Notochelys platynota : Malayan Flat-shelled Turtle
Photo by Charlie Sikorski, Jr.
by Russ Gurley
Comments: This interesting turtle, very rare in captivity, has a distinctive flattened, elongated, and lightly grooved carapace. It has the reputation for doing poorly in captivity but new husbandry methods, including the use of large, warm, well-planted enclosures, and advances in deparasitization and veterinary protocols, are producing successes in keeping this turtle alive and well. The bright yellow to apple-green carapaces of the hatchlings make them some of the most beautiful young turtles in the world.
Distribution: N. platynota is found in Thailand, Vietnam, western Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.
Adult Size : Adult N. platynota grow to 13” (32 cm).
Captive Care: Indoors, Flat-shelled Turtles have proven to be quite delicate. They should be offered 3” to 4” of warm, filtered water and a land area with plenty of natural hiding spots. These hiding spots can include tropical plants and small, evergreen shrubs. Piles of leaves and palm fronds will add further “security”. The substrate should consist of a layer of pea gravel beneath a layer of ½ peat moss and ½ damp sand and then topped off with a generous layer of cypress mulch to help retain moisture. A fluorescent shop light fixture with UVB-emitting bulbs and a 100-watt spotlight are placed over a basking spot. Notochelys will rarely bask, and will retreat to the nearest shelter when an observer approaches their enclosure. They are very secretive, spending most of their time hiding. They will, however, occasionally venture out after the enclosure is sprayed. They are often found in the early morning hours soaking in the aquatic portion of their enclosures. Most of their activity is during the early morning or late evening.
Outdoors, Flat-shelled Turtles do well in a semi-aquatic enclosure that features land and shallow (3”to 4”) water. The land area should be planted with a variety of ground cover and larger shrubs and plants that offer them lots of secure hiding places (which they use often). Flat-shelled Turtles are especially active after rains and they thrive in warm - 80 ° to 85 ° F (27 ° to 29 ° C) environments. They have been reported to be averse to both extreme heat and bright light (Buskirk, 1997), so we make sure they have plenty of shady retreats. Outdoors, a keeper may need to turn water sprinklers on them for several hours during the hottest afternoons.
Feeding: Flat-shelled Turtles are omnivores. They have been found to enjoy meals of earthworms, snails, slugs, and even crickets (Buskirk, 1997). In addition to the invertebrates, they should be offered a large and diverse salad every three days. This salad should consist of a combination of finely grated and more coarse offerings of romaine lettuce, kale, squash, carrots, sweet potato, apple, banana, cantaloupe, strawberries, and pear, as well as mango and papaya when they are available. Banana and mango, in addition to saucers of earthworms, have proven to be very effective in getting newly imported Notochelys to feed. After they begin feeding, we suggest adding some higher protein foods such as soaked commercial turtle pellets mixed in with the salad to increase their nutritional intake.
Common Health Problems: Dehydration, stress, and unusually high parasite loads have all proven to be part of imported N. platynota 's health problems. Many specimens have been very reluctant to feed and mortality has been high in imported specimens. A prophylactic round of Baytril® and Panacur® are recommended by several keepers working with this delicate species.
Breeding: As N. platynota has the reputation of not surviving in captivity, little is therefore known of its courtship, breeding habits, or egg-laying behavior. We feel that with close supervision, an intense parasite elimination program, and a large, well-planted, “safe” enclosure, collectors will see beautiful, captive-hatched Notochelys available in the future.
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