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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 12, 2021

Arakan Forest Turtle: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Arakan forest turtle facts are sure to surprise you.

Turtles are probably everyone's favorite reptile, and why wouldn't they be? They look really cute hiding in their large shells, smiling wide as though they know something you do not, which is probably true, considering their amazing lifespan. In this article, we will be taking a look at one of the most Critically Endangered turtle species, the Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa). Their main habitat is the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) Yoma Elephant hills of western Myanmar (formerly Burma), and they can also be found in Bangladesh and, very rarely, China. This rare turtle species was thought to have gone extinct until a specimen was found, and this species was rediscovered in a market in 1994. Arakan forest turtles are considered a culinary delicacy in many parts of Asia, and some Asian countries also believe their shells hold medicinal properties. They are an important part of the illegal exotic wildlife trade industry. All of these factors combined led to the Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa) becoming Extinct (or so we thought), with no sightings for almost a century. This turtle was rediscovered in 1994 in a market in Myanmar. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species Version 2.3 was released in 1994 with the species listed as Critically Endangered instead of extinct.

Its habitat is also now under major threat due to deforestation, causing further stress to the Arakan forest turtle population. From the few photo opportunities of the rare Arakan turtle, it is clear that it has a light brown shell with red-brown and black patterns and a soft grayish brown body. There is an entire community of people that make money off this endangered species of turtle. In 2003, biologists took samples from nine Arakan forest turtles that were to be imported to the Czech Republic for storage with a private collector.

If you enjoy this article on the rare Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa) found in the desolate hills of western Myanmar, make sure to check out our facts pages on the snapping turtle and the Florida softshell sea turtle.

Arakan Forest Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Arakan forest turtle?

The Arakan forest turtle is an extremely rare species of turtle.

What class of animal does an Arakan forest turtle belong to?

The Arakan forest turtle is classified a reptile in the Reptilia class that contains a wide range of cold-blooded animals.

How many Arakan forest turtles are there in the world?

While the precise number of Arakan forest turtles in the world is not known, it is a Critically Endangered species with the latest population estimates showing only a few hundred individuals remaining in the wild in Myanmar.

Where does an Arakan forest turtle live?

African forest turtles are semi-terrestrial, meaning they can live both on land and in water. The main location of Arakan forest turtles is in the Rakhine Yoma Elephant Hills of western Myanmar which are under great threat due to deforestation.

What is an Arakan forest turtle's habitat?

The habitat that Arakan forest turtles live in consists of a relatively narrow range of geographic phenomena, meaning its habitat is not the easiest to find in the world. Arakan forest turtles live in moist and wet forests that have a well-established water body. Apart from Myanmar (formerly Burma), China, and Bangladesh, these conditions are quite difficult to meet. This rare habitat has also contributed to their believed extinction and massive population decrease of this turtle species.

Who do Arakan forest turtles live with?

Just like many other species of the turtle like the hawksbill sea turtle and the black-breasted leaf turtle, Arakan forest turtles are not gregarious and will not interact with another adult for most of their lives, apart from during breeding. Though they do not mind having other turtles around them, they will hardly ever interact with them. The same is true even when this species is kept in captivity. It would much rather remain dormant and hibernate than spend time with another turtle.

How long does an Arakan forest turtle live?

While the exact lifespan of this species of turtle has not been studied in the wild, the forest turtle in general lives for around 30 years in its natural habitat. An Arakan forest turtle studied in captivity at the Atlanta Zoo was able to live for just over 21 years.

How do they reproduce?

The Arakan forest turtle reproduces sexually, though not a lot is known about any possible mating rituals they may have due to the low population, inaccessible and threatened habitat, and sparse sightings of this species. The Arakan forest turtle lays between three and seven eggs over several hours, just as any other species of turtle.

What is their conservation status?

After a period of around 80 years when the Arakan forest turtle was believed to be extinct, it is now listed as a Critically Endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species 2.3 (1994) after being rediscovered the same year.

Arakan Forest Turtle Fun Facts

What do Arakan forest turtles look like?

Arakan forest turtles have a hard shell that is light brown and has darker brown or black patterns on it. Their coloration helps them camouflage in their surroundings as they wait for prey to come by. They also have sharp claws on their limbs that help them catch and kill a variety of smaller wildlife.

Arakan forest turtles have sharp claws that help them catch and kill prey.
* Please note that this is an image of a snapping turtle, a turtle in the same family as the Arakan forest turtle. If you have an image of an Arakan forest turtle please let us know at [email protected].

How cute are they?

Turtles can be extremely cute animals, and Arakan forest turtles are really pleasing to look at with their beautiful shells and wise-looking faces.

How do they communicate?

Turtles hardly ever need to communicate with each other and only do so when under extreme duress or mating. The Arakan forest turtle uses blinking and body language cues to convey information to other individuals.  

How big is an Arakan forest turtle?

An adult Arakan forest turtle grows to around 11 in (27.9 cm) in length, making them seven times smaller than both a green sea turtle and a leatherback sea turtle.

How fast can an Arakan forest turtle move?

Due to the highly endangered nature of this species, its speed in the wild has never been documented. However, an average turtle of the same size is able to hit around 3 mph (4.8 kph).

How much does an Arakan forest turtle weigh?

The average adult Arakan forest turtle weighs around 7-10 lb (3.2-4.5 kg), with most of the weight coming from the large shell.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no special name for a male and female turtle, and both of these species can be referred to as an Arakan forest turtle.  

What would you call a baby Arakan forest turtle?

Baby turtles are called hatchlings. A baby of this species is called an Arakan forest hatchling.

What do they eat?

Their diet consists of a variety of small insects, vertebrates, frogs, toads, and even fish. Apart from this, they also eat fruits that fall to the forest floor, alongside roots, shoots, and nuts.

Are they dangerous?

No, they aren't. In case you are lucky enough to see one, chances are it is in a zoo since this species is so rare in the wild. These animals would much rather scuttle away than attack a human. However a cornered Arakan forest turtle might bite, but it cannot cause any permanent damage.

Would they make a good pet?

Considering the fact that they are one of the most endangered species of turtles in the world, keeping them as a pet would be highly illegal. However, there is a small black market for these animals in China where they are transported to many different parts of the world.

Did you know...

A close relative of the Arakan forest turtle, the Philippine forest turtle, is also Critically Endangered due to very similar reasons. However, unlike the Arakan forest turtle, there is a thriving illegal market for the species since they are believed to bring luck to any household they reside in. However, the Philippine forest turtle does not do well when kept in captivity due to the fact that they can suffer from stress-related health problems and get into conflicts with other individuals over territory.

When did the Arakan forest turtle get placed as Critically Endangered?

It was in 1994 that the Arakan forest turtle was re-listed on the International Union for Conservation Red List of Threatened Species. Several zoo authorities across the world engaged in a war to obtain a few specimens to have an opportunity of preserving these animals.

How many eggs do Arakan forest turtles lay?

A female Arakan forest turtle lays around three to seven eggs at a time.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles, including emerald tree boa facts or western diamondback rattlesnake facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Arakan forest turtle coloring pages.

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