Species Spotlight Vol. 17

Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata)

Countries of Origin: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan

IUCN Status: Least Concern (Vulnerable status recommended 2017)

Habitat: Marshes, rivers, lakes, ponds, agricultural paddies, brackish estuaries, canals, and ditches

Size:          Males ≤ 23 cm (9 in.)  Females ≤ 35 cm (14 in.)

Factoids:

  • Morphologically an evolutionary link between the softshell and hardshell aquatic turtles
  • Has an extensive range of 3.7 million km2 (1.5 million sq mi)
  • Three recognized subspecies: Southern Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata puntacta), Spotted Northern Indian Flapshell Turtle ( p. andersoni), Central Indian Flapshell Turtle (L. p. vittata)
  • Will burrow into the mud of shallow marshes and agricultural fields, literally entombing itself in estivation, during periods of drought. It’s been known to survive for up to 5 months in this state
  • Highly omnivorous, consuming mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, arthropods, fruits, seeds, and vegetation
  • Egg-laying occurs during monsoon season, from July to November, with females depositing up to 3 clutches in a season
  • Egg incubation may be considerably drawn out due to environmental factors, lasting anywhere from 4 to 12 months. Eggs typically hatch during or just prior to the onset of the next year’s monsoon
  • In India, ground Flapshell shell is believed to be a remedy for tuberculosis
  • Protected under CITES Appendix II, regulating its international trade

Greatest Threats: Poaching for the food and traditional medicine markets of northeastern India and the Far East. This species is under immense harvesting pressure, with an estimated 70,000 turtles poached each year in India alone for foreign markets. At this rate, the turtle’s endangerment status could change rapidly over the next decade.

How you can help: Our TSA-India program is on the front line of combating the harvest and trade of India’s turtles. We regularly provide law enforcement with critical information, train law enforcement officials in identifying and handling smuggled turtles, triage and provide long-term medical and husbandry care for turtles seized from wildlife trade, and provide community outreach. You can help us further these activities and expand our impact by supporting our India Campaign TODAY!

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