Philippine pond turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis)

Synonyms: Geomyda leytensis, Heosemys leytensis
GenusSiebenrockiella (1)
SizeAverage length: 21 cm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Known from just a few specimens, the Philippine pond turtle is one of the rarest and least known turtles in the world (4). One of its most distinctive features is the narrow yellow band that extends around the brown head, which also bears several small black markings and a small yellow spot on each side of the lower jaw (2) (5). The head is relatively large, with small white or pale greenish eyes (2), and a pointed, protruding snout (5). The neck is dark brown on top, with a lighter underside, and the limbs are similarly dark brown above and lighter below (2) (5). The toes are webbed, an adaptation to its aquatic lifestyle, and bear powerful claws (5). The oval shell of this turtle is brown to reddish-brown in colour and rather flat, while the shell on the underside is yellow-brown or reddish-brown (2) (5).

This enigmatic turtle was first reported from the island of Leyte in the Philippines, from which it gained its scientific name (2). More recently, the Philippine pond turtle has been found on the island of Palawan, Philippines (2) (4).

The Philippine pond turtle is a semi-aquatic, freshwater turtle (1), but details of its habitat requirements are not known.

As this rare turtle is known from so few specimens, its biology remains unknown (5).

With just three specimens collected from Leyte in 1921 and one from Palawan in 1988 (1), with reports of some in 2004 (2), the Philippine pond turtle’s extreme rarity is undoubtedly cause for concern. Such rarity has gained the Philippine pond turtle somewhat of a legendary reputation, one that makes any further discovered individuals highly vulnerable to the pet trade, where they would be a highly desired and valuable object (1).

Further research into the Philippine pond turtle is clearly needed (4), as more information would allow appropriate conservation actions to be implemented before time runs out for this mysterious reptile.

For further information on the conservation of turtles see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)