Who is Cantor’s giant softshell turtle discovered in India

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Who is Cantor’s giant softshell turtle discovered in India

 February 24, 2024

Cantor’s giant softshell turtle


Who is Cantor’s giant softshell turtle?

The Asian giant softshell turtle, scientifically known as Pelochelys cantorii and commonly referred to as Cantor’s giant softshell turtle or the frog-faced softshell turtle, is a remarkable species of freshwater turtle belonging to the Trionychidae family. Native to Southeast Asia, this majestic creature faces a dire threat as it teeters on the brink of extinction. Once thriving across its natural habitat, much of its former range has dwindled, rendering it critically endangered. The plight of the Asian giant softshell turtle underscores the urgent need for concerted conservation efforts to ensure the survival of this iconic species for generations to come.

All about Cantor’s giant softshell turtle

The Asian giant softshell turtle, also known commonly as Cantor’s giant softshell turtle and the frog-faced softshell turtle, is a species of freshwater turtle in the family Trionychidae. The species is native to Southeast Asia.
Scientific name: Pelochelys cantorii
Conservation status: Endangered Encyclopedia of Life
Kingdom: Animalia
Domain: Eukaryota
Family: Trionychidae
Genus: Pelochelys
Order: Testudines

Asian giant softshell turtle habitat

The Asian giant softshell turtle, scientifically known as Pelochelys cantorii and belonging to the Family Trionychidae, is an impressive freshwater species known for its substantial size, with individuals reaching lengths of 60 to 100 cm in total carapace length. This remarkable turtle inhabits a diverse range of habitats, including lakes, rivers, estuaries, and even ventures into seacoasts, and occasionally coastal marine waters. Its adaptability to various environments highlights the versatility of this species in navigating both freshwater and brackish ecosystem

Asian giant softshell turtle Appearance

The Asian giant softshell turtle is characterized by its distinctive features, including a broad head and small eyes positioned close to the tip of its snout. Its smooth carapace exhibits an olive coloration, adding to its camouflage in its natural habitat. Juveniles of this species often sport dark-spotted carapaces and heads, with vibrant yellow hues adorning the edges of their shells, lending them a captivating appearance amidst their aquatic surroundings.

Cantor turtle Geographic range and habitat

Cantor’s giant softshell turtles, known for their vast distribution, are found across a wide geographic range spanning eastern and southern India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, eastern and southern China, the Philippines (Luzon and Mindanao), Indonesia (Kalimantan, Java, and Sumatra), and even reaching Papua New Guinea. These turtles inhabit a variety of habitats, primarily preferring inland, slow-moving freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, streams, and estuaries. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that they may venture into coastal areas, further expanding the scope of their habitat and ecological niches.

Cantor turtle Diet and Nutrition: Asian giant softshell turtle predators

Cantor’s giant softshell turtles are primarily carnivorous, with a diet centered around piscivory, meaning they primarily feed on fish. Additionally, they consume crustaceans and mollusks, rounding out their diet with these aquatic prey. Despite their carnivorous tendencies, these turtles may also incorporate some aquatic plants into their diet, providing additional nutrients and variety to their feeding habits.

Cantor turtle Mating Habits

Females of Cantor’s giant softshell turtles, these majestic freshwater inhabitants, embark on a crucial journey during February or March to lay their eggs along riverbanks. Each nesting session yields a clutch size typically ranging from 20 to 28 eggs, each measuring around 3 to 3.6 centimeters (1.2 to 1.4 inches) in diameter. This meticulous process ensures the continuation of their species, as these precious eggs hold the promise of future generations of these remarkable turtles.

Cantor turtle Population

Population Threats: Cantor’s giant softshell turtles face numerous threats to their population survival. One of the most significant dangers is habitat destruction, which has led to the disappearance of suitable habitats across much of their range. Additionally, these turtles are heavily targeted by local communities for their meat, and they often fall victim to incidental capture in fishing gear, resulting in unintentional fatalities.

Population Number: Despite the critical status of Cantor’s giant softshell turtles, the exact size of their total population remains unknown. Data from the IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide a specific population count. However, their classification as Critically Endangered (CR) highlights the severity of their decline, with current numbers continuing to decrease. Urgent conservation efforts are imperative to prevent the irreversible loss of this iconic species.


In a groundbreaking discovery hailed by conservationists worldwide, a team of researchers, including experts from the University of Portsmouth, has unveiled the first breeding population of the “incredibly rare” Cantor’s giant softshell turtle in India.

The elusive species, native to the rivers of south and south-east Asia, has long been shrouded in mystery and concern due to its critically endangered status. However, hope surged as conservationists uncovered the nesting site of this secretive turtle along the banks of the Chandragiri River in Kerala, southern India.

Led by experts from the University of Portsmouth and the Zoological Society of London, in collaboration with institutions such as the University of Miami and the Wildlife Institute of India, the study was recently published in the esteemed journal Oryx.

“This discovery marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to conserve endangered species,” remarked a spokesperson from the University of Portsmouth. “The Cantor’s giant softshell turtle is known for its rarity and secretive nature, making this finding all the more remarkable.”

Dr. Francoise Cabada-Blanco, from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Biological Sciences, reflected on the challenges encountered during the expedition. “For years, the Cantor turtle’s existence has barely been a murmur against the backdrop of India’s bustling biodiversity,” she said. “Sightings were so scarce that the turtle’s very presence seemed like a ghost from the past.”

The breakthrough came through a novel approach that involved leveraging local knowledge and historical sightings. Engaging effectively with the community, researchers gathered invaluable insights, with locals sharing tales of sightings and even aiding in the live release of accidentally caught individuals.

“Through household interviews and the establishment of a local alert network, we did not just listen; we learned,” said Ayushi Jain, from the Zoological Society of London’s Edge of Existence programme. “The community’s willingness to engage formed the backbone of our project, allowing us to record not just fleeting glimpses of the turtles but evidence of a reproductive population—a discovery that rewrites the narrative of a species thought to be vanishing from India’s waters.”

The research also led to the first documentation of a female nest, with the rescue of eggs from flooded nests and subsequent release of hatchlings into the river. These efforts are crucial for the survival of Cantor’s giant softshell turtle, which can grow to over 1 meter in length and weigh more than 100 kilograms.

Looking ahead, the team is committed to further conservation efforts, including the establishment of a community hatchery and nursery near the discovery site.

As the world grapples with the urgent need to protect endangered species, this discovery offers a glimmer of hope and underscores the importance of collaborative conservation initiatives in safeguarding our planet’s biodiversity.

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