Asian Pond and River Turtles

*** Update: Read about the outcomes of our proposals at CoP16.

To conserve and protect Asian pond and river turtles, it is necessary to take a broad family approach, rather than a species-by-species approach. This rationale is founded on observations that, over the last 12 years, turtles, especially in the Asian region, continue to be under severe threat from over-exploitation driven by international trade.

Given the trade patterns, history, and biology of turtles, the United States believes a piecemeal approach to listing turtles, a few species at a time, is not an effective strategy. A family-level approach is precautionary and aims to protect presently exploited animals as well as animals that may become exploited as trade shifts from depleted or regulated species to those that are more abundant and unregulated. While we considered including all species of the family, we ultimately chose to focus on the species with the greatest and most immediate threat in the Asian region, and we also note that the majority of species in this family are found in the Asian region.

Painted Terrapin (Batagur [=Callagur] borneoensis)

The painted terrapin is a representative member of the Asian Pond and River turtle family (Geoemydidae) and is one of 15 turtle species already listed in Appendix II for which the United States and China have proposed pdf a zero quota on wild-caught specimens, essentially eliminating trade in animals taken from the wild. In the same proposal, the United States and China have proposed the listing of an additional 15 species in Appendix II.

CITES Status | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Distribution | Threats


CITES Status


Painted Terrapin, Credit: Schristia CC BY 2.0

The painted terrapin has been listed in Appendix II since 1997.  The United States and China have submitted a proposal pdf for consideration at CoP16 to establish a “zero quota” for trade in wild caught animals.


Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Batagur
Species: borneoensis


Female painted terrapins are much larger than males. Females can reach up to 60 cm (nearly 2 ft) and weigh up to 25kg (55 lbs). These large turtles have a hard shell that it relatively flat and smooth. In males, the shell is generally greenish in color, with three wide, dark longitudinal stripes; in females the shell is brown.  Painted terrapins have a pointed snout and their jaws are finely serrated. The heads of males turn a striking bright red in the breeding season and the shell turns to a light shade of grey.


The painted terrapin lives in estuaries and mangroves and is tolerant of brackish (water with some salinity) water as an adult.  They nest on beaches and may migrate long distances to share the same sites as marine turtles for egg deposition.


The painted terrapin occurs in greatly reduced numbers in Brunei, Indonesia (Kalimantan and remnant populations in Sumatra), Malaysia (East and West), and Thailand.


Unsustainable exploitation is the principal threat to the species for food and medicinal products.  Harvest of eggs due to predictable nesting sites and times is an added and serious threat.  Habitat loss and degradation from agricultural activities are also a significant threat, as is collection of small specimens for the pet trade.

Additional Information

  • Check out our fact sheet pdf to learn how CITES can help protect Asian softshell turtles.
  • Read the proposal pdf submitted by the United States and China for consideration at CoP16.
  • To learn about the unsustainable turtle trade and CITES' efforts to regulate it, read Shell-Shocked: Trade in Turtles Threatens Species pdf, an article published in the Winter 2013 Issue of FWS News.
  • To read the entire FWS News spotlight on CITES, visit our Articles page.