Black Marsh Turtle


Conservation status:  VULNERABLE
Common name: Black marsh turtle, smiling terrapin, Siamese temple turtle
Scientific name: Siebenrockiella crassicollis
Type: reptile
Diet: insects, worms, molluscs, amphibians, crustaceans, and small fish
Length: 17 – 20 cm
Weight: n/a

Siebenrockiella crassicollis (commonly known as black marsh turtle, smiling terrapin, and Siamese temple turtle, among others) is a freshwater turtle endemic to Southeast Asia. One of the two species classified under the genus Siebenrockiella in the Geoemydidae family.

Black marsh turtles are small to medium-sized turtles that are almost completely black except for white to yellow markings on the head. They are largely aquatic and prefer slow-moving or still bodies of water with heavy vegetation. Black marsh turtles are also commonly kept as pets and as sacred animals in Southeast Asian Buddhist temples.

They are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, being one of the several Southeast Asian turtle species heavily exploited for the international wildlife trade, particularly for food and traditional medicine in the Chinese markets.

Black marsh turtles are culturally important to Buddhism. In Thailand and Japan, large numbers of black marsh turtles, along with the yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii) are released into temple and castle ponds and cared for by Buddhist monks. They are treated as sacred by the public, being believed to contain the souls of people who died while trying to rescue other people from drowning. One of their commons names, Siamese temple turtle, originated from this practice.


  1. Buhlmann, K.; Rhodin, A.; van Dijk, P.P. & Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Red List Authority (2000). “Siebenrockiella crassicollis”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  2. “Black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis)”. ARKive: Images of Life on Earth
  3.  “Black marsh turtle”. Bristol Zoo Gardens
  4. Roth, Harald H. & Merz, Günter (1997). Wildlife resources: a global account of economic use


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