Reptiles and Amphibians of Thailand

Thailand's Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, and Frogs

Identifying Turtles

Anyone who has been to a park in Bangkok has seen the turtles. Turtles are an essential part of Thailand’s aquatic ecosystems and the country is full of beautiful and interesting species. Unfortunately, many turtles are endangered or extinct due to habitat destruction and harvesting for food and traditional medicine. The turtles you see in the city were released there from pet stores or markets, and finding a truly wild turtle in Bangkok is very difficult. This is a quick guide to identify those turtle species that can be seen:

If the turtle…

…has a red mark on the side of its head

Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans introduced to bangkok thailand
Red-eared Slider – medium-sized body, yellow lines and a big red spot on its head that can sometimes fade with age

…has yellow or white stripes on the side of its head and no red mark

Malayan Snail-eating Turtle Malayemys macrocephala  subtrijuga
Malayan Snail-eating Turtle – small body and shell with 3 keels, white-to-yellow stripes that wrap around eye
Southeast Asian Box Turtle Cuora amboinensis
Southeast Asian Box Turtle – small but with higher dome on shell and only 1 keel, yellow stripes that stay straight

…is black with pale spots on its head or no markings at all

Black Marsh Turtle 
Siebenrockiella crassicollis
smiling bangkok thailand
Black Marsh Turtle – small body, sometimes has pale spot behind eye, “smiling” face

…has a large, domed shell and a yellowish or orangish head

Yellow-headed Temple Turtle (Hieremys annandalii)
Yellow-headed Temple Turtle – yellowish marks on head, adults lack keel on shell
Giant Asian Pond Turtle Heosemys grandis
Giant Asian Pond Turtle – orangish marks on head, adults have keel on shell

…has a flat rubbery shell and a long snout

Chinese Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) sek keung lo hong kong pin
Chinese Softshell Turtle – no more than 37cm long, especially long neck, single small bump on front edge of shell
Asian Softshell Turtle Amyda cartilaginea southeast asian softshell Amyda ornata
Southeast Asian Softshell Turtle – up to 83cm long, long neck, row of bumps across front edge of shell

4 thoughts on “Identifying Turtles

  1. i have a turtle in my pond that has a high domed shell with knots on it the shell is about 18 inches long and about 8 to 10 inches high but it has a head and neck like a soft shelled turle but i can plainly see it is not a soft shelled any ideas of what type turle i have i cant find any info on the web describing this turtle please help

    1. That sounds like it possibly could be a yellow-headed temple turtle, but I’d really have to see pictures. Is it possible for you to put a picture on the web somewhere?

  2. I want to find a turthe that is of Thailand .it was kept in an aquarium for sale . I think it is a endangered species it has black body with white spots ,spots are close to each other . Size is small ,has a horney type of shell . I want you to find this species. And help me.

  3. I have been living in Thailand for 25 years and know a lot of animals.
    I live on a large 17 Rai property with a 4 Rai lake.
    We normally see lots of turtles throughout the year, however today we ended up with a turtle in my smaller Water-lily pond which we have never seen before.
    I do have a picture and like to know if this is a rare species to Thailand.

    Best Regards and I hope to hear back form you via my Email.
    Robert and Kai Buitenkamp, Jomtien.

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