Turtle Conservancy Info

Gerald Kuchling, Ph.D.


Gerald studied Zoology and Physiology at the University of Vienna, worked as research assistant in the herpetological collection of the Natural History Museum Vienna from 1973 to 1975 and received his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in 1979, completing his thesis on the reproduction of Hermann's Tortoises (Testudo hermanni). After a post doc at the University of Göttingen, he started conducting tortoise and turtle surveys and conservation projects in Madagascar in 1984, including the first ever field study of the Flat-tailed Tortoise (Pyxis planicauda).

Gerald has established conservation programs, breeding initiatives, and conducted research on a variety of chelonians including, the Madagascan Big-headed Turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis), the Geometric Tortoise (Psammobates geometricus), Bowsprit Tortoise (Chersina angulata), Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata), and the Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis) among others.

Since 1987 Gerald has worked with his wife Guundie to save the Critically Endangered Western Swamp Turtle (Pseudemydura umbrina). He continues this recovery work as Senior Research Scientist of the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation and as Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the School of Animal Biology of The University of Western Australia. In 2002 the collaboration of Gerald’s business Chelonia Enterprises with the Myanmar Forestry Department lead to the rediscovery of, a large river turtle that had not been recorded alive since 1935. Gerald immediately established a captive colony at Mandalay Zoo and developed a conservation strategy for the species.

A hallmark of Gerald career has been his focus on reproductive biological research that directly contributes to turtle conservation. His book, The Reproductive Biology of the Chelonia, was first published in 1999. Over the last few years Gerald, working for the Turtle Survival Alliance, has assessed and improved breeding projects for critically endangered Asian turtles including the Southeast Asian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra chitra) in Thailand and in Malaysia. One of Gerald strengths is endoscopic sexing of hatchling and juvenile turtles to assess sex ratios in breeding and head-starting programs, including of Desert Tortoises in California. Since 2007, Gerald has led a captive breeding project for the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), based on the world’s only known female which Gerald discovered in Changsha Zoo and the only surviving old male in China in Suzhou Zoo. Gerald was the 2009 winner of the Behler Turtle Conservation Award.