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The Keeled Box Turtle – a Hardy Species in Need of Captive Breeding – Part 1

Keeled Box TurtleAsia’s Keeled Box Turtle, also known as the Jagged-shelled or Indian Thorn Turtle (Pyxidea mouhotii) is an attractive, interesting species that has somehow never become very popular with turtle keepers.  Wild populations have plummeted in recent years and, as zoos pay little attention to this turtle, I’d like to ask that hobbyists consider working with it.


I was taken in by the Keeled Box Turtle’s subtle beauty and unique shell construction early on.  The extremely flat dorsal surface of the carapace is distinctive, as is the presence of the 3 well-defined keels or ridges that decorate it.  The carapace, which reaches 7 inches in length, is brown, tan or rust in color and is serrated at the posterior.  The limbs are gray to dark brown.  A hinge develops in the plastron (lower shell) of the adults, allowing the head and front limbs to be sealed tightly into the shell.

Range and Habitat

The Keeled Box Turtle ranges widely throughout South and Southeast Asia, occurring from southern China (including Hainan Island) through Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar to eastern India.

It is, however, rarely encountered as it prefers rainforests and heavily wooded areas.  The Keeled Box Turtle may soak in shallow pools but rarely enters deep water.

Status in the Wild

As is true for many Asian turtles, the Keeled Box Turtle is declining throughout its range due to habitat loss and collection for the food trade.  It is designated as “Endangered” by the IUCN and listed on Appendix II of CITES.


Further Reading

Please see the Turtles of the World website for more natural history information.

Keeled Box Turtle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Torsten Blanck

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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