Find out where the largest freshwater turtle, the painted batagur get their name from and why they are critically endangered.

The painted batagur is one of the largest living fresh water turtle species and is also one of the most endangered turtles in South East Asia.

You can observe this magnificent animal in Monsoon Forest.

During breeding season the head of the male turns white and a red stripe appears between his eyes – this is where they get their name ‘painted terrapin’ from, as these colours look like they have been painted on. Their impressive appearance means they are popular in the pet trade, which is one of the many reasons they are facing extinction.

Painted batagurs eggs are vastly overharvested in the wild as terrapin eggs are worth five times as much as chicken eggs. Females swim a few kilometres down-river and lay their eggs on sandy beaches, which is when the eggs are most vulnerable and are likely to be taken from the nests to be sold as a food source in many parts of Asia.

The main threat to this animal is humans exploiting them for their eggs; this is having a huge impact on their population numbers due to their low egg productivity.

We’re the only zoo in the UK to care for this species and our team of herpetological experts aim to create a safety-net in case the turtles become extinct in the wild. On top of this we’re also working in Sumatra, Indonesia, to help protect this critically endangered species and boost its population numbers.

Read more

Interesting facts

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered

Habitat: Freshwater; mangrove swamps and estuaries of large rivers in South East Asia; Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo)

Size: Length: 50-70cm

Weight: 1.7kg


Threats: The largest threat to this species of turtle is over-harvesting for their eggs, but they are also threatened by the demand for their meat and use in the pet trade, as well as the deterioration of their environment.

Scientific Name: Batagur borneoensis