Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 October 2019 | 11(13): 14770–14772



Elusive, rare and soft: a new site record of Leith’s Softshell Turtle Nilssonia leithii (Reptilia: Testudines: Trionychidae) from Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India


H.S. Sathya Chandra Sagar 1, M. Mrunmayee 2, I.N. Chethan 3, Manish Kumar 4  & D.V. Girish 5


1,3,4 Wildlife Conservation Action Team – Chikamagaluru (WildCAT-C), Bharath Scouts and Guides Building, District Field, Chikamagaluru, Karnataka 577101, India.

2 Wildlife Conservation and Nature Education (WildCANE), Jakkanahalli Post, Mallandur, Chikmagalur, Karnataka 577130, India.

5 Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, Kalleshwara Estate, Kaimara post, Chikamagaluru, Karnataka 577156, India.

1 (corresponding author),

2, 3, 4, 5




doi:  |  ZooBank:


Editor: Raju Vyas, Vadodara, Gujarat, India.       Date of publication: 26 October 2019 (online & print)


Manuscript details: #5249 | Received 15 July 2019 | Final received 04 October 2019 | Finally accepted 09 October 2019


Citation: Sagar, H.S.S.C., Mrunmayee, I.N. Chethan, M. Kumar & D.V. Girish (2019). Elusive, rare and soft: a new site record of Leith’s Softshell Turtle Nilssonia leithii (Reptilia: Testudines: Trionychidae) from Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 11(13): 14770–14772;


Copyright: © Sagar et al 2019.  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  JoTT allows unrestricted use, reproduction, and distribution of this article in any medium by adequate credit to the author(s) and the source of publication.


Funding: Our travel was funded by The Wildheart Trust, Isle of Wight Zoo, UK.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: We thank Mr. Manu and Mr. Anil, forest watchers - Karnataka Forest Department for finding the species.




Leith’s Softshell Turtle Nilssonia leithii (Gray, 1872) is a large freshwater turtle with a carapace length growing up to 720–1,000 mm.  Being rare within its range, it occurs in most rivers and reservoirs of peninsular India, replacing the Indian Softshell Turtle Nilssonia gangetica of northern India (Sirsi 2010; Das et al. 2014).  Except for the projected native distribution by Das et al. (2014) using GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments, there have been no explicit records of N. leithii’s presence from Bhadra River flowing through Bhadra Tiger Reserve.  This makes our sighting of N. leithii’s hatchling, the first-ever record of its presence, and indirect evidence of its nesting along the banks of Bhadra River within Bhadra Tiger Reserve (Figure 1).  Based on the review conducted by Das et al. (2014) and us, our record is the third ever documented record of Leith’s Softshell Turtle’s hatching from the wild, with previous records from Moyar River in Tamil Nadu (Das et al. 2014) and Chalakudy River in Kerala (Nameer et al. 2007), over 25 and 12 years ago, respectively.

The individual that we observed, was a hatchling, with an approximate carapace length of 6cm (Image 1a).  It was found on 7 July 2019 at 14:46h inside a puddle on a forest road that runs beside the Bhadra River, within the tiger reserve (13.4350N, 75.5100E).  The carapace was greyish-green in colour with prominent vermiculation, running from top to bottom.  The carapace also contained four eye-like concentric circular spots, with a blackish core surrounded by a reddish circle (Image 1b).  The spots on the carapace were arranged as three in one row near the middle of the carapace and one near the bottom.  The head of the hatchling was greenish with black streaks running from eye to the neck.  The corner of the mouth was found to have yellow patches on either side (Image 1a).  We observed the hatchling for over 10 minutes and, released it into the Bhadra River.


For figure & images – click here




Das, I., S. Sirsi, K. Vasudevan & B.H.C.K. Murthy (2014). Nilssonia leithii (Gray 1872) – Leith’s Softshell Turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., P.C.H. Pritchard, P.P. van Dijk, R.A.Saumure, K.A. Buhlmann, J.B. Iverson & R.A. Mittermeier (eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 075.1–5.    

Nameer, P.O., K.R. Unnikrishnan & J. Thomas (2007). Record of Leith’s Softshell Turtle Aspideretes leithii (Gray, 1872) (Family Trionychidae) from Kerala. Reptile Rap—Newsletter of South Asian Reptile Network No. 8(December): 5.   

Sirsi, S. (2010). A Progress Report on Reconnaissance of Softshell Turtles in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Report submitted to Turtle Survival Alliance & Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, 8pp.