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Turtles In Australia

There are 34 species of turtles in Australia that are native to the continenent. Of those 28 are freshwater turtle species and six Sea turtle species. Australia is an extremely unique continent when it comes to diversity of wildlife. It’s relative isolation for thousands of years has created several extremely interesting species.

Australia does have some strict laws regarding the ownership of reptiles, especially turtles. It’s completely illegal to import and own non-native turtles. Taking native turtles from the wild is also completely prohibited.

You can only buy native Australian turtles from registered, licensed breeders. Ownership of virtually any species requires the correct license. Reptile keepers in other countries also cannot export any of Australia’s native turtles under any circumstances.

With all that said, this comprehensive list is best used as a research document or as a field guide if you live in Australia and want to go herping. Here are the 34 species of native turtles in Australia.

Turtles in Australia

Long-necked/Snake-necked Turtles

1. Broad-shelled Snake-necked Turtle

Broad-shelled Snake neck turtle (Chelodina expansa)
Broad-shelled Snake neck turtle (Chelodina expansa) – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina expansa
  • Other Names: Broad-shelled River turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 20 inches (50 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $160

Broad-shelled Snake-necked turtles are the largest type of Long-necked turtle in Australia and make pretty popular pets. They mainly inhabit Southeastern Australia but a few populations have also been established in Queensland.

These turtles prefer slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation for cover. Broad-shelled Snake-necked turtles are entirely carnivorous and mainly eat small amphibians, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and fish.

Broad-shelled Snake-necked turtle have large, flat shells in various shades of brown. Their narrow plastrons are cream or white and they have extremely long necks and broad heads.

2. Cann’s Snake-necked Turtle

Cann's snake necked turtle (Chelodina canni)
Cann’s snake necked turtle (Chelodina canni) – source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina canni
  • Other Names: Cann’s Long-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $6 to $40

Cann’s Snake-necked turtles are named after 20th Century Australian biologist John Robert Cann and can easily be confused for the more common Eastern Snake-necked turtle. The Cann’s Snake-necked turtle is found in northeastern areas of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland.

Cann’s Snake-necked turtles can be distinguished from similar turtles by their generally broader head. Their shells are wide and rounded with a long dip in the center. Coloration ranges from black to brown, and some individuals have speckled markings. These turtles only have four claws on their front legs.

These turtles inhabit river drainages throughout their range. Cann’s Snake-necked turtles are opportunistic omnivores and will eat crustaceans, insects, mollusks, and plant matter.

3. Darwin’s Snake-necked Turtle

Darwins Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina kurrichalpongo) by Jesse Saofia
Darwins Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina kurrichalpongo) by Jesse Saofia
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina kurrichalpongo
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Up to 12.5 inches (31.75 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Not much is know about Darwin’s Snake-necked turtles, but they are closely related to Sandstone Snake-necked turtles. Darwin’s Snake-necked turtles are found in tropical areas at the top of the Northern Territory, mainly around the city of Darwin.

Darwin’s Snake-necked turtles have black to dark brown carapaces with shallow depressions running along the spine of the shell. Their heads are dark brown to gray-black, often with black spots. These turtles are omnivores, eating a diet of crustaceans, insects, mollusks, and plants.

Their scientific name (Chelodina kurrichalpongo) is inspired by the Aboriginal creation myth surrounding the Black Rock snake and its offspring the Rainbow snakes, which carved the riverbeds across the land.

4. Dinner-plate Turtle

Dinner Plate Turtle (Chelodina steindachneri)
Dinner Plate Turtle (Chelodina steindachneri) – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina steindachneri
  • Other Names: Flat-shelled turtle, Steindachner’s turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 8 inches (20cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $160

One of the smallest long-necked turtle species, Dinner-plate turtles are found in arid areas of Western Australia. These turtles inhabit remote freshwater streams across the region and are one of Australia’s least-known species.

Dinner-plate turtles have exceptionally flat and round shells that are usually light brown or olive. They have narrow heads and long necks. Their plastrons are narrow and are usually a similar color to the carapace.

Dinner-plate turtles are carnivorous and will eat small amphibians, crustaceans, insects, and fish. They are also named after Franz Steindachner, a 19th Century Austrian herpetologist.

5. Eastern Long-necked Turtle

Eastern Snake necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis)
Eastern Snake necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis)
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina longicollis
  • Other Names: Common Snake-necked turtle, Eastern Snake-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 10 inches (25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: $6 to $40

Eastern Long-necked turtles are one of Australia’s most common turtles and an extremely popular pet species. However, due to their long necks and intensive care needs, they are best for experienced keepers and not beginners.

Eastern Long-necked turtles are found in most parts of southeastern Australia along with parts of New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Victoria. They have black or brown shells with broad cream or yellow plastrons. Their long necks can measure up to 60% of the length of their shells.

These turtles are carnivorous and will eat small amphibians, crustaceans, small fish, insects, and mollusks. Like most long-necked turtles, they cannot withdraw their heads into their shells. Instead, they fold their necks underneath the overhang of their shell.

6. Kimberley Long-necked Turtle

Kimbereley Long-necked turtle (Chelodina walloyarrina) by Ellyne Geurts
Kimbereley Long-necked turtle (Chelodina walloyarrina) by Ellyne Geurts
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina walloyarrina
  • Other Names: Bearded Snake-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 10.5 inches (27 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Kimberley Long-necked turtles are closely related to both Darwin’s Snake-necked and Sandstone Snake-necked turtles. They are found in the Kimberley region in Western Australia in various river drainages or billabongs and lagoons.

Kimberley Long-necked turtles have brown to olive shells with long necks and light brown skin. Underneath their chin, they have two prominent barbels which have earned them the nickname of Bearded Snake-necked turtles.

These turtles are carnivorous and eat crustaceans, fish, and mollusks such as snails and worms.

7. Kuchling’s Long-necked turtles

Kuchling's Long-necked turtles (Chelodina kuchlingi)
Kuchling’s Long-necked turtles (Chelodina kuchlingi) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina kuchlingi
  • Other Names: Kuchling’s Snake-necked turtles, Kuchling’s turtle
  • Adult Size: 10 to 12 inches (25.5 to 30.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Formerly classified as a subspecies of the Northern Snake-necked turtles, Kuchling’s Long-necked turtles are now thought of as a distinct species. They inhabit parts of Western Australia in the Kimberley area and are named after Gerald Kuchling, an Australian herpetologist.

These aquatic, freshwater turtles have dark brown to green rounded shells with long necks. Males reach about 10 inches while females are larger at around 12 inches. Kuchling’s turtles are carnivorous and will eat aquatic insects, amphibians, fish, and mollusks.

Like other Snake-necked turtles, Kuchling’s turtles cannot pull their heads fully into their shells and must instead hide their heads along the sides of their shells.

8. New Guinea Snake-necked Turtles

New Guinea snake-necked turtle (Chelodina novaeguineae)
New Guinea snake-necked turtle (Chelodina novaeguineae) in aquarium, Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina novaeguineae
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 7 to 8 inches (18 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Although mainly found in New Guinea, New Guinea Snake-necked turtles are also seen in Australia’s northern waters close to the tip of Queensland. They live in freshwater areas such as rivers that have large amounts of aquatic vegetation.

New Guinea Snake-necked turtles have dark brown shells with light brown or tan plastrons. Their necks can be as long as their shells. They also have gray skin with black coloration on the head. Their necks are typically white.

New Guinea Snake-necked turtles are carnivorous hunters that will consume amphibians, aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish, and mollusks.

9. Northern Snake-necked Turtle

Northern Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina rugosa)
Northern Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina rugosa) – Cemone Hedges
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina rugosa
  • Other Names: Northern Long-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 14 inches (36 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Northern Snake-necked turtles are found in northern parts of the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia. These freshwater aquatic turtles are also found in Southern New Guinea. They are classed as Near Threatened.

Northern Snake-necked turtles have dark black to brown oval-shaped shells and cream or yellow plastrons. They have broad heads and long necks that cannot be fully withdrawn into their shells. Their feet are webbed and also have strong claws.

Northern Snake-necked turtles are carnivorous and will eat amphibians, small fish, insects, and mollusks. They hunt their prey by hiding in aquatic vegetation as ambush predators.

10. Oblong Turtle

Oblong Turtle (Chelodina oblonga)
Oblong Turtle (Chelodina oblonga) – source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina oblonga
  • Other Names: Narrow-breasted Snake-necked turtle, Southwestern Snake-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: 5.5 to 7 inches (14 to 17 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: Unknown

Oblong turtles are a small, freshwater species native to southwestern regions of Western Australia. They inhabit slow-moving waters such as rivers and swamps and are mainly found near the city of Perth. They cannot withdraw their heads into their shells and fold their necks underneath the edge of their shells.

Oblong turtles are known for their oblong-shaped shells that are typically black or dark brown. They have pale plastrons and dark brown skin with black spotted markings. They also have fleshy barbels protruding from their chins.

These turtles are carnivorous hunters and will ambush prey such as aquatic insects, small amphibians and fish, and mollusks.

11. Sandstone Snake-necked Turtle

Sandstone Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina burrungandjii)
Sandstone Snake-necked turtle (Chelodina burrungandjii) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelodina burrungandjii
  • Other Names: Arnhem Land Long-Necked Turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 12.5 inches (31.75 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Sandstone Snake-necked turtles are found in tropical parts of Australia’s Northern Territory, usually around sandstone plateaus. They inhabit freshwater sources such as rivers and streams. These turtles must hide their heads and necks underneath the rim of their shells rather than withdrawing into the carapace.

Sandstone Snake-necked turtles have brown to dark green oval-shaped shells and tan to cream plastrons and skin. They may sport dark flecks on their skin. Their heads are broad with dark brown on the upper side and cream-colored throats that also have two small barbels.

These turtles are carnivores and will hunt amphibians, small fish, insects, and mollusks from the cover of underwater vegetation.

Pig-nosed Turtles

12. Pig-nosed Turtle

Pig Nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)
Pig Nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) – source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Carettochelyidae
  • Scientific Name: Carettochelys insculpta
  • Other Names: Fly River turtle, Pitted-shelled turtle
  • Adult Size: 28 to 30 inches (70 to 75 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 40 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Pig-nosed turtles are a unique and adorable species native to freshwater lagoons, rivers, and streams in Australia’s Northern Territory. They are one of the largest species in Australia and have a strange combination of characteristics.

Like Sea turtles, Pig-nosed turtles don’t have limbs but instead have flippers. Their noses resemble those of a pig. They have leathery brown to olive to gray carapaces, much like Softshell turtles. Their plastrons are a pale cream color.

Pig-nosed turtles are classed as Endangered. They are known for being aggressive in captivity and territorial in the wild. Pig-nosed turtles are omnivores and will eat aquatic plants, fruits, and protein sources such as crustaceans and insects.

River Turtles

13. Fitzroy River Turtle

Fitzroy River Turtle (Rheodytes leukops)
Fitzroy River Turtle (Rheodytes leukops) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Rheodytes leukops
  • Other Names: Bum-breathing turtle
  • Adult Size: 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Fitzroy River turtles are also known as “Bum-breathing” turtles thanks to the extraordinary ability to take in air through their cloaca while underwater. This allows the Fitzroy River turtle to stay submerged for as long as three weeks, breathing in between 15 and 60 times every minute.

Fitzroy River turtles are listed as Vulnerable due to habitat loss. They are only found in tributaries of the Fitzroy River in southeastern Queensland. They require a shallow water source that has a substrate of coarse sand or gravel. They are omnivorous bottom-feeders and consume algae, crustaceans, insects, mollusks, and aquatic vegetation.

Their carapaces are various shades of brown with rounded, smooth edges. The bones of the carapace are quite thin and can even be visible through their thin scutes. Fitzroy River turtles also have two fleshy barbels underneath their chins.

Saw-shelled Turtles

14. Bellinger River Turtle

Bellinger River turtle (Myuchelys georgesi)
Bellinger River turtle (Myuchelys georgesi) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Myuchelys georgesi
  • Other Names: Bellinger River Snapping turtle
  • Adult Size: 7 to 10 inches (18.5 to 25.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Bellinger River turtles are a Critically Endangered species that was decimated by a mysterious disease in recent years. These turtles only inhabit a small stretch of the Bellinger River in New South Wales. They are one of the world’s 25 rarest turtles.

This short-necked species has dark to light green shells and pale skin. Like most saw-shelled turtles, Bellinger River turtles have serrated edges to their shells at the rear. Bellinger River turtles can also withdraw their heads into their shells for protection.

Bellinger River turtles are omnivores but do depend heavily on meat. They typically eat a mix of plants, crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.

15. Manning River Helmeted turtle

Manning River Helmeted Turtle (Myuchelys purvisi) by Brett Vercoe
Manning River Helmeted Turtle (Myuchelys purvisi) by Brett Vercoe
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Myuchelys purvisi
  • Other Names: Manning River Snapping turtle
  • Adult Size: 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Manning River Helmeted turtles are often confused with Bellinger River turtles and are also an Endangered species. These turtles are only found in stretches of the Manning River in New South Wales.

These turtles are considered one of Australia’s most beautiful species. They have dark brown carapaces with a serrated rear to their shells but are best known for the bright yellow stripe that runs down their necks. They also have yellow patterns on their plastrons and the underside of their tails.

These diurnal turtles are omnivores, eating plant matter alongside meat such as crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.

16. Namoi River Turtle

Naomi River Snapping Turtle (Myuchelys bellii)
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Myuchelys bellii
  • Other Names: Bell’s Saw-shelled turtle, Namoi River Snapping turtle
  • Adult Size: 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Namoi River turtles are the largest turtles in the group of Saw-shelled turtles. They are found across various river systems in the northern part of New South Wales. They are also classed as Endangered. Their scientific name is a tribute to Thomas Bell, a 19th Century English zoologist.

Namoi River turtles have dark to light brown shells with a serrated rear to the carapace, although this becomes smoother as the turtle ages. They have yellow plastrons with dark markings. Females are larger than males and typically reach 12 inches maximum.

Namoi River turtles are omnivores but survive mainly on prey such as amphibians, insects, fish, and mollusks as well as vegetation.

17. Common Saw-shelled Turtle

Eastern Saw-shelled turtle (Myuchelys latisternum)
Eastern Saw-shelled turtle (Myuchelys latisternum) – source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Myuchelys latisternum
  • Other Names: Common Sawshell turtle, Serrated Snapping turtle
  • Adult Size: 7 to 11 inches (18 to 28 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 75 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $160

Common Saw-shelled turtles are one of the most widespread turtles in this group and can be found in Queensland and in northern parts of New South Wales. They mainly inhabit larger rivers across a range of environments and are quite adaptable. They are sometimes kept as pets.

Common Saw-shelled turtles have black to dark brown shells, which are slightly wider at the back than the front and have a serrated or slightly rounded rear. They have yellow plastrons and can fold their neck sideways to avoid threats.

These turtles are omnivorous but meat forms the main part of their diet. They will eat amphibians, fish, insects, mollusks, and shellfish along with plant matter.

Short-necked Turtles

18. Mary River Turtle

Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus)
Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus) – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elusor macrurus
  • Other Names: Green-haired turtle, Penny turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 19.5 inches (50 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: $100 to $160

Mary River turtles are one of Australia’s largest turtle species but they are also classed as Endangered. They can sometimes be called “Green-haired turtles” thanks to their habit of getting algae fronds stuck on their heads. These turtles inhabit the Mary River system in southeastern Queensland.

Mary River turtles have dark red or brown shells and cream or pale pink plastrons. They have unusually long tails and can also breathe through their cloaca underwater. They also have long barbels sprouting from their chins.

These turtles are skilled and speedy swimmers. They eat an omnivorous diet of algae, aquatic plants, amphibians, insects, fish, mollusks, and bivalves.

19. Murray River Turtle

Murray River Turtle (Emydura macquarii) - Rolf Lawrenz
Murray River Turtle (Emydura macquarii) – Rolf Lawrenz
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydura macquarii
  • Other Names: Eastern Short-necked turtle, Macquarie River turtle, Southern River turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 12 inches (30 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $80 to $180

Murray River turtles are fairly widespread across eastern areas of Australia such as New South Wales and Queensland. They are concentrated heavily around the Murray River drainage system. These turtles are also often kept as pets, although they do have various regional subspecies that have varying conservation statuses and sizes. South Australia considers them to be Vulnerable.

Subspecies include the Brisbane short-necked turtle (Emydura macquarii signata), Cooper Creek turtle (Emydura macquarii emmotti), Fraser Island short-necked turtle (Emydura macquarii nigra), the Krefft’s turtle (Emydura macquarii kreffti), and the Macleay River turtle (Emydura macquarii dharra).

The nominal subspecies of Murray River turtle (Emydura macquarii macquarii) has a dark brown shell and a narrow cream-colored plastron. These turtles have gray skin with a yellowish stripe extending from their mouth down to their cheeks and necks.

Murray River turtles are omnivores and adults will eat more vegetation than meat. Protein sources include carrion, crustaceans, and mollusks.

20. Northern Red-faced Turtle

Northern Red-faced Turtle (Emydura victoriae) by Geoff Byrne
Northern Red-faced Turtle (Emydura victoriae) by Geoff Byrne
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydura victoriae
  • Other Names: Red-faced turtle, Victoria River Red-faced turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 12 inches (30 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Northern Red-faced turtles were previously classified as two different but closely-related species; the North Western Red-face turtle (Emydura australis) and the Victoria River Red-faced turtle (Emydura victoriae). The two species have since been merged into one.

These turtles are found in northern areas of Australia such as the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia. They have oval-shaped shells that are black to brown and have gray markings. Their plastrons are olive to yellow and are quite narrow. They have orange to red striped markings stretching across their faces.

Northern Red-faced turtles eat an omnivorous diet of plant matter and protein sources such as insects and mollusks.

21. Northern Yellow-faced Turtle

Northern Yellow-faced Turtle (Emydura tanybaraga)
Northern Yellow-faced Turtle (Emydura tanybaraga) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydura tanybaraga
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Up to 11 inches (28.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Northern Yellow-faced turtles are medium-sized freshwater aquatic turtles that inhabit regions of northern Australia. They prefer slow-moving water sources such as billabongs, rivers, streams, and swamps. They can sometimes be confused for Jardine River turtles.

These turtles have brown shells that grow to become oval-shaped as the turtles mature. The rim of the carapace is usually yellow or white. The plastrons are an ivory color and may have tinges of pink. Northern Yellow-faced turtles are known for their yellow stripe markings across their cheeks and have two fleshy barbels on their chins.

Northern Yellow-faced turtles eat an omnivorous diet of vegetation alongside meat sources such as crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.

22. Red-bellied Short-necked turtle

Red-bellied Short-necked turtle (Emydura subglobosa)
Red-bellied Short-necked turtle (Emydura subglobosa) – source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Emydura subglobosa
  • Other Names: Jardine River turtle, Pink-bellied Side-necked turtle
  • Adult Size: 7 to 16 inches (18 to 40.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Average Price Range: $60 to $230

Red-bellied short-necked turtles are native to tropical regions of Australia and Papua New Guinea, although populations have successfully been bred in captivity in the United States. Their native habitat includes warm tropical waters with some dense aquatic vegetation to hide in.

There is a single subspecies of the Red-belled short-necked turtle; Worrell’s Short-necked turtle (Emydura subglobosa worrelli), also known as the diamond head turtle.

Red-belled short-necked turtles are an exceptionally beautiful species named for their distinctive pinkish or reddish plastrons. Their shells are relatively flat and are usually green or brown. They have two bright yellow strips running along their cheeks, which can sometimes cause confusion with Northern Yellow-faced turtles.

Red-belled short-necked turtles are mainly carnivorous and will eat a diet of small amphibians and fish, insects, and mollusks, and worms.

Snapping Turtles

23. Gulf Snapping Turtle

Gulf Snapping Turtle (Elseya lavarackorum)
Gulf Snapping Turtle (Elseya lavarackorum) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elseya lavarackorum
  • Other Names: Lavarack’s turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 14 inches (35 cm)
  • Lifespan: Approximately 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Fossils of Gulf Snapping turtles were discovered in the 1990s, but live survivors were then discovered in the wild. As such, the Gulf Snapping turtle is heralded as Australia’s first living fossil in terms of freshwater turtles.

These turtles are found in river systems that connect to the Gulf of Carpentaria that spans both the Northern Territory and Queensland. Gulf Snapping turtles are classed as Endangered. Their other name, Lavarack’s turtle, is attributed to Jim and Sue Lavarack, the Australian paleontologists who discovered the initial fossils.

Gulf Snapping turtles have dark brown to green shells and undulated white plastrons that set them apart from Northern Snapping turtles. Gulf Snapping turtles are herbivores, mainly eating figs and the roots of Pandanus trees.

24. Irwin’s Turtle

Irwins Turtle (Elseya irwini) by Scott Thomson
Irwins Turtle (Elseya irwini) by Scott Thomson
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elseya irwini
  • Other Names: Yellow-headed Snapping turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 12 inches (30.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The Irwin’s turtle was discovered by the late TV legend Steve Irwin and his father Bob while on a fishing trip in 1990. This species is endemic to the Burdekin River in Queensland. The species was verified by experienced Australian herpetologist John Cann.

Irwin’s turtles have brown to dark green shells and pale gray skin. Their heads sport yellowish horn-like plates which make their skulls exceptionally sturdy. This species is also capable of breathing through its cloaca while underwater.

Irwin’s turtles are omnivorous and adults mainly eat plants such as algae. They may also eat protein sources such as crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.

25. Northern Snapping Turtle

Northern Australian Snapping Turtle (Elseya dentata)
Northern Australian Snapping Turtle (Elseya dentata) – source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elseya dentata
  • Other Names: Northern Australian Snapping Turtle
  • Adult Size: Up to 12 inches (30.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: Up to $250

Northern Snapping turtles are one of Australia’s most common species of snapping turtles. They are found in northern parts of the Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia. They inhabit lagoons and tropical rivers.

Northern Snapping turtles have black to dark brown oval-shaped shells and pale gray skin. Their heads have bony plates and their head and mouth is quite broad. Younger turtles have serrated edges to the carapace, but these become smoother over time.

These snapping turtles are mainly herbivorous and usually like to eat fruit that falls into the water. They may also occasionally eat meat.

26. White-throated Snapping Turtle

White throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) by Marilyn Connell
White throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) by Marilyn Connell
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elseya albagula
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Up to 18 inches (45 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

White-throated Snapping turtles are a relatively large species found in parts of Queensland such as the Burnett, Fitzroy, and Mary River systems. The common and Latin names mainly apply to females, as males do not have white patches on their faces.

White-throated Snapping turtles have oval-shaped carapaces that are typically black or dark brown. Males are quite bland, but females have striking white patches on their chins, faces, and throats. Both sexes have large heads protected by a bony head shield. Plastrons are typically yellow but usually have dark markings all over.

These large turtles actually eat a mostly herbivorous diet, focusing on growing buds, shoots, and fruits of underwater vegetation.

27. Yellow-bellied Snapping Turtle

Yellow Bellied Snapping turtle (Elseya flaviventralis) by Scott Thomson
Yellow Bellied Snapping turtle (Elseya flaviventralis) by Scott Thomson
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Elseya flaviventralis
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: Approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Yellow-bellied Snapping turtles are endemic to Australia’s Northern Territory. Specifically, they are found in the Arnhem Land region, at the northeastern tip of the Northern Territory. These turtles are relatively large.

Yellow-bellied Snapping turtles are the only type of Australian snapping turtle that has a clear, unmarked yellow underbelly. This coloring includes their plastron and the underside of their neck. Their carapaces are typically black to dark brown.

Like other Australian snapping turtles, Yellow-bellied Snapping turtles are herbivores who mainly eat aquatic vegetation and fruits. They usually pounce on any fruit that falls into the water from overhanging trees above the surface.

Swamp Turtles

28. Western Swamp Turtle

Western_swamp_tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina)
Western Swamp Tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) – source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Chelidae
  • Scientific Name: Pseudemydura umbrina
  • Other Names: Western Swamp tortoise
  • Adult Size: 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: Up to 60 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The Western Swamp turtle is one of the most endangered turtles anywhere in the world and is classified as Critically Endangered. This short-necked species is found in just a few locations in Western Australia’s Swan Coastal Plain, close to the city of Perth.

Individual Western Swamp turtles can have different coloration depending on their local environment and age. Their shells can range from black to a yellowish-brown, with a similar color gradient when it comes to plastrons. Individual specimens may also have black dotted patterning.

Western Swamp turtles eat a carnivorous diet consisting of crustaceans, insects, and mollusks. Their breeding habits are quite specific as females require two straight years with high levels of rain before they are able to produce eggs. This has played a role in their decline, as has habitat loss.

Those are the 28 freshwater turtles native to Australia. There are also six Sea turtle species that can be seen in Australian waters. We’ll provide some information on these turtles below. All six species are Endangered at least.

Sea Turtles In Australia

29. Flatback Sea Turtle

Flatback Sea Turtle (Natator depressus)
Flatback Sea Turtle (Natator depressus) – source
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Natator depressus
  • Other Names: Australian Flatback sea turtle
  • Adult Size: 30 to 38 inches (76 to 96 cm)
  • Weight: 155 to 200 lbs (70 to 90 kg)
  • Lifespan: Up to 100 years
  • Conservation Status: Unknown
  • Habitat: Shallow coastal tropical waters near Australia’s continental shelf, Northern Australia, coast of Papua New Guinea
  • Clutch Size: Around 50 eggs
  • Food: Omnivorous – Crustaceans, shellfish, jellyfish, sea plants
  • Appearance: Gray-green to olive green flat shells with upturned edges. Carapace is thinner than other Sea turtles. Pale yellow plastrons. Two distinctive prefrontal scutes on head.

30. Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)
Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm)
  • Weight: 300 to 400 lbs (135 to 180 kg)
  • Lifespan: 80 to 100 years
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Habitat: Bays and shores along coastlines and open ocean waters, seen during summer months
  • Clutch Size: Around 110 to 115 eggs, with 2 to 5 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Mostly herbivores, eating algae, sea grasses and seaweed
  • Appearance: Smooth green to brown shells shaped like hearts, edged in yellow. Cream colored scaly skin with shades of green

31. Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)
Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata)
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Other Names: Atlantic Hawksbill turtle
  • Adult Size: 30 to 35 inches (76 to 89 cm)
  • Weight: 100 to 155 lbs (45 to 70 kg)
  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Habitat: Shallow coastal areas of rocky or tropical waters, reefs and estuaries
  • Clutch Size: Between 140 to 200 eggs, about 4 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Omnivores, mainly consuming crustaceans, mollusks, and algae
  • Appearance: Prominent, beak-shaped mouths (like a hawk), oval shells in shades of amber with unique markings. Flippers also have claws at their “elbows”

32. Leatherback Turtle

newly hatched Baby leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys Coriacea)
newly hatched Baby leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys Coriacea)
  • Family: Dermochelyidea
  • Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 6 to 7 feet (182 to 213 cm)
  • Weight: 1200 to 1450 lbs (545 to 658 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 30 years
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Habitat: Warm waters, mainly shallow, calm bays or lagoons. Nests common on sandy beaches.
  • Clutch Size: Between 100 and 110 eggs
  • Food: Jellyfish is the staple of their diet, but they will also eat other sea creatures
  • Appearance: Their large carapaces are soft, unique among sea turtles, with prominent ridges all the way down. Colors vary between black and a dark gray.

33. Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 30 to 45 inches (76 to 114 cm)
  • Weight: Approximately 155 pounds (70 kg)
  • Lifespan: 70 to 80 years
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Habitat: Coastal regions, mainly shallow bays. Prefer sub-tropical waters. Sandy ocean beaches for nesting
  • Clutch Size: Between 100 and 125 eggs, 4 to 5 clutches per breeding season
  • Food: Carnivorous, mainly eating shellfish, mollusks, and crustaceans
  • Appearance: Largest hard-shelled turtles with a reddish-brown carapace and large heads. Undersides are cream to yellowish. Long powerful flippers

34. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) on beach going towards the ocean
baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) on beach going towards the ocean
  • Family: Cheloniidae
  • Scientific Name: Lepidochelys Olivacea
  • Other Names: Pacific Ridley sea turtle
  • Adult Size: 24 to 28 inches (61 to 71 cm)
  • Weight: 75 to 110 lbs (34 to 50 kg)
  • Lifespan: Around 30 years
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Habitat: Warm tropical seas, shallow coastal waters, mass nesting on sandy beaches
  • Clutch Size: Between 75 and 125 eggs
  • Food: Crustaceans, shellfish
  • Appearance: Triangle-shaped heads. Olive green heart-shaped shells. Green to cream plastrons and undersides.

Wrapping Up

Well that wraps up our list of Australia’s 34 native species of turtles. We’ve covered 28 types of freshwater turtles and six Sea turtles here. A few of Australia’s native turtles, such as Murray River turtles, can be kept as pets in Australia as long as you have the correct license.

Remember that Australia does not allow any of its native animals to be exported to other areas of the globe. This means that readers outside Australia won’t be able to keep any of these species as pets apart from Pig-nosed turtles. These turtles are also native to New Guinea and can be exported from there.

For Australian readers, we hope this list becomes a good field herping guide or a research document to help you choose your next native pet turtle. Always check whether a species can be kept as a pet, particularly Endangered or Threatened ones, and check which licenses you need.

If you enjoyed this list, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment down below!

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