Creature Feature – Amazon River Turtle

Amazon River Turtle

Podocnemis unifilis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Podocnemis”

Hissstory: Along with another Amazon river turtle, Podocnemis was imported from Bolivia to be kept as a pet.  The person no longer wanted the turtles, so he brought them both here in 2001.  We kept Podocnemis and placed the other turtle with another wildlife organization.


RA Diet: Podoc loves to devour greens, fruit, crickets, worms, & dry aquatic turtle food.

Natural Diet: Mostly plants and fruits, but will also eat insects, amphibians, fish and mollusks.

Range: Northern South America including the Amazon rain forest.

Habitat: Ponds, lakes, and rivers.

Size: Can grow to 15-27 inches and  weigh 5-14 pounds. Females are larger than males.

Lifespan: 50 + years.

Reproduction: Lay about 24 eggs in the riverbank. These turtles often lay eggs together in a communal nest. Eggs hatch in two months. Hatchlings are the size of a quarter.

Conservation Issues: CITES Appendix I: Endangered. Turtles and eggs are hunted for human consumption. Today armed guards protect many nesting sites.

Cool Facts: Amazon river turtles belong to a group known as the side-necked turtles, or, the Pleurodira. When frightened, they draw their head into their shell sideways.  Most turtle species, like the box turtle, belong to the Cryptodira – they go straight back into their shell.