Red-crowned roofed turtle

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Red-crowned roofed turtle
Batagur kachuga
Illustration based on Francis Buchanan-Hamilton's drawing (1832)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Batagur
Species: B. kachuga
Binomial name
Batagur kachuga
(Gray, 1831)
  • Bengal Roof Turtle[1]
  • Emys kachuga Gray, 1831
  • Emys lineata Gray, 1831
  • Clemmys (Clemmys) lineata
    Fitzinger, 1835
  • Batagur (Kachuga) lineata
    — Gray, 1856
  • Batagur ellioti Gray, 1862
  • Batagur lineatus Günther, 1864
  • Clemmys ellioti Strauch, 1865
  • Kachuga fusca Gray, 1870
  • Kachuga lineata — Gray, 1870
  • Batagur kachuga Theobald, 1876
  • Batagur bakeri Lydekker, 1885
  • Kachuga kachuga
    M.A. Smith, 1931
  • Batagur kachuga Le et al., 2007[2]
Batagur kachuga
top, bottom and side views

The red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga) is a species of freshwater turtle endemic to South Asia. It was the type species of its former genus Kachuga. Females can grow to a shell length of 56 cm (22 in) and weigh 25 kilograms (55 lb), but males are considerably smaller. The turtles like to bask in the sun on land. In the breeding season, the heads and necks of male turtles exhibit bright red, yellow and blue coloring. The females excavate nests in which they lay clutches of up to thirty eggs.

Historically, this turtle was found in central Nepal, northeastern India, Bangladesh and probably Burma, but it has suffered declines in population due to being harvested for meat and shells, drowned in fishing nets, water pollution, hydro-electric schemes and habitat loss. Fewer than four hundred adult females are thought to remain in the wild, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature rating this turtle as being "critically endangered". India has put conservation measures in place, and a captive breeding programme has been initiated.


It can weigh up to 25 kilograms (55 lb) and have shells as long as 56 centimeters (22 in). Males reach only half the length of females. At the end of the rainy season, the heads and necks of male turtles develop a brilliant courtship coloration of red, yellow, white, and blue, with 6 distinctive bright red stripes on top of the head. [4]

The carapace of the young is strongly keeled. The keels are tubercular posteriorly on the second and third vertebral shields. The posterior margin is strongly crenulated. The marginal serrature disappears in adolescent specimens and the vertebral keel, after being reduced to a series of low knobs, vanishes entirely in the full-grown, the carapace of which is very convex. The nuchal shield is small, trapezoidal and broadest posteriorly. The first vertebral is as broad or broader in front as behind. The second vertebral is longer than the third, with which it forms a straight transverse suture. The fourth is longest and forms a broad suture with the third. The second vertebral is broader than long in the young, and as long as broad in the adult. Plastron is angulate laterally in the young. The anterior and posterior lobes are rather narrow and shorter than the width of the bridge, truncate anteriorly and are openly notched posteriorly. The longest median suture is between the abdominals and the shortest is between the gulars, which equals about one half that between the humerals. The suture between gulars and humerals forms an obtuse angle, as does that between humerals and pectorals. The inguinal is large and the axillary is smaller.

The head is moderate size with an obtuse and moderately prominent snout. The jaws have denticulated edges with the upper not notched mesially. Alveolar surfaces are very broad, the median ridge of the upper jaw being somewhat nearer the outer than the inner margin. Choanae are behind the line of the posterior borders of the orbits. The width of the lower jaw at the symphysis equals the diameter of the orbit. The limbs have transversely enlarged, band-like scales which are colored brown above and yellowish below. The nape has red longitudinal lines. [5]

Geographic range[edit]

This reptile was historically widespread in Central Nepal, NE India, Bangladesh, primarily in deep flowing freshwater rivers with terrestrial nest sites in the watershed of the Ganges River and probably NW Burma. Type locality: "India"; restricted by M.A. Smith 1931:131, to "N. India." [1] [6]

The National Chambal Sanctuary portion of the Chambal River has received moderate protection since 1979 as India’s only protected riverine habitat. It is believed to be one of the last viable habitats for this species, though even here, B. kachuga are rare. [7] Recent annual nesting surveys indicate fewer than 400 adult females remaining in the wild. [8]


The diet of red-crowned roofed turtles consists entirely of water plants.[9]


They leave the water to thermoregulate by basking in the sun on rocks, logs, and sandbanks.[9]


Adult females lay eggs in March and April. The eggs are 64–75 mm (2 12–3 in) long by 38–46 mm (1 121 34 in) wide. Clutch size varies from 11 to 30 eggs.[9]


The large Batagur turtles are probably the most threatened freshwater turtles in India. Their populations have now been drastically reduced due to poaching for their meat and shells, accidental drowning in fishing gear, water pollution, hydroelectric infrastructure projects, habitat destruction by sand mining, and egg predation by jackals.[10]


Since 2004, B. kachuga has reproduced in captivity at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. A total of 132 eggs were laid through 2009 with an overall viability of 69%. 75 hatchlings were produced from these eggs, with 24 young turtles sent to Uttar Pradesh for release in 2007. [10]

Since 2006, the Chambal River Sanctuary Program has implemented projects to protect wild nests, collect and hatch wild eggs in hatchery conditions, raise hatchlings to 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) at about 4 years age, conduct survival and migration studies of tagged and released hatchlings and conduct surveys over 400 kilometers (250 mi) of river to determine nesting locations, nesting density, nest depredation rates, and anthropogenic pressures on the turtles.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Kachuga kachuga". IUCN, assessors=Asian Turtle Trade Working Group, id-10949. 2000. Retrieved 2011-01-01. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is critically endangered and the criteria used
  2. ^ The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 225–226. ISSN 1864-5755. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Yun, Linda (2007-08-07), Red-Crowned roof turtle, Conservation International, retrieved 2011-01-01 
  5. ^ Boulenger., G.A. (1890), "36. Kachuga lineata, p. 40 (=Batagur kachuga, Theob. Cat. p. 10. )", The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia., London: Secretary of State for India in Council. Taylor and Francis, Printers., pp. xviii + 541, retrieved 2011-01-02 
  6. ^ van Dijk; Peter Paul (2010-8), "Red-crowned River Turtle, Batagur kachuga – India – CR" (PDF), Status of the World’s Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles a summary overview, Conservation International, p. 5, retrieved 2011-01-02  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ a b Singh, Shailendra & Brian Horne (2009-08-01), Chambal River Sanctuary Program Protects Two Species of Sympatric Batagur, Turtle Survival Alliance, retrieved 2011-01-01 
  8. ^ "Turtles in India Get Head Start", San Diego Institute for Conservation Research, Zoological Society of San Diego, 2010, retrieved 2011-01-01 
  9. ^ a b c Das, I. 2002. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of India. Ralph Curtis Books. Sanibel Island, Florida. 144 pp. ISBN 0-88359-056-5. ("Painted Roofed Turtle Kachuga kachuga", p. 127.)
  10. ^ a b Whitaker, Nikhil (2009-08-01), Update on the captive breeding of the red-crowned roof turtle at the MCBT, Turtle Survival Alliance, retrieved 2011-01-01 
  • Safi, A., Khan, M. Z., 2014. Distribution and current population of freshwater turtles of District Charsadda of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The Journal of Zoology studies. 1(4): 31-38.
  • Moll, E.O. 1986. Survey of the freshwater turtles of India. The genus Kachuga. [2 parts] J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 83 (3): 538-552.
  • Gray, J.E. 1831. Illustrations of Indian Zoology: chiefly selected from the collection of Major General Hardwicke. Vol. 1, London (1830–1835).
  • Gray, J.E. 1862. Notice of two new species of Batagur in the collection of the British Museum. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1862:264-265.
  • Gray, J.E. 1863. Notice of two new species of Batagur in the collection of the British Museum. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3) 12: 74-75.

External links[edit]