Pig-nosed turtle

The pig-nosed turtle Carettochelys insculpta is one of the most atypical species of turtle! And no, despite its look, it is not a sea turtle, but is closely related to the softshell turtles (Trionychidae). It occurs in Papua New Guinea and in coastal rivers of the Northern Territory in Australia.
It is nowadays barely imported and captive breeding will probably not satisfy the demand in the following years…

Characterizations

This large aquatic turtle can have a carapace length up to 60cm and weight more than 20 kg. Its name comes from the soft trunk-like snout. Unlike most turtles, its carapace is covered by tough leathery skin like the softshell turtles. Furthermore, it has peculiar paddle-like forelimbs. The carapace color is grey to olive and the plastron is whitish.

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Milieu naturel, Daly river Nothern Territory, Australia

The set-up

This turtle is growing slowly and swims extensively. Thus, it needs a large aquarium with constant temperature (26-30°C), slightly salted. They do not bask, so a land area is only useful for gravid females. The pig-nosed turtle is aggressive with conspecific, so if you want to keep individuals together, be sure to provide enough space and some hiding spots.

Feeding

The pig-nosed turtles are omnivorous. Adults have a preference for vegetables, while juveniles are more carnivorous. They can eat fruits, vegetables, fish pellets or cat kibbles.

Reproduction

It represents reproductive challenge in captivity. Indeed, sexual maturity occurs only after 14-16 years for males and 20-22 years for females! Males can be distinguished from females thanks to their larger and thicker tail and the position of the cloaca (closer from the plastron in females). Averaged clutch size is 7 to 19 eggs and the nest is dug into sandy soil. The sex depends on the incubation temperature, 32°C will produce females and males evenly, while cooler temperatures while generate males only and warmer temperatures females only.

References and further readings

  • International Turtle and Tortoise Symposium, Artner, H., Farkas, B., & Loehr, V. (2006). Turtles: Proceedings : International Turtle & Tortoise Symposium, Vienna 2002. Frankfurt am Main: Edition Chimaira.
  • Debry A. Biologie et maintenance en captivité de la tortue à nez de cochon Carettochelys insculpta. ReptilMag 41: 26-30 (2010).
  • Georges, A. (2000). The Australian pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta). Canberra: Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Applied Ecology, University of Canberra.
  • Elliott, A. (2012). A guide to… Australian freshwater turtles in captivity. Burleigh, Qld: Reptile.
  • Ernst, C. H., & Barbour, R. W. (1989). Turtles of the world. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.