Turtle is a trendy pet in India. The word turtle is derived from the French tortue or tortre. In many houses, we can see that people buy turtles and keep them in their home by building some artificial pond in their garden or purchasing a big aquarium and putting the turtle into it.
There are large numbers of turtles we can find in India as India is the seventh largest country according to land size. Turtles are of many types and in India, there are about 25 types of turtles and some of the species are about to get extinct in the coming years. Some of the species that are facing extinction are the Asian Giant softshell, Leith’s softshell, red-crowned roofed turtle, northern river terrapin, and black softshell.
Turtles are basically an order of reptiles known as Testudines, which are made from a special shell out of their ribs. They can live both on land and underwater but they never lay their eggs underwater and they breathe air. Turtles are generally cold-blooded animals and are omnivores and they survive both on plants and animals with limited movements. They are also hunted for their meat and also to make some traditional medicines.
A turtle’s shell is very unique among all other vertebrates as it protects the animals from any outer attack and provides shelter from the elements. The shell is made of nearly 50-60 bones and is divided into three parts. As their shells are heavy so they are considered one of the slowest animals on the earth.
Turtle species found in India
Tricarinate Hill Turtle
Scientific name: Melanochelys tricarinata
This turtle is basically medium-sized and can reach up to a length of 5 inches. The turtle has a domed-like carapace which is black in color and bears three keels. The plastron of the turtle is yellow. As this turtle can be found mostly on land so their feet are not webbed compared to other turtles.
It can be found in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park, Dudhwa, and Corbett Tiger reserve. The turtle is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. These species are mostly becoming less seen due to their heavy consumption and also because of habitat degradation.
Red-crowned roofed turtle
Scientific name: Batagur kachuga
The red-crowned roofed turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles and can reach up to a length of nearly 50 inches. The turtle has a flat carapace and a keel. The carapace is brown and olive in color and the plastron is yellow. During the breeding season, the neck of the male turtle turns red in color while the female has the same brown and olive color combination.
This turtle can be found in Chambal National Park in Madhya Pradesh and the river Ganges is its natural habitat. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The red-crowned roofed turtle is facing extinction for consumption as well as for trade.
Indian Softshell Turtle
Scientific name: Nilssonia gangetica
The Indian Softshell turtle is a very big turtle with a length of nearly 28 inches. This turtle can be found in reservoirs and rivers like Indus, Mahanadi, and Ganga.
The carapace of the turtle is olive green in color. The species can be found in Chambal National Park, Dudhwa Forest Reserve, Harike lake, and Keoladeo National Park. This turtle is listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. This turtle is also getting extinct because of its high consumption and trade in the international market.
Spotted Pond Turtle
Scientific name: Geoclemys hamiltonii
The spotted Pond turtle is a huge species and can reach up to a length of 14 inches. This pond turtle can be easily spotted because of the dark yellow and white spots on its head and because of this it has got its name ‘Spotted Pond Turtle’.
The carapace of the turtle is black with yellow patches and it has three keels. The feet of the turtle are webbed. This species can be found in Keoladeo National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Orang National Park, and Harike lake. It has been declared endangered in the IUCN Red List. And this species is facing extinction because of the food and pet trade.
Keeled Box Turtle
Scientific name: Cuora mouhotii
Keeled Box turtle is basically medium-sized and can grow up to the length of only 7 inches.
The turtle has a flattened carapace that is brown in color. The plastron on the other hand is yellow in color. The feet are either webbed or not webbed at all. It is mostly a terrestrial turtle and can be found in hilly forests.
The turtle can be found in Mupa Lanteng Rainforest in Assam, Mehoo Wildlife sanctuary, and Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. It is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The species are getting extinct due to consumption and also for trading as pets. They are also facing habitat degradation because of deforestation and forest clearing in many parts of India.
Indian Black Turtle
Scientific name: Melanochelys trijuga
This turtle is also known as a peninsular black turtle and can reach up to a length of nearly 9 inches. The turtle has a flat carapace which is black or brown in color and the plastron is dark with webbed feet.
The Indian Black Turtle can be found in Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Manas Tiger Reserve, Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. This turtle is listed as the least concern in the IUCN Red list. The species is facing threat mainly due to consumption and trade.
Northern River Terrapin
Scientific name: Batagur baska
The Northern river Terrapin is a large freshwater turtle that can grow up to a length of nearly 24 inches. It can be found in lakes, rivers, and wildlife sanctuaries. The carapace of the turtle is brown in color with sawed jaws.
The species can be found in the forests of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, and Sunderban Tiger Reserve. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The threat faced by these turtles is because of food and traditional consumption.
Indian Flapshell Turtle
Scientific name: Lissemys punctata
This turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles which can reach up to a length of 14 inches. The carapace of the turtle is olive-brown in color with yellow spots. The plastron of the turtle is yellow in color and the head has several yellow spots.
It can be found in ponds and rivers and in the forests of Chambal National Park, Chilika Lake, Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Harike Lake, Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary, Kaziranga National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Nandan Kadan National Park, and Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary.
This turtle is declared as least vulnerable on the IUCN Red list and it has been facing threats due to consumption and for traditional medicine.
Assam Roofed Turtle
Scientific name: Pangshura sylhetensis
This turtle is generally medium-sized and grows up to 8 inches in length. It is endemic in India and can be spotted in ponds and rivers.
This Assam Roofed Turtle has a high carapace which is grey to brown in coloration. The plastron of the turtle is yellow with dark spots. The turtle also has a yellow strike from the lower jaw to the back of the head.
The species can be found in the Dibru-Saikhowa Wildlife sanctuary, the Nameri wildlife sanctuary, and the Manas tiger reserve all of which are in Assam. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. This turtle is mainly facing extinction due to trade, the construction of dams, and the clearing of forests.
Leith’s softshell turtle
Scientific name: Nilssonia leithii
This turtle is one of the largest species in India and can reach up to a length of 28 inches. This species has a flat carapace with olive grey in color and the plastron is cream in color.
The Leith’s softshell turtle can be found in Nagarjuna Sagar National Park, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. This species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The main reason behind their extinction is consumption and trade.
Reasons to know before buying a pet turtle
- The first reason why most people do not prefer to buy a turtle and keep it as a pet in their house is due to their high price which can range from Rs 45000 to 70000 per turtle.
- Turtle has a quite long life span which can go up to 25 years, so one should be well prepared to take care of it for a long period of time.
- Turtles can only live in clean and fresh water so one should regularly replace the water wherever they are planning to keep it.
- Most turtles used to sleep for 10-20 weeks so one should provide a safe and sound environment for them to hibernate peacefully.
- Turtles are definitely cute but one should be careful enough to keep them at distance from children because they carry salmonella which is harmful to children.
- Turtles do not usually interact with people but they will surely show some interaction during their feeding time.
- Before buying a turtle for your house you should ensure that it is a domestic breed and not caught in some wild forests.
Turtles are, therefore, one of the cutest creatures that we can witness around us but we should also be careful while playing with them or keeping them as a pet because it may cause harm to you as their body has salmonella which is not good for people.