Pond Terrapin

Emys orbicularis

Medium sized turtle, with adults ranging 20-30cm in length. Brown, black or olive in colour normally with yellow spots and streak on shell and even on their skin. Markings vary between individuals.

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Like all reptiles, pond turtles bask during the day to raise their body temperature, often lying on stones or river banks motionless. During the winter months, they bury themselves into mud and hibernate until spring time.

Are known to be territorial (especially the males), but pairs will form and live in small groups. Like all reptiles additionally, their activity levels are dependent on environmental conditions and seasons (e.g. less feeding with a decreased temperature).

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UK Status

Pond turtles would’ve been present in the wild in the UK around 8,000 years ago, but later became extinct due to climate cooling. There are populations living wild in the UK now, however these are most likely the result of escapees that have become established relatively recently. They are still regarded as a non-native species.


Due to their reliance on environmental conditions, climate change is an important factor in effecting pond turtle numbers across its range. Roads and traffic also effect numbers, not only by collisions but also the act of fragmenting habitats and creating physical barriers for animal movement.

Domestic dogs and cats can sometimes attack them, but specifically in the UK, pond terrapins have no natural predators.


Wide European distribution (scarce in the north). Has become extinct in some parts of its historic range (e.g. UK) due to climate change. In Switzerland, it was reintroduced in 2010. Also found in north-west Africa and Asia.


Semi-aquatic species, found in freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers with slow moving water and soft mud or sandy bottoms. Prefers wetland areas that are surrounded by large natural wooded areas.


Omnivorous diet, with some evidence suggesting their diets become more herbivorous as they age and grow in size. Prey items include insects, frogs, worms and fish.

Did you know?

Individuals have been known to live for 120 years.

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