Arakan forest turtle

Critically endangered

Animal Group: Reptile
Regions: Asia
Sub-regions: South-Eastern Asia
Countries: Myanmar

The Arakan forest turtle is what is called a semi-terrestrial turtle. This means that the Arkan forest turtle can live in both water and on land. This being the case, the Arakan forest turtle is ideally suited to its Myanmar rain forest habitat. However, whilst juvenile Arakan forest turtles spend most of their time in water, adults seem to much prefer life on land where they can easier hide beneath fallen leaves and hunt for insects. In fact, Arakan forest turtles actually stay dormant for most of the time. Spending hours at a time hiding calmly under vegetation they usually only become active when foraging for food and during periods of rainfall.

Weighing 7-10 pounds and being 11inches in length, the Arakan forest turtle is omnivorous, meaning that like humans, their diet usually consists of equal parts of plant and animal matter. Seeming to have a particular taste for fallen fruit, the Arakan forest turtle is also known to become quite aggressive when foraging for live prey such as fish, insects, crustaceans and worms. In 2009 it was also noted that the Arakan forest turtle might actually be nocturnal and more noticeably active during Burma's early wet season.

Population Distribution

Found solely in dense bamboo forest in the Arakan hills of western Burma, the Arakan forest turtle was actually believed to have become extinct in 1908 due to the limited range of its habitat and a lack of sightings. Rediscovered in 1994 when Arakan forest turtle specimens were found for sale on Asian food markets, efforts have since been made to better protect the Arakan forest turtle's habitat as well as encourage successful zoo based breeding programs.


The chief threat to the Arakan forest turtle species is poaching for sale on Asian food markets, particularly those of China and Thailand. Hunting for Arakan forest turtles is usually carried out using trained dogs, and as well as being considered an Asian delicacy, the turtles' shells bring value on Asian black markets due to a belief in their traditional Chinese medicinal properties.

Moreover, as well as being poached for consumption as food and medicine, the Arakan forest turtle is also threatened by the burning of bamboo forest and the impact on the Arakan forest hills of logging operations, road construction and deforestation which takes place to make new agricultural land available. Large scale bamboo harvesting for a proposed paper mill in the area and periodic forest fires also pose threats to the species.

Combined with a late onset of sexual maturity and poor reproductive output, habit loss, poaching and the Arakan forest turtle's already restrictive geographic habitat all therefore leave the species vulnerable to overexploitation. Indeed, it is even the case that juvenile Arakan forest turtles are poached for sale on illegal exotic pet markets. That said, two areas in Burma's Arakan Yoma Hills have been identified in recent years as suitable for designation as protected areas for the Arakan forest turtle. However, at present there is no evidence that the turtle occurs naturally in these areas.