Arrau turtle

Podocnemis expansa

Arrau turtles, also called South American river turtles, live in large rivers and tributaries, lagoons, and forest ponds in Guyana and Venezuela, in Trinidad and Tobago, and in the Amazon River and its tributaries in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. They are herbivores.

Arrau turtle behavior and facts

  • Turtles eat fruits, flowers, roots and aquatic plants. They fast during the dry season. They will eat meat in captivity.
  • They are called tataruga in Brazil, charapa in Peru and arrau in Venezuela.
  • Predators include jaguars and crocodiles.

Turtle lingo

  • Carapace: a hard, bony outer cover; in a turtle it is the fused plates, commonly called its shell

From birth to death

  • Turtles mate in water.
  • Females bask in the sun 6 or more hours each day to hasten egg development.
  • Up to 500 females may congregate on a low sandy beach or sandbar to lay eggs.
  • Each digs a pit 32 to 40 inches deep and lays 63 to 136 eggs.
  • Females may lay more than one clutch per season.
  • Incubation: 50 days
  • Hatchlings: 1.5 inches long

Vital statistics

  • Carapace diameter: up to 3 feet
  • Weight: up to 100 pounds; males are smaller


CITES Appendix II

Arrau turtles, the Oregon Zoo and you

Arrau turtles live in the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit.

Arrau turtles are hunted for their meat, oil and eggs and are threatened by habitat alteration and destruction.