• During the breeding season, male painted terrapins display white coloring on their heads with a red stripe between their eyes. However, female and non-breeding males do not have this painted appearance for which the species is named.
  • Females are larger than males.
  • The painted terrapin’s carapace (upper shell) is brown or gray in color with black markings around the outside and across the middle.
  • Like all terrapins, the painted terrapin has a long neck and a pointed nose.
  • This aquatic turtle has webbed feet that help it swim through watery habitats.


  • The painted terrapin typically inhabits swamps and river estuaries. (An estuary is the part of a river where it meets the sea.)
  • It can survive in freshwater and brackish (partly salty) water.


  • The painted terrapin lives in Southeast Asia.
  • The endangered turtle is almost extinct in Thailand, but it can still be found therein some areas in the southern portion of the island. Populations also exist in Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo.


  • The painted terrapin mainly feeds on fruits and plants along riverbanks.


  • Like many other turtle species, the painted terrapin may climb onto a log or other above-water surface to bask in the sun.
  • A solitary species, the painted terrapin is usually only seen with other members of its species during the breeding season. It is extremely shy on land and will quickly return to the water if disturbed.


  • A single painted terrapin female may nest up to three times in one season. Some nests may contain as many as 25 eggs, but the average clutch size is 10 to 12 eggs.
  • Female painted terrapins return to the same beach year after year to nest. A female emerges from the sea during low tide, makes her way up the beach, digs a hole, lays her eggs inside the hole, covers the eggs with sand and leaves. Offspring do not receive any parental care.
  • Eggs incubate in the sand for 70 to 90 days.
  • When the time comes, each hatchling must force its way out of the egg, dig through the sand, and tackle the surf on the beach. It then begins swimming toward freshwater.

Did you know?

  • Painted terrapin hatchlings can survive in 100 percent salty water for at least two weeks. They can’t stay there forever, though, since adult painted terrapins require at least 50 percent freshwater to survive.


  • The painted terrapin is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is one of the most endangered river turtles in Southeast Asia.


  • Egg collection
  • Habitat loss
  • Overhunting
  • Collection for the pet trade
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