It was a long, tiring first day, but the Festival of Biodiversity continues on Sunday! Find out why the young Spiny Hill Terrapin (Heosemys spinosa) has such a bizarre-looking shell, and more weird and wonderful stories about Singapore’s natural heritage. We’ll be at the Eco Lake Lawn from 9am to 7pm. See you there!
Kathora, our Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle (Mauremys sinensis) is a new addition to the ACRES wildlife rescue centre. He was found after being possibly run over by a vehicle at Pasir Ris. Our rescue team reached the location just after midnight to witness the horrific situation when they found Kathora with multiple fractures to his carapace and plastron. He was also bleeding from various parts of his body, including his mouth. Kathora was quickly brought back to ACRES where basic attention was given to flush the wounds and to ensure that blood was not choking him or hindering his breathing. He was then kept warm till we could seek medical help. We would like to thank the veterinary team from Pet Doctors Veterinary Clinic who helped to repair Kathora’s carapace. Kathora is in better shape now but it’s still a long road to recovery as he needs to be given antibiotics and constant critical care to ensure that he does not suffer from any internal infections while his carapace heals and fuses back together.
Fig. 1. Juvenile Spiny Terrapin of about 8 cm carapace length was found dead on its back, and covered with flies.
Fig. 2. The carcass was found in the middle of a tyre track, making it look like the juvenile Spiny Terrapin had been accidentally run over and killed by a vehicle.
(Photographs by Kelvin K. P. Lim)
Dead juvenile Spiny Terrapin (Heosemys spinosa) at Sime forest.
Location, date and time: Singapore Island, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sime forest, Sime Track; 15 May 2004; 1625 hrs
Observation: A juvenile example of about 8 cm carapace length was found dead on its back, and covered with flies on the dirt trail in the middle of a tyre track.
Remarks: The Spiny Terrapin is an uncommon native turtle that in Singapore, seems to be confined to the Central Nature Reserves. The carapace of young turtles has very distinct spiky edges (Baker & Lim, 2012: 123). As it was found in the middle of a tyre track, the dead juvenile featured here looks like it may have accidentally been run over and killed by a vehicle. However, this did not seem likely as the animal was not crushed or embedded in the substrate.
Baker, N. & K. K. P. Lim, 2012. Wild Animals of Singapore. A Photographic Guide to Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Freshwater Fishes. Updated edition. Draco Publishing and Distribution Pte. Ltd. and Nature Society (Singapore). 180 pp.
Giant Asian Pond Turtle (Heosemys grandis) Upper Seletar Reservoir, 5th May 2012
These photos of a turtle roadkill were taken by my friend Fung Tze Kwan and shared on Facebook. It was identified by Kelvin Lim of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) as a hatchling Giant Asian Pond Turtle. This species is believed to be introduced to Singapore, with sightings of wild adults likely to represent abandoned pets* and other former captives. However, there is a specimen in the California Academy of Sciences which was supposedly collected from Singapore in 1908, although it could also be of captive origin.
This very young individual may represent evidence that this species has managed to reproduce in the wild. On the other hand, as it was found on Vesak Day, a day when many Buddhist devotees carry out the practice of releasing captive animals in a bid to to gain spiritual merit, this turtle could have simply been liberated by a well-meaning person, only to get killed after it wandered onto the road.
*Apart from the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and the Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis), which are sold as pets, and the Chinese Softshell Turtle(Pelodiscus sinensis), which is sold for human consumption, the trade in any other turtle and tortoise species (including the Giant Asian Pond Turtle) in Singapore is considered illegal.