Leith’s Softshell Turtle

Leith’s Softshell Turtle, also known as the Indian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle, is a freshwater turtle species found in the Indian subcontinent. In this article, we will discuss the general features of this species, their habitat, food habits, breeding, number of eggs they give, their conservation status, and where one can go in India to see them.

General Features

Leith’s Softshell Turtle is a large freshwater turtle species that can grow up to 100 cm in length and weigh up to 50 kg. They have a flat, leathery shell that is dark brown to black in color with light-colored spots. Their narrow, elongated head has a pointed snout and two small, protruding eyes. The feet are webbed, enabling efficient swimming.

Habitat and Distribution

Leith’s Softshell Turtle is found in the freshwater habitats of the Peninsular India. Godavari, Moyar, Kaveri, Tungabhadra river systems have these turtles. Also, the small rivers, ponds, lakes, and marshes. They prefer slow-moving or still water with a sandy or muddy bottom and plenty of aquatic vegetation.

Food Habits

Leith’s Softshell Turtle is primarily carnivorous, feeding on a variety of aquatic animals like fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and insects. They are also known to scavenge on dead animals and feed on plant material occasionally.


The breeding season for Leith’s Softshell Turtle in India is from January to March. The females come ashore to lay eggs in sandy or gravelly banks of rivers or ponds. They usually lay 10-20 eggs per clutch, which hatch after 60-80 days of incubation.

Conservation Status

Leith’s Softshell Turtle is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, overexploitation for the pet trade and food, and other anthropogenic activities. The species is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of India, and various conservation measures have been taken to conserve this species in the wild. Some of the steps being taken include habitat restoration, enforcement of wildlife laws, and awareness programs to discourage the trade of these turtles as pets or food.

Places to See Leith’s Softshell Turtle

Leith’s Softshell Turtle can be found in river systems of South India and ponds. They can even be seen in the old ponds where they live. During the winter season, they come out in the open to bask in the sun. That is a good opportunity to see them near rivers and ponds. 

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