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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Pig-nosed Turtle

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3












Species : Carettochelys insculpta
Maximum carapace length : 70 cm

The Pig-nosed Turtle (also known as the Fly River Turtle) is a unique species of freshwater chelonian: it is the only living member of the genus Carettochelys and the family Carettochelyidae.

Its name derives from the shape of its flexible, fleshy snout, and its forward-facing nostrils. Its overall shape resembles that of marine turtles, with a gently-domed, elongate carapace and flipper-like legs. The tail is short and thick in females, but longer and narrower in males.

The carapace of adults is greyish or greenish-grey in colour, while juveniles have a pale margin. The plastron (i.e. the underside) is cream.

This species is considered to be omnivorous, consuming a variety of aquatic plants and fallen vegetation, as well as a range of aquatic invertebrates.

The species inhabits lowland stretches of large rivers on the southern side of the island of New Guinea, including the Kikori and Fly rivers (in Papua New Guinea) and Wania river (Papua Province, Indonesia), and rivers of the Northern Territory of Australia. Its eggs are laid in nests excavated in sandbanks along the margins of such rivers. Nests are also documented on coastal sandbanks, where the Kikori River empties into the Gulf of Papua (Geroges et al, 2008).

In parts of New Guinea the meat and eggs of this turtle are a component of the traditional diet of river-dwelling people, but over-harvesting and the sale of turtles to wildlife traders has had a dramatic impact on some populations.

Figs 1 and 2 : Adult specimen, with an estimated carapace length of 50 cm, patrolling the margin of Macritchie Reservoir, Singapore. This animal was probably a former pet, which was deliberately released into the reservoir.

Fig 3 : Kikori River, Papua New Guinea. This image shows one tributary in the braided, lowland stretch of the river where sandbanks provide suitable nesting sites for the Pig-nosed Turtle (Georges et al, 2008)..

References :

Georges, A., Alacs, E., Pauza, M., Kinginapi, F., Ona, A. & Eisemberg, C.  (2008). Freshwater turtles of the Kikori Drainage, Papua New Guinea, with special reference to the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta. Wildlife Research 35:700-711.