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The Enigmatic World Of Snake Necked Turtles

In the diverse realm of chelonians, few are as immediately recognizable and intriguing as the snake necked turtles. With necks that defy usual proportions, these turtles have not only captured the attention of nature enthusiasts but have also mystified many with their unique behaviors and habitats.

Originating from various corners of the world, from the dense forests of Papua New Guinea to the freshwater streams of Brazil, each species tells its own tale of evolution, survival, and interaction with the environment.

This article delves deep into the world of these remarkable reptiles, unraveling their mysteries, and shedding light on the challenges they face in the modern world. Dive in and let the journey with the snake necked turtles begin!

Snake Necked Turtles Facts

The way they withdraw their long necks by bending it sideways in front of their front legs, is a unique differentiator of side necked turtles (Pleurodira). By contrast, the normal turtles as you know (Cryptodira) pull their shorter neck and head completely into their shell.

Turtles are a widespread and ancient species that shared the world with dinosaurs over 200 million years ago and now are still with us. Today, the snake necked turtle is found in the wild near South America, Australia, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia.

Keeping them in captivity is always a big personal and professional responsibility and in all the excitement, you need to understand what caring for these creatures requires.

Given the right weather conditions snake necked turtles can be kept outdoors in a well-protected enclosure. Some of the essentials in their care are controlled temperatures, clean freshwater and plenty of dry spaces for them to bask and rest.

It’s very important to research the following before going out and buying a snake necked turtle:

  1. Climate of its natural habitat
  2. Specific needs and habits along with its life cycle
  3. transitional phases of their life like hibernation and reproduction

Understanding this will help you plan a roadmap for the tortoises including key decisions to induce artificial hibernation as well as their breeding and overall safety.

Snake Necked Turtles Diet

Most of the snake necked species are generally carnivorous and enjoy eating while in water. Hatchlings need daily feeding while adults feed two or three times a week.

It is best to have a designated area for feeding in the indoor or outdoor enclosure. Doing this will help get them used to a feeding pattern and will allow you to clean up the food scraps.

Fresh food is the most preferred choice and snake necked turtles enjoy a variety of diets shrimp, fish, worms and small insects. It is easy to over feed your pets, so tracking their weight is a good idea.

Snake Necked Turtle Habitat

Outdoor enclosures should be large (space permitting) in order to recreate their natural habitat. Make sure to include a basking space as well as water and that it is shaded from direct sunlight.

Key areas to start planning and building your turtle’s habitat include protection from external predators. A fence along with a cover if possible would be ideal. Completely emptying and refilling water can be disruptive. Instead, a reliable water filtration system that constantly cleans water would be preferred.

An indoor setup needs specialized UV light and ventilation equipment to give snake necked turtles the best chance for survival and healthy development. These turtles can live for more than 30 years, therefore you should make sure you can commit to them.

snake necked turtle

Snake Necked Turtles Predators

In nature these turtles predators are usually things like possums, racoons, other large rodents and birds.

Endangered Snake Necked Turtles

Turtles like the Parker’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina parkeri) and the Brazilian Snake-necked Turtle (Hydromedusa maximiliani) are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

There are several others on the same list including the Pritchard’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina pritchardi), and the Roti Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi).

CITIES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) also lists out endangered snake necked turtle species in their appendices.

Snake Necked Turtles Breeding

Snake necked turtles mostly dig into moist land to lay their eggs, though some build nests for their eggs in the water itself. Hatchlings are then left to develop and survive on their own. If you pick up an egg before it has hatched you will need to get an artificial incubator.

The number of eggs, survival rates and reproductive seasonality vary among species and consulting a professional breeder or vet is highly recommended.

Snake Necked Turtle Overview Video

Types Of Snake Necked Turtles

1. Parker’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina parkeri)

Parker's Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina parkeri) found in Boven Digoel in Papua New Guinea
Parker’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina parkeri) found in Boven Digoel in Papua New Guinea – source

This turtle, known for its distinctive long neck, is native to Papua New Guinea. They are largely aquatic and prefer slow-moving freshwater habitats. A unique trait of this turtle is its ability to rapidly extend its neck to snatch unsuspecting prey. Listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the loss of habitat and illegal pet trade has put this species under threat.

2. Brazilian Snake-necked Turtle (Hydromedusa maximiliani)

Brazilian Snake-necked Turtle (Hydromedusa maximiliani) found in Serra do Mar Brazil
Brazilian Snake-necked Turtle (Hydromedusa maximiliani) found in Serra do Mar Brazil – source

Endemic to the southeastern Brazil, this species stands out with its vibrant olive-green shell. The Brazilian Snake-necked Turtle enjoys the shallows of freshwater habitats such as streams and rivers. They’re known to be shy, often diving deep at the slightest hint of danger. Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, they face dangers from habitat destruction and over-collection.

3. Pritchard’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina pritchardi)

Pritchard's Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina pritchardi) in Tennoji Zoo in Osaka Japan
Pritchard’s Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina pritchardi) in Tennoji Zoo in Osaka Japan – source

Native to Papua New Guinea, Pritchard’s Snake-necked Turtle has a unique shell shape that’s flatter and broader than most. They thrive in swamps, ponds, and slow-moving streams. As nocturnal hunters, their diet consists primarily of aquatic invertebrates. Like their counterparts, they too face threats from habitat loss and the pet trade.

4. Roti Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi)

Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi)
Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) in a turtle tank

Found on the island of Rote in Indonesia, this turtle is critically endangered. They’re often sought after in the pet trade due to their striking appearance, marked by a pale cream to yellow underside. Preferring freshwater habitats, they feed on both plant matter and small aquatic animals. Preservation efforts are paramount for this species due to its limited distribution.

Common Questions About Snake Necked Turtles

Where do snake-necked turtles live?

Snake-necked turtles are found in the wild near South America, Australia, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia, thriving in freshwater habitats such as streams, rivers, and swamps.

Do snake-necked turtle make good pets?

While snake-necked turtles are fascinating creatures, keeping them as pets requires a significant commitment, including providing the right environment, diet, and understanding their specific needs over their 30+ year lifespan.

Why are snake-necked turtles endangered?

Snake-necked turtles face threats from habitat destruction, illegal pet trade, and over-collection, leading several species to be listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red List.

What are some interesting facts about the snake-necked turtle?

Snake-necked turtles are known for their distinctive long necks which they bend sideways in front of their front legs when withdrawing, a unique trait differentiating them from other turtles. Additionally, they shared the world with dinosaurs over 200 million years ago and have diverse feeding habits, often enjoying diets of shrimp, fish, worms, and small insects.

Wrapping up

The vast lineage of chelonians showcases an array of intriguing species, but the snake-necked turtles truly stand apart. Their exceptional anatomy, intricate behaviors, and historical roots that trace back to the age of dinosaurs make them mesmerizing subjects of study.

However, our fascination with these creatures goes beyond their unique appearance. As they navigate the challenges of habitat loss, over-collection, and the pet trade, it’s evident that their existence is intertwined with the complexities of human impact.

Whether you’re contemplating them as pets or just an admirer, understanding and appreciating these turtles is vital. As custodians of the planet, it’s our responsibility to ensure that these ancient survivors continue to grace our world with their presence, enriching our ecosystems and stirring our curiosity for generations to come.

So, over to you! Do you own a Snake necked turtle? Do you have any tips that we might of missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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