Top 15+ Rarest Turtles in the World (Most Endangered Turtles) | 2023 Updated

Turtles are the reptiles of the order, Testudines. There are presently 360 living and recently extinct species of turtles globally. In this post, we have ranked the Top 15+ Rarest Turtles in the world. These turtles are categorized under the “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Therefore, we have listed the rarest turtles according to their conservation status. Before proceeding, let’s discuss the fundamental difference between turtles and tortoises.

Turtles spend most of their time in the water, whereas tortoises live most of their life on land. Here, we have considered only turtles, not tortoises, in this list. So, without any further ado, let’s begin.

Top 15+ Rarest Turtles in the World

16) Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle

Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle
Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle | Credit: CLPramod (commons.wikimedia) (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Scientific Name Batagur kachuga
Size up to 56 cm
Location  Nepal, northeastern India, Bangladesh, and Burma
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Let’s begin the list of rarest turtles in the world with the Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle. It is one of the most beautiful turtles with 6 distinctive bright red stripes on top of the head. Currently, according to CITES Appendix, it is categorized under critically endangered turtle.

Due to being harvested for its shell and meat and the increase in sea pollution, its pollution gets exponentially declined. Right now, only 400 adult Red-Crowned Roofed Turtles are left in the world.

15) Painted Terrapin

Painted-Terrapin | Credit: Ltshears (commons.wikimedia) (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Batagur borneoensis
Size 50-70 cm
Location  World Wide Fund for Nature, Malaysia
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Painted terrapin, also known as Saw-jawed Turtle, is critically endangered and one of the rarest species of turtles. It is only protected by the World Wide Fund for Nature in Malaysia.

During the winter and summer breeding seasons, males Painted terrapin turn their heads white with a red stripe on the top.

14) Yellow-Headed Box Turtle

Yellow-headed-box-turtle | Credit: Cuora at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Cuora aurocapitata
Size 15-17 cm
Location  Central Chinese Anhui Province
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Yellow-Headed Box Turtle, also known as Golden-headed box turtle, is also categorized under the critically endangered turtle species.

It is from the family Geoemydidae that can only be observed in Nanling County, Yi County, Guangde County, and Jing County. The species are diurnal, omnivorous, and have freshwater habitats.

13) Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle | Credit: William L. Farr (commons.wikimedia) (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Scientific Name Lepidochelys kempii
Size 58-70 cm
Location  Gulf of Mexico
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, also known as Atlantic ridley sea turtle, is one of the rarest sea turtles in the world. It is from the species Lepidochelys kempii, mainly found in the Gulf of Mexico (adults most).

This turtle is the smallest sea turtle, ranging from 58 to 70 cm. These turtles change colors as they grow from dark purple during hatchlings into yellow-green adults.

12) Dahl’s toad-headed Turtle

Scientific Name Mesoclemmys dahli
Size up to 22.9 cm
Location  Northern Colombia
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Dahl’s toad-headed turtle is a critically endangered species of side-necked turtle. It is a freshwater turtle that can only be witnessed in Northern Colombia. It has an olive-to-brown carapace with a size of approximately 22.9 cm.

11) Yangtze softshell Turtle

Yangtze-giant-softshell-turtle | Credit: Phuongcacanh at Vietnamese Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Rafetus swinhoei
Size more than 100 cm
Location  Eastern and Southern China
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Yangtze softshell turtle is also known as Red River giant softshell turtle and it is from the family Trionychidae. These critically endangered turtles are one of the rarest species of turtles in the world.

Yangtze Softshell can only be discovered only in eastern & southern China and northern Vietnam. It is also one of the largest living freshwater turtles globally, with an overall size of more than 100 cm and up to 220 lb. It commonly has a deep head with a pig-like snout.

10) Philippine Forest Turtle

Philippine Forest Turtle | Credit: Pierre Fidenci (commons.wikimedia) (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Scientific Name Siebenrockiella leytensis
Size up to 30 cm
Location  Taytay and San Vicente, Philippines
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Philippine Forest Turtle, also known as Siebenrockiella leytensis, is categorized as a critically endangered freshwater turtle. These turtles have brown to black carapaces of length up to 30 cm and have plastrons of the same colors.

Philippine Forest Turtles can only be found in the areas of Taytay and San Vicente, Palawan.

9) Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle | Credit: Thierry Caro commons.wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Eretmochelys imbricata
Size average of 100 cm
Location  Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans (worldwide distribution)


Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Another critically endangered sea turtle is Hawksbill Sea Turtle. It is from the family Cheloniidae that can be seen worldwide in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans.

It is scarce to glimpse these sea turtles. They typically grow on an average of 1 m and 80 kg.

8) Golden coin Turtle

Golden coin Turtle | Credit: Cuora at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Cuora trifasciata
Size up to 25 cm
Location  Hainan
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Golden coin turtle, also known as Chinese three-striped box turtle, is also one of the rarest turtles globally that are only discovered in Hainan, southern China.

It is from the family Geoemydidae which primarily feeds on small fish, frogs, and insects. They have a dark brown carapace with a yellow border plastron.

7) Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle

Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle
Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle
Scientific Name Chelodina mccordi
Size 18-24 cm
Location  Rote Island in Indonesia
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle, also known as McCord’s snake-neck turtle, is also classified as a critically endangered turtle species. These turtles are from the family Chelodina mccordi.

They can easily identify with its long neck and pale grey-brown carapace. It is endemic to Rote Island in Indonesia.

6) Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle

Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle
Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle
Scientific Name Pelochelys cantorii
Size up to 180 cm
Location  Southeast Asia
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Asian giant softshell turtle, another name Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle, is one of the rarest species of freshwater turtles.

It is from the family Trionychidae that are commonly found in Southeast Asia in these countries (India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia).

Softshell turtles have a very soft shells that can grow up to 1.8 meters. It is also one of the largest freshwater turtles.

5) Flattened Musk Turtle

Flattened Musk Turtle
Scientific Name Sternotherus depressus
Size 7.5–11.4 cm
Location  Bankhead National Forest, Alabama
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Flattened Musk Turtle is only discovered in the southeastern region of the United States.

It is also one of the critically endangered turtle species that are presently protected by Bankhead National Forest, Alabama. Flattened Musk Turtles can easily be identified by their lower and flatter carapace.

4) Bog turtle

Bog turtle
Bog turtle
Scientific Name Glyptemys muhlenbergii
Size up to 9.4 cm
Location  Eastern United States
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Bog Turtles are the rarest species of semiaquatic turtles in the family Emydidae. They are classified as critically endangered species and can only be found in the eastern region of the United States.

Bog Turtle is one of the smallest turtles found in the US that weighs an average of 110 grams and can grow up to 10 centimeters.

3) Indochinese Box Turtle

Indochinese Box Turtle | Credit: Torsten Blanck, Cuora at en.wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Cuora galbinifrons
Size 10-20 cm
Location  China (Hainan and Guangxi), northern and central Vietnam, Laos, and possibly northeastern Cambodia
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

Indochinese box turtles also known as Vietnamese box turtles or flowerback box turtles are one of the rarest turtles of the family Geoemydidae.

They are only found in the high-altitude of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These turtles are currently declining. Also, they have different colored carapaces depending on the region. 

2) McCord’s Box Turtle

McCord’s Box Turtle | Credit: Cuora at English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Scientific Name Cuora mccordi
Size 14-18 cm
Location  Guangxi province, China
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

McCord’s Box Turtles are categorized under the critically endangered turtles that are endemic to Guangxi province, China.

They can grow on an average of 14 to 18 cm. These species of box turtles are beneficial in making traditional Chinese medicines.

1) Hickatee

Scientific Name Dermatemys mawii
Size up to 60 cm
Location  Central America
Conservation Status Critically Endangered

The rarest turtle in the world is Hickatee that are only living species in the family Dermatemydidae. It has a large body of length 60 cm and weighs 22 kg on average.

It can only be seen in the rivers in Central America from southern Mexico to the Guatemalan-Honduran border. Hickatee turtles have smooth carapaces with uniform brown color. They primarily feed on small fishes and insects.

Here we conclude our article on “Top 15+ Rarest or Most Endangered Turtles in the World.” We hope you like it. We will be back with another article. Till then, stay tuned with us and read the other posts below.  


Image Source- Wikipedia, Edge of Existence, The San Pedro Sun

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