Protecting Indian Softshell Turtle: Habitat and Conservation

The Indian Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia gangetica), commonly known as the Ganges Softshell Turtle, is endemic to freshwater habitats and is restricted to the Ganges, Indus, and Mahanadi rivers in northern and eastern India. This turtle is easily identified by its flattened shell and large, tube-like snout.

Its exterior characteristics enable ideal adaptation to riparian habitat, which is the area surrounding rivers and other sources of water. They can stretch their nose out of the water to breathe thanks to their lengthy necks and tube-shaped snouts.

Indian Softshell Turtle: General Features

The Indian softshell turtle is a big species that reaches a maximum length of 60 cm and a maximum weight of 50 kg. Their skin is leathery and covers a soft, flattened shell. They have strong jaws and a large skull with a long snout. They have a light-colored underside and skin that is greyish-brown with black markings.

Indian softshell turtles lay a range of eggs based on the size, age, and other characteristics of the female, including the availability of food and the surrounding habitat. This species’ females deposit 10 to 30 eggs on average each clutch; bigger females can lay up to 60 eggs in a single clutch.

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Habitat and Distribution

The river systems of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, and Godavari are home to the Indian softshell turtle. Their preferred habitats are shallow, muddy, or sandy bottoms with slow currents, where they can bury themselves in the mud to protect themselves from predators and control their body temperature.

Food Habits

Being omnivorous, Indian softshell turtles consume a wide range of plants and animals. They consume tiny fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, and aquatic plants. They have also been observed feeding on dead animals.

Conservation Status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated the Indian softshell turtle as endangered (IUCN). The loss of their habitat, hunting, and trade in food and traditional medicine are the main dangers to their survival. Their population has declined as a result of dam construction, sand mining, and deforestation destroying their nesting places and riverine habitats.

Their decrease has also been attributed to the hunting of adults and the gathering of eggs for traditional medicine and sustenance.

Conservation efforts

Indian softshell turtle conservation has involved a number of actions from the government of India. It is illegal to hunt or trade any kind of turtle or tortoise since the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Involved in the conservation of these turtles are the forest departments of several Indian states.

An initiative for the protection and reproduction of Indian softshell turtles has been established by the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The initiative breeds these turtles in captivity and releases them back into the wild in an effort to expand their population.


The river systems of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Thailand are home to the endangered Indian softshell turtle. They are huge, omnivorous turtles that like rivers with shallow, muddy, or sandy bottoms that move slowly. Hunting, trading for food and traditional medicine, and habitat degradation are the main dangers to their survival.

All kinds of turtles and tortoises are prohibited from being hunted or traded, as part of the government of India’s conservation efforts. India’s greatest locations for seeing Indian softshell turtles are the National Chambal Sanctuary and the Chambal River.

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