Getting to know the

Painted Terrapin

The painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is a critically endangered species of freshwater turtle found in Indonesia (Sumatra), Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo.


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Getting to know our

Painted Terrapins


The Painted Terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is a large freshwater turtle (carapace length up to 50 cm) that inhabits parts of large rivers under tidal influence. Its distribution is limited geographically to Sumatra, southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo.

Global Status

Global status has not been fully elucidated for this species, though most populations are in serious decline due to unsustainable exploitation and insufficient and uncoordinated conservation efforts.

Much like other species of large river turtles, painted terrapins suffered from over-exploitation of its flesh and eggs; habitat loss and degradation; and this species is often collected from the wild for the pet trade due to its highly attractive colouration.

Distribution in Malaysia

The distribution of Painted Terrapins in Malaysia is not very well studied. Their presence was confirmed in 14 rivers in a survey in Peninsular Malaysia. In addition to this, it possibly occurs in 19 other rivers, based on museum specimens, interviews with local people, visual confirmation by the investigators, and scientific literature.

Sexual Dimorphism

Painted terrapins exhibit an usual form of sexual dimorphism among turtles. During the breeding season, the head of the males turn white. It is interrupted by a red swath bordered by vivid indigo running between the eyes. The colour of the males’ shells also lightens during the breeding season, further emphasising the three predominant black stripes that run parallel down the length of the shell.


Painted terrapins typically nest between May and July in Peninsular Malaysia. Despite being a freshwater species, females sometimes nest on marine beaches. Clutch size ranges between 10 and 16 eggs. Hatchlings emerge after a 70 to 90 day incubation period and will head to the river on their own.

Conservation Measures

In Malaysia, eggs from wild nests are incubated in several locations in Terengganu and Sarawak. Available records indicate that the numbers in Terengganu have declined from several hundred clutches protected per year to less than 100 in 2010. Head-starting work has been sporadic and not sustained.


affecting our painted terrapins


For decades, painted terrapin eggs have been collected and consumed by local villagers, with little to no recruitment of hatchlings into the river/sea.

Habitat loss, degradation

Construction of dams and sand-mining operations in rivers, as well as coastal development destroy existing painted terrapin nesting habitats.

Collected for pet trade

Painted terrapin, like so many chelonians all over the world, is valued for consumption of its meat and eggs, as well as for the pet trade.

Our painted terrapin

Conservation Efforts

Egg protection programme

Painted terrapin eggs are collected by local villagers in Kg. Chendor, Pahang and Kg. Pasir Gajah, Terengganu. The eggs are incubated in the hatchery as well as in styrofoam boxes to produce female and male hatchlings, respectively.


Upon emergence, painted terrapin hatchlings are head-started at the TCS River Terrapin Conservation Centre in Kemaman, before theyr are released into the river/sea.


Painted terrapin hatchlings are released into the river/sea during our Turtle Trips.


painted terrapin conservation project

Number of eggs saved from human consumption (2022 - 2023)

Number of hatchlings produced (2022)

Help save our

Painted Terrapins

Adopt a painted terrapin

Support our conservation efforts by symbolically adopting a painted terrapin. You are encouraged to name your terrapin too! Adopters will receive a digital Certificate of Adoption and a tax-deductible receipt.

Make a donation

Please consider making a donation to our painted terrapin conservation project. Funds that are raised from our adoption campaigns will be used to purchase pellets and vegetables for the terrapins.

Spread the word

Help us spread the word about our painted terrapin conservation effort by purchasing our handmade turtle batik merchandise. Know that your business directly and positively impacts the women in the local communities in Kemaman.