Pig-Nosed Turtle

Pig-Nosed Turtle

Pitted-shelled turtle, Fly River turtle, Fly river turtle

Carettochelys insculpta
Population size
Life Span
25-30 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta ), also known as the pitted-shelled turtle or Fly River turtle, is a species of turtle native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It is the only living member of the family Carettochelyidae, which are related to softshell turtles.


The Pig-nosed turtle is a unique freshwater turtle native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Its feet are flippers, resembling those of marine turtles. The nose looks like that of a pig, having the nostrils at the end of a fleshy snout, hence the common name. The carapace is typically grey or olive, with a leathery texture, while the plastron is cream-colored. Males can be distinguished from females by their longer and narrower tails.



Pig-nosed turtles occur in the Northern Territory of Australia and on the island of New Guinea. They live in warm freshwater streams, lagoons, estuaries, rivers, lakes, pools, and swamps.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Pig-nosed turtles are mostly aquatic and leave the water only to nest. They are social although despite that are highly aggressive and territorial. During the nesting season females usually gather in groups at night and come out on land to find a good nesting site. Pig-nosed turtles are active during the day and night. They have a strong sense of smell and their sensitive nose helps them to breathe under the water and to locate their food. Pig-nosed turtles also have well-developed ears and are able to hear a wide range of sound frequencies.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Pig-nosed turtles are omnivores. They eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including the fruit and leaves of figs, as well as crustaceans, mollusks, and insects.

Mating Habits

JUne-November in Australia, September-January in New Guinea
65-107 days
at birth
7-26 eggs

Pig-nosed turtles are polygynandrous (promiscuous) and both the males and females mate with multiple partners. In Australia, they nest from June to November and in New Guinea from September to January. Females lay eggs every two years in a shallow nest burrowed in sand or mud and located on river banks. They do not guard their nests and leave right after the eggs were deposited. Each clutch contains 7 to 26 eggs. Incubation lasts between 65 and 107 days depending on location. When the young are fully developed, they will stay inside the eggs in hibernation until conditions are suitable for emergence. Hatching may be triggered when the eggs have been flooded with water or by a sudden drop in air pressure signaling an approaching storm. Young females become reproductively mature at the age of 18 years while males start to breed when they are 16 years old.


Population threats

Wild populations of the Pig-nosed turtle are declining rapidly because of illegal capture for the pet trade. It is estimated that between 2003 and 2013, more than 80,000 individuals were confiscated in 30 seizures in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Pig-nosed turtles also suffer from habitat degradation due to mining and logging. The introduction of Water buffalo and other livestock poses another serious threat as they destroy nesting sites and also graze on the water vegetation that Pig-nosed turtles feed on.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Pig-nosed turtle total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Pig-nosed turtle is the only living member of its genus and does not have any known subspecies.
  • Pig-nosed turtles do not swim under the water but row with their paddle-like flippers.
  • Pig-nosed turtles are the only freshwater turtles that have flippers.
  • These turtles are able to submerge under the water up to 7 meters deep.
  • Pig-nosed turtles like to hide in mud, sand, loose gravel, or under submerged branches. They also often gather in shallow waters in areas where there are overhanging branches with fruits and nuts which then fall into the water.


1. Pig-Nosed Turtle on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig-nosed_turtle
2. Pig-Nosed Turtle on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/3898/2884984

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