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NAIROBI PARK DIARY

The terrific terrapin

Terrapins are a kind of 'land turtle' found in fresh water

In Summary

• They may look cute (for an amphibian) but beware of their incredibly sharp claws

Terrapin
Terrapin
Image: GARETH JONES

With the recent heavy rains, although the park was very wet and muddy, it has been possible to see more of creatures that are not normally seen.

While driving along, I saw a movement in the middle of the road, it was a serrated hinged terrapin, the largest of the hinged terrapins. They grow between 30 and 50cm long, and females are usually larger than males. What I also found amazing, was that it had beautiful blue eyes, actually quite a cool feature for a reptile!

Just to understand a little more, terrapins are a kind of “land turtle” found in fresh water, while turtles are found in seawater and tortoises are mostly just on land.

Found throughout East Africa, they are one of the most common hinged terrapin species. Terrapins lounge mostly on logs and rocks. They have also been found riding on the backs of hippopotamuses! Serrated Hinged Terrapins are so named because they have a hinged shell that they are able to close after pulling their head and front legs inward.

 

They are predominantly carnivores feeding on a variety of creatures, including snails, mollusks, insects, frogs and fish, and have been known to eat ticks and parasites off of wallowing water buffalo.

They may look cute (for an amphibian) but you need to be careful of their incredibly sharp claws, which come in handy for hunting and defending against predator attacks.

Typically they will only use this defensive strategy when hiding in the shell doesn’t seem to be working. These interesting creatures need to be on the lookout for numerous predators. During their lifetime, the terrapins are preyed upon by crocodiles, monitor lizards and the mongoose.

Serrated Hinged terrapins lay their eggs between October and January near water.  So next time you visit the park, be on the lookout for unusual sightings. The Nairobi National Park has many hidden treasures.

For more information on the park you can link to the following website: www.kws.go.ke