Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Yellow-Spotted River Turtle

Podocnemis unifilis

The Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle comes from South America but mainly the Amazon and the Orinoco River. They eat vegetable matter grasses and fruits and can live up to 20 years. A fun fact is that this turtle is also known as the yellow-headed side-necked turtle.

Range & Habitat

In the Wild: Yellow-spotted Amazon turtles are found in northern South America, mainly in the Amazon and Orinoco River drainages, large rivers, backwaters, lagoons and flooded forests. During the flood season, they avoid fast moving waters by taking up residence in lakes and flooded forests.    

At the Zoo: USS Antiquities Cave; Tropical River Exhibit


Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Their population is declining mainly due to habitat loss.


In the Wild: vegetable matter, grasses, fruits, leaves, carrion, mollusks  

At the Zoo: carrots, trout chow, crickets, aquatic carnivore diet, fruit

Life Span

In the Wild: up to 20 years
In Human Care: 20+ years

Fun Facts about the Yellow-Spotted River Turtle

  • The shell of a turtle develops at quite a late stage within the egg.  The shell is made up of several bony plates that grow together along the line of the ribs to form a single bony shield – a bit like the bony plates that make up our own skulls.
  • The Yellow-spotted river turtle is a side-necked turtle. This means it does not pull its head and neck directly back into its shell.  Instead, it tucks its head and neck under the edge (margin) of the shell to one side, curving its neck in a horizontal plane.
  • This turtle is also known as the yellow-headed side-necked turtle.


Bristol, Clifton & West of England Society, (n.d.). Yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle. Retrieved Mar. 03, 2006, from Bristol Zoo Gardens Web site:

Honolulu Zoo, (n.d.). Amazon turtle. Retrieved Mar. 03, 2006, from Honolulu Zoo Web site:

Wildscreen, (2004). Yellow-headed side-neck turtle. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2006, from ARKive Images of Life on Earth Web site: 

Woodland Park Zoo, (2001). Yellow -spotted side-necked turtle. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2006, from Woodland Park Zoo Web site:

Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. 1996. Podocnemis unifilis (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T17825A97397562. Downloaded on 04 December 2020.

Updated June 13, 2023
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