Wattle-necked softshell turtle

The turtle that our team found in Pu Mat has been identified as a wattle-necked softshell turtle (Palea steindachneri).  It is the only member of the Palea genus. Because it has a restricted geographic range and is under considerable pressure from the wildlife trade it is listed as endangered by the IUCN. Softshell turtles in Vietnam are considered a culinary delicacy and this species is no exception. Tanks filled with softshell turtles are common in more upscale restaurants in Vietnam. Every time I see one I wonder if the turtles are farm-raised (as is often claimed) or wild caught. Little seems to be known about this species. The Red List website does not have a geographic range map, indicating simply that it is found in China and Vietnam. (Although it must be found in Laos as well. We were surveying close to the border and there is much good habitat on the other side.) I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with this turtle. It’s a new species for me and an exquisite animal. I also believe that it shows the biological wonders that can be found in these forests—if you look hard enough. A bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.

Wattle-necked soft-shell turtle
Wattle-necked soft-shell turtle

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