Marsh Terrapin

Pelomedusa subrufa

The Marsh Terrapin, or Helmeted Terrapin, is a medium-sized terrapin, growing to around 30cm in length and 2.5kg in weight. Males are generally larger than females.

Marsh Terrapins are very common in still or slow-moving water, especially in temporary pans and even in arid environments like the Karoo and Kalahari. They are true omnivores, feeding on anything from water weeds to insects, crustaceans, amphibians, fish and even birds and small mammals caught at the water’s edge in very crocodile-like fashion. They will also pick ticks and other ectoparasites from the hides of wallowing animals. When their watery abodes dry up and there’s no others around to move to (these chelonians will move considerable distances from one pool to another), Marsh Terrapins will bury themselves in wet soil or mud and aestivate, sometimes for months or even years.

Mating occurs in the water, mostly during the summer months, after which the female digs a pit 10-18cm deep in moist soil above the high-water mark, using her hind feet, in which she lays a clutch of up to 40 or more (usually between 10 and 30, but sometimes as few as 2) soft-shelled eggs. The young hatch in 3-4 months and emerge after the rain has softened the soil enough for them to dig themselves free.

In South Africa, Marsh Terrapins occur in every province, being absent only from the most arid parts of the Northern Cape Province. They also occur throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.

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20 thoughts on “Marsh Terrapin

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Hierdie outjies is darem te vaal en te groot dat dit n wesenlike probleem is vir hulle, maar daar is baie van die wereld se skilpaaie waarvoor die troeteldierbedryf n groot gevaar is!

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  1. Abrie Joubert

    was 2 weke terug in Oudtshoorn. Dit is baie droog daar (anders as in die Kaap is Oudtshoorn en Mosselbaai steeds baie en het die winter ver onder die gemiddelde reen gekry). Verskeie bergskilpaaie kom uit die koppie na die boere se huise waar hulle uit die honde se waterbakke drink.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Wie kan nou se dat n skilpad dom is! Maar op n ernstiger noot is die voortdurende droogte regtig n rede tot kommer. Behalwe vir die brandgevaar wat daarmee saam gaan is daar baie skaars diere en plante wat gebuk gaan.

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  2. loisajay

    I was so excited to tell you what was on the web just now–a video this couple took of the largest ever pride of lions (15) walking on the roadway–including a white lion. And it was at Kruger. Of course, I thought of you right away.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I am so jealous of those people, Lois! Everytime we’re in the Satara area of the Kruger I hope to see the Sweni-pride and their famous white cub, by now grown into a young male. For next year I am planning an almost month-long visit to Satara and I am going to sit in the road waiting for them to pass! ๐Ÿ˜›

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