Amboina box turtle

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Amboina box turtle
Cuora Amboinensis male2.jpg
Adult C. a. amboinensis from Sulawesi
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Cuora
C. amboinensis
Binomial name
Cuora amboinensis
Daudin, 1802
Cuora amboinensis amboinensis
  • Testudo amboinensis Daudin, 1801
  • Testudo melanocephala Daudin, 1801
  • Emys amboinensis Schweigger, 1812
  • Emys melanocephala Schweigger, 1812
  • Terrapene amboinensis Merrem, 1820
  • Kinosternon amboinense Bell, 1825 (ex errore)
  • Cistuda amboinensis Gray, 1830
  • Clemmys (Clemmys) melanocephala Fitzinger, 1835
  • Cuora amboinensis Gray, 1856
  • Cistudo amboinensis Boulenger, 1889
  • Cyclemys amboinensis Boulenger, 1889
  • Cuora ambionensis Goldsmith, Proctor, Cole & Dadd, 1969 (ex errore)
  • Cuora amboiensis Nutaphand, 1979 (ex errore)
  • Cuora amboinensis amboinensis Rummler & Fritz, 1991
Cuora amboinensis couro
  • Emys couro Schweigger, 1812
  • Terrapene bicolor Bell, 1825
  • Terrapene couro Fitzinger, 1826
  • Emys cuoro Mertens & Wermuth, 1955 (ex errore)
  • Cuora amboinensis couro Rummler & Fritz, 1991
  • Cuora amboinensis cuoro Das, 1995
Cuora amboinensis kamaroma
  • Terrapene bicolor Bell, 1825
  • Cuora amboinensis kamaroma Rummler & Fritz, 1991
  • Cuora amboinensis kanzaroma Artner, 2003 (ex errore)
Cuora amboinensis lineata
  • Cuora amboinensis lineata McCord & Philippen, 1998

The Amboina box turtle (Cuora amboinensis), or southeast Asian box turtle is a species of Asian box turtle.

It is found in the Nicobar Islands, eastern India (Assam), Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, central and southern Vietnam, west Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines (Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Panay, etc.), Indonesia (Sulawesi, Ambon Island, Sumatra, Borneo, East Malaysia, Brunei, Nias, Enggano, Simeulue, Java, Sumbawa, Halmahera, Ceram, Seram, Buru, East Timor, Bali, Palawan and Maluku), and possibly China (Guangxi and Guangdong) and Sri Lanka.

The type locality is "Amboine" (or "Amboina") Island, today Ambon Island in Indonesia.


These turtles have blackish-brown to olive brown colored shells that are not as ornate as many other box turtles. All have a blackish olive head with three yellow stripes on the side. The male can be identified by the slightly concave shape to its plastron. There is no specific pattern to what the underbellies may look like, for either sex. The only true way of telling age is to guess by the texture of the shell, as growth rings form irregularly.[2][3]

There are four subspecies that are primarily differentiated by differences in the color and shape of the carapace:[4]

  • Cuora amboinensis amboinensis (Wallacean Box Turtle) – eastern Indonesian islands: Ambon Island, Sulawesi, the Moluccas, Buru, Seram, and East Timor and smaller islands in the region.
Have a quite flat shell with a flared marginal scutes. The plastron have a bigger black spots coloration, and possesses a bigger head. Well adapted for an aquatic lifestyle. For individuals suspected to be of this subspecies: Ratio of carapace length / height: 3.08. Average ratio dimensions of plastron spots: 1.21 (almost circular)
  • Cuora amboinensis couro (West Indonesian Box Turtle) (Schweigger, 1812)[5] – south Indonesian islands: Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sumbawa.
Moderate domed carapace, some individual possesses a flared marginal scutes. The plastron shows black markings on every plastral scutes, Darker in Coloration, more oval black spots on plastron.
  • Cuora amboinensis kamaroma (South East Asian Box Turtle) Rummler & Fritz, 1991[5]Malayan box turtle or domed Malayan box turtle. Mainland Indochina (South and Central Vietnam, southern Laos & Cambodia), Thailand (Phang Nga Province etc.), Singapore and mainland Malaysia and Borneo.
High domed carapace and smaller, more elongated and less spotting of black pigments in the plastron. have smaller and shorter tail compared to other subspecies. do not have any flare in the marginal scutes. Average ratio of carapace length / height: 2.82. Average ratio dimensions of plastron spots: 2.14 (small and elongated)
Resembles to Cuora amboinensis kamaroma, but in the carapace there is a bright colored mid-dorsal line, and sometimes a bright colored lateral line. The plastral are possesses large black spotting of black similar to the Cuora amboinensis couro.

Several distinct populations are believed to represent up to 4 more subspecies, or at least striking varieties.[6]

  • Nicobar Islands
  • Eastern India (Assam), Bangladesh, and possibly Sri Lanka
  • Borneo, the Malaysian Islands, Brunei, and Palawan
  • Philippines (Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Panay, etc.)

C. a. kamaroma has hybridized in captivity with the Vietnamese pond turtle – a species nearly extinct in the wild – and with males of the Chinese pond turtle (Chinemys reevesii).[7] Other hybrids are known, like C. amboinensis × Cuora trifasciata.[6]

Ecology and status[edit]

They are omnivorous, with younger turtles tending towards more meat consumption and older turtles eating a more herbivorous diet.[2]

Although Cuora amboinensis is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN,[8] they are able to thrive in some areas of the world. For example, they can be found in the storm drains of Brunei. These are seriously polluted, and yet seem to be extremely popular habitat for these turtles and other animals that can withstand eutrophication. In some places, this species is hunted for use in folk medicine.[9]

Cuora amboinensis can be quite difficult to breed in captivity, compared with other box turtles. These turtles have a mating ritual very similar to that of other box turtles. No courtship occurs, the male simply climbs upon the female. He then snaps at her head, so that she closes the front half of her shell, opening the back.

Pet care[edit]

Adult C. amboinensis ssp.
Juvenile Malayan box turtles (Cuora amboinensis kamaroma)

Any individual considering a turtle as a pet should thoroughly research both general care and the care of the particular species in which they are interested. Individuals considering a Cuora amboinensis as a pet should keep in mind that it is a tropical, non-hibernating species who needs much warmer water (about 82 degrees F) than many other semi-aquatic species. The adult Cuora amboinensis is smaller in comparison to more well-known species such as the red-eared slider or cooter, but a fully grown adult will generally need at least a 55-gallon tank and this habitat should be semi-aquatic, not terrestrial.

Cuora amboinensis is far more aquatic than many other box turtle species. Unfortunately, this has often led to pet Cuoras being incorrectly housed in terrestrial habitats. Although they are clumsy swimmers and need shallower water than other semi-aquatic turtles that are stronger swimmers, (e.g., sliders, cooters, and painteds), they tend to vastly prefer being in the water to on land. In the wild, they will often live in almost entirely in water only emerging to bask and to lay eggs. They can even mate in the water.


  1. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 214–215. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Cuora amboinensis".
  3. ^ "Jabberwock Reptiles". Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  4. ^ Filella (1997); measurements taken at the LCRC 2006-SEP-20.
  5. ^ a b c Cuora amboinensis, The Reptile Database
  6. ^ a b Vetter & Van Dijk (2006)
  7. ^ Fritz & Mendau (2002), Galgon & Fritz (2002), Buskirk et al. (2005)
  8. ^ ATTWG (2000)
  9. ^ da Nóbrega Alves et al. (2008)


Further reading[edit]

"Cuora amboinensis kamaroma", Rui Pessoa, May 2007, Lisbon, Portugal

  • Becker, H. (1999): Ergänzende Bemerkungen zur Haltung und zur Nachzucht von Cuora flavomarginata (Gray 1863) ["Additional remarks on captive care and breeding of C. flavomarginata"]. Elaphe 7(3): 2–10 [Article in German][verification needed].
  • Ernst, C.H. (1988): Cuora mccordi, a new Chinese box turtle from Guangxi Province. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 101: 466–470.
  • Pauler, I. (1980): Die Schildkrötengattung Cuora ["The turtle genus Curoa"]. Herpetofauna 2(6): 15–18 [Article in German][verification needed].
  • Praedicow, G. (1985): Langjährige Erfahrungen bei der Pflege von Cuora amboinensis (Daudin) ["Long-term experiences in captive care of C. amboinensis"]. Herpetofauna 7(36)[verification needed]: 6–14 [Article in German][verification needed].

External links[edit]