Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis)

Also known as: Annam pond turtle
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyGeoemydidae
GenusMauremys (1)
SizeLength: up to 20 cm (2)

The Annam leaf turtle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Until recently, the Annam leaf turtle (Mauremys annamensis) had not been documented in the wild for 65 years– an indication of its rarity (4). The Annam leaf turtle has a dark brown head with three or four striking yellow stripes that extend from its pointed snout to the base of the neck (5). Three ridges, known as keels, run along the back of its tough, dark brown upper shell (the carapace). The middle keel is most prominent in adults, whereas the outer keels become less prominent with age (5). The shell on the underside of the Annam leaf turtle (the plastron) is firmly attached to the carapace and is yellow-orange in colour with black blotches on each bony plate (6). Its feet are fully webbed, which make it well adapted to its semi-aquatic lifestyle (5). The male Annam leaf turtle differs from the female by having a slightly concaved plastron and a thicker and longer tail (5) (7).

The Annam leaf turtle is found only in a small area of central Vietnam (6).

The Annam leaf turtle inhabits lowland marshes and slow-moving or still bodies of freshwater (5) (6).

Relatively little is known about the Annam leaf turtle’s behaviour and biology in the wild due to its extreme rarity (5); however, a few captive individuals have been studied. It is an omnivorous turtle that will readily eat fruit, fish and invertebrates (5) (6). A semi-aquatic creature (1), the Annam leaf turtle feeds both on land and in water (7). It forages during both the day and night, although is typically more active at night, tending to remain well hidden amongst vegetation during the day (7). Like all turtles, this species has no teeth, but instead uses its sharp bony jaws to slice through its food (8).

The Annam leaf turtle typically mates in water after dark, and the act itself can be rather aggressive (7). The female digs a hole in soil in which she deposits the eggs. The entire nesting process takes several hours as the female carefully packs down the soil with her shell after covering the eggs. After about 80 to 90 days, the eggs hatch, and the young emerge, resembling miniature adults in appearance (7).

 Unfortunately, the small range that the Annam leaf turtle inhabits is a prime location for rice production; vast areas of central Vietnam are continuously cleared and transformed for agricultural expansion and development (4) (7). The tiny population of these turtles is also under constant threat from unsustainable hunting and illegal trade. There is a massive demand for this species from markets in China, where they can often be found for sale as meat or traditional ‘medicine’ (2) (4).

The Annam leaf turtle is protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection law (4) and is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which means that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). Despite trade in this species being illegal, the law is often poorly enforced and trade still continues (4). Various breeding programmes have recently been set up and captive populations are increasing. These programmes try to involve local school and university students to help boost local awareness of this Critically Endangered turtle’s perilous situation (7) (9).

For further information on Asian turtles and their conservation see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Hoang, T., Le, D. and Le, M. (2004) Trade data and some comments on the distribution of Mauremys annamensis (Siebenrock, 1903).Asiatic Herpetological Research, 10: 110-113.
  3. CITES (November, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Asian Turtle Conservation Network (November, 2010)
    http://www.asianturtlenetwork.org/
  5. Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands. Available at:
    http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/turtles.php
  6. Stuart, B.L., van Dijk, P.P. and Hendrie, D.B. (2001) Photographic Guide to the Turtles of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Design Group, Cambodia.
  7. The Asian Turtle Consortium (November, 2010)
    http://www.asianturtle.org/htm/species_Annamemys_annamensis.html
  8. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  9. McCormack, T. (2009) Training the Next Generation of Turtle Conservationists in Vietnam. EFN News, WWF. Available at
    http://www.worldwildlife.org/science/fellowships/train/WWFBinaryitem14201.pdf