Species Data

Class: Reptilia

Order: Testudines

Family: Podocnemidiae

Scientific Name: Podocnemis lewyana

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered


IUCN Species Distribution Map




Magdalena River Turtle are endemic to the north west of Columbia in the forested Magdalena River Basin. They are a relatively large species with females being larger than males, both being a plain brown colour. The species has thick plates around its head which has broad nostrils. A population decline of over 80% over 25 years has been observed in this species.



They have relatively small home ranges and have been observed in mixed age and sex congregations.Breeding occurs on sand or gravel river banks and pastures during the dry season. Clutches tend to be between 10 and 30 eggs. Males mature in around 4 years and females in around 6 years.

Barbacoas, middle Magdalena Valley, colombia ©WLT/Richard Cuthbert


They live only in fresh water, mostly seen on banks or in smaller tributaries, although they are often observed basking, sometimes in congregations. Smaller individuals are found in shallower water. They occur primarily in forested wetland areas and are known to interact with logs, sometimes basking on them.


Threats and Conservation

The population of Magdalena River Turtle is thought to be declining at around 8.8% annually. They are threatened by a loss of habitat due to new dam projects, sedimentation and the draining of wetlands. Nests are particularly vulnerable with many suffering from drowning during flood events, as well as collection by locals for meat and the pet trade. Adults are also commonly hunted, both for meat and ‘medicinal’ purposes. The upper Magdalena basin is heavily populated leading to displacement the Magdalena River Turtles as well as considerable pollution.There is legislation to protect the eggs of this species, but this is not well enforced. Conservation efforts are focused on ensuring egg survival.


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