Protected species of the month - European pond terrapin

As we enjoy the first warm days and sunshine of spring, many species are beginning to wake up from hibernation. One of them is also the species of the month of April - European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis).

Photo: João Manuel Lemos Lima

European pond terrapin is special for Latvia - it is the only species of turtle that can be found in our country, and unfortunately, it is very rare that we get to meet the species in nature. The oldest news about the finds of this species in Latvia can be traced back to the 19th century. Nowadays the species is mostly found in the nature park in the vicinity of Silene and Apgulde in Latvia.

Map by Jānis Ukass

The Turtle's shell reaches a length of about 20 cm and its color on the surface varies from dark brown to black with light yellowish spots. The lower part of the shell can be both light and dark, with darker spots. The turtles head, neck and legs are also dark in color with yellow flecks.

The turtle is constantly in or near water, although females tend to travel further over land to find dry, sunlit egg-laying sites. The female lays 4 - 15 eggs in May, which develop until late summer and early autumn. The eggs are buried in a hole up to 10 cm deep.

Photo: Dudva

Unfortunately, the species is characterized by very high mortality of eggs and young individuals, however, this is compensated by very low mortality of adults. Life expectancy is also significantly high - 50 and even more years.

The terrapin is an omnivore and daily feeds on various aquatic invertebrates, the remains of other animals and sometimes plant food. It mostly lives in small bodies of water with sunlit shores, and during the day it often basks on plant crowns or tree trunks. The terrapin swims well, dives and can stay underwater for a long time. The species hibernates at the bottom of water bodies, in mud.


  1. “Purva Bruņurupucis - Emys Orbicularis (L.) - Rāpuļi - Latvijas Daba.” 2023. 2023. ‌
  2. Čeirāns A., Pupiņš M., Pupiņa A. 2018. Abinieku un rāpuļu fona monitorings un monitorings Natura 2000 teritorijās (2016.- 2018.gadam). Gala atskaite saskaņā ar Dabas aizsardzības pārvaldes iepirkuma līgumu Nr. 7.7/77/2016-P. Daugavpils Universitāte, 81 lpp.
  3. Pupiņš M., Pupiņa A. 2017. Eiropas purva bruņurupucis Emys orbicularis un tā aizsardzība Latvijā. GlobeEdit, 123 lpp.
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