The three-keeled box turtle, also known as the Asian box turtle, is a species of turtle native to Southeast Asia. It is an omnivorous species that typically inhabits moist and humid habitats such as wetland forests. It is a small-sized turtle, with a carapace (shell) length of up to 16 cm and a weight of up to 700g. The three-keeled box turtle is a species of box turtle with a carapace (shell) that is distinguished by three distinct ridges that run along the length of the shell. The ridges are formed by scutes (large, hard, plate-like structures covering the outside of the shell). The carapace is usually dark-brown in color, with yellow or white markings. The limbs are orange or yellow in color, and the plastron (lower shell) is usually yellow or white, with black markings.
The Keeled Box Turtle is a medium-sized turtle, with males measuring around 10-13 cm in length and females around 15-18 cm. They have a distinctive keeled carapace (upper shell) with a brownish-black coloration and yellow stripes or spots. The plastron (lower shell) is usually yellowish with dark blotches. They are relatively heavy-bodied, with males weighing around 300-400 grams and females around 500-600 grams. The keeled box turtle is a long-lived species, with individuals reaching up to 100 years in age. They are known to be solitary animals, with males and females only coming together to mate. They are also known to engage in a behavior known as “head-bobbing”, which is believed to be a form of communication between individuals.
Habitat and distribution
The Keeled Box Turtle is found in a variety of habitats, including lowland rainforests, swamps, and agricultural lands. They are mainly aquatic but also spend a considerable amount of time on land. In India, they are found in the Northeastern states, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya. They are often found in slow-moving streams, ponds, and marshes with thick vegetation cover.
The Keeled Box Turtle is an omnivore and feeds on a variety of plant and animal matter. They feed on leaves, fruits, flowers, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small vertebrates like fish and frogs. They are known to be opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever is available in their habitat.
The breeding season of Keeled Box Turtles starts in the rainy season (June-September). They mate in water and females lay eggs in sandy soil. A clutch of 1-3 eggs is laid, and the incubation period lasts for around 60-80 days. The hatchlings emerge in the post-monsoon season (October-November) and are usually around 3-4 cm long.
The Keeled Box Turtle is considered to be a endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat destruction, over-exploitation for food and traditional medicine, and collection for the pet trade. The government of India has listed the species under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides partial protection. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the species and its habitat, including captive breeding programs and awareness campaigns among local communities.
Where to see them
Keeled Box Turtles are found in the Northeastern states of India, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya. They are often found in slow-moving streams, ponds, and marshes with thick vegetation cover. Some of the best places to see them are the Nameri National Park and Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, and the Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya. The best time to see them is during the monsoon season (June-September), when they are more active and visible.