Giant Amazon River Turtle

Giant Amazon River Turtle

Podocnemis expansa

DID YOU KNOW?

These turtles rarely leave the water except to lay eggs.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Baltimore - Amazon River Basin Gallery

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Giant Amazon River Turtle Giant Amazon River Turtle Giant Amazon River Turtle Giant Amazon River Turtle Giant Amazon River Turtle

Giant Amazon River Turtle

The giant Amazon river turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. They are highly aquatic; typically, the females only leave the water to bask and lay 50–150 eggs at communal nesting sites during the dry season.

Historically, females gathered together in groups in the tens to hundreds of thousands—a behavior that made them especially vulnerable to human poaching.


Giant Amazon River Turtle Facts

Diet

In the wild, these turtles eat primarily fallen fruits and seeds. Other items in their diet include vegetation, aquatic invertebrates, and insects. 

At the Aquarium, Amazon river turtles are fed sliced fruits, sweet potatoes, nuts, fresh greens, and commercial turtle food. 

Size

Females can have shells longer than 30 inches and weigh up to 200 pounds. Males are considerably smaller, with a shell length of about 19 inches. 

Hatchlings are about 2 inches long.

Range

This species lives in the Orinoco and Amazon river systems; the nesting range has been greatly reduced due to over-harvesting of eggs and hatchlings.

Restricted to the calm waters of large rivers in the dry season, they may move into swamps, lagoons, and flooded forests where food is plentiful during the high-water season.

Population Status

Once abundant, populations have declined dramatically as a result of poaching of females, collection of eggs, and habitat loss.

This species is listed in Appendix II (threatened in some parts of its range) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Predators

While hatchlings are preyed upon by a number of animals, especially black vultures, the massive size of adults protects them from most predators. Humans are primarily responsible for this species’ decline. In the “heyday” of turtle harvesting, an estimated 48 million eggs were taken each year.

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Ken Howell
Curator of Rainforest Exhibits

pressroom striped fish

As the Curator of Rainforest Exhibits, Ken starts his day early with an exhibit walkthrough to make sure everything is running smoothly. Learn More

A Note From the Caretaker

The giant Amazon river turtle is a powerful swimmer, and catching one of these turtles for an annual health check can be challenging. Even experienced keepers are sometimes taken for a swim in the Amazon River Forest exhibit!

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