Asian box turtle

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Asian box turtle

Asian box turtles are turtles of the genus Cuora in the family Geoemydidae. There are about 12 species. The keeled box turtle (Pyxidea mouhotii syn. Cuora mouhotii) is often included in this genus or separated in the monotypic genus Pyxidea. Genus Cuora is distributed from China to Indonesia and the Philippines, throughout mainland south-east Asia and into northern India and Bhutan.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Suborder: Cryptodira
  • Family: Geoemydidae
  • Subfamily: Geoemydinae
  • Genus: Cuora


The South Asian box turtle gets its name from the ability to box itself up completely within its shell. This is due to the hinged lower shell, which, like other box turtles, can be folded up when the head is withdrawn, securely protecting the animal from any predators. It can grow to over 20 centimeters in length which makes it the largest of the Asian box turtles, which all belong to the genus Cuora.


Asian box turtles are terrestrial, semiaquatic or mainly aquatic, most spending much of their time on the edge of shallow swamps, streams or pond that are dense with vegetation. Most are omnivorous, but carnivores do occur.


Mainly inhabits warm aquatic environments, such as marshes, swamps, ponds, pools in streams and flooded rice paddies. It tends to be found in water with soft bottoms and very little current, but as a semi-aquatic turtle they are also capable of moving rapidly on land and can be found quite far from water.


Cuora species are characterized by a low domed shell, which usually has three keels on the carapace.

They are reddish, yellowish, brown, grey, and/or black in color. Some species have bright yellow, black, orange, or white stripes down the length of their keels. Their body color is highly variable, but usually very intense. Most species show stripes of variable color down either side of their heads, which usually meet at the nose.


Due to the unsustainable trade in this species, the South Asian box turtle was listed in 2000 on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and thus trade should now be strictly controlled and monitored.

However, illegal trade still poses a significant problem, for example, Hong Kong documented an illegal import in 2003 of over 10, 000 specimens. It is also likely to occur in a number of protected areas throughout its large range, but at present there are no known specific conservation measures in place for this turtle. Hopefully the devastating trade in box turtles can be controlled before numbers of this fascinating reptile decline any further.

Asian box turtle images

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