The Terrapin Turtle


The terrapin turtle is often seen on safari and therefore it is fairly easy to obtain a picture of your own. Terrapins live on both land and in fresh water but must eat in the water.

They are often spotted beside a dam or drinking hole, like the one above. I know they need the sun (they are dependent on the sun to increase their body heat), but I don’t know if they enjoy it. It sure looks like they do!

So they mostly live in the water and come ashore to bask in the sun. They need to stay close to water or they might overheat. During winter, they hibernate.

You are likely to spot them in Eastern Africa into Zimbabwe and northern Botswana, southern Mozambique and South Africa.

Once, in the Kruger National Park South Africa, I saw no less than 17 of them lined up at the edge of a single water hole!

Terrapin Turtle Facts

A terrapin turtle needs to go onto land to breed and just like sea turtles, the female goes ashore to lay her eggs. When the ground is hard, she will urinate repeatedly to soften the ground and then ‘bulldoze’ the mud into a nest with the front of her under-shell.

Terrapins eat small frogs, fish, aquatic and other insects. Actually, almost anything... which earned them the nickname “vultures of the waterways”.

They will also capture live prey like ducklings or other small water bird, holding it in their mouth and rip it apart with their sharp little claws. If they do find something to eat on land, they will take it underwater to eat it.

Their main enemy is the crocodile.

They have an interesting and effective defence mechanism: when threatened, they can secrete a foul-smelling fluid from glands situated on the flanks at the base of each leg. The stench will usually keep predators away.

It can retract itself completely into its shell.