English name: Asian Softshell Turtle (aka “Asiatic Soft-shell Turtle”)
Scientific name: Amyda cartilaginea
Thai name: Tapap Nam, Plaa Fa
Description: Shell is up to 83 cm long. A very large turtle with a broad flat shell. Like all softshell turtles, its 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. The 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.
Similar Species: Chinese Softshell Turtle is much smaller, with an extremely long neck, and only has one bump on the front edge of the shell.
Habitat: Can be found in streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, canals, and park ponds. Prefers waterways with muddy substrate.
Contribution to the ecosystem: Will eat almost anything, including fish, frogs, crabs, shrimp, insects, aquatic vegetation, and carrion. Their young and eggs provide food for water monitors.
Danger to humans: This turtle has a large head that can give a painful bite, but will not do any real damage.
Conservation status and threats: The 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.
Interesting facts: Softshell 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.
Asian Turtle Conservation Network: Amyda cartilaginea
Ecology Asia: Asiatic Soft-shell Turtle
Turtles of the World: Amyda cartilaginea
IUCN Red List: Amyda cartilaginea
Arkive: Southeast Asian Soft Terrapin
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
The Turtles of Thailand