About the Chelonian Research Institute

Founded in 1997 and located in Oviedo, situated on a 10-acre, well-forested urban oasis, the campus includes: offices, library, a museum – also open to the public - and accommodations for visiting scholars, students and dignitaries

The institute is home to 14,500 catalogued specimens - the world’s third-largest turtle and tortoise museum collection (third only to Carnegie Museum and the Smithsonian)

Turtles from every continent are represented at the Institute. 270 of the world’s 300 recognized species of turtles – including every known genus of chelonians – are represented at the Institute

Has hosted researchers and scientists from countries including: Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Venezuela, Vietnam, China Hungary, Myan Mar and the United States

Is regarded as one of the world’s leading institutions on the research and conservation of turtles

The Smithsonian Institute regularly refers scientists to the Chelonian Research Institute for access to large series of turtle specimens from almost any part of the world

Showcases an impressive assortment of turtle artwork, from classical engravings to contemporary original works.


Interesting turtle facts!

The words "turtle" and "tortoise are used differently in different continents.  In American usage, any reptile with a shell is a "turtle," while those turtles that live on land and have stubby, elephantine feet are called "tortoises."  In England, a "turtle" is usually a sea turtle, and the freshwater species are called "terrapins."  In Australia, to make it even more complicated, there are no "tortoises" in the true sense of the word, but the numerous species of freshwater turtles are called "tortoises" and only the sea turtles are called turtles.

Florida has more species of turtles and tortoises than the entire continent of Europe.

The gopher tortoise is the only true tortoise in Florida, and it is considered to be the "architect of its ecosystem."  Its burrow, which may reach 25 feet in length, is not only a retreat for the tortoise, but a safe haven for a great many uninvited guests ranging from small invertebrates to gopher frogs and many species of snakes, which otherwise might perish during wildfires, hot Florida summers or cold snaps in winter.

More sea turtles nest in Florida than in all the other states put together.  Organized summer "turtle walks" are often sold out months ahead, and the unique experience of watching the entire nesting process of a sea turtle is one that Florida's many tourists never forget.

Turtles grow slowly and may not reach maturity until they are 15 to 25 years old.  Thus, they only replace lost members of a colony or population very slowly, and sustainable take for either food or pets is probably impossible.

Turtles play a great many roles in the ecosystems they inhabit.  For example, gopher tortoises in Florida, giant tortoises in Galapagos, or yellow-foot tortoises in the Amazon basin all play a significant role is dispersing viable seeds of the numerous plant species they consume.

The two most turtle-rich parts of the world are the southeastern United States and southeastern Asia.

Male giant tortoises may reach 500-600 pounds, while the largest on record was a captive (called Goliath) that was kept near Seffner, Florida and reached over 900 pounds.  However, the largest leatherback sea turtles may exceed this weight.

Thirty years ago, hardly any green turtles or leatherbacks nested in Florida, but now there are thousands of green turtle nestings and some hundreds of leatherback nestings every year, mostly on the middle Atlantic coast.  Is this a result of global warming, or successful conservation and protection?  We really don't know. 

Some turtles, like the hawksbill sea turtle, may lay over 200 eggs in a nest -- and then return after a couple of weeks to do the same thing again.  Other turtles, especially small, forest-living tropical species, may lay only one egg at a time.  In some species, the eggs are hard-shelled, and in others they have soft shells.  Some are perfectly round, others are elongate.

About Dr Peter Pritchard

Dr. Pritchard is best known as an authority on the biology and conservation of turtles and tortoises. His work has taken him to more than 100 countries. Both before and after receiving his doctorate in 1969, he has undertaken extensive field work with turtles in all continents and many remote islands.

Come visit us

Help the Institute

We rely on donations and grants to keep our programs at the Chelonian Research Institute running. Your contribution is greatly appreciated!

Make a donation

We are a private, 501(c) 3 not-for-profit corporation. You will receive a tax receipt for any donation made to CRI.