Ageing and the Rate of Gastrointestinal (GIT) Motility of Malayan Box Turtles (Coura amboinensis)
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2004
H. Kalthum, M.M. Norsuhanna, I. Siti Norhayati
Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia


The Malayan Box Turtles (MBTs) has its origin in Borneo, Malaysia and Singapore and can be found in Northern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. This species is listed as "Lower Risk: Near Threatened' under the IUCN List of Threatened Animals, they are semi-aquatic (live in ponds, streams and paddy fields) and fed on vegetables, aquatics plants, mollusks, fingi, worms and crustaceans. The shell comprises of 2 sets of bones, carapace and plastron (or plastron/plastral). The carapace is a high-domed shape and smooth structure with a single vertebral keel in adults and two lateral in juvenile turtles. It is smooth or slightly serrated, olive or brown in colour. The plastron is round anteriorly and posteriorly, yellow or cream with a single black blotch on each scute (superficial layer of keratin shell).The carapace and plastron are attached together by a ligament called 'bridge'. The head is small, tapered and has bright yellow or orange stripes on each side. The limbs have transverse scales, each with 4 webbed-digits. The males are larger, more colourful, have longer and thicker tail than females. Adult males have a concave plastron while female ones are flat. All these characteristics appear when they reach the maturity age of 5 years.

Materials and Methods

Eight (8) Malayan Box Turtles were randomly chosen (male and female included). They were kept in an aquarium and fed on fish or turtle pellet and vegetables. Age estimation was carried out either by measuring the length and width of the carapace (method 1) or by counting the growth rings of the scute of the carapace (method 2). A ring represents a year of growth. According to Boulengers (1912), the standard size of a carapace for an adult MBT is 12.5 - 17.5 cm wide and 17.0 cm long. Estimation of the rate of motility of GIT was determined by radiograph using barium sulphate as a contrast medium. All turtles were fasted for 2 days. The radiographs were taken at 0, 0.5, 2, 9, 20, 32, 45, 67 and 91 hrs. The time was taken until the contrast media reached the proximal part of the ascending colon. Various routes of administration such as subcutaneous (SC), intravenous (IV), intramuscular (IM), intracoelomic (ICe) and Epicelomic (Ece) were carried out.


Age Estimation

Method 1 - seven (7) MBTs had carapace length ranged between 17.5 and 25.6 cm and, 18.6 and 25.9 wide, and only 1 MBT had a lesser reading of an adult.

Method 2 - seven MBTs had growth rings of 5 or more and 1 had less than 5 growth rings.

The rate of motility of GIT: the fastest rate was 22 hrs and the slowest was more than 91 hrs.

Routes of Administration: Small volume of fluid could be injected using SC and IM while IV, ICe and Ece were suitable for large volume of fluid.


Ageing of MBTs can be carried out using the length and width of the carapace or by counting the growth rongs of the scute. The rate of motility of GIT in MBTs is very slow which can take up to 91 hours. There are various of routes of administration can be used safely in MBTs.


1.  Boulengers, AG. (1912). Taylor and Francis. Pg: 6-22.

Speaker Information
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H. Kalthum
Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang
Selangor, Malaysia

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