Malayan snail-eating turtle (Malayemys subtrijuga)

Malayan snail-eating turtle
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Malayan snail-eating turtle fact file

Malayan snail-eating turtle description

GenusMalayemys (1)

Another victim of Asia’s insatiable demand for freshwater turtles (4), the Malayan snail-eating turtle has a brown to chestnut upper shell (carapace) edged with a fine yellow line. The oval carapace is slightly domed and the larger scutes bear small knobs (2). The lower shell, or plastron, is yellow or cream-coloured with large dark-brown to black blotches on each scute (5). The large, black head is patterned with several light stripes (2). Male Malayan snail-eating turtles have longer and narrower shells and larger tails than females (5).

Carapace length: up to 20 cm (2)

Malayan snail-eating turtle biology

The Malayan snail-eating turtle is a carnivorous reptile, named after its penchant for small snails. However, it also consumes earthworms, aquatic insects, crustaceans and small fish (2).

The Malayan snail-eating turtle nests (at least in Thailand) during the dry season (5), laying a clutch of four to six white, elongated eggs (2). After being incubated at 28 to 30 degrees Celsius for around 167 days, the young turtles hatch (5). Like other turtles, this species takes a long time to reach maturity; males mature after about three years while females are sexually mature at about five years (6).


Malayan snail-eating turtle range

Occurs in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and extreme northern Peninsular Malaysia (2). The Malayan snail-eating turtle has also possibly been introduced to Sumatra and Java, Indonesia (2) (5).


Malayan snail-eating turtle habitat

The Malayan snail-eating turtle inhabits a range of freshwater habitats where there is little current, muddy bottoms and plenty of aquatic vegetation. This includes streams, small lakes, canals, marshes and rice paddies (2) (5).


Malayan snail-eating turtle status

The Malayan snail-eating turtle is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Malayan snail-eating turtle threats

Pond turtles, including the Malayan snail-eating turtle, are widely eaten by people (7). Many populations of Malayemys species are exploited for food and in some areas the eggs are also collected for consumption (6). The Malayan snail-eating turtle is also often captured to be released into ponds at Buddhist temples (2) (6). This exploitation has apparently caused numbers to decline throughout its range, particularly in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Finally, habitat deterioration due to pollution and accidental capture in fishing nets are also contributing to this species’ vulnerable status (6).


Malayan snail-eating turtle conservation

The Malayan snail-eating turtle is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and thus any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). This turtle is also subject to a number of national laws; in Cambodia and Thailand, consumption, use and export of this species is prohibited and in Vietnam the export of all native turtle species is banned. The export of freshwater turtles is regulated in Malaysia, there are annual harvest quotas in place in Indonesia, and Myanmar lists the Malayan snail-eating turtle as a protected species. Only in Lao PDR is no protection known to be in place (6). Whether these measures are sufficient and adequately enforced to ensure this turtle’s future is yet to be seen.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on turtle conservation in Asia see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
A large, bony plate or scale on the upper or lower shell of a turtle or tortoise.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2017)
  2. Bonin, F., Devaux, B. and Dupré, A. (2006) Turtles of the World. A and C Black, London.
  3. CITES (April, 2007)
  4. Asian Turtle Conservation Network (May, 2008)
  5. Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands.
  6. IUCN/SSC and TRAFFIC. (2004) IUCN/TRAFFIC Analyses of the Proposals to Amend the CITES Appendices at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  7. Jenkins, M.D. (1995) Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles: the Trade in Southeast Asia. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Malayan snail-eating turtle  
Malayan snail-eating turtle

© Tim McCormack / Asian Turtle Program (ATP)

Tim McCormack


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