Marsh Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa)
aka African Helmeted Turtle & Crocodile Turtle.
Marsh Terrapins are fairly small reptiles, with a carapace of up to 8" (20cm) in length, which is either black or brown in colour. Tails and legs are grey-brown on top and yellow underneath. Males have long, thick tails and females are shorter.
Marsh Terrapins are found throughout Kenya, wherever there is fresh or stagnant standing water.
The male Marsh Terrapin initiates intercourse, following the female and nodding his head. If she is not ready, she snaps her jaws at him and walks away. When she is ready, she too nods her head. Hatchlings are born from between 2 - 10 eggs laid at a time, after incubating for 11 weeks and have carapaces of 1.25" (32mm) long. In captivity, Marsh Terrapins live for up to 16 years.
There are few predators for the Marsh Terrapin, due to its very unpleasant smell. They are also able to swim very quickly, avoiding predation.
When the weather is wet, Marsh Terrapins walk between water bodies, often covering large distances. If it is extremely dry, or cold weather, they hibernate, digging themselves into the ground. They can stay in hibernation for extremely long periods of time - even years.
Marsh Terrapins eat almost anything. The claws on their feet rip its prey apart. Mostly insects, worms, fish, tadpoles, snails are consumed. Larger prey, like birds, are tackled by groups of Marsh Terrapins. They drown their prey and eat it below water.
Other Marsh Terrapin Facts
Marsh Terrapins are one of the few Turtles that can right themselves after falling upside-down. A vigourous flick of their necks and they are once again upright. However, unlike other Turtles, their lower shell is not hinged, so they cannot cover their heads or front legs.
Image was taken in Kenya's Meru National Park and Olare Orok Conservancy.
Keywords:african helmeted turtle, crocodile turtle, kenya, marsh terrapin, reptile, terrapin, turtle, wildlife