The Yellow-headed Temple Turtle, scientific name Hieremys
annandalii, is a large turtle that can grow to twenty-four
inches long! It is aquatic, and comes from the warm tropical
swamps, rice paddies and slow, shallow rivers of Vietnam,
Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Southern Thailand.
Both the young and adult turtles are dark brownish colored
with a raised shell that is much longer than it is wide.
They have a varying number of yellow-cream stripes or yellow
and black speckles on their grey heads, slightly serrated
rear shells and a notch in the shell at the tail. Their
yellow jaws are serrated and look like fangs, which is why
their Vietnamese name is fanged turtle.
In the wild these turtles often bury themselves into the mud
in the hottest part of the summer to escape the heat and
dryness. Their wild diet is water lilies, other floating
aquatic plants, and vegetation that hangs over their watery
Like many turtle species, the easiest way to determine the
gender of an adult Yellow-headed Temple Turtle is to check the
plastron and tail. A male's plastron will have a central
dent that helps him stay on the female during mating, and
his tail will be fatter than the female's.
In captivity these turtles need the largest possible tank of
course, given their eventual size, and preferably an outdoor
pond in a warm climate. If you must keep them indoors, the
tank should have well filtered and aerated water kept at a
temperature of 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Provide a land area at least large enough for the turtle or
turtles to get completely out of the water, and position a
basking lamp that will heat the basking surface to no more
than 90 degrees F. Be sure the turtle has a smooth sloping
ramp to allow it to climb out of the water.
You will also need to provide a full-spectrum UV lamp left
on eleven to twelve hours per day. A variety of aquatic
plants will also provide snacks and help to clean the water
and lower the turtles' stress levels.
Feed your Yellow-headed Temple Turtles a varied vegetable
and fruit diet. One example would be a good commercial
turtle and tortoise food, romaine lettuce and other greens
such as Collards (not Iceberg lettuce, it has little
nutritional value), and some fruits such as banana, mango,
papaya, and cantaloupe.
Yellow-headed Temple Turtles are listed as endangered in
Vietnam, and are threatened, as are many other species of
turtle, by habitat loss and the food trade. Even so, large
numbers of them may be seen in the pools near some Buddhist
temples because they are taken from the wild and released
into such pools as part of Buddhist religious ritual. That
is where this turtle gets its English name of Temple Turtle.