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Identifying Turtles

Anyone who has been to a park in Bangkok has seen the turtles in the city’s ponds. Turtles are an essential part of Thailand’s aquatic ecosystems and the country is full of beautiful and interesting turtle species. Unfortunately, many of Thailand’s turtles are endangered or extinct due to habitat destruction and the harvesting of large numbers of turtles 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 here:



If the turtle has a flat, soft shell and a long snout, it is a softshell turtle:

Asian Softshell Turtle – up to 83cm long, row of bumps across front edge of shell
Asian Softshell Turtle Amyda cartilaginea

Chinese Softshell Turtle – no more than 37cm long, especially long neck, single bump on front edge of shell
Chinese Softshell Turtle Pelodiscus sinensis



If the turtle has a large, domed shell and a yellowish or orangish head, it is either a Yellow-headed Temple Turtle or a Giant Asian Pond Turtle:

Giant Asian Pond Turtle – orangish marks on head, adults lack keel on shell
Giant Asian Pond Turtle Heosemys grandis

Yellow-headed Temple Turtle – yellowish marks on head, adults have keel on shell
Yellow-headed Temple Turtle Hieremys annandalii sick



If the turtle has a red mark on the side of its head, it is a Red-eared Slider:

Red-eared Slider – red spot behind eye that fades with age
Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans



If the turtle has yellow or white stripes on the side of its head, it is a Malayan Snail-eating Turtle or a Southeast Asian Box Turtle

Malayan Snail-eating Turtle – 3 keels on shell, white-to-yellow stripes that wrap around eye
Malayan Snail-eating Turtle Malayemys subtrijuga

Southeast Asian Box Turtle – only 1 keel on shell, yellow stripes that go through eye
Southeast Asian Box Turtle Cuora amboinensis



If the turtle is all black with one or more pale spots on its head, or no markings at all, it is a Black Marsh Turtle.

Black Marsh Turtle – all black with pale spot behind eye, “smiling” face
Black Pond Turtle  Siebenrockiella crassicollis

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3 responses to “Identifying Turtles

  1. amanda

    July 19, 2011 at 1:25 am

    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

     
    • Jonathan Hakim

      July 19, 2011 at 11:05 am

      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. Arinjay

    April 19, 2016 at 12:55 am

    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.

     

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