South East Asian box turtle

Alert

Have you seen South East Asian box turtle?

Be on the lookout for South East Asian box turtle and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in controlling South East Asian box turtle.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to South-East Asia, the South East Asian box turtle is a brown turtle with a domed upper shell and hinged lower shell. Its natural range extends from mainland Indochina, Malaysia and Borneo to Thailand and Singapore.

Although it is classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (due to its exploitation for the international food, pet and medicines trade), the South East Asian box turtle is still relatively common in most of its range. This may be because it can live in many natural and artificial habitats, including rice fields and near human settlements.

The South East Asian box turtle has not established in Australia but, if introduced, would compete with native turtles for food and space. To prevent South East Asian box turtles establishing in Queensland, restrictions apply to their import, possession and sale.

The South East Asian box turtle is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Cuora amboinensis kamaroma

Similar species

  • Cuora amboinensis amboinensis (Wallacean box turtle)
  • Cuora amboinensis couro (West Indonesian box turtle)
  • Cuora amboinensis lineata (Burmese box turtle)
  • other species of box turtle found in the USA and Mexico (Genus Terrapene).

Description

  • Freshwater turtle up to 25cm long.
  • Upper shell is highly domed, lower shell is hinged so that turtle can close shell almost completely.
  • Upper shell is blackish-brown to olive brown, lower shell is yellow, cream or pale brown, with or without dark blotches.
  • Head is blackish-olive with three distinct yellow stripes on side.
  • Head can withdraw completely into shell (unlike native Australian turtles).

Habitat

  • Adapts to and occupies wide variety of natural and artificial wetlands in tropical rainforest areas.
  • Habitats include marshes, creeks, swamps, ponds, permanent or temporary wetlands, shallow lakes, flooded rice fields, irrigation ditches, canals, ponds, pools near houses or nearby to these areas.
  • Juveniles are mostly aquatic.
  • Adults are semi-aquatic and spend more time on land.
  • Can move rapidly on land, and be found quite far from water.

Distribution

  • Not yet recorded in Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Average life span 25–30 years.
  • Slow reproductive cycle characterised by late maturity and limited number of eggs.
  • Reaches sexual maturity after 4–5 years (when carapace is 130mm long for males and 152mm long for females).
  • Females lay 1–4 eggs per clutch and can lay several clutches per year. Can lay fertile eggs for up to 4 years after single successful mating.
  • Survival rate of hatchlings is reportedly very low; hatchlings (and eggs) are important food source for monitor lizards, herons and some small mammals.

Affected animals

  • Native turtles
  • Native aquatic animals

Impacts

Environmental

  • Eats wide range of aquatic prey, including snails, insects, berries, fungi, slugs, worms, roots, flowers, fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, and eggs. Has also been observed eating carrion.
  • Younger turtles are primarily carnivorous while adults tend to be mostly herbivorous.
  • Competes with native turtle species for food and waterway space.
  • Popular pet species, possibly traded through illegal pet market.

Economic

  • Popular pet species, possibly traded through illegal pet market.
  • Used in Asian medicine overseas.

Control

  • Early detection is essential for preventing pest establishment. If you have seen or are in possession of a South East Asian box turtle please contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Legal requirements

  • South East Asian box turtle is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, moved, fed, given away or sold without a permit.
  • The Act requires that all sightings to be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of South East Asian box turtle escaping until they receive advice from an authorised officer.

Further information