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Ornate Box Turtle

Terrapene ornata

Did you know?

  • Ornate box turtle is part of the Testudinidae family, which they share with other tortoises.
  • They are named for the web-like pattern of yellow lines on the top of its shell.
  • They live in dry habitats on the southern coast of Madagascar.
  • They are some of the smallest tortoises in the world.
  • A female will lay one egg per clutch.

Nature's Ornate Box

Also known as the Western box turtle, this species has a domed, round or oval carapace (upper shell) that is dark brown to reddish-brown, often with a yellow stripe running down the center. Box turtles get their name from a special hinge on the bottom part of their shell (the plastron) that allows them to withdraw their head and feet or "box" up as a form of protection against predators.

Nuts About Bugs

In the wild, ornate box turtles feed mainly on insects, including beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers, but they will also eat berries and carrion.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild

Near Threatened

The Ornate Box Turtle is likely to qualify for threatened category in the near future, perhaps very quickly depending on local development projects such as rainforest logging.


Mexico and most of the United States between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, ranging Southwest into the Sonaora Desert and north up to South Dakota and Wisconsin


Prairies, forest and glades

we care about ornate box turtles

The Saint Louis Zoo supports ornate box turtles in the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Zoo. Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in Historic Hill


Historic Hill

Historic Hill is a lovely stroll through one of the oldest parts of the Saint Louis Zoo. From the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage to the Spanish architectural flavor of the 1920s in the Bird House, Primate House and Herpetarium to the finishing touches of our thoroughly modern exhibits, this area of the Zoo has a unique ambiance and a nostalgic history that make it a great destination.

Explore Historic Hill