{short description of image}
Name: Central American River Turtle
Scientific name:
Dermatemys mawii
Range: Belize to Guatemala and Mexico (not found in the Yucatan)
Habitat: Clear rivers and lakes
Status: Endangered (Vulnerable) 
Diet in the wild: Aquatic vegetation, fallen leaves and fruit
Diet in the zoo: typical grocery store produce (vegetables)
Location in the zoo: Herpetarium (Just Chillin' w/ the other turtles and some snakes)
Physical description: 

  • Length: up to 24 inches (60 c.m.)
  • Weight: up to 50 lbs. (22 k.g.)
  • Central American River Turtle has large webbed feet and a smooth shell
  • Largest freshwater turtle in its range
  • A small head with a pointed snout and large nostrils
  • Males : have golden-yellow patch on head
  • Females and juveniles : have grayish heads

General information:
  • They do not bask on logs or river banks like other freshwater turtles, their webbed feet create awkward movement on land.
  • Bask by floating on the water and can stay submerged for long periods.
  • Most aquatic of freshwater turtles.
  • Primarily nocturnal.
  • Otters are regular predators.
  • They nest twice a year in the flood season, April and December, when the water level has risen.
  • The female digs a hole in the mud ( sand and clay as well )  near the water's edge and lays her eggs there.
  • Each clutch can contain 6 to 26 hard-shelled eggs.
  • While building the nest, the female will drink water regularly to prevent the walls from crumbiling and to ensure that they stay moist.

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:
  • Found in large open rivers and permanent  lakes.
  • Prefer clear water (not found in seasonal or temporary ponds). 
  • Tolerates brackish water.
  • Very easy to catch .
  • Meat and eggs are valued very highly.
  • Hunted for food and for sport.

Comments about the Central American River Turtle at Fort Worth Zoo: 

The turtle seems to be very laid back. He reminds me of someone I know. :-)

Personal Observations: 

The one I saw just laid around doing nothing. He probably was more active at night since he is nocturnal.

Source Materials and Related Links:

Page author: Alisha Garcia

Send E-mail to:pincushion83@yahoo.com
or to mac@whozoo.org


WhoZoo Home
Reptiles and Amphibians at the Fort Worth Zoo