Keeping and Breeding the
(SCHWEIGGER, 1812) over years
- by Harald Artner -
Keeping and breeding of the Yellow-headed Sideneck or Terecay Podocnemis cayennensis in captivity are described in detail. Own observations and data are compared with other published data. Comments on its distribution, natural history and nomenclatural problems are also given. Until 2000 two adult pairs of the species were kept. Since then only one pair remained. The remaining female has successfully reproduced in 1997, 2001, 2002, and in 2005. All together, 53 hatchlings were produced. They had carapace lengths of appr. 40 mm and weighed 10 g.
The Yellow-headed Sideneck Podocnemis cayennensis (SCHWEIGGER, 1812) is quite rarely kept in captivity, the reasons being its large size, need a lot of swimming space and therefore need huge enclosures. Only a few keepers are able and willing to fulfil the needs of this freshwater turtle species. Nonetheless, juvenile specimens of this species were repeatedly imported into Europe until about 1980. Most of the reports dealing with keeping this species (ANON. 1967; ANON. 1971; ALEVENS 1976; COLE & LINK 1972; MÜLLER 1993; NÖLLERT 1992; OBST, RICHTER & JACOB 1984) as well as more general reports (PRITCHARD 1967, 1979) date from that period. The vast majority of these animals survived only a few years, because their keeping requirements were largely unknown then. The few surviving specimens reached a considerable size after only a few years, and were often transferred to exhibition areas in large zoos. Today, only a few adult specimens are still to be found in the homes of private keepers.
Since 1976, the terekay has been listed in Appendix II of the CITES Convention. Since then, legal importing has practically been brought to a halt because of the listing and for reasons mentioned in WEAVER (1973). Since imports have stopped, regular captive breeding in the terrarium is quite important.
A remarkably modern method for conservation was presented by MITTERMEIER (1980 a, b), in suggesting “conservation by use”. Unfortunately it lasted more than a decade until his propositions were generally accepted.
Reports on captive breeding are quite scarce and mainly concentrate on zoos like in Frankfurt/M. (ANON. 1987) and different zoos in the US (SLAVENS 1997) or they are kept quite general (GURLEY 2003).
Successful breeding was sometimes achieved in Central Europe but until today no reports were published except the one by ARTNER (1997). As this report isn’t available anymore and as many new data since then were collected by the author, a new report is thus now published.
Within the suborder Pleurodira (sideneck turtles) the family Podocnemidae currently comprises eight species: Erymnochelys madagascariensis, Peltocephalus dumerilianus and the genus Podocnemis including P. erythrocephala, P. expansa, P. lewyana, P. sextuberculata, P. vogli, and P. cayennensis.
While the genera Peltocephalus and Podocnemis are restricted to tropical South America, Erymnochelys madagascariensis only lives on the island of Madagascar.
This taxonomy is supported by traditional taxonomical methods as well as modern biochemical analyses (SIEBENROCK 1902; WILLIAMS 1954; FRAIR, MITTERMEIER & RHODIN 1978; RHODIN, MITTERMEIER, GARDNER & MEDEM 1978; FRAIR 1980).
The name Podocnemis unifilis SCHWEIGGER, 1812 must be replaced by the name Podocnemis cayennensis for priority reasons (DAVID 1994; PRITCHARD & TREBBAU 1984). SCHWEIGGER (1812) described the species Emys cayennensis using a juvenile specimen. The type specimen (MNHN 8359) is in Paris (BOUR in DAVID 1994) and is a P. unifilis (thus now: P. cayennensis) without any doubt.
Podocnemis cayennensis belongs to the larger species of the genus. Adult females may reach carapace lengths of up to 46.5 cm, males of up to 33.5 cm (PRITCHARD & TREBBAU l.c.). Reports on much bigger specimens (SIEBENROCK 1902; SILVA COUTINHO 1868) are based on specimens of the South American River Turtle P. expansa (PRITCHARD & TREBBAU l.c.).
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