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Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle


Prelims: Environment (Species in News), Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle, The Asian Turtle Crisis

Mains: General Studies-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Why in the News ?

Conservationists have discovered an “incredibly rare” turtle in India. The team included conservationists from University of Portsmouth, said the BBC, and they uncovered the nesting site of Cantor’s giant softshell turtle.

Source: NDTV 

Key Facts 🗝️

Cantor’s giant softshell turtle:

  • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
  • Origin: The turtle gets its name from Theodore Cantor, a Danish zoologist who worked for the British East India Company in the mid-19th century, collecting and describing many reptiles.
  • The turtle spends 95% of its life buried and motionless, with only its eyes and mouth protruding from the sand.

📌 FYI on Prelims

Tortoise and Hard-Shell Turtles

  • All tortoises are turtles as they belong to the order Testudines/Chelonia.
    • Tortoises are distinguished from other turtles by being land-dwelling, while many (though not all) other turtle species are at partly aquatic.
  • Hard-shell turtles have rigid and bony shells that provide protection and cannot be easily compressed.
    • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) most of the species of turtles and tortoises are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
  • Indian star tortoise, Olive Ridley Turtle , and Green Turtle are a few examples of Tortoise and Hard-Shell Turtles in India.


  • Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) 

    • Commonly known as the Asian giant softshell turtle and the frog-faced softshell turtle is a species of freshwater turtle in the family Trionychidae.
    • Geographical Habitat: Its extent ranges from Malaysia to India. Its presence in India has been recorded only a dozen times in 20 years, with sightings being reported anecdotally from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.
    • Characteristics: 
      • The turtle can grow up to a meter in length and weigh 100 kg. 
      • It is one of the few freshwater species which is at home in saline waters too.
      • The turtle inhabits inland rivers and is thought to keep to deep depths. It spends most of its time in the water.
      • The turtle nests between December-February.
    • Diet: It is an ambush predator and primarily carnivorous, feeding on crustaceans, mollusks, and fish (although some aquatic plants may also be eaten). It is also known to scavenge dead fish, becoming a natural agent in cleaning up rivers.
  • The Asian Turtle Crisis:

    • Wild populations of tortoises and freshwater turtles face immense pressure from illegal trade for pets, food, and medicines.
      • At least 15 of the 30 threatened TFT (Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles) species in India are illegally traded.
      • Freshwater species, such as the Indian flapshell turtles, are in great demand in illegal markets.
      • The Indian Softshell turtle, also known as the Ganges Softshell turtle, is a freshwater reptile found in the Ganges, Indus and Mahanadi rivers in northern and eastern India.
      • Chennai emerges as the primary node in the tortoise and hard-shell turtle trafficking network. The city plays a central role in the global pet trade, facilitating the illicit trade in these reptiles.


Prelims: PYQ/FAQ

Q. With reference to Olive Ridley turtles, consider the following statements:
1. These are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.

2. The grouping of Male turtles in sea is called as Arribada.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A) 1 only

B) 2 only

C) Both 1 and 2

D) Neither 1 nor 2


  • Statement 1 is correct.
  • Statement 2 is incorrect: Olive ridley turtles have a unique habit of mass nesting called Arribada. Under this, thousands of female turtles come together on the same beach to lay eggs. 
  • The Odisha coast has three arribada beaches at Gahirmatha, the mouth of the Devi river, and in Rushikulya, where about 1 lakh nests are found annually

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