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Tula the Red-eared Terrapin

Tula the Red-eared slider TerrapinHi, I'm Tula - a female Red-eared Terrapin

My family goes way back. Our ancestors lived at the time of the dinosaurs in the Triassic Period, 250,000,000 years ago. Some of my relatives were born in the eastern US, near Mexico, and were brought to the UK as pets. I was born in the wild here in the UK, but now I live in a sanctuary. Life is much easier here - there’s more food and my pool is heated in winter.

I’m a Chelonian and a reptile, like my cousins the turtle and the tortoise. Chelonians are cold-blooded so I like basking in the sun when I’m not swimming. People also call me a slider terrapin, because I can slide quickly into the water if I want to get away fast. My back feet are webbed, and this helps.

You can recognize me from the colours of my shell and skin. My shell is greenish-brown with yellowy markings, and my skin has yellow stripes with red bands along the sides of my head. When I was a hatchling my shell and my body were green. As I grew, my shell became more yellow and olive green. Then my shell markings developed.

I’m female and I weigh over 2 kilos (4.4 lbs). I’m about 8 inches (20 cm) from my head to the tip of my tail. Our males are smaller, but their tails and front claws are longer. We mate in spring, in the water. During our ritual the male vibrates his claws near my face and we nudge each other with our heads and sometimes bite each other gently.

I come on land to make a nest and lay my eggs – usually 5-12 in number. The hatchlings take between 60 and 120 days to develop. Then they emerge from the nest and head for the water. I usually lay several clutches of eggs each year.

My eggs aren’t like chicken eggs. If you turn a terrapin egg over, the baby inside will probably suffocate and die. So you shouldn’t touch my eggs, ever.

If you visit my sanctuary you may see my nose sticking up from the water. Or I may be basking in the sun on a rock. I don’t have external parts to my ears as you do – I feel vibrations in my environment and my senses of sight and smell are excellent. So please walk quietly when you’re near me, and don’t bother me because I’m shy.

See you in my sanctuary park


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