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Yellow Spotted Amazon Turtle

  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Podocnemididae
  • Genus: Podocnemis
  • Species: podocnemis unifilis
Fun Fact

Yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles are the largest river turtle in South America.

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About Yellow-spotted Amazon Turtles

These turtles have a dark, domed shell with yellow to orange markings on their head and a single barbel on the chin that is used as a sensory organ. Males have large yellow patches on their heads. Adult female turtles tend to be larger than the males. Females average 17 inches long. The average weight for a female is 17.5 pounds, but most range from 11.5-25.5 pounds. Male shells can range from 8 to 15 inches long.

This species is relatively long lived, with individuals averaging 60-70 years old. They are able to tolerate wide temperature fluctuations and are diurnal. It has no need to hibernate in the winter because it is able to withstand the winter temperatures.

The turtles are generally solitary and sedentary but may be seen sunning in small groups on logs or rocks over the water and occasionally along riverbanks.

Yellow-spotted Amazon Turtles in the Wilds


They prefer slow moving fresh water, oxbow ponds, or lakes. During the flood season the turtles may move into flooded forests and flood plain lakes where the water current is slower.


The turtles can be found in northern South America throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela in the rainforest.


They feed on fruits, weeds, fish and small invertebrates.

Population Status

These turtles are listed as “vulnerable” according to the IUCN Red List. This is due in part to the large import and sale of these turtles in the 1960’s. Tens of thousands of these turtles were sold at dime stores for $1.50 apiece. The turtles and their eggs are also used for food in some South American countries. When the females come on shore to lay their eggs, the turtles and the eggs are collected and eaten.

Field Conservation

In the aftermath of the Asian Turtle Crisis, the Turtle Survival Alliance was formed in 2001 as an effort to preserve ongoing turtle and tortoise conservation projects. Ideally, the organization hopes to eliminate the possibility of any turtle extinctions. With many species of turtles and tortoises at the Akron Zoo, we’ve partnered with the Turtle Survival Alliance to aid in the protection of our shelled friends by supporting field conservation that focuses on protecting turtle and tortoise habitats.

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