African Helmeted Terrapin

The African Helmeted Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) is also known as the Marsh Terrapin, the Crocodile Terrapin, or the African Side-Necked Terrapin. It is a semi-aquatic reptile from Africa, like tortoises and turtles – a chelonian.

The African Helmeted Terrapin looks like a helmet. Instead of its neck sticking in and out, it has a side-necked position where it places its head sideways in its shell. It black or brown shell (carapace) is slightly domed. Its tail and legs are grey-brown, and its underbelly is yellowish. The male has a long thick tail. The female has a shorter tail.

African Helmeted Terrapin

African Helmeted Terrapin (front) and Leopard Tortoise (back)

The African Helmeted Terrapin does not have a hinged lower shell (plastron), like other terrapins and tortoises. Therefore, it has to put its head sideways under its shell. But this means that it has a strong neck. When it is upside down, it can flick its muscular neck to right itself – to turn itself the right way up (other terrapins and tortoises are unable to do this).

African Helmeted Terrapin

African Helmeted Terrapin

It is a small terrapin, growing to about 20 centimetres (8 inches).

The African Helmeted Terrapin is from Sub-Saharan Africa and southern Yemen. It prefers freshwater or stagnant water, such as ponds, swamps, and marshes. It is semi-aquatic, living in rivers and lakes, as well as on land. It does not like mountains, deserts, or forests.

The African Helmeted Terrapin is omnivorous, eating small animals. It uses it sharp claws to tear the flesh off animals, such as birds.

Females lay 2-10 eggs in a nest. The eggs hatch after 75-90 days. The babies, called hatchlings, are black or olive-brown and are about 3 centimetres (1 inch) in length.

African Helmeted Terrapin

Bell’s Hinge-Back Tortoise (left) and African Helmeted Terrapin (right)

African Helmeted Terrapin

African Helmeted Terrapin

 

 

 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

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