Ganges Soft Shell Turtle


Nilssonia gangetica

Common Names:

Indian Softshell Turtle


Ganges Soft Shell Turtle

Kingdom   :    Animalia
  :    Chordata
  :    Reptilia
Order  :
Family  :    Trionychidae
Genus  :    Nilssonia
Species  :

Conservation status:

IUCN :   Vulnerable
   Schedule I (Part II)
   Appendix I
   Not listed



Distribution map of Indian Softshell Turtle (Source: Map data 2016 Google, ORION-ME, SK planet, ZENRIN)

Indian softshell turtle’s distribution is restricted to the Ganges, Indus, and Mahanadi river systems in Northen India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Southern Nepal.

Characteristics, Habitat and Behaviour:

Indian softshell turtle with its prominent, tube-like snout and incredibly flattened shell, is a very peculiar-looking freshwater reptile. These odd features make this turtle so superbly adapted to its riverine habitat, with its long neck and snorkel-like snout allowing it to extend its nose out of the water to breathe, and its compressed shell creating a stream-lined silhouette that makes it a brilliant and fast swimmer (Vitt and Caldwell, 2009). The Indian softshelled turtle has a round to oval, smooth upper shell (carapace), which is olive or green in colour with a yellow border. The limbs are also green, while the shell on the underside of the turtle’s body is grey to cream. It has a broad head, with several black stripes running from the centre towards the sides (Ernst, 1997).

This large softshell inhabits deep rivers, streams, and large canals, lakes and ponds with mud and sand bottoms. It seems to prefer turbid water. Indian softshell turtle is omnivorous, eating not only mollusks, insects, fish, amphibians, waterfowl and carrion, but aquatic plants as well (Minton, 1966).

Major Threats:

  • Habitat loss due to the pollution, closure of canals, introduction of dams, tidal barrages, channelization, flood plain drainage and patrial threats are the expansion of agriculture.
  • Commercial exploitation due to professional fishing and meat consumption.
  • Reduction of fish stock, as a result of overfishing.


Vitt, L.J., & Caldwell, J.P. (2009). Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and
Reptiles. Third Edition. Academic Press
, Burlington, Massachusetts.

Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M., & Barbour, R.W. (1997). Turtles of the World. ETI Information
Systems Ltd, Netherlands.

Minton, S.A., Jr. (1966). A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan. Bull. Amer. Mus.
Natur. Hist. 134: 27-184.