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Turtles of Nepal: A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution



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Prakash Chandra Aryal
Man Kumar Dhamala
Bed Prasad Bhurtel
Madan Krishna Suwal
Bishal Rijal
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Published by: Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH), Resources Himalaya
Foundation and Companions for Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal (CARON)
Financial Support: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)/
Copyright: © 2010 Authors
All photographs by authors if not mentioned otherwise.
Citation: Aryal, Prakash, C., Dhamala, Man K., Bhurtel, Bed P., Suwal, Madan K., and
Rijal, Bishal. 2010.
. Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH),
and Companions for Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal
(CARON). Kathmandu, Nepal.
ISBN: 978-9937-2-27-62-9
Layout: Chandi Raj Dahal
Printed at: ...........................
Contact: Environmental Graduates in Himalaya (EGH)
Post Box No. 2448, Kathmandu
Companions for Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal (CARON)
GPO 8973 NPC 491 Postal Code 44600, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal
WWF-Nepal Program
Prof. Karan Bahadur Shah, Natural History Museum. Kathmandu, Nepal
Dr. Pralad Yonzon, Resources Himalaya Foundation. Lalitpur, Nepal
Himalaya Foundation
1. Fishing in outlet of Mahadevtal, Kailali (top-left)
2. (second-left)
3. recorded from Pyaratal, Kanchanpur (third left)
4. , caught by a fisherman in Koshi river (bottom-left)
5. Gaidatal : During monsoon (center-rigth)
Turtles of Nepal: A Field Guide for Species Accounts and
P. tentoria circumdata
H. thurjii,
P. smithii smithii
Cover photographs:
Turtles represent a magnificent group of vertebrates but remain obscure when their position in
conservation and availability of ecological information are discussed. Distributed throughout the priority
Tarai, in varied habitat conditions, they are facing several threats related to habitat and populations due to
anthropogenic activities. Turtles are neither included in the protected species list of National Parks and
Wildlife Conservation (NPWC) Act (1973) and successive amendments, nor are fully researched. The
ambiguity in species occurrence, lack of threat assessments amidst the perceived risks of population
declines under thriving exploitation and trade have created gap in species information.
This publication is based on the outcomes of the small grant project “Species Accounts, Distribution
Status and Threat Assessment of Turtles in Lowlands of Nepal with Special Focus on Indian Eyed Turtle
( Anderson, 1879) funded by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and executed
by EGH (Environmental Graduates in Himalaya), Resources Himalaya Foundation, Nepal. The
objectives included the updating of species distributions and mapping. The fieldworks and published
works on turtles of Nepal have contributed to vital information about the species features. This publication
has been developed to acquaint the conservation organizations, researchers and community organizations
about the turtle species and their current distributions in Nepal.
This work has been achieved through the kind support, help and appreciations of several organizations
and personnels. Foremost, we would like to extend our gratitude to Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
(CEPF)/ WWF Nepal Program for providing the financial supports and Environmental Graduates in
Himalaya (EGH), Resources Himalaya Foundation (RHF) for project execution. Companions for
Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal (CARON) members deserve accredited with many thanks. Dr. Pralad
Yonzon, his review and comments are owed sincere gratitude. Dr. Sarala Khaling, Dr. Bivas Pandav, Mr.
Angphuri Sherpa and Mr. Bikram Kachhyapati - WWF Nepal Program, are acknowledged for extended
support throughout the work. Prof. Karan Bahadur Shah, Prof. Kaluram Rai, Dr.Antonnie Cadi, Dr. Firoz
Ahmed are highly acknowledged for their timely suggestions and encouragement.
We are grateful to the Department of Forests (DoF) and Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Conservation (DNPWC) for study permissions. The staff members of Protected Areas, Nepal Army,
District Forest Offices and Community Forest and Wetland User Groups are acknowledged for their kind
cooperation. Conservation organizations, namely Dolphin Conservation Center (UNDP/SGP), Crocodile
and Turtle Conservation Project (UNDP/SGP), and CSUWN (GoN/UNDP) Koshi Tappu Widlife Reserve
are deeply thanked. The local people of the Terai, particularly living near wetlands and forest areas are
recognized for their warm welcome and active participation. The local field assistants involved
throughout the Terai survey are bestowed with thanks.
Hard to list out all, numerous personnel from several places and organizations have contributed and are
acknowledged wholeheartedly. We also need to mention the all-out support from our families and friends.
Septmember 2010 Authors
Kathmandu, Nepal
Morenia petersi
Abbreviations and Acronyms
ATTWG Asian Turtle Trade Working Group
BPP Biodiversity Profiles Project
CARON Companions for Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepa l
CE Critically Endangered
CEPF Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund
CITES Convention on Inte rnational Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
DNPWC Department of National P arks and Wildlife Conservation
DoF Department of Forests
EGH Environmental Graduates in Himalaya
EN Endangere d
GoN Government of Nepal
GPS Global Positioning System
HMGN His Majesty's Government of Nepal (Now Government of Nepal)
IUCN Inte rnational Union for Conservation of Na ture a nd Natural Resourc es
MFSC Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation
NP WC National P arks and Wildlife Conservation
PAs Protected Areas
RHF Resources Himalaya Foundation
TCF Turtle Conservation Fund
VU Vulnerable
WWF World Wildlife Fund
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
1. Introduction
In general, the conservation of amphibians and reptiles depends either on their incidental
presence in Protected Areas (PAs) which have been set up for other reasons or on individual-
species action (Gogger 2004). The case in Nepal is not different as conservation focus
has been towards large vertebrates. The turtles are killed for food and medicinal uses (Shah
1997), their eggs are collected (Shrestha 2001) despite the fact that their status and current
distribution of populations is poorly known (CEPF 2005). Since freshwater turtles in Nepal
have received little scientific attention (Mitchell & Rhodin 1996; Schleich & Kastle 2002),
the available taxonomic information in most of the cases are tentative and speculative.
Neither references nor records are available for a detailed taxonomical identification of
turtles. Confirmed records are extremely rare and information from earlier publications must
be taken cautiously (Schleich & Kastle 2002).
All the turtle species more or less depend on wetlands e
ncroachment, draining, deforestation, pollution, siltation; which are the major problems to
the wetlands of Nepal (Bhandari 1995) ultimately affecting turtle population and their
habitats. Although, trade and exploitation of turtles are documented (Mitchell & Rhodin
1996; Shrestha 2001; Schleich & Kastle 2002) and even the populations are said to be in
decline, demographic studies are lacking, creating information gap in conservation
assessment for which basic biological data are required including status survey, ecology,
conservation systematic, threats determination among others (Rhodin 2005).
Turtles are adaptive as they are adapted with delayed sexual maturity, high juvenile mortality,
and long adult life-span with low natural mortality. But, they are now vulnerable to new,
potentially devastating threats posed by human exploitation and development related
pressures (Turtle Conservation Fund 2002). In this regard, there was an urgent need in Nepal
to have baseline information on the population status and distribution of turtles and voucher
biota so that appropriate decisions would be made for the conservation of this important
group of animal.
The diversity of turtles and tortoises in the world that have existed in modern times, and
currently generally recognized as distinct, consists of approximately 324 species and
additional sub-species, or 464 total taxa. Of these, 10 taxa have gone extinct (Rhodin
2008). The approximately 300 living species of freshwater turtles and tortoises worldwide
are distributed over 7 major geographic regions. Asia is the most speciouse area as well as
having the greatest percentage of threatened species, with more than 75% Critically
Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU), and 91% included in the IUCN
Red List (Turtle Conservation Fund 2002).
Tortoises and freshwater turtles inhabit a great variety of habitats including terrestrial, semi-
aquatic and aquatic systems (Bedoya-Gaitan & Godoy 2008). Rivers and in the Nepal
et al.
et al.
xcept the land tortoise Indotestudo
1.1 Turtle Species in Nepal: Diversity and Occurrences
The terms 'turtle' and 'tortoise' are used, in many cases, interchangebly. The major
differences arise from the feet (webbed or not), habitat (water or land), shell shape (flat or
domed), feeding (herbivore or not). This less concerned species are in peril owing to
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Tarai support a freshwater turtle fauna characteristic of north India (Mitchell & Rhodin
1996). So far records only exist from the lowland areas of the Tarai including the Inner Tarai
where altitudes do not exceed 1,000 m (Schleich & Kastle 2002). T
Gunther first listed five species of freshwater turtles from central Nepal without specific
locality. It was based on Brain H. Hodgson's collection of ,
, and with listed as
questionable, evidently based on misidentified drawing of . Since then
several studies have reported on the occurrence of turtles in Nepal (Moll 1986 &1987; Moll and
Vijay 1986; Dinerstein 1988; Das 1991; Iverson 1992 cited in Mitchell & Rhodin 1996).
Nine species of turtles were recorded, including the Endangered Red Crowned- Roofed
Turtle ( ) and Elongated Tortoise ( ) during the
biodiversity inventory of Tarai wetlands. During the survey, Brown- Roof Turtle (
) and Indian- Eyed Turtle ( ) were recorded for the first time in Nepal
(Shah1995). Mitchell and Rhodin (1996) described ten of the eleven species that were
reported from Nepal confirming the occurrences of and
. Their fieldwork and observations were from Bardia, Chitwan and survey of curio
shops in Kathmandu. The potential occurrence of six more species ( ,
, , , and
) was also mentioned from Nepal, that consist of two exotic species. With
uncertainity, DNPWC/WWF (2005) among others reported Ghodaghodi area supported
populations of and .
Shrestha (2001) reported occurrence of 16 species of turtles including the occurrence of
and , without specific locality and included
in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reverse. was recorded for the first time
in Nepal in 2001 from eastern Nepal (Rai 2002). Altogether, 4 records (2 live specimens
and 2 shells) of were made during the research period of 4 years (Rai
2004). The localities, morphometrics and ecology were described for the species.
After the most comprehensive work till date on turtles till date, Schleich & Kastle (2002)
described the occurrence of 15 turtle species (Bataguridae-10, -1 and
Trionychidae-4) in Nepal. The list comprises the following genus with species number:
-1, -2, -2, -1, -4, -1,
-2, -1 and -1 species. The publication contains color photographs
of specimens and the type locality mapped on grid map. Shah & Tiwari (2004) published
occurrence of 17 species (including two subspecies) of turtles in Nepal based on the field
records as well as relying on the past records and literatures along with the district based
urtle research greatly
lagged behind other large animal species. Little information is available about the other
aspects of the turtle species and habitats. The information about the localities and species
occurrence are hard enough to evaluate. Due to confusion of turtle species records even
among zoologists and conservationists (Schleich & Kastle 2002), the communications and
documentations remained varied and liable to erroneous information. Such reporting,
despite not being based on scientific approaches, were incorporated in the important
documents; national and international.
Kachuga kachuga Kachuga
dhongoka Aspideretes gangeticus Chitra indica Testudo horsfieldii
Indotestudo elongata
et al.
Kachuga kachuga Indotestudo elongata
smithii Morenia petersi
A. gangeticus Melanochelys
Cyclemys dentata
Geoclemys hamiltonii Hardella thurjii Kachuga tentoria Morenia petersi Pyxidea
Kachuga kachuga Kachuga dhongoka
Geoclemys hamiltonii Aspideretes leithi Kachuga
kachuga Cyclemys oldhamii
et al.
Cyclemys oldhamii
Cyclemys Kachuga Melanochelys Morenia Pangshura Indotestudo
Aspideretes Chitra Lissemys
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
distribution mapping. CFH/MCBT (2006) also mentioned the occurrences of
, and in Nepal. The present study covers all Tarai
districts (161 sites including wetlands, forests inside and outside protected areas, and sites
having turtles in captivity) with a record of 16 species, including sub-species from 138 sites.
Not all records were live specimen. Some species were inferred from local knowledgeable
people (Aryal 2009).
Confirmation of species occurrences has not been sought in many cases
like occurrence of three turtle species in Bedkot Tal, Kanchanpur in Koshi
Tappu Wildlife Reserve (Thapa & Dahal 2009), as freshwater turtles have remained poorly
researched (Mitchell & Rhodin 1996). Although was reported to occur in
Chitwan National Park and Kailali District as, Schleich & Kastle (2002) mentioned no
proven records of the species from Nepal. The occurrence of was not
confirmed (no live specimen record) from Nepal but recent study made observations of
in Koshi River and a live specimen was caught in Pyara Tal, Kanchanpur, Nepal
(Aryal 2009).
The occurrence of is reported by many studies (Shah 1995;
HMGN/MFSC 2002; Schleich & Kastle 2002; Shah & Tiwari 2004; Shrestha 2001) with
proven records from different parts but questioned at other times as of Asian Turtle Trade
kachuga Kachuga dhongoka Chitra indica
et al.
Kachuga kachuga
K. dhongoka
Hardella thurjii
et al.
Melanochelys tricarinata
(Bhuju 2007)et al.
Figure 1: Based on the co-occurrence of species in hydrologic unit compartments in the Ganges
Brahmaputra river basin of India and Bangladesh in South Asia appears to have highest number of
turtle species (Source: Bhulmann et al. 2009).
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Working Group 2000 (2008b). The range extension of was observed. Shah &
Tiwari (2004) showed the eastern range of this species to Chitwan, but shell records from
Bara district confirmed the extension of eastern distribution in a recent study (Aryal
). Furthermore, two specimen were collected by a graduate student from Chatara area
near Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve few years ago (personal comn. Prof. Kalu Ram Rai) also
extended the eastern distribution.
Asian Turtle Trade Working Group 2000 (2008a) was uncertain about the occurrence of
in Nepal although it was recorded by Shah (1995) and appeared in literature
afterwards (Bhuju 2007; CEPF 2005; HMGN/MFSC 2002; Shah & Tiwari 2004;
Shrestha 2001) without second attempt to provide the backup information. During recent
study 2008-2009, despite great search efforts in the area mentioned for its occurrence,
Gainda Tal, Rupandehi, no individual and/or shell was observed. Moreover, the local people
around the Gainda Tal could not confirm its presence. Hence, the species is confirmed locally
extinct from the only site of its previous occurrence and was not recorded elsewhere (Aryal
. 2009). The population of recorded through single shell by Shah (1995) team
from Gainda Tal, Rupandehi might have undergone the same fate. The national conservation
policies have not paid attention on the species status and priorities.
Turtles and their eggs are hunted for food (Schleich & Kastle 2002; Shrestha 2001; Shah
2004). They are exploited in large numbers for meat and medicinal uses as well as local trade
(Shah & Tiwari 2004). Turtles make a part of wildlife commodities traded through Nepal
(DNPWC 2005) but quantity is never mentioned. In 1995, 120 live turtles and in 1997, 190
turtles on the way to China were confiscated in Bhaktapur, Nepal (Shakya 2004). In some
areas turtle hunting has shown a drastic increase as a result of the higher demand of a growing
human population and more efficient techniques of capture (Schleich & Kastle 2002).
Mitchell & Rhodin (1996) recorded masks made from 11 turtle species in Kathmandu during
a survey of curio stores. Some of the shells were of species not recorded from Nepal.
Biological populations are by definition renewable (Reynolds & Peres 2006) but turtles
with low reproductive capacity, cannot quickly rebound after a severe setback caused by any
number of factors (Noss 2006). Exploitation of turtles and tortoises is generally
considered to be unsustainable (Zhou & Jiang 2008) and turtle populations simply cannot
withstand high levels of exploitation pressure (Rhodin 2005). Exploitation tends to be a
direct problem and one with complex socio-political origin (Gogger . 2004).
In the absence of a separate CITES bill, the conservation activities governed by NPWC Act
and other existing laws are inadequate in dealing with wildlife related illegal activities in the
country (DNPWC 2004). Although laws have been enacted to protect the habitat of aquatic
animals, they do not address the illegal exploitation of turtles (Shrestha 2001). Until
legislative provisions are not enough to control wildlife trade due to lack of and stern actions
against the illegal traders (Aryal 2004) for flagships species, enforcement for turtles and
other reptiles as well as amphibians, which were never a priority group (Schleich & Kastle
2002), can not be expected. Since the law enforcement for turtle trade is not experienced and
M. tricarinata
et al.
Morenia petersi
et al.
al M. petersi
et al.
et al
1.2 Threats
1.2.1 Trade and Exploitation
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
expected outside PAs, local markets near turtle sites are potential markets for turtles trade.
Indo- Nepal trade of turtles is common in many districts.
Every potential turtle site has potential of exploitation. All the sites are frequented by the
fishermen, in fishing flocks many times, particularly outside the PAs. The pressure of
exploitation has increased with expanding human population, settlements and agriculture
land. The increased mobility of people around the turtle habitat, particularly outside PAs, has
increased the encounter and exploitation. Indifferent contractors and contracting authorities,
without considering the turtles and aquatic biodiversity in wetlands under fishing contract or
fish farming contract throughout, have increased the exploitation of turtles during fishing
and fish stock clearance. The lack of information regarding exploitation and trade- volume
quantification and species involved has left clouded future of turtles in Nepalese Tarai.
The most critical threat is habitat destruction. While direct exploitation can be estimated,
other causes for the decline of individual numbers are more difficult to control and to
quantify (Schleich & Kastle 2002) since turtles occupy wide range of habitats (Rhodin
2005). Habitat degradation is an increasing threat to the survival of turtles (Schleich & Kastle
2002). Turtles are very sensitive to modifications of their environment, and are among the
first vertebrates to disappear with disturbance (Bour 2008). There are several problems to the
wetlands of Nepal (Bhandari 1995) thus ultimately affecting the turtle populations. The
draining of wetlands, for irrigation or harvesting fish, leads to rapid drying out when at best
they undergo vegetation changes and at worst are encroached upon for grazing or reclaimed
for agriculture. The excessive doses of agro-chemicals applications in the agriculture land
entering aquatic habitats increase the concentration of toxic chemicals (Jha 2008). Aquatic
Animals Protection Act, 1961 clearly mentioned introduction of poisonous, noxious and
explosives materials in water bodies is offense (HMGN/MFSC 2002). However, the offense
is intentionally practiced in the Tarai wetlands whenever contracted for aquaculture, as if it is
a legal activity.
The aquaculture practices have included so far, stocking of exotic fish species, in wetlands.
Other large wetlands including the large river sections are leased to catch wild fishes.
Introduction of exotic fishes, unsustainable fishing methods and management practices have
rendered aquatic species and ecosystem under sheer pressure. The authorities, ranging from
district to local level and government to community and private, have not paid attention on
the procedures adopted in the fish farming. Nutrient enrichment along vegetation clearance
and plowing using the tractors are common practices. Use of herbicides to clear the
vegetation and even pesticides to clear the fish stock from a site, as the particular contract
period ends, have been a common practice.
Grazing is common practices in wetlands and forests. The grazing impact depends on the
intensity, timing, and duration of grazing (Kazmaier . 2001). Cattle grazing reduces the
vegetation cover (Schleich & Kastle 2002), trampling by cattle causes turtle mortality
(Leuteritz . 2005). The effects like mutilation and other bodily injuries and even
reduction in survivorship of both adults and juveniles (Leuteritz 2005; Saumure
2007) are evident when the machinery is used in wetlands. Commercial sand mining also
1.2.2 Habitat Threats
et al
et al
et al. et al.
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
destroys nesting sites for sand nesting species (Schleich & Kastle 2002). Fires are frequent in
forests of the Tarai. Fires eliminate the vegetation cover, food and cause death of the
terrestrial tortoises (Schleich & Kastle 2002); juvenile turtles are more susceptible (Hailey
The biotic connection through dispersal mechanisms among wetlands is of primary
importance to wetland management and policies (Amezaga 2002). Most of the
wetlands are located amongst the agriculture land or settlements with less chance of
connectivity to other wetlands/ habitats if not isolated. Moreover, the nesting and basking
behaviour of turtles are altered by human disturbances (Moore & Seigel 2006).
Nepal has agreed on several conservation treaties and formulated its own conservation
regulations (DNPWC 2007; HMGN/MFSC 2002). There have been several examples of
successful conservation practices, particularly community based conservation practices.
Protection of turtle species and habitat singly can not be a priority among competitive
conservation agenda. Thus, alignment of issues regarding species and population
conservation along with wetland and forests, community and private partnership can be
genuine combination. The local communities are needed to be aware about turtles and their
habitat through participatory studies and conservation programs. After all “communities” do
not conserve or spoil: at least, they do not act as simple, isolated agents. Rather they are
imbedded in larger systems, and they respond to pressures and incentives (Berkes 2004).
The conservation initiatives through the local bodies can be effective in conserving turtles.
Moreover, the private and organizational contractors in fish farming, if informed and brought
into legal obligations, can work for conservation. There is an evident gap in information
collection about the wetland biodiversity and providing science-based guidance for
management. Thus, the scientific information through research on policy impacts is
prerequisite. The dealing of contemporary scientific and socioeconomic issues remains
crucial challenge. For example, awareness among local communities regarding the
population status and threats can be of great value in turtle conservation.
impetus of awareness to the people living around the turtles regarding conservation, threats
and policy implications are required if the turtles are to survive in times to come.
et al.
1.3 Conservation Opportunities
Tarai being the most populous region with the highest rate of population growth,
rapid urbanization, agricultural expansion and loss of natural areas posing challenges to
conservation of turtle populations and their habitat.
Science-based planning that incorporates variability of a landscape including turtle
habitats, is crucial to the successful conservation of biodiversity (Svancara . 2005).et al
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
2. Protocol for the Turtle/ Tortoises Monitoring
A monitoring protocol and data collection sheets have been developed by the study team
(Aryal 2009) in consultation with experts. This book can be used by conservation
organizations, as environmental education material and by researchers/students to further
enhance their work on turtles/tortoises.
1. All the turtles are killed for food and medicinal uses (Shah & Tiwari 2004), their eggs
are collected (Shrestha 2001) but their status and current distribution of populations is
poorly known (CEPF 2005).
2. Although, trade and exploitation of turtles are documented (Mitchell & Rhodin 1996;
Shrestha 2001; Schleich & Kastle 2002) and even the populations are said to be in
decline, demographic studies are lacking, creating information gap in conservation
assessment for which basic biological data are required; including status survey,
ecology, conservation systematics, threat determination among others (Rhodin 2005).
3. Except the single land tortoise , all the turtle species more or less
depend on wetlands. Encroachment, draining, deforestation, pollution, siltation are the
major problems to the wetlands of Nepal (Bhandari 1995) thus ultimately affecting the
turtle habitats and populations.
To provide information on the trends of turtle diversity, abundance, habitat change, status of
globally and nationally threatened species, threats to turtles/tortoises and their habitats.
Familiarity with species (general morphological characters and distinguishing features of
each species) and their habitats, habit, their activity pattern, reproduction timing.
- Binoculars, Global Positioning System (GPS), Vernier Callipers,
Weighing Instruments (digital weighing machine is preferred), Cameras, Measuring Tape/s,
Monitoring Data Sheets, Marking Equipments (for Mark-Release-Recapture studies), Traps
including appropriate baits (to capture live specimens). Identification of species is done with
the key identifying features. The key parts of the carapace and plastron are depicted in figgure
2 in page 8. The technic to measure turtle carapace length and estimating its age using scutes
are depicted in figure 3 and 4 in page 9.
Thermometer, pH Meter, Measuring Tape/s, Gloves and Water Boots,
(species and habitats including nesting sites),
(moving/walking in water bodies along the banks on foot), in
large water bodies, (for population studies viz. density, abundance and frequency),
et al.
Reasons for monitoring
Indotestudo elongata
Conservation objectives
Prerequisite training
noodling/wading transect walk
2.1 Monitoring Objectives
Species monitoring
Habitat monitoring
2.2 Monitoring Methods
Sampling techniques
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
jungle walk ( market
for species monitoring -
Indotestudo elongata
along transect/s or block survey to monitor terrestrial species tortoises),
to account and monitor trade (interview and group discussions) in local markets and
Observation techniques include direct observation, observation from banks in and around
basking sites, time constraints observation.
in flowing water (rivers) observer will select
important areas (nesting sites, basking sites) based on interviews and consultation and
observe during high activity periods while in standing waters (ponds, lakes) time constrained
surveys are preferred depending upon the size of the habitat. Selection of appropriate baits
and size and design of traps for capturing live specimens to study morphological features and
ecological studies (density, abundance, frequency) needs to be taken cautiously. Terrestrial
turtle ( ) prefers sal forests along the foothills of Tarai, survey for this
species should consider humid areas avoiding hot hours. Owing to its sensitive nature,
rapport building with fishing communities and vendors is important to conduct trade and
exploitation survey.Appropriate checklist should be in hand.
Observation priority
Observation priority turtle habitats (wetlands) are being
encroached, disturbed, fragmented and deteriorated, surrounding land uses are important for
turtle survival. The threats arising from the physical disturbance at sites like grazing,
mechanical ploughing, aquaculture practices using fertilizers and pesticides, connectivity of
sites (for standing waters) should be quantified. The quantification of disturbance
frequencies and intensities viz frequency of mechanical ploughing, number of grazing
livestock, pesticide-herbicide applied, should be measured. Monitoring of water pollution
from the settlements and industries in surrounding can help in new information.
Fragmentation of forests, fire events and deforestation should be considered for terrestrial
species. For running water bodies, the area covered by the sand quarrying sites and major
utility sites under human pressures like boating, fishing should be well observed. The species
encounter frequencies and variations in sightings can be interpreted with disturbance regime.
for habitat monitoring -
Fig. 2: Nomenclature of the turtle shells (Adapted from Shah & Tiwari 2004)
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Fig. 3: Measuring carapace length
Fig. 4: Estimating turtle age from scutes
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Dark-Throated Leaf Turtle
Carapace - round shaped and uniformly dark reddish to brown colour,
broadest at height of 8 margin, no cervical notches, shell is flat, mid dorsal keel starting on
the cervical and being most prominent second half of central 1 5, posterior shell serrated
started from 8 margin, 5 vertebrals, post centrals are divided distally by small notch.
Plastron is clearly elongated with large axillaries, no inguinal. Notch between anal shields
wide and forms an obtuse angle which is uniform dark or with a dense radiated to blackish
pattern. 5 fingers and 4 toes with large transverse scales on dorsal part of forelimbs with dark
Head is brown to black without distinct stripes, neck in adults lack
stripes, throat is dark.
Males are smaller than females; females have a relatively shorter and
thinner tail.
Small streams and abundant leaf litter conditions close to water body.
Active and voracious, diurnal and crepuscular.
Multiple clutches, maximum 5 clutches a year, clutch size 2 -4.
India, Malaysia,
South China and
Food and feedings:
Carapace 240 mm long and 175 mm wide, plastron up to 210 mm (Shah & Tiwari
Omnivorous, feeding on animal and plant matter.
Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal (Jhapa and Ilam border) (Rai
2004), Thailand.
Cyclemysoldhamii Gray,1863
Hardellathurjii (Gray,1831)
Distinguishing Features:
CrownedRiver Turtle
Nostrils terminal; edges of upper jaw finely serrated; skin of posterior head
smooth. Carapace as seen from above is ovoid and widest at region of 7 marginal. First three
vertebrals are more or less quadrangular, the 4 hexagonal, the 5 pentagonal. Limbs have
narrow, transverse scales; digits strongly webbed. Short tail. Carapace is dark grey to
blackish brown with black keel and yellow band along the peripheral and marginal junction.
Head is dark brown to black, with a pattern of yellow lines. Plastron is dark grey to black, or
yellow, with a large grey spot in the centre of each shield.
The presence of yellow band along the junction of laterals and
marginals; iris is black tinged with golden color.
Extremesize dimorphism;males aresmallerin sizebutwithlongertail.
Lakes and ponds choked with vegetation; also in slowly flowing water- canal and
They warm up in surface waters, but rarely emerge to bask. A sluggish, docile and
highly aquatic species, which spends much time on the bottom or floating on the surface;
apparently vegetarian.
Nesting season is from November to January (Rashid & Swingland 1997,
cited in Schleich & Kastle 2002). Clutch size 12 -16 eggs, nests 5 -20 m away from the water
Nepal (live specimen recorded from Kanchanpur for the
first time in Nepal by Aryal ) and Pakistan.
Size: Carapace length in male 178 mm; female 610 mm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Bangladesh, India,
th th
et al. 2009
Kachugadhongoka (Gray,1834)
Distinguishing Features:
Food and Feeding:
ThreeStripedRoofed Turtle
A large turtle characterized by a pattern of three stripes on the carapace;
carapace is depressed, unicarinate with interrupted keel which is most prominent on the 2
and 3 vertebral where it terminates in a pointed knob in juveniles (less marked with age); 1
vertebral longer than wide, constricted in the middle; 2 wider than longer in juveniles but
longer than wide and narrowing posteriorly in adults fitting into an emargination of the 3
shield, 3 is longest and contacts with 4 in a broad suture; the carapace is widest across the
rear of the 4 vertebral shield. Snout is somewhat upturned, pointed and projecting beyond
the lower jaw. Digits are webbed with limbs having transversely enlarged scales.
A cream colored or yellow stripe on each side of head from
nostrils to tympanum passing over the eyes; iris brown to smoky grey, carapace olive grey,
brownish with a dark brown or black vertebral and two lateral stripes, a marginal border of
same color; plastron- without pattern in adults, straw yellow, creamy or dark in old and
yellowish in juveniles with a reddish brown patch on each shield.
Generally herbivore but aquatic mollusks are reported from stomach of males.
Size: Carapacelengthinmale255andfemale406(Shah& Tiwari2004).
Bangladesh, Nepal
rd st
rd th
© Das,I.
Kachugakachuga (Gray,1831)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Red Crowned Roofed Turtle
Carapace length in male 300 and female 500 mm
It is a large riverine turtle. The carapace shows no pattern, and vertebral
shield has a straight posterior border, not projecting in to the . A pair of yellow, orange or
red patches on the throat. Sexual difference in coloration is more pronounced, with the male
showing a red patch on head. Carapace is oval, depressed, unicarinate, with interrupted keel
which is most prominent on the and vertebral shields. Nuchal shield is wider behind.
Carapace margin crenulated in juveniles, the carapace is widest
between the marginals. The width of the bridge considerably exceeds the length of the hind
lobe. Throat has a pair of oblong red or yellow spots.
Male and female vary in color. In males, red color may be present on
anterior part of the carapace midline, bluish black head; creamy white neck with six bright
red parallel stripes dorsally, four of which converge into the red patch on the head. Creamy
white throat has an orange, oval spot on each side. The bright coloration of males varies with
physiological differences. In females carapace, head, neck, iris and anterior face of limbs are
brown to dark in color. Plastron is pale yellow to dark.
Moderate to large deep, flowing rivers and lakes.
Herbivore, feeds on aquatic vegetation and fruits. Basking is common but not in
winter.Wary a with and slight disturbance enters the water.
Nests close to river banks on shores, digging fine sand. Nesting occurs
between February and March. 20- 25 eggs per clutch.
India, Nepal (Narayani and Karnali Rivers).
(Shah & Tiwari 2004).
2 3
nd rd
© BivasPandav
Melanochelystricarinata (Blyth,1856)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Tricarinate Hill Turtle
Three dorsal yellow keels, middle prominent; light brown to dark plum-
colored carapace with yellowish margin; the nuchal shield is of moderate size; the first
vertebral is wider than behind, 2, 3 and 4 vertebrals wider than long but narrower than the
coastals; the plastron of adults is uniform yellowish which might be temporary (due to mud)
and as long as the carapace; head - moderate size with truncate snout, dark black to greyish
black above with red stripes (occasional) on the sides; arms with elongated squarish or
pointed scales, hindlimbs flattened, their anterior margins and heel regions are covered with
enlarged scales, fingers are half webbed, toe webbing rudimentary; tail short.
Three yellowish keels and yellowish margin present in carapace
which is totally black in similar species .
Male larger with concave plastron and angular carapace which is
round in female, male has longer tail and hindlimbs.
Terrestrial, inhabits humid grasslands and forests of Tarai and along foothill.
Omnivorous, feed largely on land and submerged vegetation, crepuscular to
nocturnal, limited feeding and bathing activities largely to the dark hours.
Egg laying in dry season (Das 2009), multiple clutches, maximum 3 in a
year, clutch size 1-3 eggs, hatching occurs in the beginning of the wet season.
Bangladesh, India and
Size: Carapace length in male/female: 174/146 mm; plastron length in male/female: 140/135
mm; carapace height in male/female: 65/67 mm and plastron width in male/female: 112/101
mm (Schleich & Kastle 2002).
nd rd th
M. trijuga
Common Name
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
: Black Pond Turtle
Tricarinate carapace, moderately depressed, lateral margins more or less turned
upward, dark plastron with each shield having a light margin, digits fully or nearly fully webbed,
short tail, flat limbs, grey or olive with yellow or pink reticulation on sides. Head is olive brown
with arrowhead shaped black mark on forehead. In large individuals, the lighter plastral rim
Carapace is dark brown to black and tricarinated. Similar species
has three yellowish keels on the carapace.
Males have clearly concave plastron.
Moist deciduous forest, water holes, slow moving natural streams and ponds.
Prevalent basking activity; also become active at night, it is known to congregate in
large numbers. Omnivorous and feeds on leavesand crustaceans.
Cloacal discharge of liquid withthe stinking secretion of anal glands.
Mating has been observed in water, aggressive male during courtship, brittle
shelled eggs, ellipsoidal pointed towards one pole, usually 2-16 eggs per clutch, hatchlings have
light brown carapace with lateral keels sometimes yellow darken with edge (Das & Bhupathy,
2009),mating in August - October.
India ( ), Sri Lanka and
Thailand (Das & Bhupathy 2009).
Size: Carapace length 335 mm, width 230 mm, height 145 mm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Bangladesh, Burma, South and Northeast Nepal,
M. tricarinata
Melanochelystrijugaindopeninsularis (Annandale,1930)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual dimorphism:
Indian Eyed Turtle
Slightly domed, convex carapace, more so in female (Das 1985) with low
projections on weak keel. Shell margin is smooth. The posterior carapace margin is not serrated.
Plastron is as long as carapace and truncated anteriorly. Upper jaw is projected beyond the lower
jaw. Fully webbed limbs and is covered with narrow band likescales. Each coastal shieldand the
last vertebral show a large pale green circle placed low down, with irregular looped lines of
similar colour abovethem. Plastron yellow or orange, 4 , 5 and 6 marginals have a dark center.
Three yellow stripesbordering upper head, limbsbordered with yellow.
First four vertebral shields have a narrow, pale and green longitudinal
The carapace keel is more pronounced in males, males are smaller with
longer tails and deeper anal notches.
Inhabits shallow standing waters with oxbow lakes, its distribution is expeted to be
limited to Sal ( forest areas.
Herbivorous, feed only on floating submerged vegetation with as main
fodderplant; spendsmuch time on shoreline or basking on floating objects on sunny days.
Nests are laid between December and January; clutch size 6-10 eggs;
incubation and hatching between April-May.
Bangladesh, India and Nepal. In Nepal the species was reported only from
GaindaTal, Rupandehi (Shah 1995) but recent study (Aryal 2009) concluded thatit may be
extinct from the area.
Size: Carapace length in male 194 mm long, weight 820 gm; female 222 mm long and
weight 1150 gm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
th th th
Shorea robusta)
et al.
© Das,I.
Moreniapetersi (Anderson,1879)
Common Name:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Yellow-Bellied Tent Turtle
The median keelis highand3 vertebralkeel projectssharply; the ventralcolorationis
uniformly light yellow. Carapace is high and triangular in cross section with the median ridge on the
central shield 3 ending in prominent spine. In old age, the carapace grows more rounded and flatter.
Carapace color is brownish olive with a light mid dorsal stripe of pale orange to cream on vertebral.
Seams between pleurals and marginals, and shell rim diffuse cream colored. Head- coloration differs
with age and intensive pigmentation in oldest turtle that show typical diffuse shades. Posterior head
palepink.Greycoloraroundeyesandsnout; region behindeyesispale orangetoreddishbrown.Neck
isgrayishtocreamcolored withfournarrowlightyellowishstreaksoneachside.Irisisgrayishblue.
Females are almost double in size and weight. Males have longer tail
with thicker base than female and have concave plastron.
Small riverine turtle of the Tarai, prefer flowing water but also found in oxbow lakes
Basking on sandy bank and floating objects such as logs. Juveniles are omnivores
and adults prefer mostly vegetables and flowers. Fast swimmer and dive with little
Multiple clutches; clutch size: 4 to 8 eggs; nesting in soft clayey sand of
river bank.
India and
Mean shell size is 74 mm length and 63 mm width (Schleich & Kastle 2002).
It is different from with patternless plastron and lack of
presence of orange or reddish crescent shaped pattern behind eyes. Similarly,
differs from it with presence of pink ring between costal and marginal scutes on
Bangladesh, Nepal.
Distinguishing Feature:
P. Tecta
P. tentoria
© Schleich& K stleä
© Schleich& K stleä
Pangshuraflaviventer (Gunther,1864)
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism
:Brown/PaleFootedRoofed Turtle,Smith'sRoofed Terrapin
: Small to moderate in size, depressed carapace with a flat keel terminating in a
knob, a weak horizontal or no spine on the 3 vertebral shield; bottle-neck shaped 4 vertebral
scute at contact point; olive brown plastron with black to brown keel, undersurface black,
white margin in each scute; head olive dorsally and pigmented on the sides, a tawny blotch
behind each eye present, lateral neck vaguely striped, iris pale blue-grey; darker
pigmentation on the anterior surfaces of the limbs and on the feet and penis.
This species differs with other species of in keel
coloration black or brown, 3 vertebral keel is generally longer than the 2, black plastron
with pale yellow margin, a tawny blotch behind each eye present as compared to a brownish
spot in similar subspecies viz. ; basking aggregation which is not
reported of any other members of the genus (Das 1985).
: Females are larger, males have longer tails and concave plastron.
Riverine turtle which is almost exclusively found in flowing water, rivers, oxbow
lakes,prefers muddywater with vegetation (Shah& Tiwari2004).
Omnivorous, insects seem to be their favorite food (Das 1985); bask on sandy river
banks and on floating objects such as logs or banana items, very active and fast swimmer.
Mating between July-September, multiple clutches, clutch size 5-9 eggs.
India, reported only from Koshi River; captive in Jhapa)
Size: Carapace length in males 101 to 108 mm and females 153 to 227 mm (Shah & Tiwari
Bangladesh, Nepal (
rd th
rd nd
P. smithii pallidipes
Pangshurasmithiismithii (Gray,1863)
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
PaleFootedRoofed Turtle
Small tomoderate in size, depressed carapace with a flatkeel terminating in a knob, a
weak horizontal or no spineon the 3 vertebral shield; bottle-neck shaped 4 vertebral scute at contact
point; carapace light greyish brown, with pale yellow rim round its periphery, a black or brown to
reddish vertebral stripe from vertebrals 2-6, growing fainter posteriorly and darkening with age;
plastron shields straw yellow, without spots, or faint ones near lateral sutures; head light olive, pale
greyishyellowtodarkbrown,iris palegreentoblue;neckwithnarrowdarkandlightcreamstripes.
The species differ with other species of in keel
colouration black or brown, 3 vertebral keel is generally longer than the 2, differs from
nominate form in lack of dark plastral coloration and reduced pigment on head, limbs
and penis; head light olive, pale greyish yellow to dark brown; iris pale green to blue; neck
with narrow and light cream stripes; and both have a light
plastron, but has a lower-domed shell.
Females are larger, males have longer tails and concave plastron.
oxbowlakes,prefersmuddywaterwithrichvegetation(Shah& Tiwari2004).
Size: Carapace length in males 101 to 108 mm and females 153 to 227 mm (Shah & Tiwari
rd th
rd nd
P. flaviventer P. smithii pallidipes
P. smithii smithii
Pangshurasmithiipallidipes (Moll,1987)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Indian Tent Turtle, Indian Roofed Rurtle
Small turtle, high domed, with a prominent keelon vertebral; plastron isyellow
to orange to pink with irregular shaped black spot, pointed snout, strongly serrated jaws,
vertebral is generallyshorter than , has keelprojecting asa blunt spine, vertebral is longest,
vertebral scute bottle neck shaped at contact point with (Das 1985); head - dark brown to
blackish with greenish iris, neck is dark with narrow pale green, yellowish or reddish yellow
longitudinalstrips,limbs aredarkoliveto gray withyellowtoreddishdot.
It is distinguished from other species with presence of yellow or
pale yellow longitudinal lines on neck; plastron is yellow to pink and orange with irregular
dark spots. Similar species has unicoloured light plastron.
Males are smaller than females, vary greatly in size and weight, steeper
carapace in males with longer and thicker tail, iris in male is red in females it is pinkish, males
have white longitudinal band on dorsal side of tail while femaleshave yellow ones.
Rivers, oxbow lakes, ponds with abundant vegetation, flowing rivers - small to
large, and deep to shallow.
Basking is common with raised head and stretched hind legs. It strictly feeds on aquatic
vegetation. During mating male circles female, mating occurs in October to March, nest
is made on soil with excavation, deep up to 20 cm; multiple clutches, 14 to 20 eggs per clutch.
Hatchlings are omnivorous, brightly colored, carapace is light green.
India, Pakistan.
Size: Carapace length in males 58 to 71 mm, wight 48 to 67 gm and females up to 240 mm,
weight 112 gm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
2 4 4
Bangladesh, Nepal and
nd th th
Pangshura flaviventer
Pangshuratecta (Gray,1830)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Pink Ringed Terrapin
The presence of typical crescent pink ring between coastal and marginal scutes on
carapace. The median keel is high and 3 vertebral keel projects sharply. The ventral coloration is
uniformly light yellow. Carapace is high and triangular in cross section with the median ridge on the
central shield and ending in prominent spine. Carapace colour is brownish olive with a light mid
dorsal stripe of pale orange to cream on vertebral. Seams between pleurals and marginals, and shell
rim diffused and cream colored. Posterior head pale pink. Head's colouration differs with age and
intensive pigmentation in older turtle. Grey colour is around eye and snout. The jaws are pale
yellowish and region behind eyes is pale orange to reddish brown. Neck seems pale greyish brown to
darkgreyorcreamcoloured with fournarrowlightyellowishstreaksoneachside.Irisisgrayishblue.
It is different from in having patternless plastron. Similarly,
differs from it with presence of pink ring between costal and marginal scutes on
carapace and presence of orange or reddish crescent shaped pattern behind eyes.
Females are almost double in size and weight. Males have longer tail
with thicker base than females and have concave plastron.
Small riverine turtle of the Tarai, prefer flowing water but also foundin oxbow lakes.
Basking on sandy banks and floating objects such as logs. Juveniles are omnivores and
adult prefers mostly vegetable matter.They are known for fast swimming and diving with little
Multiple clutches; clutch size: 4 to 8 eggs. Nesting in soft clayey sand of river
bank 3 to 14 away from water body
Size: Carapace length in males 77 to 88 mm and females 181 to 271 mm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
P. tecta P.
Pangshuratentoriacircumdata (Mertens,1969)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Food and Feeding:
Elongated Tortoise, Pineapple Tortoise
Carapace- elongated, convex and flattened in vertebral region of adult with
anterior and posterior marginal scute turned upward, nuchal present, domed elongated shell
with yellowish colour having irregular black pattern. Yellowish head, limbs greenish grey to
dark grey with yellow scales, yellow to white claws; tail ends in a claw like tubercle.
Nuchal is present, differentiating it from other tortoises.
Males have longer tails, deeper emargination between anal plates,
strongly concave plastron.
Evergreen and deciduous forest in lowlands, in southern parts of Churiya range and
also in Churiya hills; seems to be restricted to a forest (Das 1985).
Exclusively diurnal, reduced activity in hot hours, active during rains.
Mixed diet-leaves &fruitsofdifferentplants, worms, insectsandslugs.
During mating season the margin around nostrils & eye region becomes red,
mating takes place in October to April -May, multiple clutches in a year; 2 -9 eggs per clutch
depending upon age of females.
Size: Male’s plastron lenght 250 mm, weight 2835 gm and female’s plastron lenght 280 mm
and weight 3290 gm
Shorea robust
(Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Bangladesh, Cambodia, China (presence uncertain in), India, Lao People's
Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam
Common name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Food and Feeding:
Indian Softshell Turtle
Very large turtle, pattern of dark oblique stripes (4 to 6) on the large and broad
head; eyes like marks locally on body of young, ocelli fade from carapace at maturity.
Carapace is flat and oval, slightly depressed in vertebral region in adult. In old turtles,
carapace can become well humped. Forelimbs have a few transversely enlarged scales.
Carapace is dull olive or greenish with irregular dark reticulation. Plastron is ivory white.
In young, carapace has irregular reticulations. It is distinguished
from by ocelli and dark oblique stripes on the head.
Tail is thick fleshy and anterior to vent and longer in male.
Deep rivers and canals, larger reservoirs (Das 1985) and generally tend to avoid
temporary water bodies.
Basking on shores and sand bars, often in group rests in shallow water with snout
protruding. Aggressive as a response to disturbance and males are aggressive during mating.
Omnivorous subsisting on both aquatic flora and fauna; carcass, flesh
and eggs of own species, large ranges of preys including other small turtles.
Maturity in around 10 years. Mating time is in April and vesting season May
December; clutch size 25-35 eggs. Multiple clutches a year; nesting sites sand or soil close to
water body.
: Nepal and Pakistan.
Size: Carapace of male 425 mm long, 298 mm wide and 106 mm high; carapace of female
460 mm long, 325 mm wide and136 mm high (Minton 1966 cited in Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India,
Aspideretes hurum
Aspideretesgangeticus (Cuvier,1825)
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Food and Feedings:
Indian Peacock Softshell Turtle
Large aquatic turtle with a snout bent down wards. Young have distinct 4
eyes like spots (rarely 5 or 6) on carapace, head without oblique dark lines, carapace olive
green with reticulate black pattern, ocelli on carapace become indistinct with age. In old age
carapace darkens. Carapace is oval and coarsely pitted. Plastron is brownish grey, paler with
age, black marks on the head become more pronounced.
In juvenile, carapace ocelli are prominent and in old age skull
characteristics and reduced head markings are reliable.
Females grow larger than males.
Highly aquatic turtle found in small pools to deep ponds-swamps, small to large
river, occasionally in paddy fields.
Most time spent in water, basking on banks and also while floating, aggressive in
nature, biting aggressively when disturbed.
Omnivorous; mollusks, fishes, prawn; earthworm, frogs, decaying
animal matters and vegetable matter are major items.
Nesting season August to December, multiple clutches; clutch size 20-30
eggs per season , nests a few meters away from water in soil at depth around 20 cm.
India, Pakistan.
Size: Plastron length in males 390 to 455 mmand in female 245 to 410 mm (Shah & Tiwari
Bangladesh, Nepal and
Aspidereteshurum (Gray,1831)
Distinguishing Features:
Sexual Dimorphism:
NarrowHeadedSoftshell Turtle.
Rounded flat shell with a pattern of light spots and lines that have a dark
border; long and narrow small head with olive short proboscis; long neck, flattened limbs,
very short tail; well developed webbed digits. Carapace is dull olive grey, green to yellowish
olive with irregular, wavy reticulations, complex midline carapace pattern. Head and neck
have yellowish longitudinal stripes with dark border, single Vshaped mark on neck.
It is distinct from other softshell turtles ,
by rounded carapace and marking pattern is continuous from head to carapace.
Males have a thicker and longer tail than females.
Sandy stretches of large rivers, also in clear water far up stream with a sandy
bottom, found in deep and flowing water.
Spends most of the day submerged in the sandy bottoms of deep rivers (Asian Turtle
Trade Group 2000, 2008c). Never basks on land, come shores for laying eggs.
arnivous rarely takes vegetation. It is an ambush feeder; feeds mostly
on fish mollusks and carrion. Aggressive (Das 1985), bites at high speed causing damages.
Nesting during August to September at 8-135 m away from waterbody at
18-30 cm deep. Multiple clutches sizes 60-178 eggs, eggs laid on sandy shores.
Food and Feedings:
Carapace length up to 1830 mm and body weight 265 kg (Annandale & Shastri 1914;
Shafi & Quddus 1976 cited in Shah & Tiwari 2004).
Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan
A. hurum A. gangeticus
Chitraindica (Gray,1831)
© BivasPandav
Common Name:
Distinguishing Features:
Indian Flapshell Turtle
A softshell turtle with olive green to dark brown colored carapace consisting
irregular yellow dotted spots. Carapace is broad oval and moderately dome shaped and is widest
just anterior to the hind limbs. Plastron is large, cartilaginous, almost equal size to carapace
having semicircular flaps. It is generally white to yellowish white in color. Vertebral shells are
generally eight, rarely seven and 8 pairs of coastal shell i.e. last two are in median contact. Head
and trunk are short and lips have heavy flesh. Claws arewell developed; large and heavy, and tail
is short. However, the sexual dimorphism is represented bylonger tail in males.
Flaps over hind limbs are distinguishing features of this species from
others. Within , is different from by yellow
blotchesin head,neckandbehindeyes.Incaseof blackstreaksareobserved.
Prefer shallow muddy water bodies; range from agricultural land to lake but less
frequently observed in deep and large rivers.
It remains inactive in cold season, aestivate in soil or mud with an air whole for
respiration. Basking is on rocks and vegetation, and is rarely reported on logs. Quick
response to any danger by attempting escaping.
Generally may to September (Shah & Tiwari 2004), peak period July
(Schleich & Kästle 2002), 2 to 4 or more eggs per clutch and by a single female. Clutch is
deposited in soft soil, rarely in hard soil, which is outside water bodies.
India,Myanmar, PakistanandSriLanka(Shah&
Food and Feedings:
Carapace length in males up to 162 mm and females 350 mm (Shah & Tiwari 2004).
It is an opportunistic omnivore, preferring animal matters. It can sustain
or survive long period of without food.
Bangladesh, Nepal,
L. Punctata L. punctata andersoni L. punctata punctata
Lissemyspunctataandersoni Webb,1980
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Checklist of Nepal's Turtle Species
Species Red List Status
(IUCN 2008)
Nep al Red
Data Book
Aspideretes gangeticus (Cuv ie r, 1825) Vulne ra b le Vulne ra ble I
Aspideretes hurum (Gray, 1831) Vulnerable Susceptible I
Chitra indica (Gray , 1831) Endan g e red Sus ceptib le II
Cyclemys oldhamii Gray, 1863 No t Av a ila b le No t A va ila b le Not
Hardella thurjii (Gray, 1831) Vuln erable Su s cep tible II
Indotestudo elongata (Blyth, 1853) Endangered Susceptible II
Kachuga dhongoka (Gray , 1834) End a n g ered Sus ceptib le II
Kachuga kachuga (Gray , 1831) Critically
Vuln erab le II
Lissemys punctata andersoni W ebb , 1980 Lowe r Ris k / leas t
Sus cep tible II
Melanochelys tricarinata (Bly t h , 1856) Vulnerable Vulnerable I
Melanochelys trijuga indopeninsularis
(Annan d a le, 1930)
Lower Ris k / near
Susceptible II
Morenia petersi (A n d ers o n , 1879) Not A v ailab le Su s cep tible Not
Panghura smithii smithii (Gray, 1863) Lower Ris k / n ear
Sus cep tible II
Pangshura flaviventer (Gunth e r, 1864) Lower Ris k / leas t
Pangshura smithii pallidipes (M oll, 1987) Lower Ris k / n ear
Susceptible II
Pangshura tecta (Gray , 1830) Lower Ris k / le as t
Susceptible I
Pangshura tentoria circumdata (Merte n s , 1969) Lo we r Ris k / leas t
Not A v a ilable II
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
Turtle Monitoring Checklist Model)(
d. Conservation Status of Nepal’s Turtles
(The species red list categories are as per 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Downloaded on and BPP 1995)24 April 2009
Turtles of Nepal
A Field Guide for Species Accounts and Distribution
15 April, 2009
15 April,
23 April 2009
Annandale, N. & Shastri, S. 1914. Relics of the worship of mud turtles (Trionychidae) in India and
Burma. Proc. Asiatic Soc. Bengal : 131-135.
Amezaga, J. M., L. Santamaría, and A. J. Green. 2002. Biotic wetland connectivity-supporting a new
approach for wetland policy. :213-222.
Aryal, P. C., Dhamala, M. K., Bhurtel, B. P., Suwal, M. K. and Rijal, B. 2009. Species Accounts,
Distribution Status and Threat Assessment of Turtles in Lowlands of Nepal with Special
Focus on Indian eyed Turtle ( Anderson 1879). Submitted to Critical
Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)/ WWF Nepal Program ( ).
Aryal, R. S. 2004. . Likhat Pd.
Pndey, BhrikutiAcademic Publications, Kathmandu.
Asian Turtle Trade Working Group 2000. 2008a. . In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. ( . Downloaded on .
Asian Turtle Trade Working Group 2000. 2008b. . In: IUCN 2008. IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species. ( . Downloaded on
Asian Turtle Trade Working Group 2000. 2008c. . In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List
of Threatened Species. < >. Downloaded on .
Bedoya-Gaitan, M., and F. Godoy. 2008.
. Bushmeat Crisis Task Force Pages 1-2, Washington, DC. (Downloaded on 20
April, 2009: .
Berkes, F. 2004. Rethinking Community-Based Conservation. :621-630.
Bhandari, B. 1998. . Page xvi+309. IUCN Nepal, Kathmandu.
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... The first substantive study of herpetofaunal distributions in Nepal was that of Swan and Levinton (1962). Subsequently, Dubois (1974Dubois ( , 1984, Fleming and Fleming (1974), Kramer (1977), Nanhoe and Ouboter (1987), Zug and Mitchell (1995), Das (1998), O'Shea (1998, Shrestha (2000), Schleich and Kästle (2002), Tillack et al. (2003), Shah and Tiwari (2004), Aryal et al. (2010), Kästle et al. (2013), Khatiwada et al. ( , 2017, Bhattarai et al. (2017b), Pandey et al. (2018), and Rawat et al. (2019) contributed new information either by describing new species or recording taxa new to the country. ...
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In May and October 2017, we assessed the distribution and diversity of herpetofauna in the Ghandruk region of the Annapurna Conservation Area. Using the Visual Encounter Survey (VES) protocol on 11 randomly selected transects, we recorded 662 individuals of 25 herpetofaunal species (12 amphibians and 13 reptiles). Species richness and abundance declined with increases in elevation but only the correlation between elevation and abundance was significant. Neither amphibians nor reptiles were uniformly distributed among different habitats, and species richness of both amphibians and reptiles varied significantly among habitat types. The greatest amphibian species richness was in wetlands, whereas that of reptiles was highest in forests.
... The first zoogeographic information on the herpetofauna by Swan and Levinton (1962) laid the foundation for modern Nepalese herpetology. Since then, Dubois (1974Dubois ( , 1984, Fleming and Fleming (1973), Kramer (1977), Nanhoe and Ouboter (1987), Zug and Mitchell (1995), Das (1998), O'Shea (1998), Shrestha (2000, Schleich and Kästle (2002), Tillack et al. (2003), Shah and Tiwari (2004), Aryal et al. (2010), Pandey (2012), and Kästle et al. (2013), among others, contributed either by describing new species or recording taxa new to the country. Most of the above-mentioned studies were limited to eastern and central Nepal and frequently omitted locality records. ...
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The Nepalese herpetofauna has been poorly studied, and little is known about the distribution of the coun-try's amphibians and reptiles. We surveyed the herpetofauna at Beeshazar and associated lakes, a Ramsar site situated in the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park, Nepal. We conducted surveys between June and July 2015 using line transects, and nocturnal and diurnal visual encounter surveys (VES). We recorded 47 species comprising 13 anurans, 11 lizards, 18 snakes, four turtles, and one crocodilian. This document will serve as source material for outreach activities in conservation awareness of the herpetofauna in the buffer zone of the park. The present study suggests that the species composition of Beeshazar and associated lakes is likely to increase with additional systematic inventories.
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Turtle Conservation in Nepal
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Tangting River originates from southern slope of Murtidanda of Mahabharat range and forms a very narrow v-shaped agriculturally fertile valley in lower parts of Chure hills. It has three main tributaries merging from east and west. Water is clear with rocky bed and margin is covered with thick bushes of semi-shrubs (Eupatorium adenophorum). During the herpetological survey, a live juvenile specimen of Cyclemys oldhamii (Gray, 1983) was collected from the periphery of Banmare Khola, an eastern tributory of the river. It was found hiding in the paddy field in the flood plain of Tangting river (280 m), and another adult specimen was collected from Dhobi Khola (450 m), a western tributory of the river. Empty shells were also collected from Garuwa and Mai valleys, respectively. Tangting and Garuwa river valleys are the favourable habitats for Cyclemys oldhamii. The main reason of discontinued distribution is habitat loss by deforestation. Key words: Cyclemys, Morphology, Ecological habitats, Distribution doi:10.3126/on.v2i1.317 Our Nature (2004) 2: 7-12
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Commercial exploitation of freshwater turtles and tortoises has increased significantly in China since the 1990s, which has expedited the listing of some turtle species in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II. We assessed the risk to tortoises and freshwater turtles native to China by analyzing biological and socio-economic variables. The Principal Component Analysis model with VARIMAX rotation was used to categorize these species into groups. We found that many turtles in significant trade are at high risk of overexploitation. Except for Pelodiscus sinensis and Mauremys reevesii, most tortoises and freshwater turtles are classified in the same group and have similar risks. Listing several (but not all) chelonian species in the CITES Appendices will not resolve the chelonian trade crisis because many species may be substituted in trade. We recommend listing more Chinese turtles in the CITES Appendices.
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Considerable recent attention has focused on how human disturbance alters the behaviour of imperiled taxa. Data on such impacts are common for waterfowl, marine mammals, and some large game animals. However, little is known about how human disturbances affect reptiles, perhaps because most reptiles are secretive and are not commonly seen by the public. We studied the impact of human disturbances on the nesting and basking behaviour of the yellow-blotched map turtle (Graptemys flavimaculata) on the Pascagoula River in southeastern Mississippi, USA. We found that both nesting and basking behaviour of map turtles were altered by human recreational activities. Turtles attempting to nest commonly abandoned their attempts upon the approach of a boat and, prior to nesting, numerous individuals waited several hours near the beach without emerging. Basking turtles frequently dove into the water upon the approach of a boat and some did not return to bask. Anglers in small boats that remained in the vicinity of basking sites caused the most disturbances, whereas personal water crafts (jet skis) caused fewer disturbances. Our data suggest that interruption of nesting activities may have an especially severe impact on the viability of this population through changes in numbers of clutches females are able to lay and altering the microhabitat females select for their nests.
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Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) which lies in the lowlands of eastern Nepal is the most important wetland for migratory water birds in Nepal, and one of the most important in Asia. It is surrounded by a buffer zone of 173 km2, in which over 80,000 people live, most of whom are dependent on the natural resource base for their livelihoods. Uncontrolled fish harvesting has severely depleted fishery resources depriving local fishermen of their major source of subsistence. Annual waterfowl count has indicated a rapid decline of bird species that are heavily dependent on fish populations. The Darwin Initiative project is assisting local communities around KTWR in managing buffer zone wetlands for sustainable livelihoods, whilst enhancing wetland biodiversity, thus reducing the pressure on resources within KTWR
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There are currently ca. 317 recognized species of turtles and tortoises in the world. Of those that have been assessed on the IUCN Red List, 63% are considered threatened, and 10% are critically endangered, with ca. 42% of all known turtle species threatened. Without directed strategic conservation planning, a significant portion of turtle diversity could be lost over the next century. Toward that conservation effort, we compiled museum and literature occurrence records for all of the world's tortoises and freshwater turtle species to determine their distributions and identify priority regions for conservation. We constructed projected range maps for each species by selecting geographic information system–defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) with verified locality points, and then added HUCs that connected known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region and that had similar habitats and elevations as the verified HUCs. We analyzed a total of 305 turtle species and assigned each to 1 of 7 geographic regions of the world. Patterns of global turtle species distributions were determined and regional areas of turtle species richness identified. In only 2 areas of the world did as many as 18 or 19 species occur together in individual HUCs. We then compared species distributions with existing global conservation strategies (GCSs) and established biodiversity priority areas. Presence of a species in a GCS was defined as ≥ 5% its range. Of the 34 biodiversity hotspots, 28 collectively contain the projected ranges of 192 turtle species, with 74 endemic; the 5 high-biodiversity wilderness areas contain 72 species, with 17 endemic; and 16 other wilderness areas contain 52 species, with 1 endemic. However, 116 turtle species have either < 50% of their ranges in existing GCSs (57 species) or do not occur in them at all (59 species, 19.3%), thus potentially leaving many tortoises and freshwater turtles without any regional GCS. For each of these 116 species we identify a priority Ecoregion for further conservation consideration, and we identify 3 new global Turtle Priority Areas for conservation based on aggregated Ecoregions. These are the Southeastern United States, Lower Gangetic Plain, and Coastal Australia Turtle Priority Areas.
Known as "Simsar" in Nepal, wetlands are those areas which lie between the land and deepwater and remian waterlogged or submerged under water, seasonally or throughout the year. Generally the land is so muddy that one cannot easily walk over it, and water is so deep that one can neither swim nor get drowned. River floodplains, shallow margins of lakes and reservoirs, shallow and seasonal ponds, islands in rivers, deepwater paddy fields, and sea-coasts are typical examples of wetlands. Keywords: Lowland wetland, Nepal doi: 10.3126/on.v6i1.1657 Our Nature (2008)6:67-77
The impact of fire and mechanical habitat destruction on a population of the tortoise Testudo hermanni in northern Greece varied with vegetation type and season. A major fire in summer 1980 caused low (10 cm) in coastal heath, highest (about 50%) mortality in grassland, and intermediate levels in dry heath. Mechanical habitat destruction caused about 50% mortality in affected areas. Mortality of juveniles was greater than that of sexable animals. Overall, the 1980 catastrophe was more damaging than previously thought, causing a 64% decrease in the total size of the Alyki main heath population. A localized summer fire in 1986 caused a similar level and pattern of mortality to that of 1980, but a spring fire in 1988 had little effect on the tortoise population. A fire and mechanical habitat destruction in winter 1989/90 caused only a 14% decrease in population size; mortality was again concentrated in grassland areas, but affected juveniles and sexable animals equally. Variation of mortality with season suggests that any burning needed for habitat management at tortoise sites should occur in winter or early spring. Juveniles were undersampled by 3–4 times compared to sexable animals; their number increased greatly by 1990, reaching the same proportion as in the original population. There was, however, no recovery in the number of sexable tortoises in the decade after the 1980 catastrophe.
Considerable effort has been exerted in attempts to understand the complex ecological effects of grazing. North American tortoises, by virtue of their distribution, provide a good model taxon through which to study how grazing effects vary with grazing regime, habitat, and climate. We studied the Texas tortoise ( Gopherus berlandieri ), which is restricted primarily to privately owned rangelands of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Management of this species is hampered by a lack of information on the effects of common land-use practices. We evaluated the effects of moderate grazing by cattle (short-duration, winter-spring rotational grazing regime; 6–28 animal-unit days/ha/year) on this tortoise by comparing two grazed and two ungrazed sites in the Western Rio Grande Plains, Texas ( U.S.A.), from April 1994 to October 1997. We made 132 captures of 106 individuals in the ungrazed pastures and 324 captures of 237 individuals in the grazed pastures. We also radiotracked 22 tortoises in the ungrazed pastures and 25 tortoises in the grazed pastures. Comparisons of relative abundance, body-size distribution, age distribution, body mass, sex ratio, adult survival, proportion of juveniles, and growth rates revealed no differences ( p> 0.05 for all parameters) between tortoises on grazed and ungrazed areas. Based on these results, we suggest that moderate grazing by cattle is not incompatible with maintenance of Texas tortoise populations. Our data were consistent with a general model of tortoise biogeography and tolerance of disturbance which suggests that Texas tortoises are tolerant to intermediate levels of disturbance. Generalities about the effect of cattle grazing on the four North American tortoises should be avoided unless they can be placed in the context of grazing regime, precipitation, habitat quality, and tortoise requirements.