Coahuilan Box Turtle

Species Highlight

The Coahuilan box turtle is a small aquatic species of Box turtle which lives in Mexico, specifically in the Cuatro Ciénegas basin of central Coahuila. This species is the most aquatic turtle of the genus Terrapene.

This turtle inhabits permanent and seasonal ponds and wetlands and depends a lot on this sensitive habitat, and appreciates being buried in the mud of the ponds where they live. Nevertheless, it is less aquatic than the sympatric species which live in Cuatro Ciénegas, such as the sliders (Trachemys taylori) and the softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera atra). The high salinity of the water gives a white appearance to the shell when the salt dries. The Coahuilan box turtle is mostly omnivorous and mainly feeds on plants and insects.

Unfortunately this species of turtle is threatened for few reasons. First, habitat loss seems to be the main issue. Indeed human activities linked to the exploitation of water such as canals and groundwater pumping are leading the shallow pond to drying up. Agriculture is being developed in the area and request a lot of water. Terrapene coahuila is currently considered as endangered by the IUCN. Illegal collection for the pet trade may has occurred in the past since wild caught animals are present in private collections.

Studbook exist in Europe and in the United States for this species which is bred quite well in captivity.

We participated to few surveys the last few years and we noticed by ourselves by what the turtles are threatened. The situation of this Box Turtle in the wild must be followed up from close. The Mexican government declared 84,347 hectares of the Cuatro Ciénegas as a protected area but further conservation initiatives must be taken in the next years to protect the habitat of the turtle.