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Cycloderma frenatum, 055

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Cycloderma frenatum Peters 1854 –
Zambezi Flapshell Turtle, Nkhasi

Donald G. Broadley1 and Walter Sachsse2

1Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe,
P.O. Box 240, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe [[email protected]];
2Institut für Molekulargenetik SBII, Saarstrasse 21,
55099 Mainz, Germany [[email protected]]


Summary. – The Zambezi Flapshell Turtle, Cycloderma frenatum (Family Trionychidae), is a fairly large softshell (carapace length up to about 56 cm) from southeastern Africa. It is found in rivers and lakes from southern Tanzania south to the Save River in Mozambique, extending west to Lake Malawi (Nyasa), where it is common in the shallower areas at the southern end of the lake. These are fast swimming, completely aquatic turtles of about 37–50 cm shell length, which are mostly caught as bycatch in large nets by local fishermen. In areas with human settlements, the nests are excavated during the breeding season (December–March) and the 15–25 eggs per clutch are consumed.

Distribution. – Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe. East Africa from the Rufiji River basin in Tanzania south to the Save River basin in Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe, inland to Lakes Malawi, Chiuta, and Chilwa.

Synonymy. – Cycloderma frenatum Peters 1854, Cyclanosteus frenatus, Heptathyra frenata, Aspidochelys livingstonii Gray 1860, Heptathyra livingstonii.

Subspecies. – None.

Status. – IUCN 2011 Red List: Near Threatened (NT, assessed 1996, needs updating); CITES: Not Listed; South African Red Data Book: Not Listed.


Broadley, D.G. and Sachsse, W. 2011. Cycloderma frenatum Peters 1854 – Zambezi Flapshell Turtle, Nkhasi. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 055.1–055.5, doi:10.3854/crm.5.055.frenatum.v1.2011, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Juvenile Cycloderma frenatum from Lake Malawi.
Photo by Wulf Haacke.



Distribution of Cycloderma frenatum in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe in southeastern Africa. Red dots = museum and literature occurrence records of native populations based on Iverson (1992) and Gramentz (2008) plus more recent and authors’ data; green shading = projected distribution based on GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al. 2009), and adjusted based on authors’ data.