IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th February, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://officerspulse.com/cantors-giant-softshell-turtle/

Context: The first-ever nesting report of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) marks a significant milestone in the conservation efforts for this incredibly rare and endangered species.

Key Highlights

  • The Cantor's giant softshell turtle is an extremely rare species native to South and Southeast Asia.
  • It is facing critical endangerment due to habitat destruction and human activities like harvesting for meat and accidental capture in fishing gear.
  • The species is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, indicating a high risk of extinction.

Discovery and Location

  • The community-led efforts resulted in the documentation of the first-ever instance of a female turtle nesting. Eggs from flooded nests were rescued, and the hatchlings were released into the river.
  • The discovery involves the first-ever evidence of nesting and identification of a breeding population of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle. The location of this groundbreaking find is the Chandragiri River in Kerala.

Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle

Common Names

Cantor's giant softshell turtle, Asian giant softshell turtle, frog-faced softshell turtle


Historically found throughout South and Southeast Asia. Currently, fragmented populations in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and possibly others.


Inhabits slow-moving rivers, streams, lakes, and estuaries. Prefers sandy or muddy river bottoms.


Extremely large freshwater turtle (up to 1 meter in length).

Soft, leathery shell (carapace) lacking scutes.

Flattened body for burying in sand and mud.

Long, pointed snout with eyes near the tip giving a "frog-faced" appearance.

Webbed feet for swimming.


Spends most of its life buried in sand, with only eyes and snout visible.

Ambush predator, lying in wait to capture prey (fish, crustaceans, etc.).

Surfaces only twice a day to breathe.

Secretive and elusive, making it difficult to study.


Carnivorous, primarily eats: Fish, Crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, etc.), and Mollusks (snails, clams, etc.).


Little is known about their reproduction in the wild. Lays eggs in sandy riverbanks. Nests are vulnerable to predation and human collection.


Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN due to: Habitat destruction and degradation, Hunting for meat and eggs, Illegal pet trade.


Q. What is the conservation status of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle?

A) Least Concern

B) Vulnerable

C) Endangered

D) Critically Endangered

Answer: D

Explanation: The IUCN Red List classifies this species as Critically Endangered due to threats like habitat loss, hunting, and the pet trade. They are at a very high risk of extinction in the wild.