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Yellow-Headed Temple Turtle

Heosemys annadalii

  • Family: Geoemydidae
  • Range: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia
  • Habitat: Slow-flowing rivers, flooded fields, swamps, and can also be found in brackish water
  • Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
  • Dangerous:
  • Care Level: Intermediate

Overview

This is a potentially large turtle with large needs. To house two adults, an enclosure about 5 feet long by 2 feet deep by 2 feet tall will work nicely. River rocks, gravel or a bare bottom can be used. Provide two large basking sites, one at each end of the enclosure, using a cinder block or a commercial basking float of some kind.

Hang or clamp a head lamp over one of the basking sites, generating a hot spot with a surface temperature of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a fluorescent UVB lamp across the entire length of the tub or tank. Add a fully submersible water heater set at 80 degrees. Clean water is very important, so use a large, fully submersible filter or an outside canister filter. The filter should be cleaned and maintained on a constant basis.

These guys feed primarily on plants. Chopped greens, such as collard, beet and mustard, along with kale, mixed green veggies and some fruit will be happily eaten. They also like duckweed and other aquatic plants. 
I like to place a slow-dissolving calcium block in the water, adding a fresh one when the old one is completely dissolved. Feed yellow-headed temple turtles as much as they will eat daily, and remove any uneaten food to prevent the water from becoming fouled. 

Once regularly imported, Heosemys annadalii has become scarce and difficult to come by. Many factors are involved, but the primary problem is the Asian food market. These turtles are literally being eaten by people to the brink of extinction!

Captive breeding is sporadic at best, and more work needs to be done with this species in both its natural range and in captivity. Captive breeding may be the only way to save it. 

You might be able to locate some specimens in specialty reptile stores or get some from breeders who specialize in turtles on the Internet.

The yellow-headed temple turtle gets its common name due to the fact that its range tends to be around Buddhist temples. Turtles are often found on temple grounds being cared for by monks living there. Way to go, monks!

This is a large, impressive and beautiful turtle that would make a great addition to a collection. Remember, though, specimens should be paired up and captive bred—the species’ survival may depend on it. Join the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group (ttpg.org) for more information about ways you can help endangered turtles.

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