African helmeted turtle

A freshwater turtle native to the waters of Africa and Madagascar

Charles J. Sharp

Characterized by its small, upturned pig-like nose and seemingly smiling mouth, this turtle often presents a cheerful demeanor. Its carapace is typically smooth and streamlined, ranging in color from black to brown, which helps in camouflage and protection from predators.

The limbs of the African Helmeted Turtle are sturdy, with the upper parts being a grayish tone and the undersides presenting a yellowish hue. Their semi-aquatic lifestyle means that they are highly adaptable and able to inhabit a range of freshwater environments, from permanent wetlands to ephemeral bodies of water such as temporary marshes, creeks, and rain-filled depressions that form during the wet season.

These turtles are opportunistic feeders with carnivorous tendencies, preying on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, as well as small fish, amphibians, and even carrion. They have been known to utilize a sit-and-wait tactic, capturing birds and small mammals that may venture too close to the water’s edge. This predatory behavior underscores their role as important regulators of their aquatic ecosystems.

African Helmeted Turtles are also known for basking behavior, which is crucial for thermoregulation and the synthesis of vitamin D3, essential for calcium metabolism and healthy shell growth. However, in the tropical regions where temperatures can soar, they may avoid the midday heat and prefer to bask during the cooler parts of the day.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Botswana
2017
Presence Uncertain
Eswatini
2017
Lesotho
2017
Presence Uncertain
Mozambique
2017
Namibia
2017
Presence Uncertain
South Africa
2017

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No