Turtles at Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Pelusios sp?
Finch Hatton's tented camp
Tsavo West National Park
July 9, 2000
Finch Hatton's tented camp is located around a series of ponds at the west edge of Tsavo West National Park. Within the ponds dwell hippos and crocodiles, as well as a good number of these largish aquatic turtles. I didn't see any of the turtles from really close, but I'm pretty confident that they were longer than 12 inches, maybe 15 inches or so. As you can see in the second picture, they didn't distinguish between perching on rocks, logs, or hippo heads.

I searched the EMBL Reptile Database for Kenyan turtles. From that relatively short list, it was easy to eliminate all genera other than Pelusios, the African Hinged Terrapins, also called Mud Turtles (not to be confused with the American mud turtles Kinosternon). The database lists three species in Kenya: P. broadleyi, P. sinuatus, and P. williamsi. Of these three, I can rule out P. broadleyi because it lives only in Lake Turkana. P. sinuatus (Serrated Hinged Terrapin) has a distinct serrated edge on the back of the carapace. That serration is not apparent in these pictures, but maybe it's variable and the top turtle here is on the less-serrated end of the scale. P. sinuatus is the largest species in the genus, definitely large enough to be my turtles. Also, I've found photos on the web that show it to be the approximate shape and color of my turtles (e.g. the image link from this German-language turtle size chart). I can't find any English-language information about P. williamsi on the web, and I don't have the right reference books, so I really know nothing about that species, and it must remain a possibility also.

Please send me mail if you have any further information, reference suggestions, or wild guesses that might help me identify these turtles.

Adonis Tate sent the following quote from P. Pritchard's Encylopedia of Turtles about P. williamsi:

		"Two subspecies have been described:  P.W. williamsi from the 
		Lake Victoria region, and P.w. lutescens from Lake Albert, the Semliki River, 
		Lake Edward, and their affluents."
This description of the range makes it seem unlikely that the turtles from Tsavo West, considerably east of Lake Victoria, are in the range of P. williamsi.

8/18/00 -- I've made up my mind with help from Ernst and Barbour's Turtles of the World that this is indeed P. sinuatus, based on both the appearance and distribution.

back to Unidentified East African Herps

my home www.wildherps.com send me mail