Also known as the Fly River turtle, the Pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) is undoubtedly one of the strangest turtles in the world. Unlike any other freshwater turtle, it possesses flippers resembling those of marine turtles. This turtle gets its descriptive name, "pig-nosed," because its nose actually resembles that of a pig. Its nostrils are located directly in front of the fleshy, protruding snout.
The carapace and limb color of the Pig-nosed turtle may be gray to olive. Plastral color is very light, either white, cream or yellowish. Males can be distinguished from females by their much larger tails which have the vent located near the tip. This turtle grows to be very large, attaining a maximum weight of 49.5 lbs (22.5 kg) and a maximum length of 22 inches (56.3 cm) [Georges and Rose, 1993].
The distribution of the Pig-nosed turtle is limited to northern Australia, southern Irian Jaya and southern New Guinea. Typical habitat includes rivers, estuaries, lagoons, lakes, swamps and pools. Most Pig-nosed turtles have been found in waterways having sand and gravel bottoms covered with silt, and averaging a depth of six feet. The banks of these waterways are typically heavily forested. Two areas in which this turtle has been studied are the Fly River area in southern New Guinea and the Daly River in northern Australia.
As with many turtles in remote locations, the Pig-nosed turtle was once believed to be extremely rare. Although exact population numbers are not currently available, it is known to be very common in its range. But, there have been recent reports of population declines in some areas in which the species was once abundant. Because of this, Australia has protected this turtle from exploitation. However, New Guinea has not implemented any conservation measures. Because of its protection in Australia, the Pig-nosed turtle has rarely been available on dealer lists in the United States. However, I am aware of dealers in Japan and other countries which frequently offer Pig-nosed turtles for sale.
Because of their large size, adult Pig-nosed turtles require and large pool or pond in captivity. Smaller individuals may be kept in aquaria. Aquatic plants and underwater hiding spots are preferred. Water temperature must be kept between 79° F (26.1° C) and 86° F (30° C). Water quality is vital to successfully keeping this species. High-quality filtration systems such as UV and/or biological systems must be provided. Failure to maintain excellent water quality will inevitably lead to fungal or bacterial skin disorders. There is no need to provide a basking spot for the Pig-nosed turtle; it is entirely aquatic. Access to land must be provided for adult females so they may nest. Clutches of eggs typically number between seven and 39 eggs.
Although Pig-nosed turtles are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter; they prefer more plant matter than animal matter in the wild. Their natural diet centers around the fruit and leaves of the wild fig. Captives thrive on a diet of figs, apples, kiwi fruit and bananas, as well as occasional pieces of fish and shrimp. Some successful keepers of Pig-nosed turtles have found that starting hatchlings on a diet of Reptomin and later introducing Purina trout chow works very well. Some have also found these turtles to be very fond of mealworms and pinky mice. Typically, these keepers provide three feedings per week. After feedings, it is a good idea to remove any uneaten food particles from the water with a net to help keep the water clean.