Chinese Soft Shelled Turtle

Wild Status:


Scientific Name:

Pelodiscus sinensis


Taiwan, Province of China and Vietnam

Thailand; United States

It is difficult to determine its native range due to the long tradition of use as a food and "tonic" and subsequent spread by migrating people. The Chinese soft-shelled turtle has been introduced to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Timor, Batan Islands, Guam, some of the Hawaiian Islands California and Virginia.

The Chinese soft-shell turtle can reach a carapace length of 1 foot (30.3 cm). It has webbed feet for swimming. The carapace is unlike any other turtle/terrapin as it is very sensitive and has the feel of soft rubber.

It forages at night, taking crustaceans, molluscs, insects, fish, and amphibians.

With its long snout and tube-like nostrils, the Chinese soft-shelled turtle can "snorkel" in shallow water. When resting, it lies at the bottom, buried in sand or mud, lifting its head to breathe or snatch at prey.

The main threat to this species is collection for human consumption. Throughout history it has been a staple part of human diet in its home range.

The Chinese soft-shell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) is the turtle species raised on China's turtle farms. According to the data obtained from 684 Chinese turtle farms, they sold over 91 million turtles of this species every year; considering that these farms represented less than half of the 1,499 registered turtle farms in China, the nationwide total could be over twice as high.