Southern river terrapin

Tuntung sungai is Indonesian name for this species. The southern river terrapin (Batagur affinis) is a turtle of the Batagur family found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. This species is protected in Indonesia. Spread in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Very rare to find in the wild, even in collectors. A survey in east cost Sumatra could not find the specimen, although local people can identify this species. They have four claw. Nesting season is estimated February to April in Indonesia.

Batagur affinis in Malaysia (photo: Eng Heng Chan)

Many Asian turtles are in danger because of the thriving trade in animals in the region, where a species’ rarity can add to its value on a menu or as a traditional medicine. An effort to find the colony and conserve this species is on progress by Satucita Foundation.

batagur affinis
Batagur affinis



Asiatic softshell turtle

Bulus is indonesian name to call Asian Softshell Turtle aka “Asiatic Soft-shell Turtle” (Amyda cartilaginea). It’s shell can growth up to 83 cm long.

juvenile Amyda cartilaginea (

It’s head and neck are long, and the mouth is narrow and tubular. The head is dark with yellow spots and splotches. Shell is olive or brown to black with tan and yellow spots. Underside of shell is white or pale grey. A very large turtle with a broad flat shell. It’s shell has a soft, leathery appearance. The front edge of the shell has a series of bumps, which help to distinguish it from other softshell turtles in the region.

As like as sSoftshell turtles have a range of adaptations that give them a quite different appearance than other turtles. Their soft, flat shell is lighter and more streamlined so they can chase their prey through the water. The flat shell also allows them to bury easily in the mud. The long neck and narrow head can move quickly to grab prey in the water, as well as reach up to breathe while exposing none of the body. And the wide, flat feet act like paddles to propel them through the water.

juvenile Amyda cartilaginea (

Amyda cartilaginea can be found in streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, canals, and park ponds. Prefers waterways with muddy substrate. They eat almost anything, including fish, frogs, crabs, shrimp, insects, aquatic vegetation, and carrion. Their young and eggs provide food for water monitors.

This turtle has a large head that can give a painful bite, but will not do any real damage. This Asian Softshell Turtle is often caught for food and for traditional Chinese medicine. It is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List and is on CITES Appendix II.

Related articles:


How to care turtles

Keeping turtles require much attention, a long-term commitment, and their routine maintenance requires time set aside each day. With a proper habitat and clean environment, watching your turtle swim, dive and chase his food provides seemingly endless entertainment. Here are some tips for you to keep turtles:

painted terrapin
painted terrapin


Keep the temperature at 77 to 95 degrees F for aquatic and semi aquatic species. Use an aquarium heater when needed; turtles and terrapins become sluggish and stop eating in low temperatures. A general rule of thumb is that your full-grown turtle’s body shouldn’t take up more than 25 percent of the floor space of the aquarium. Because aquatic turtles spend so much time in the water, the swimming area should be at least three-quarters of the tank and deep enough for the turtle to completely submerge in to swim in with ramps, rocks or bricks that allow him to easily get out of the water. The tank setup should provide a basking area for the turtle to dry off and soak up some heat. Basking is critical for drying and preventing shell problems. And since turtles can’t store vitamin D 3, they must be exposed to UVB light for absorption. Specialty ramps, a floating natural or artificial log, or even some large rocks can provide this.

Clean the entire aquarium (including the filtration system) at least once a month. Clean ponds or large enclosures where the animal spends time at least every three to six months. Prevent your turtle’s environment from becoming soiled by either netting or siphoning off all fecal matter as soon as possible. Fecal buildup can cause health problems.


Watching your turtles diet. Whether your pet turtle is an herbivore, carnivore or omnivore. For example, red-eared sliders, painted turtles and other species are predominantly carnivorous during their youth and primarily omnivorous throughout their adulthood.  While soft-shell turtles, on the other hand, are primarily carnivores. A complete turtle pellet provides a good base diet for aquatic pet turtles, but they all need daily additions. Herbivores speceis are often enjoy dark, leafy greens; while carnivores devour appropriately sized slugs, earthworms, guppies, brine shrimp and mealworms, and other live creatures. Omnivores need a selection of both types.

Supplement the diet with appropriate snacks: Earthworms, crustaceans, small fish, mouse pups, algae, leafy green vegetation and fruit are examples of suitable foods for terrapins. Semi aquatic species tend to be herbivorous – they tend to eat plants only. Feed your pet two to three times a week in a small holding tank that is separate from its normal enclosure; uneaten food can attract disease – causing microorganisms. Size of the food should be proportionate to the size of the turtle. Rinse off your turtle after a feeding with slightly warm water before returning him to his enclosure.

cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)
cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)

Water filtration

Keep the water clean to prevent health problems. Use an aquarium filtration system to maintain optimal water quality. Monitoring the temperature, salinity and pH of water. Some turtles prefer more salinity in their water; learn about your species to find the specific level and add the special sea salt available at aquarium stores to adjust the salinity. Perform water changes daily, if possible, or a few times a week. Bare-bottom tanks help keep the water clean, as does a quality filtration system.


Temperature plays a vital role in your turtle’s health and happiness. Too cold or too warm could stress him out or make him ill. For most aquatic turtles, the water temperature should be between 75 and 80 degrees; soft-shelled turtles prefer slightly cooler temperatures in from 72 to 75 degrees. Keep an eye on the water temperature with a tank thermometer. Room temperature will be a little too chilly for his basking area; point a heat lamp over the basking ramps or rocks to make the air temperature in the mid-80s to low 90s.

Asian box turtle (Cuora amboinensis)

The South Asian box or Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis) turtle gets its name from the ability to box itself up completely within its shell. This is due to the hinged lower shell, which, like other box turtles, can be folded up when the head is withdrawn, securely protecting the animal from any predators. It can grow to over 20 centimetres in length which makes it the largest of the Asian box turtles, which all belong to the genus Cuora. The highly domed upper shell, or carapace, is dark olive or black, whilst the lower shell, or plastron, is yellow to light brown, with large dark-brown or black patches toward the outside of each scute. The smallish head is olive to dark brown on top, yellow to olive underneath, with three distinctive black stripes running along the side of the head, from the nostrils to the neck. It has a protruding snout and slightly hooked upper jaw. The limbs are olive to black and large scales cover the front of the forelimbs. Males can be distinguished from females by their longer, thicker tails, and their slightly smaller size. Can grow up to length carapace: up to 21.6 cm.

Cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)
Cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)

The South Asian keeled box turtle is primarily nocturnal and spends most of its day hiding under piles of leaf litter along banks of streams. It feeds on a wide variety of foods, mainly aquatic plants, but also molluscs and crustaceans, and fallen fruits, fungi and soft invertebrates, such as worms and slugs, when on land. Turtles play a central role in their ecosystem food chain, through predation, and as prey for other forest animals.

carapace of Cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)
carapace of Cuora amboinensis (photo: joko guntoro)

They have been observed performing interesting courtship behaviour, whereby the male and female face each other, and with outstretched necks they move their heads in the shape of an infinity symbol. However, the male has also been observed being very aggressive during courtship, chasing the female and biting her on the neck. Sometimes males attempt to mate with each other, which results in violent fights. The nesting seasons are in January to February, and April, during which time around two to three brittle, white eggs are laid. After 67 to 77 days of incubation, tiny hatchlings appear, only up to 5 centimetres long, and contrary to adults which spend as much time on land as they do in the water, juveniles are entirely aquatic. In many Cuora species, the survival rate of hatchlings is reported to be very low, as hatchlings, as well as eggs, are an important food source for monitor lizards, herons and some small mammals. This is likely to contribute to the low reproductive rate of box turtles. They reach sexual maturity after four to five years and have a life expectancy of between 25 and 30 years.

plastron of C. amboinensis (photo: jko guntoro)
plastron of C. amboinensis (photo: jko guntoro)

There are four known subspecies of the South Asian box turtle; Cuora amboinensis amboinensis can be found in Indonesia and the Philippines, C. a. kamaroma occurs in eastern India, the Andaman Islands, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Borneo, C. a. couro lives on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, Thailand, Singapore, southern Myanmar, China and Cambodia, and C. a. lineata occurs in north-eastern Myanmar. (info sources:

IUCN: Vulnerable  ; CITES: Appendix II

All pictures are by Joko Guntoro

Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)

Heosemys spinosa is a very distinctive turtle. It has a sharp point on each marginal scute of the carapace and several more along the keel. There are smaller spines on the pleural scutes, creating the effect of a walking pin cushion. Adults may lose of the spines along the keel and pleural scutes. The carapace is brown with a lighter stripe down the center. The underside of the marginals and the plastron are buff colored with dark radiating stripes on each scute. The head may be brown or gray with a yellow spot on each side. The legs are gray with yellow speckling. The feet are slightly webbed. A medium sized turtle, the spiny turtle is about 9 inches long in adulthood. The spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa) inhabits lowland and hill rainforest, usually in the vicinity of small streams, mainly in hill areas up to 900 m.

The spiny turtle is known from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

IUCN: Endangered; CITES: Appendix II

photo: joko guntoro

Heosemys_spinosa_joko guntoro
Heosemys_spinosa_joko guntoro
carapace of Heosemys spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)
carapace of Heosemys spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)
plastron of H.spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)
plastron of H.spinosa (photo: joko guntoro)

Fencing the Area of Rearing Facility

Area of rearing facility of Tuntong Laut (Painted terrapin/Batagur borneoensis) have been fenced. Fencing is done to prevent disturbance by animals, such as goats and cattle, which often enter the area. Also to prevent the possibility of human disorders such as theft. This area will be complemented by several CCTV cameras for security support. Continue reading “Fencing the Area of Rearing Facility”

Eighty One Hatchlings of Painted Terrapin Produced

A total of eighty one hatchlings of Tuntong Laut (Painted terrapin / Batagur borneoensis) has been produced until Tuesday, April 2, 2013. The eighty one babies are the result of hatching effort conducted by satucita foundation since December 2012 in its rearing facility. Continue reading “Eighty One Hatchlings of Painted Terrapin Produced”

Rescue of Painted Terrapin Eggs is Continued

A total of 119 eggs were rescued by a team from December 2012 to January 2012. This means there is the addition of 50 eggs since December 22, 2012. A total of 119 eggs were rescued from seven nests were found on two beaches. Five nests found in Ujung Tamiang beach, while remaining in Pusong Cium beach. Continue reading “Rescue of Painted Terrapin Eggs is Continued”

Secure Painted Terrapin Eggs

Since the 10th December 2012 we have been conducting a nesting patrol to secure eggs from human threats and natural predation. Our team accompanied by a forestry officer has secured 69 eggs of Painted Terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) from 4 nests on two different nesting beaches. In this period we also recorded that two females failed to lay eggs due to being caught in fishermen’s nets located around the nesting beach. Continue reading “Secure Painted Terrapin Eggs”

Eleven Painted Terrapin Caught and Marked in First Survey

Our first survey was carried out for two weeks in early May. We found eleven Painted Terrapin (Batagur borneoensis). Six males, five females. The survey was between the 3rd and 16th of May.  After the data was collected and every individual marked they were released into the rivers where they were originally caught.

Continue reading “Eleven Painted Terrapin Caught and Marked in First Survey”