Giant Chelmak Turtle Species in In the Shadow of Princes | World Anvil

Giant Chelmak Turtle

Ponderous but reliable river-going beast of burden

As we moved north on the Rio Verde we encountered a convoy of Terragar traders. They were clad in twill woven robes that covered their bodies from head to toe. The women wore the same habit only their vestments were of a delicate samite interlaced with exquisite golden threads. Upon their thick mantles they wore trailing ribbons and feathers of yellow and blue that bristled and fluttered in the breeze. As they drew near I realized they were not floating in boats but mounted upon the backs of giant turtles!
— - Memories of Pachuco, Abner Dupree

Basic Information


The Giant Chelmak Turtle is ten feet long extended from head to tail and its two-inch thick shell has a rough diameter of eight feet. These impressive megafauna have leathery greenish black skin and the mature adult specimens weigh over 1000 lbs.

Genetics and Reproduction

The giant turtles reproduce sexually. They mate in deep water and afterwards the female go onto dry land to spawn their eggs after a three-week gestation period. They bury the eggs in sandy soil at a depth of two to three feet. Two months later the hatchlings emerge from the earth and make for the water to begin life.

Growth Rate & Stages

These turtles tend to be long-lived and the eldest of them are said to live upwards of 150 years. They continue to grow for the first 50 years of life and reach the mature range of size and weight around their fortieth year.

Ecology and Habitats

Giant Chelmak Turtles are at home in freshwater environments and spend most of their time in shallow waters where they stay comfortably wet and well supplied with river grasses and fronds. They avoid dry areas and rarely venture far inland.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Giant Chelmak Turtles are omniverous but tend to subsist mainly as herbivores. If provoked or threatened they will attack and consume whatever prey they manage to kill. The chief weapon of the giant turtle is its broad mouth, which bears strong teeth and a powerful jaw capable of snapping human bones with ease.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Infant chelmaks seek the water from birth and their mothers coax them into streams and lakes as soon as they hatch. Once they reach the waters they rendezvous with other infants and form a pod that travels and lives together thereafter as a kind of colony. After the juvenile stage is reached the turtles begin to defer to dominant males who assert control of resource allocation and who is identified as within the kin group of their pod. Conflicts within a pod can lead to expulsion.


Though the Chelmaks may be tamed for human use and cohabitation they have not yet been successfully domesticated. In most cases the eggs of a Giant Chelmak female are recovered from the ground before hatching and then hatched under human supervision. The newborn turtle enters its juvenile stage imprinted upon its owner, whom it treats as a pod companion. The reason why these tamed turtles cannot be properly considered domesticated is the simple fact that tamed chelmaks no longer possess the instinct to breed. They never seek mates in deep waters (much less have opportunity to do so in the instinctual manner) and so never reproduce in captivity.

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Terragnian traders and warriors have been known to steal chelmak eggs and raise tame baby chelmaks as companions. This is a laborious and time-consuming process. Due to the ponderously long life cycle of the giant turtles, it takes 20 years of growth before a chelmak is large enough to carry a single rider and nearly 40 years before a tamed chelmak has enough mass to carry and/or tow heavy loads. Terragnians who use this water-borne turtle power have distinct advantages over travelers using conventional modes of transportation and can move up and down river trade routes with relative ease (though at a fairly modest pace).
Those who practice this custom tend to treat the successful taming and nurturing of a chelmak to maturity as a unique rite of passage. In particular, the warriors who successfully raise such a companion to maturity are known in Terragar as Chelmoota Turtle Riders.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Giant Chelmak Turtles are found only in waters of Gila River, Green River, and Cruz River and their primary spawning area is centered upon Gila Lake. Giant Turtles encountered south of Mount Mazta tend to be those tamed by Terragnians for riding and bearing burdens.
Scientific Name
Testudines Gigantes
Average Height
5 feet
Average Weight
1200 pounds
Average Length
10 feet


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