The terrapins kept at the Butterfly Farm are mostly the Red Eared variety, Pseudemys scripta elegans (North America) which is probably the most widely kept reptile in the world.
They are fed a variety of foods including fresh meat, fish, meal worms, whitebait, snails and vegetable matter, which they eat under water.
Many visitors ask "are they males or females?" The most obvious difference is the plastron (the shell covering the underside of the terrapin) which tends to be flat or convex (bulging) in females to provide room for egg storage whereas males tend to have a concave hollowed plastron. Terrapins do not pair for life or even for a season. The male may find a female that acts, smells or looks right and he will rub her face with his long claws, butt her with the front of his shell or bite her legs, eventually she may become receptive and they mate.
It is interesting that a fertilised female may remain fertile for several years but each successive clutch of eggs will contain fewer fertile eggs until there is a re-mating.
The eggs are white, leathery and elliptical and about 3 cm in length. They are laid in a hole dug by the female which she later covers over. The biggest clutch we have seen laid here at the Butterfly Farm contained 9 eggs, 4 of which were fertile and hatched. The eggs hatch after two or three months and the young are miniature versions of the adults being very active at birth.
Terrapins are now living wild in this country as a result of being released by people who no longer wish to care for them or find them a suitable home elsewhere. This is becoming a problem in many lakes, ponds and inland waterways because they are feeding on water birds amphibians and other small creatures. Also, because they are protected by their hard shell, in this country at least, they have no natural predators.
It is thought by some that they will eventually die out, because the temperature in this country is not warm enough to incubate their eggs during the summertime, but this of course remains to be seen.
Male terrapins have longer, thicker tails than females, also the males have longer front claws than females which are used in courtship displays.
It is not certain how long terrapins live and there are many reports of ages of 50 years being reached and the eldest of our terrapins is reported to be over 40 years old.
Don't be mistaken by the cumbersome looking shell, as these particular reptiles, unlike tortoises, can move incredibly fast when they want to