Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Mauremys sinensis)

Synonyms: Emys sinensis, Ocadia glyphistoma, Ocadia sinensis
GenusOcadia (1)
SizeLength: up to 24 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

This especially striking freshwater turtle can be distinguished by the fine yellow and black lines that decorate the neck, for which this turtle is named (2). The oval upper shell (carapace) is reddish-brown to black, with each horny scute being outlined with yellow. The shell on the underside of the turtle, or plastron, is yellow, with a large brown or black blotch on each scute. The limbs are olive and, like the neck, are covered with fine yellow stripes. Scales cover the skin of the forelimbs and all the limbs are webbed. The Chinese stripe-necked turtle has a narrow head, with a slightly pointed snout (2), and cream-coloured jaws and chin (3). Female Chinese stripe-necked turtles are larger than males, and males also differ by having a slightly concave plastron (4).

Occurs in southern China, including Taiwan and Hainan, westward to northern Vietnam (2) (3). It may also occur in Lao PDR (5).

The Chinese stripe-necked turtle inhabits shallow, slow-moving waters with soft mud or clay bottoms, at low elevations. This includes lakes, marshes, swamps, rivers, and canals (2) (3).

The Chinese stripe-necked turtle is an opportunistic omnivore, which feeds on a variety of plant and animal matter. However, the composition of the diet alters between sexes and age groups, with mature females being more herbivorous, and males and young females being mainly carnivorous. Large females feed chiefly on a large plant, Murdannia keisak, growing on the banks of rivers, while males feed primarily on aquatic snails (Physa acuta), and the larvae and pupae of flies (mainly blackflies). Other food items eaten by males and females include the seeds of knotweed (Polygonum species), plant shoots and roots, and terrestrial insects (4) (6).

The Chinese stripe-necked turtle is believed to nest from late March to early June, when it lays a clutch of 7 to 17 eggs. The nests in which the eggs are laid are often visited by predators; spiders (Lycosidae species) have been seen feeding on the eggs, and dogs are also thought to be a potential predator of the eggs and hatchlings. Turtle hatchlings have been first seen in early August. (4).

The survival of freshwater turtles in Asia is greatly threatened by exploitation by humans for food, traditional medicine, pets and ornaments. According to some estimates, up to 15 million turtles are traded in the region each year, with the majority ending up in China, where the country’s rapidly developing economy is fuelling a demand for expensive foods and traditional medicines made from turtles (7). The Chinese stripe-necked turtle is just one of the many species now considered at risk of extinction due to China’s insatiable demand for turtle products (1).

In some areas, Chinese stripe-necked turtle farms have been established, predominantly to supply the pet trade (8). While this may benefit this Endangered species by lessening pressure on wild populations, turtle farms can sometimes present a cover for illegal activities, as turtles collected in the wild are passed through farms as offspring of the captive turtles (7). In China, a capture permit is required before trapping wild Chinese stripe-necked turtles (9). However, weak enforcement and low awareness pose significant obstacles to laws and other measures which seek to secure a future for the threatened freshwater turtles of Asia (7).

For further information on Asian turtles and their conservation see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Bonin, F., Devaux, B. and Dupré, A. (2006) Turtles of the World. A and C Black, London.
  3. Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands.
  4. Chen, T.H. and Lue, K.Y. (1998) Ecology of the Chinese Stripe-Necked Turtle, Ocadia sinensis (Testudines: Emydidae), in the Keelung River, Northern Taiwan. Copeia, 1998(4): 944 - 952.
  5. Jenkins, M.D. (1995) Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles: the Trade in Southeast Asia. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Chen, T.H. and Lue, K.Y. (1999) Food Habits of the Chinese Stripe-Necked Turtle, Ocadia sinensis, in the Keelung River, Northern Taiwan. Journal of Herpetology, 33(3): 463 - 471.
  7. Asian Turtle Conservation Network (March, 2008)
  8. Moll, D. and Moll, E.O. (2004) The Ecology, Exploitation, and Conservation of River Turtles. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. CITES. (2000) Trade in Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises to and in Southeast Asia. Doc 11.35. Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Gigiri, Kenya.