Podocnemis – South American river turtles

Home of the largest freshwater turtles from South America

This genus’s members are commonly known as ‘river turtles.’

South America is home to a remarkable group of river turtles that stand out not only for their considerable size compared to other turtle species but also for the critical challenges they face in their fight for survival. These river turtles confront severe threats from habitat degradation, the construction of dams, pollution, and the hunting of adults alongside the widespread gathering of their eggs. Such pressures have put these species in a precarious position, highlighting the urgent need for conservation measures.

Dietarily, these turtles exhibit a predominantly herbivorous feeding behavior, relying on a diet that includes fruits, seeds, leaves, legumes, and algae. This preference plays a crucial role in the dispersal of plant seeds, contributing to the health and regeneration of their habitats. Nonetheless, they display dietary flexibility; freshwater sponges, eggs, and carrion, such as dead fish, occasionally supplement their diet. Captive individuals have been observed consuming meat, indicating a broader natural dietary range than previously thought. Juveniles, in particular, exhibit a more varied diet, consuming fish and plant matter, supporting their growth and development.

The daily activity patterns of these river turtles are characterized by significant periods of activity throughout the day. This active lifestyle is essential for foraging and exposes them to the threats contributing to their vulnerability. The construction of dams, for instance, disrupts their natural migratory routes and breeding grounds, while pollution and habitat degradation further diminish the quality of their living environments.