Madagascan big-headed turtle

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Madagascan big-headed turtle
Madagascar Bighead Turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis) (9620525421).jpg
Photographed at Berenty Reserve
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptile
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Pleurodira
Family: Podocnemididae
Genus: Erymnochelys
Baur, 1888
Species: E. madagascariensis
Binomial name
Erymnochelys madagascariensis[1]

The Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis)[1] is a turtle native to the waters of permanent slow moving rivers and lakes in western Madagascar. These turtles, although they are critically endangered (the 13th most endangered turtle, according to the top 25 most endangered turtles list, issued May 2003)[citation needed], they are commonly eaten for food but they are still commonly shipped from Madagascar to Asia to help meet the demand of Asia's traditional medicine market. A captive breeding program has also been started to prevent the species from becoming extinct. The Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) intends to raise USD$5.6 million to cover a five-year 'Global Action Plan' which includes captive breeding and reintroduction projects, trade monitoring, new rescue centers, local conservation plans, and educational programs.


The Madagascan big-headed turtle is one of the most endangered turtles in the world, and is also included in the Turtle Conservation Funds (TFC) top 25 endangered. It has a hard dark brown shell enclosing all the soft parts of the body and, as its name indicates, a very large head. Young turtles have a soft pattern of fine black lines on their shells, but they disappear with age.[2]


This species inhabits large areas with freshwater such as permanent slow streaming rivers, backwaters and lakes. Many of the hatching and juvenile turtles move into smaller rivers, where they can grow quickly and safely before going into deeper and larger bodies of water.


It can be found in the western lowland areas of Madagascar.[3]


The main threat for this species is that they are heavily exploited for food, caught in nets, fish traps and by hooks and lines. It is also hunted for illegal export to Asia for the traditional medicinal market. Another threat is land development as it destroys its natural habitat.