The most endangered indonesian freshwater turtles

Indonesia is a country which rich of freshwater turtles, tortoises and terrapins species. Most of them are facing extinction due to habitat loss, hunting and human consumption. Here are the list of the most endangered freshwater turtles in Indonesia. This list is our opinion. Rarity to find in the wild, observation of internet trading, discussion with the pet owner and seller, reports are our method to compile this list.

1. Southeast Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle (Chitra chitra)

Protected in Indonesia. Spread in Java and Sumatra. Found in large rivers with clear water and sandy bottoms. This species is intensively exploited for food and pet trade. Little known about natural history and behavior of this softshell turtle.

Chitra chitra

2. Southern river terrapin (Batagur affinis)

Protected in Indonesia. Very rare to find in the wild, even in collectors. A survey in east coast of Sumatra could not find the specimen, although local people can identify this species. They have four claw. Nesting season estimated February to April in Indonesia. An initiative to find the a health population and then to conserve this species is under progress by Satucita Foundation.

male of Batagur affinis (photo:Eng Heng Chan)

3. Painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis)

Conservation of this species in under progress by Satucita Foundation.

male in breeding season (photo: joko guntoro)
male in breeding season (photo: joko guntoro)

4. Roti island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi)

Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) has quite a long neck. The carapace is approximately 21 cm long and extends out over its legs and head. When the turtle is threatened it folds its head and long neck under the edge of the carapace. Very little known this beautiful turtle. Its inhabits small fresh water lakes in high-altitude areas such as rice fields, marshes and irrigation canals. They are very seriously endangered because has been and continues to be hunted – these turtles are popular both as pets and as food – and their habitat is shrinking as well.

Chelodina mccordi (photo: CITES)

5. Sulawesi forest turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi)

It is endemic to Sulawesi Island. The Sulawesi forest turtle is a critically endangered species of turtle in the Geoemydidae family.

Leucocephalon yuwonoi (photo:

6. Cantor’s giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)

Spread in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java. This freshwater turtle has a broad head and small eyes close to the tip of its snout. The carapace is smooth and olive-colored. Juveniles may have dark-spotted carapaces and heads, with yellow around the carapace. They can grow up to 6 ft (about 2 m) in length. P. cantorii is an ambush predator and primarily carnivorous, feeding on crustaceans, mollusks and fish (some aquatic plants may also be eaten). Laying 20-28 eggs (about 1.2 to 1.4 inches [3.0-3.5 cm] in diameter) in February or March on riverbanks.

Pelochelys cantorii (photo:

7. Asian forest tortoises (Manouria emys emys)

The largest tortoise in Asia. Hunted for sell to be pet due their unique appearance and consumed by local people in some cases. An initial effort to study and conserve this species is in preparation by Satucita Foundation. Further info can be found here

juvenile Manouria emys (photo:

8. Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)

Hunted for sell to be pet due their unique appearance and consumed by local people in some cases. An initial effort to study and conserve this species is in preparation by Satucita Foundation. Further info can be found here

carapace of Heosemys spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)
carapace of Heosemys spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)

Roni The Blind Painted Terrapin

Roni is a name given to an individual of freshwater turtlePainted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) – was born in our facility. He was born on March 26, 2013. His identity number is 80. The egg was found and secured from the beach on January 1, 2013, along with 14 another eggs in a nest located. However, from a total of 15 eggs in the clutch, only 9 eggs hatched successfully in rearing facility. Roni is one of them. Thus, it can be said that currently Roni has 8 brother / sister. But, only Roni who was born blind.

Roni the blind painted terrapin
Roni the blind painted terrapin

Although he is blind, his growth remains good. During April, his carapace length increased 1.1 cm, while width grew 1 cm. When he was born, the carapace length only 5.2 cm and 4.7 cm in wide. Now the carapace length is 6.3 cm and 5.7 cm in wide.

However, when compared with another hatchlings, his response to external stimulants is little slower. If another offspring diving immediately into the water when approached by people, he remained silent swimming on the surface. Therefore, we can catch him easily. Seeing this condition, we consider that Roni will not released into habitat because it would be easy for predators to catch him in the wild.

Roni the blind painted terrapin
Roni the blind painted terrapin

Nevertheless, he was still able to eat well. When we give food Kangkung (Ipomoea sp) or pellets into the pond, he was engaged to  chewed it with relish.

Bahasa Indonesia

Roni Si Kura-kura Buta

Roni adalah anak kura-kura air tawar (freshwater turtle species) Tuntung laut (Painted terrapin, Batagur borneoensis) yang menetas di fasilitas pembesaran . Ia lahir tanggal 26 Maret 2013. Ia adalah anak kura-kura ke 80 yang menetas di pembesaran. Karena itu, ia diberi nomor 80. Telur Roni diamankan dari pantai pada tanggal 1 Januari 2013, bersama dengan 14 telur lainnya yang terletak  di dalam satu sarang. Namun, dari total 15 telur di dalam sarang itu, hanya 9 telur yang menetas dan Roni merupakan salah satunya. Dengan demikian, saat ini Roni memiliki 8 kakak/adik dari satu ibu. Hanya Roni yang terlahir buta.

Roni the blind painted terrapin
Roni the blind painted terrapin

Walaupun buta, pertumbuhannya tetap baik. Selama bulan April panjang karapasnya bertambah 1,1 cm, sedangkan lebarnya bertambah 1 cm. Ketika ia lahir, panjang karapasnya hanya 5,2 cm dan lebarnya 4,7 cm. Kini panjang karapasnya 6,3 cm dan lebarnya 5,7 cm.

Namun, jika dibandingkan dengan tukik yang lain, responnya terhadap stimulan sedikit lebih lambat. Jika tukik yang lain segera masuk ke air ketika mengetahui ada orang mendekat di kolam, ia tetap diam berenang di permukaan air. Bahkan, kami dapat menangkapnya dengan mudah. Melihat kondisi ini sepertinya Roni tidak akan kami lepas ke habitat karena ia akan mudah dimangsa predator di alam.

Roni the blind painted terrapin
Roni the blind painted terrapin

Meskipun begitu, ia tetap dapat makan dengan baik. Ketika kami memberi makanan kangkung atau pelet ke dalam kolam, ia pun bergerak mencapainya dan mengunyahnya dengan lahap.

The offspring of painted terrapin is basking

The babies of  Painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is basking in the pond at our rearing facility. Usually, they are basking as a group and about half to one hour at basking area in the ponds. But, if they aware of our present they move to water immediately. I often found this situation. Therefore, the best way to see them is from far.

the offspring is basking in the pond (photo: satucita foundation)
the offspring is basking in the pond (photo: satucita foundation)

Their behavior to avoid human is a good sign to support their conservation in the habitat. We hope that they are also will avoid human present after released in the habitat. Through this way, they will not caught easily by human who want to capture them. Painted terrapin is still one the most wanted species to sell in local illegal market.

the offspring is basking in the pond (photo: satucita foundation)
the offspring is basking in the pond (photo: satucita foundation)

Painted terrapin is a species of freshwater turtles that facing extinction. This species included in top twenty five of freshwater turtles, tortoises and terrapins in endangered situation in the world. We are actively to conserve them currently, either through ex-situ or in-situ activities. They are a part of our initiative in conservation of freshwater turtles, tortoises and terrapins in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

The hatchlings growth well after raised a month

After about a month raised at headstarting facility, the hatchlings of Painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) are growth well. On 4 of May measurement, the average weight is 49 gram, length of carapace is 6,2 cm and width of carapace is 5,8 cm. In previous measurement on 30 March, their average weight was 41 gram, length of carapace 5,4 cm and width of carapace 5,1 cm.  It can be said that average growth for April is 16 percent. To monitoring the individual growth, each hatchling marked with number on plastron.

ID number
ID number

Conservation of freshwater turtles, tortoise and terrapin must be based on the natural behavior. Currently, the hatchlings are raised in two ponds at our headstarting facility. Fifty hatchlings are in a larger pond and the rest are in another smaller pond. This is to give larger space for them to swim or move in the ponds. Water in the ponds is replaced twice a week to keep the cleanliness of the ponds. Water salinity and pH are also controlled.

The food is combined of kangkung (Ipomoea aquatica), fruit berembang (Sonneratia sp), pellets.

measuring the the length of carapace, etc
measuring the the length of carapace, etc

In Bahasa Indonesia:

Setelah sebulan dibesarkan di  fasilitas pembesaran, bayi kura-kura tumbuh dengan baik. Saat ini, berat rata-rata mereka adalah 4,7 gram, panjang karapas 6,2 cm dan lebar karapas 5,8 cm. Saat pengukuran sebelumnya pada tanggal 30 Maret, berat rata-rata hanya 4,1 gram, panjang tempurung 5,4 cm dan lebar tempurung 5,1 cm. Terjadi pertumbuhan rata-rata untuk bulan April sebesar 16 persen. Untuk memantau pertumbuhan individu, setiap bayi kura-kura ditandai dengan nomor di plastron.

carapace of hatchling
carapace of hatchling

Pelestarian kura-kura, termasuk merawat kura-kura, harus didasarkan pada perilaku alamiah mereka. Saat ini, keseluruahn anak kura-kura dibesarkan di dua kolam yang ada di fasilitas pembesaran. Sebanyak 50 ekor di kolam yang berukuran lebih besar, sedangkan sisanya sebanyak 30 ekor di kolam yang lebih kecil. Hal ini dilakukan untuk memberikan ruang yang lebih besar bagi mereka untuk berenang dan bergerak di dalam kolam. Air di kolam diganti dua kali seminggu untuk tetap menjaga kebersihan kolam. Tingkat salinitas dan keasaman air juga dikontrol setiap minggu.

Hingga saat ini, makanan dikombinasikan dari kangkung (Ipomoea aquatica), buah berembang (Sonneratia sp.) dan pelet.

Cyclemys oldhami

Cyclemys oldhamii
Cyclemys oldhami (photo: jokoguntoro)

Oldham turtle (Cyclemys oldhami) or Kura-kura Oldham is a medium sized turtle, that can grow up to 15 – 24cm. Very similar to Cyclemys dentata. They have webbed feet and are highly aquatic, especially as juveniles, however, they tend to become more terrestrial as they get older with adults spending more time on land. This species is omnivorous, feeds on fruit, carrion, fish and crustaceans. 7 to 10 eggs laid up to 3 times per year.

carapace of C. oldhami (photo: satucita foundation)
carapace of C. oldhami (photo: satucita foundation)

Inhabit streams in mountain forests. Their geographic range extends from Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java. They are also found on a few Indonesian islands (Borneo, Bali, Java and Sumatra). It is uncertain whether or not their range extends into China. In IUCN they listed as Near Threathened.

plastron of C. oldhami (photo: satucita foundation)
plastron of C.oldhami (photo: satucita foundation)

Forest softshell turtle

Forest Soft-shell Turtle (Dogania subplana) or Labi-labi hutan or Bulus hutan (local name in Indonesia), is an elusive species of clear, fast-flowing streams and quiet muddy backwaters. Lying partly submerged in the substrate, the distinctive patterning helps in its camouflage. However, the pairs of eyespots or ocelli on the carapace tend to stand out.

Asian soft-shell turtle (Dogania subplana) (photo: satucita foundation)
Asian soft-shell turtle (Dogania subplana) (photo: satucita foundation)

The neck is long : the upper surface bears longitudinal stripes and the underside is orange in colour. The head is relatively large and the nose tubular in shape, contributing to its charming appearance. The forefeet are greenish.

carapace of D.subplana
carapace of D.subplana (photo: satucita foundation)

The species ranges from Kalimantan, Sumatra, the Natuna Islands, Java. Can grow up to carapace length about 35 cm. Local people often eat this species. This species is listed in IUCN as Least Concern.

Asian forest tortoises

This largest tortoise is believed to be among the most primitive of living tortoises, based on molecular and morphological studies. This is the only tortoise which lays its eggs above ground in a nest, which the female constructs of leaf litter. The female uses both front and rear legs to gather material for the nest and lays up to 50 eggs deep inside it. She then sits on and near the nest to protect it, and will ‘chase’ predators and intruders away. This largest tortoises consist of two subspecies:

  • Manouria emys phayrei: N/W Thailand to NE India; Type locality: Arakan; Tenasserim Provinces’. M. e. phayrei has been named after Sir Arthur Purves Phayre (1812–1885), British officer in India who became Commissioner of British Burma.
  • Manouria emys emys: S Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo; Type locality: Sumatra. M. e. emys has separated pectoral scutes while M. e. phayrei has joined pectoral scutes.

asian forest tortoises

In Indonesia they are spread in the forest hills, paticularly in Sumatra Island. Some people collect from the wild to sell this tortoises. Even, some local people eat this tortoises to be a kind of desert when they drink alcohol. They are also facing losing habitat due to the conversion of forest to be palm plantation and development.

The largest tortoise in mainland Asia; large adult of the northern subspecies, M.e. phayrei, can reach 25 kg in the wild and much more than that in captivity. Shell considerably depressed, its depth not half its length; anterior and posterior margins reverted, more or less strongly serrated; nuchal present; supracaudal shields two; dorsal shields concentrically striated, often concave; vertebrals much broader than long and at least as broad as costals.


Plastron large, gular region somewhat produced and usually notched, hind lobe deeply notched; the pectoral shields may be widely separated from each other, or from a short median suture; axillary shield very small, inguinal large. Head moderate; two large prefrontal shields and a large frontal; beak not hooked; jaws feebly denticulated, the alveolar surface of the upper jaw with a strong median ridge.

Fore limb anteriorly with very large, bony, pointed, imbricate tubercles, forming four or five longitudinal series; hind limb with very large bony tubercles on the plantar surface, with others larger, conical, and spur-like on the heel, and a group of still larger conical tubercles on each side on the back of the thighs. Adult dark brown or blackish; carapace of young yellowish brown, with dark-brown markings.

Facts about turtles

  • Consist of 331 species – turtles, freshwater turtles, tortoises, terrapins and sea turtles – throughout the world.
  • The only place where turtles are can’t live is Antarctica.
  • They are only vertebrates on Earth whose arms connect to their body.
  • The most freshwater turtles are temperature-dependent sex determinant. High temperature produce female, while low temperature produce male.
English: Adult Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherba...
English: Adult Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle Türkçe: yumurta bırakmak için gece kumsala çıkmış bir deri sırtlı deniz kaplumbağası (Dermochelys coriacea) görüntüsüdür. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Turtles have been on the earth for more than 200 million years. They evolved before mammals, birds, crocodiles, snakes, and even lizards. Turtles are one of the oldest and most primitive groups of reptiles and have outlived many other species. One can only wonder if their unique shell is responsible for their longevity. But, a newest study shows that they are not too primitive and more related to bird.
  • The earliest turtles had teeth and could not retract their heads, but other than this, modern turtles are very similar to their original ancestors.
aldabra tortoise
aldabra tortoise
  • Several species of turtles can live over a hundred years of age, for example Aldabra tortoise. A documented case of longevity involves an adult Indian Ocean Giant Tortoise that, when captured as an adult, was estimated to be fifty years old. It then lived another 152 years in captivity.
  • Turtles have good eyesight and an excellent sense of smell. Hearing and sense of touch are both good and even the shell contains nerve endings.
  • Some aquatic turtles can absorb oxygen through the skin on their neck and cloacal areas allowing them to remain submerged underwater for extended periods of time and enabling them to hibernate underwater. All turtles can go without oxygen for several hours, but the western painted turtle can go without oxygen for 30 hours at room temperature and four months at 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
painted turtle (
  • Turtles will live in almost any climate warm enough to allow them to complete their breeding cycle.
  • Most freshwater turtles do not tolerate the cold well, but the Blanding’s turtle has been observed swimming under the ice in the Great Lakes region.
  • Turtles range in size from the 4-inch such as Bog Turtle to the 1500-pound such as Leatherback turtle (a species of sea turtle). The biggest freshwater turtle ever found is Rafetus swinhoei in Vietnam.
Rafetus swinhoei
Rafetus swinhoei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • North America, China and Indonesia have a large variety of turtle species, but Europe contains only two species of turtle and three species of tortoise.
  • The top domed part of a turtle’s shell is called the carapace, and the bottom underlying part is called the plastron.
  • The shell of a turtle is made up of 60 different bones all connected together.
  • The bony portion of the shell is covered with plates (scutes) that are derivatives of skin and offer additional strength and protection.
  • Most land tortoises have high, domed carapaces that offer protection from the snapping jaws of terrestrial predators. Aquatic turtles tend to have flatter, more aerodynamically shaped shells.
red eared slider (photo:naturemappingfoundation)
  • A species of freshwater turtles Red Eared Slider is the most invasive species in the world.

Chinese soft-shell turtle

Labi-labi china (local name) or Chinese soft-shell (Pelodiscus sinensis) turtle has a oval carapace without scutes. It is smooth and leathery in adults, while juveniles have rows of small bumps along the back. The plastron in adults is cream, grey or yellow with no patterns, while juveniles have pinkish-red plastrons with black blotches. The body is olive to greyish-green and are unpatterned in adults, with light spots and fine radiating black lines around the eyes in juveniles. It grows to 25 cm long.

Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)
Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)

This freshwater turtle is non native to Indonesia. Spread to Indonesia estimated about 1970 when imported to meet the local demand for consumption. High demand make local businnes owner tried to breed it. But, due to the decreasing in local demand make this was lost profit and could not continue. Then, the business could not manage the ponds (in hectares). Thousands individuals of this species spread to rivers in City of Medan and now spread anywhere become invasive.

carapace of Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)
carapace of Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)

The Chinese Softshell Turtle inhabits freshwater habitats including ponds, marshes and rivers. It usually stays buried in the substrate to ambush its prey and is rarely seen basking. It feeds on small invertebrates including mussels and insects. Oviparous; clutches comprise of 9–28 eggs and incubation takes about 40–80 days.

plastron of Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)
plastron of Pelodiscus sinensis (photo: satucita foundation)

This softshell turtle is non native for Indonesia and considered as invasive species. IUCN: Vulnerable

Chelodina mccordi

Kura-kura leher ular kepulauan rote is a name to call this freshwater turtle species in Bahasa Indonesia. It belongs to the genus Chelodina (Australian snake-necked turtles) within the family of Side-necked turtles (Chelidae). Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is an extremely threatened turtle species from Rote Island south west of Timor and north of Australia.

Chelodina mccordi (photo: CITES)

The carapace can reach a length between 18 and 24 centimetres. The length of the neck is similar. The color of the carapace is pale grey brown. Occasionally there are also specimens which have a chestnut coloured hue. The plastron is pale buff white. The neck is dark brown on the upperparts with round tubercles. The underparts are beige white. The iris is black surrounded by a white ring. Its habitat are swamps, rice terraces, and small lakes.

English: Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chel...

This freshwater turtle was split from the New Guinea snake-necked turtle and regarded as distinct species in 1994 after Dr. Anders Rhodin, director of the Chelonian Research Foundation in Lunenburg (Massachusetts), found out that there are differences between the two species. The first snake-necked turtles on Roti Island were discovered in 1891 by George Albert Boulenger. They were named for Dr. William McCord, a veterinary and turtle expert from Hopewell Junction, New York.

Chelodina mccordi (photo:
Chelodina mccordi (photo:

A clutch can consist of 8 to 14 and it can have three breeding periods in one year. The size of the eggs is 30 x 20 mm and the weight can reach eight to ten grams. The first hatchlings come after three months, the last after four months. When they hatch they have a size of 28 x 20 mm and they have yellow spots on the plastron which become darker with the time until the plastron becomes almost black after a few weeks. During the growing period the coloring becomes more pale until they finally reach the color of the adults.



IUCN Red List