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Kidadl Team

SEPTEMBER 03, 2021

Philippine Forest Turtle Facts You'll Never Forget

Read these Palawan forest turtle fun facts.

The Siebenrockiella leytensis species is an enigmatic freshwater turtle species that is endemic to the Philippines and is found commonly in Palawan. This Critically Endangered species was first described as Heosemys leytensis by Taylor in 1920 and it has been somewhat of a mystery for more than 80 years. For a long time, people were unable to locate the exact geographic distribution of these turtles. It was believed that the species was endemic to Leyte for some time, which was not actually the case.

It is now a Critically Endangered species as the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have greatly threatened populations of this Palawan forest turtle. Local trade has been curtailed by Palawan turtle conservation campaigners to some extent however international trade has been difficult to control. There has been lots of work towards building protected areas in the Philippines where populations of this species are relatively high. The Katala Foundation along with Sabine Schoppe and the Palawan Turtle Conservancy have performed various raids all over the Philippines during which a large number of individual animals of this species were confiscated.

If you find these facts informative keep reading and do check out other articles on four eyed turtles and Arakan forest turtles.

Philippine Forest Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Philippine forest turtle?

The Philippine forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) is an enigmatic freshwater turtle of the Geoemydidae family.

What class of animal does a Philippine forest turtle belong to?

The Philippine forest turtle is one of the most well-known turtles in the wild, belonging to the Reptilia class of reptiles.

How many Philippine forest turtles are there in the world?

Prior to 2015, as per an estimation made by Sabine Schoppe and the Katala Foundation, around 3,000 adult Palawan turtles were left in Palawan. The Philippine forest turtle's current population is not known since it keeps fluctuating, making it difficult to keep track of the precise number.

Where does a Philippine forest turtle live?

For more than 80 years, it was widely assumed that Philippine forest turtles were endemic to the island of Leyte. Their native region is northern Palawan on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. The population of this Critically Endangered species is relatively high in the lowland region of the island of Dumaran too, whereas it is declining substantially in the forest region of Taytay.

What is a Philippine forest turtle's habitat?

This Critically Endangered species has specific habitat preferences hence its population distribution is limited. Their natural habitat is found among streams in lowland regions. They are also found in swamp forests and they can even dwell in artificial setups, like pools surrounded by lush vegetation. Their survival rate in a man-made environment is relatively low since they feel less protected here. It takes a long time for them to acclimatize to man-made environments since they are very shy.

Who do Philippine forest turtles live with?

This species tends to stay in its own space. While this species doesn't strictly forbid the presence of fellow turtles they are rarely seen engaging much with them.

How long does a Philippine forest turtle live?

This species achieves sexual maturity after two years and is known to live a long life after that. However, their eggs often fail to hatch. The exact lifespan of the Palawan forest turtle has not been determined yet.

How do they reproduce?

This forest turtle is oviparous. The female Palawan forest turtle lays one to two eggs per clutch and it produces two or three clutches every year. The eggs are pale pink. When captive, nesting is observed between June and December, and in the wild, hatchlings were found in dry seasons. The juveniles hatch by tearing the brittle eggshell with their temporary teeth, after which they are completely aquatic until a certain time. Though the forest turtle lays around six eggs each year the rate of survival of these eggs is relatively low.

What is their conservation status?

The population status of the Palawan forest turtle is Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List. The IUCN's Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group believes that putting them in this category has only bought more attention to the over-collection of this turtle for international and local trade. An increase in the illegal pet trade has been observed in local underground wildlife markets.

Philippine Forest Turtle Fun Facts

What do Philippine forest turtles look like?

An adult Philippine forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) has a brown or black round head with minute yellow or orange blotches. The skin on either side of the head is lighter and the carapaces are either dark or reddish-brown with a jagged edge. The scales on the back, which are overlaid by horns found on the spinal column, are quite wide. The legs also have similar scales except they are irregular, transverse, and darker. Their limbs are webbed and the upper jaw is slightly curved. The tail has a light brown shade overall and the plastron is the same color as the head. It might also have similar blotches. One of the primary characteristics used to distinguish the male from the female forest turtle is that adult males have a more incurved plastron along with a stout, elongated tail, whilst females have a somewhat convex shape.

The Philippine forest turtle has dark brown carapaces.

How cute are they?

Despite their hard, scaly appearance they are quite attractive. Their timid nature and shy behaviors are adorable.

How do they communicate?

Turtles, in general, can communicate vocally despite their lack of vocal cords. Other modes of communication include muscular motions and water splashing. The exact modes of communication used by this species are not known due to a lack of data.

How big is a Philippine forest turtle?

The Palawan forest turtle is the biggest and heaviest member of its family, with a carapace length of more than 1.1 in (3 cm) and an overall length ranging from 8 to 12 in (21-30 cm). They are the same size as snapping turtles.

How fast can a Philippine forest turtle move?

A study conducted by Sabine Schoppe at the Katala Foundation revealed that this turtle species does not cover more than 230 ft (70 m) in one night. This indicates that it travels at a moderate speed when compared to other turtles.

How much does a Philippine forest turtle weigh?

The Palawan turtle approximately weighs 7.7 lb (3.5 kg)

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female turtles do not have specific names. They are referred to as a Philippine forest turtle male and a Philippine forest turtle female.

What would you call a baby Philippine forest turtle?

There are no specific names for a Philippine forest turtle baby.

What do they eat?

The average Philippine forest turtle diet is mainly commercial turtle food in captivity. In the wild, they consume commonly available food like small fish, aquatic plants, and figs. Their eggs are often targeted by dogs, seabirds, raccoons, and ghost crabs and adults can fall prey to ferrets, foxes, coyotes, and weasels.

Are they dangerous?

There is no data on whether they are venomous or the extent of harm they could bring.

Would they make a good pet?

The Palawan forest turtle is a threatened species that has only recently averted extinction as a result of several human-caused threats like habitat destruction and illegal trade. When held captive, they become exceedingly timid and stop mating. Even when they mate and reproduced, the process in captivity is extremely sluggish, with just one egg produced in three to four years. Besides, wildlife conservancy rules have largely banned the trade of Palawan forest turtle species. Therefore, keeping them as pets is not recommended and, in many places, not allowed.

Did you know...

A common name of this species is the Leyte pond turtle, however, this is misleading as it is not found in Leyte.

On the island of Palawan, apart from purchasing these turtles owing to their rarity through the illegal pet trade, some people also purchase them for consumption.

The Philippine forest turtle has excellent camouflage abilities. When they hide within their shells, they look like small rocks.

Are Philippine forest turtles endangered?

As per the IUCN Red List, the conservation status of the Philippine forest turtle is Critically Endangered. Among the many threats to their survival, the major ones are the over-collection of this species for the illegal pet trade and habitat loss. In the wild, they are also hunted as part of the wildlife trade industry. Sabine Schoppe is working with the Katala Foundation and Arvin C Diesmos to ensure the safety and success of the species by aiming to increase their population and protect their habitat. There is now a protected region with abundant resources in this species' native island, Palawan. The Katala Foundation along with other turtle conservancy organizations such as the Rainforest Trust and theGlobal Wildlife Conservation has purchased 1800 acres of land from people including farmers to expand these turtles' natural habitats. Turtle conservancy has never been so vital for this species.

How does a Philippine forest turtle protect itself?

They are semi-aquatic turtles that possess strong carapaces. They use this as a shield to protect themselves from predators. Apart from this, they are also known for their swimming skills, which will help them escape from their enemies.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles from our green sea turtle facts and leatherback sea turtle facts pages.

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

Both images are by Pierre Fidenci.

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