Pig-Nosed Turtle Fact File

Carettochelys insculpta


30 kg






Wild - 38 years

Captive - 38 years



Vegetation, Fish

conservation status



Look at that Little Nose!

The pig-nosed turtle is named for its snout like nose which closely resembles that of a pig. This is an adaptation which will help them when they are looking to breathe underwater.

This species is found in Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Their life is spent in freshwater river systems where they spend their day looking for a range of vegetation and small animals such as fish or insects.


What does a Pig-Nosed Turtle look like?

Pig nosed turtles are named for the shape of their snout which is flat and elongated. This is located at the end of a slightly large head. The shape of their nose is an adaptation which allows them to easily breathe at the water’s surface.

The skin on the head, flippers and tails is coloured grey on top and white on the bottom. A patch of pale skin is present behind the eye. Their flippers are flattened and shaped like a paddle. These are tipped with two claws. These flippers are more similar to those of a sea turtle than any other freshwater turtle. They retain the ability to move an individual digit like other freshwater turtles.

A males tail is typically longer than that of the female. Females are normally larger overall though.

On their back is the shell. This has a leathery covering which has small depressions in it. It is coloured grey on top and white on the underside. The shell measures 40cm (15.7in).

Their total length is between 70 and 75cm (28-30in). An average weight is 30kg (66lbs).


How does the Pig-Nosed Turtle survive in its habitat?

The pig snout like nose is used to poke out of the water so they can breathe. This allows the rest of their body to remain safely below the surface where it is safe from predation. Their nose also contains sensory receptors which can be used to help locate their food.


What does a Pig-Nosed Turtle eat?

Pig nosed turtles are omnivores. The majority of their diet is vegetation such as fruit and the leaves, stems and roots of plants including figs, lily pily and pandanus. This is supplemented with fish, insects and crustaceans. They may also scavenge for carrion.


Where do you the find the Pig-Nosed Turtle?

They are found throughout Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In Australia they are found in the Northern Territory and in Indonesia they live on the island of Papua. They are found in the South of this island.


Where can a Pig-Nosed Turtle survive?

Pig nosed turtles are entirely aquatic. They only emerge from the water during the breeding season to lay eggs. Most of their habitats are freshwater though on occasion they may enter brackish water.

They make their home in warm rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes and lagoons. These are typically soft bottomed and have slow moving currents.

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How does a Pig-Nosed Turtle produce its young?

Mating takes place from July to November which is the dry season in Australia. Typically a female will mate every second year.

Eggs are laid on a shallow sand bank and this is the only time these animals leave the water. During the dry season these sandbanks are exposed allowing this to take place. Typically egg laying will take place at night. They dig a shallow hole in to which they can deposit the eggs. Several females will nest at the same beach and they may emerge together to complete egg laying at the same time as other females.

A clutch of eggs will includes around 22 eggs which have a thin shell. Each egg is white and round in shape. A longer wet season will result in larger eggs and larger clutches.

Hatching takes place at the start of the wet season from October to December. Incubation length varies from 64 to 107 days. After the first rains the water level will rise and this makes the path to the water easier for the hatchlings. They may delay hatching up to 50 days to line up with the occurrence of the first rains.

Females produce two clutches per year but will then take a break only breeding every second year. It is thought this is believed to occur due to the high input of energy required for them to produce a clutch.

The gender of the hatchlings is dependent on weather. If incubated at warm temperatures the eggs hatch female and at lower temperatures there will be more males.

At hatching they measure 41-56mm (1.6-2.2in) and weigh 21-30g (0.7-1oz).

Sexual maturity is reached between 14 and 15 years old and is tied to the size of the female with average size at sexual maturity being 6kg (13lbs).


What does the Pig-Nosed Turtle do during its day?

As a fully aquatic species their days are spent swimming. Males may never leave the water with females only leaving to lay their eggs.

This species is considered social and the females will move in groups prior to egg laying.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Pig-Nosed Turtle from surviving and thriving?

They are predated upon by crocodiles and monitor lizards.

The incursion of cane toads in to parts of their range has seen an increase in pig-nosed turtle hatchlings surviving to adulthood. This has ben attributed to a decline in predators such as monitor lizards.

Humans reduce the population of the pig-nosed turtles through hunting both for food and to sell in to the pet trade. While the capture and importation of this species is now prohibited it is not often enforced leading to an illegal market continuing.

Habitat degradation also has an effect on their population. When their habitat is damaged they struggle to recover as unlike other turtles they cannot move across land to a new habitat. Their small range makes each subpopulation important to their overall survival.

Their nesting sites are damaged by invasive species such as the water buffalo which trample the eggs.

Quick facts

They are also known as the Fly river turtle for the first river in which they were found and also as the pitted shell turtle.

The species was first described for modern science during 1886. This individual came from New Guinea but the species was not described from Australia until 1969.

Pig-nosed turtles are the only species from their genus to survive. It is suggested that they may represent a link between the current freshwater turtles and marine turtles.


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