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African helmeted turtle

Pelomedusa subrufa


The African helmeted turtle or Marsh terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa), is typically a rather small turtle with most individuals being less than 87.9 cm in carapace length, but one has been recorded with a carapace length of 132.5 cm. it has a black or brown carapace (shell). The tops of the tail and limbs are a grayish brown, while the underside is yellowish. The male turtle is distinguished by its long, thick tail. Females tend to have a shorter tail and a broader carapace. Hatchlings have a shell size of about 1 and 1/4 inches in length, and are olive to black in color. It also has two small tubercles under the chin and musk glands in the sides of the carapace. The African helmeted turtle doesn't have a hinged plastron (lower shell). All the other species in the family Pelomedusidae however have this feature which they can, using muscles, close to cover their head and front limbs.


The range of Pelomedusa subrufa spreads over a large portion of Africa. They are semi-aquatic animals, living in rivers, lakes, and marshes, and they also like rain pools and places that are fertilized.


The African helmeted turtle is omnivorous and will eat almost anything. Some of the main items in its diet are insects, small crustaceans, fish, earthworms, and snails. They may also feed on carrion. The fine claws on its feet help it tear its prey apart. Groups of these turtles have been observed capturing and drowning doves when they come to drink.

1 Species ID Suggestions

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ShriPatwardhan 9 years ago

Hi also check these 2 sites.
The African serrated mud turtle appears darker as compared to African Helmeted Turtle.

ShriPatwardhan 9 years ago

Hi moralCoral, Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I checked the following site" Turtles of the world" and compared pictures of East African Serrated Mud Turtle and The African Helmeted Turtle entering their scientific names in the search and found that This picture matches with latter than former. Could you please check up. I would request other members also to give their opinion.

moralcoral 9 years ago

where as this is the hinged turtle i though they looked very similar although im not 100% certain it was a suggestion and why i asked about the serration but i don't think thing its the helmeted due to the coloration yours has no yellow underbelly!

p.young713 9 years ago

Nice photo!

moralcoral 9 years ago

The helmeted turtle has a yellow underside much lighter than the surface and the face looks quite different with googly eyes, where as yours look more prehistoric? just a thought but if you look up images of the helmeted turtle looks quite different don't you think?

ShriPatwardhan 9 years ago

Hi do check this link in Wikipedia to opine on this species of turtle. I thought this appears to be African helmeted turtle.
There may be little confusion on the appearance of back due to it being wet. Do check up the Wikipedia link.

moralcoral 9 years ago

Looks like the East African serrated mud turtle, they are common in Kruger Park, a large species and in your photo the back of the carapace looks serrated! what do you think?

alicelongmartin 9 years ago

On a Mission!

Spotted by

Limpopo, South Africa

Spotted on May 18, 2009
Submitted on Jan 16, 2012

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