Four-eyed turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata)

Four-eyed turtle in water
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Four-eyed turtle fact file

Four-eyed turtle description

GenusSacalia (1)

The four-eyed turtle is a threatened (1), little-known reptile, named for the striking circular shapes on the top of the head that look like eyes (4). The carapace, or upper shell, of this species is brown speckled with darker flecks. The shell on the underside of the turtle, or plastron, is salmon pink, also with dark flecks and marks. The head is dark brown or black, with dark brown jaws and a pink or reddish chin. Three prominent light stripes run from the head, back along the neck. The backs of the dark brown forelimbs have a pinkish-red tinge (2), and webbed feet are suited to this turtle’s aquatic lifestyle (4).

Carapace length: up to 14.5 cm (2)

Four-eyed turtle biology

Little is known about the biology of this threatened species. It apparently lays clutches of two to six white, elongated eggs. Four-eyed turtles in captivity have eaten a diet of fruit, lettuce and fish (2).


Four-eyed turtle range

Apparently confined to northern Vietnam and southern China, including the island province of Hainan. The four-eyed turtle may also occur in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (5).


Four-eyed turtle habitat

The four-eyed turtle inhabits streams and small brooks in woodland, at 100 to 400 metres above sea level (2).


Four-eyed turtle status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix III of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Four-eyed turtle threats

Like many other freshwater turtles, the largely uncontrolled and devastating trade for food and traditional medicine in many parts of Asia poses the greatest threat to the four-eyed turtle (1) (6). The fairly small populations in Lao PDR and Vietnam are not considered as threatened as the main population in China, where it is at risk of extinction (1), probably due to the fact that China is the major consumer of freshwater turtles (7).


Four-eyed turtle conservation

Despite many turtle species being protected by a listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and China’s Wild Animals Protection Law, freshwater turtles are still found in restaurants and food markets. Raised conservation awareness and more effective law enforcement is required if the four-eyed turtle, and other freshwater turtles, are to survive (7).

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

Find out more

For further information on the conservation of Asian freshwater turtles 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:



  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (1997) Turtles of the World. ETI Information Systems Ltd, Netherlands. Available at:
  3. CITES (March, 2008)
  4. The Turtle Puddle (March, 2008)
  5. Jenkins, M.D. (1995) Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles: The Trade in Southeast Asia. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Turtle Conservation Fund. (2002) A Global Action Plan for Conservation of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. Conservation International and Chelonian Research Foundation, Washington, DC.
  7. Shiping, G., Jichao, W., Haitao, S., Riheng, S. and Rumei, X. (2006) Illegal trade and conservation requirements of freshwater turtles in Nanmao, Hainan Province, China. Oryx, 40(3): 331 - 336.

Image credit

Four-eyed turtle in water  
Four-eyed turtle in water

© Hippocampus Bildarchiv

Frank Teigler
Hippocampus Bildarchiv


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