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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.