China is not the only country where crocodile turtles are a dilemma. Thousands have been caught in the wild in Japan. Crocodile turtles may also have invaded Europe: There have been recorded many incidents of river and lake bathers in France, Germany and Italy encountering them in recent years.

In 2021, the News newspaper (VNA) reported: “Catching rare crocodile turtles in Thi Complain lagoon”. The news release reads: “On the afternoon of May 19, Binh Dinh Fisheries Department said that it had just received a crocodile turtle caught by fishermen in the Thi Complain lagoon area (Quy Nhon city).

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Mr. Le Tam (right) handed over the crocodile turtle to the representative of Binh Dinh ForestRy Department on the morning of May 19, 2021. Photo: VNA broadcast

Earlier, at 4 o’clock on the same day, Mr. Le Tam, residing in Dong Da ward (Quy Nhon city) during the fishing process on Thi Complain lagoon discovered a turtle caught in a net.

Through initial observation, turtles have a low, black squashed shell, with 3 rows of longitudinal spikes on the carapace. The tail is long, soft and with sharp spines like a crocodile’s tail. The head has no forehead scales. Seeing that it was not like the common types of turtles, Mr. Tam contacted the Binh Dinh Fisheries Department to hand it over. At the time of handover, this crocodile turtle weighed 4.3 kg, was 45cm long (including the tail), the tail was about 10cm long. Stable state of health.

According to the Binh Dinh Fisheries Department, the crocodile turtle, whose scientific name is Macrochelys temminckii, is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world today. This is an alien, endangered species according to the classification of the International Organization for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This species of turtle occurs abundantly in the rivers of the Southern United States. Due to the intensive trade in exotic pets, this species of turtles has appeared in Asia and Europe. This is the first time crocodile turtles have appeared in Binh Dinh. Because it is an alien species that cannot be released to the natural environment, Binh Dinh Fisheries Department has contacted and handed over to FLC Zoo Safari Quy Nhon to care for and nurture”..



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