Posted by: lensweb | April 13, 2017

Terry the Terrapin

Some animals know just when to time their appearance! On 14 April 2016 Damon Barker reported there were terrapins in Forbes Hole and sent a photo to prove it. Since then none had been reported until Stuart Gilder reported a terrapin seen basking at the bottom of the steps to the large pond. A few days later there it was again, sitting on a floating log.

So on Sunday when we held an Open Day at Forbes Hole, guess who was the star of the show?  It is not often that terrapins are seen in the wild in this country and there it was, basking in the glorious sunshine.

forbes terrapin

The Red-eared Terrapin shell can grow up to 30 cm long but hatchlings measure just a few centimetres. It is dark green to black with greenish or yellowish markings. Limbs, head and neck may be striped with yellow and colourful red or yellow “ears” may be present behind the eye. Small juveniles are the most colourful, fading and becoming darker with age.

terry.jpg

Terrapins are omnivorous, they primarily eat plants, though will opportunistically take invertebrates. A reduction of oxygenating plants in the pond and an increase in nutrient input can result in the eutrophication of the water. Eutrophication then means that the oxygen is so depleted in the pond that only organisms that can survive in oxygen poor environments, such as algae, persist. If a terrapin is abandoned in an pond surrounded by roads, it is likely it will have no other ponds to go to, so it will continue to deplete the pond of its wildlife whilst it struggles to find enough to eat. When the temperature drops below 16-18 degrees Celsius, they will not forage for food at all. This means for the majority of the year in the UK, they will be unable to forage and if there is a cold summer, they will be unlikely to build up enough fat stores to survive though hibernation. Abandoned terrapins in British waters are almost always going to have their welfare compromised from the start, both in terms of health and chances of survival.

Pet turtles and terrapins have regularly been abandoned by their owners, particularly following the TV series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in the late 1980s. At various times they have been sighted in the River Erewash, the Erewash Canal and Attenborough Nature Reserve. Sightings are widespread and they survive well in the south of Great Britain, but there are no confirmed records of breeding in the wild (due to conditions and temperatures required for successful egg incubation).

People buy a tiny terrapin at the pet shop when it is not much bigger than a fifty pence coin, they are often assured buy the sellers at the shop that it won’t get much bigger than that, once the pet reaches the size of a small dinner plate, it is easier to release it into the wild than to cope with it’s care requirements. The lifespan of a pond terrapin is around 30 years in captivity. Most likely, the reason illegal releasing continues, is because people are unaware of the negative effects of the terrapin on the local environment and the distressing circumstances the animal may quickly find itself in.

It is not known exactly how long the terrapins have been in Forbes Hole or how long they will survive but it is certain this was the most exciting day of pond dipping at Forbes Hole ever!

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Marion Bryce 13 April 2017


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