You can’t keep these turtles in India as pets

09-July-2017 Another Update: I am aware that my friend’s turtle Tutu is not a map turtle. Thank you for your inputs.

I had done my research from the wildlife act. This was in March-2016. The list may now stand obsolete. I am working with a friend to update the article. Till the time please take the information with a grain of salt.  

10-Jan-2017 Update: Guys, I am not a turtle expert, I wrote this blog after a couple days research, about 15 hours or so. I am getting messages and comments that I am not holding the turtle right in the picture, or that it’s not Ochuta Map. The ones commenting are perhaps right. However I can assure you that I did go through the whole Wildlife protection act to write about the banned turtles, so this blog is to the best of my knowledge.

Most of us have confusions about whether or not one can keep a pet-turtle in India. I went through the Wildlife Protection Act to find some answers. The inspiration to look it up came from “Tutu”, the pet turtle of my friend. If you stick around till the end, you will see the little Tutu.

As it turns out, only 10 species of Turtles are banned in India from keeping as pets. If the little guy at your home or in your dreams is not one of these, feel free to keep it. Just remember to take good care of it, they need sunlight, good food, some time away from water, and constant cleaning of their living space as they poop too much. Here are the species that are illegal to keep as pets or trade in India:

1. Audithia Turtle (Pelochelys bibroni)

The P. bibroni turtles are currently of “Threatened Status” due to hunting by tribes for eggs and meat consumption and trade.

Audithia Turtle (Pelochelys bibroni)
Audithia Turtle (Pelochelys bibroni) | Source: Chelonia

2. Ganges Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx gangeticus)

Also called the Nilssonia gangetica, these turtles are endangered in Bangladesh and India due to high trade in the East Asian region at volumes of 30-40 tons a week.

Ganges Soft shell Turtle | Source: Wikipedia
Ganges Soft shell Turtle | Source: Wikipedia

3. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas)

Green sea turtles are endangered from 1982, and have been on the IUCN red list since. Their threats include unavailability of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, fishery-related mortality, pollution, and coastal development.

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas) | Source: http://www.scubatravel.co.uk/marine-life/green-turtle.html
Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia Mydas) | Source: Scubatravel

4. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

These beautiful turtles are endangered because of huge illegal trades and killings for jewellery and ornaments made of Turtle Shell. They hold “Vulnerable” status on IUCN list.

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata inlscèata) | Source: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/hawksbill-turtle
Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) | Source: Worldwildlife

5.Indian Soft/Flap-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata)

Although “Least Concern” Status holder, the L. punctata is not allowed to be kept as pet or traded. The turtle conservation society still finds the specie threatened due to high demand of Turtle pets or to be dished into a curry.

A Lissemys punctata rescued in Nepal | Source: Mithila Wildlife Trust
A Lissemys punctata rescued in Nepal | Source: Mithila Wildlife Trust

6. Leathery Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The D. coriacea or leatherback turtle have a leathery shell instead of a hard one, and are one of the most migratory turtles. Their population decline is due to the extensive egg collections and fisheries related mortality. They are listed as “Vulnerable” on IUCN list, and some of the species in the Dermochelys family are also considered critically endangered.

A Leatherback Turtle | Source: Worldwildlife
A Leatherback Turtle | Source: Worldwildlife

7. Logger Head Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Human Consumption of meat and eggs is the major cause of the population decline of Loggerhead turtles. Conversation efforts have stabilised the population decline but it’s still far from being on an increasing trend. The species is classified as “Vulnerable” on IUCN list.

Caretta caretta turtle | Source: Wikipedia
Caretta caretta turtle | Source: Wikipedia

8. Olive Back Logger Head Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)

The decline in population of L. olivacea is majorly attributed to the commercial over-exploitation in Eastern Pacific region. No other causes are yet determined but the possibilities have not been eliminated. It is currently “Vulnerable” in the IUCN list.

An L. Olivecae | Source: marinebio
An L. olivacea | Source: marinebio

9. Peacock-marked Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx hurum)

These are part of the Trionichidae family as the T. gangeticus we saw earlier. Holding the status “Vulnerable” on IUCN these beautiful turtles are in danger due to illegal trade.

Peacock Soft Shell Turtle | Source: Le Tartarughe
Peacock Soft Shell Turtle | Source: Le Tartarughe

10. Three-keeled Turtle (Geoemyda tricarinata)

One more IUCN “Vulnerable” Candidate is the brightly coloured G. tricarinata. Considered endangered in Bangaldesh and Nepal, the population is presumably declining due to human consumption and illegal trade.

The G. tricarinata | Source: IUCN
The G. tricarinata | Source: IUCN

That’s the list fellas, if you discover that your turtle is one of these species, please contact your nearest Conservation centre and allow your turtle to live in it’s natural habitat. One such organisation is the Wildlife Protection society of India.

Now, as promised here’s the adorable little guy who inspired me to find out the current law for Turtles in India. He is an Ouachita Map Turtle Indian roof head turtle, and does not like to be touched.

"Tutu" the turtle
“Tutu” the turtle

Share your thoughts

33 thoughts on “You can’t keep these turtles in India as pets

    1. I’d be happy to write more about it, I just want to understand the area that you are looking at in particular. Is it the Turtles available or are from India? or More about the turtles on the list I prepared? or something else. Please let me know here or email me [email protected] and I will do my best.

      Thank you very much for your appreciation. I’m very grateful.

  1. I just want to say I am very new to weblog and definitely liked this web page. More than likely I’m want to bookmark your site . You amazingly come with exceptional article content. Many thanks for sharing your blog site.

  2. Hi! I really needed this article, thank you so much, but I was wondering if you could also make an article based on the turtles which are legal. Maybe like a list? I am aware that there could be MANY but preferably one mentioning the most common or beautiful types. Thank you very much 🙂

  3. Great work researching through it mate. I trust your information and the list of species to be correct. But having a not so pleasant experience with the law system in India in the past (in spite of being a person who goes the extra mile to be on the right side of the law), I just want to confirm something. Can you confirm that
    1) Strictly only the 10 species mentioned by you are illegal, and that any species, even Indian, which are not in this list are not illegal?
    2) Despite of the actual illegal species I have heard of poice raids on aquariums that deal only in Red Eared Sliders. Do you have any idea if authorities are permitted to raid / arrest people on a suspicion or potentially misuse their power to harass someone even if the breed they have is not one of the illegal ones?

    1. Hi,

      Here’s where the things get tricky. As I mentioned in the post that Wildlife Protection Act’s current appendix lists only these 10 species. Which means that these should be the only ones illegal. However, I cannot claim that what I say is STRICTLY correct, and the simple reason is that I am no lawyer. There could be a fine print that I might have missed, although I can honestly say that I have read through the act more than twice. So I would advise to use this more as a reference guide than a rulebook.

      Talking about the raids now. The authorities do have rights to raid an establishment but of-course with an appropriate warrant. Given the case, it might be possible that there is a lack of awareness in the authorities and establishment owners alike which leads to false or unnecessary arrests. Usually these raids are in collaborations with animal welfare societies, so it does help in distinguishing what’s right and what’s wrong. Given the circumstances, the raids can also help uncover if the person has the license to sell a particular kind of animal. Hence in these cases, it’s possible that while the establishment owner is not guilty of selling illegal turtles, but is guilty of selling turtles without permission altogether.

      Misusing the power is something I cannot comment on. It happens in certain pockets, in certain conditions and we read about them in the news everyday. Since I haven’t come across a case where a pet dealer was harassed, I am unqualified to say anything to this.

      I hope I was able to answer your questions to some satisfaction.

      thanks,
      Naimish Sanghvi

      https://www.youtube.com/finallyJobless

  4. Great research dude. I too went through the wildlife protection act schedule and shortlisted the same names and moreover I too have a ouchita map turtle.

  5. Great . Are u sure that ur tutu is map turtle. Coz I think it an Indian tent turtle . And I want know whether it is legal or not , coz a small father 3 turtles my red ear slider turtle(1.5 years old my sweet hearbie) . One more red ear slider turtle ( one month old turbo) and a tent or map turtle (new one or more month old brownie )…. so I was in search of my ownership on my children so far ….. Plz get a comment for this dude. And ur tutu is so cute o lov his . He really looks like my new so brownie the turtle

    1. Hey Ashish thanks for writing. I have to admit I am not sure if the turtle I am holding is a map turtle or not. Also that’s unfortunately not my Tutu but my friend’s and they love him like it’s their own baby. About legality, I have studied the act couple of times and there is no mention of a ban on turtle trade except for the ones in this article. So you should be fine with a new map or Indian tent turtle. It’s also a low risk turtle, generally threatened species are banned for trade. Hope I answer your question and I am sorry for the delay

  6. Not wanted to be rude but You should research properly before publishing any blogs. That’s clearly is not a map turtle it’s Indian roofed /tent turtle and is illegal to sell/keep as a pet. And you shouldn’t hold them like that. And there are 28 turtle /tortoise species in India and all are illegal to sell /keep as a pet. PM me I’ll send you a PDF of list.

  7. Is red sliders legal ??? I saw a man selling them at his shop, But in a banned way.. still people take those tiny creatures…

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