Sunday 21 July, 2019

CriTTers: Tales of the Terrapin

Everyone knows turtles to be slow, right? Wrong.

Terrapins are local to Trinidad and are actually quite fast. They live in forested areas, however they're at risk due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. 

Director of the El Soccoro Centre for Wildlife Conservation, Ricardo Meade, tells us a bit more about them:


Here are five things you may not have known about terrapins, courtesy PetPonder:

1. They're some of the oldest creatures on Earth.

Terrapins are of the turtle family, and turtles have been on Earth for over 200 million years (wow!).

Terrapins back then had small teeth and a larger body, while today, they are quite smaller and have no teeth.

They were recognised by carrying shells on their backs which they retreated into if danger was near. The heavy weight of the shell is why turtles walk so slowly. 


2. Terrapins were sometimes cooked as a delicacy

Over a century ago, terrapins were more famous not as pets or reptiles, but more as a tasty soup dish. Being considered as a protein-rich delicacy, terrapin turtles were hunted rigorously. As a result, its population has been reported to have decreased significantly in the last few decades. A lot of rules and regulations were made after that so as to protect terrapins and their consumption.


3. Terrapins breed once or twice per year

The mating season of terrapins is mostly between April to July. Gestation takes about 60 days, and the size of the clutch is around 8 to 12 eggs. The female terrapin lays the eggs once, or sometimes twice a year. The eggs are oblong-shaped and pinkish-white in color. The young hatchlings weigh around 6 to 10 grams, and are about an inch long. In fact, it has been observed that the nest temperature can determine the sex of the terrapin, i.e., if it is quite warm, it's mostly a female terrapin.


4. 'Terrapin' is a Native American word for turtle

Terrapin is an Algonquian Indian word for 'turtles' and is derived from the word Torope, which represents the small, hard-shelled, and edible type of turtles, which prefer to stay in brackish water.


5. Terrapins' shells are alive

Unlike other creatures with nails, shells and other hard surfaces, a terrapin's shell is part of the creature's body and is filled with nerve endings. 

A terrapin's shell is living, and so it should never be cut or trimmed because this would cause the animal extreme pain.

Terrapins also have very long lives and have been known to live up to 30 years. 

For more information on how to support wildlife conservation and awareness, contact the El Socorro Centre for Wildlife Conservation on Facebook at, or visit their website at

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: