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European pond tortoise Emys orbicularis

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Alien & Naturalised species of the UK
Forum Name: Naturalised
Forum Description: Concerning non-indigenous species that are no threat to native fauna
URL: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=314
Printed Date: 04 Jun 2020 at 12:53pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: European pond tortoise Emys orbicularis
Posted By: FB knowles
Subject: European pond tortoise Emys orbicularis
Date Posted: 16 Jul 2003 at 10:25pm
Hi

Does anyone out there no about the status of the European pond tortoise in southern England. There were rumours of it being found breeding at frencham ponds some years back. i know that it is a very long lived species, so i guess colonies could exist for many years without actually breeding. But does anybody have any up to date info?

Fairbrass Knowles



Replies:
Posted By: Martin
Date Posted: 17 Jul 2003 at 8:19am
I've looked in a lot of ponds within Hampshire for terrapins and I've not seen any emys. All the terrapins I've spotted have been North American species, so I'm not much help.

Martin.


Posted By: FB knowles
Date Posted: 17 Jul 2003 at 6:48pm
Hi Martin,

Yes i have seen the red eared terrapins too!! even saw quite a few in ponds on a recent trip to Brittany, i wonder if they can breed in the warmer parts of Europe?

Cheers, Fairbrass


Posted By: Chris G-O
Date Posted: 17 Jan 2004 at 10:24pm
European pond terrapins have been seen in the last 10 years or so on the Norfolk Broads, sightings came from RSPB staff i think. I think there were intros there about 100 yrs ago.

Out of interest, i saw a red-eared terrapin on the 5th Jan 2004 in an ornamental pond in Venice. It wasn't exactly warm (c.11 degrees), but there didn't seem to be anywhere for it to hibernate really.

cheers,
Chris

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Chris Gleed-Owen, Research & Monitoring Officer, The HCT & BHS Research Committee Chair


Posted By: chas
Date Posted: 31 Jan 2005 at 10:40am
A "Survival Anglia" wildlife film producer met with a large female Emys orb. (Euro. pond tortoise) crossing a narrow, isolated lane in N. Norfolk in the 1990s.

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Charles Snell


Posted By: -LAF
Date Posted: 31 Jan 2005 at 6:47pm
The NBN gateway has a listing for Emys at lakes nr Leicester. The same lakes are also listed as having red-ears though.

Lee.

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Lee Fairclough


Posted By: Ben Potterton
Date Posted: 20 Aug 2005 at 2:47pm

Hi I have recently been given an adult male European Pond Turtle that was found in the Norfolk Broad area and have been told of 4 others that have been found in the general area.

DEFRA tell me that none exist in the Broads network but 5 inderviduals seem unusual.

I have been collecting all surplus specimens from UK zoo's and hope to breed from them, but want to know if a wild or feral population exists?

Any ideas?



Posted By: Ben Potterton
Date Posted: 21 Aug 2005 at 7:49am

Thanks David, All of those found in and around the Norfolk Broads have come via the RSPCA and they have not been able to give me any indication on the exact spot that they were found.

I am keeping the Norfolk specimens seperate from the others that I have, the Herp TAG work was by Joe Blossom, but sadly the zoo's concerned had no idea as to the origin of the stock.

Joe Blossom also has some that he keeps outside all year, I will show him my stock and with any luck we will be able to decide on a plan of action.

Ben.

 



Posted By: chas
Date Posted: 22 Aug 2005 at 6:18am

David Bird's post about keeping the Norfolk specimens (Emys orbicularis) separate is an important issue.

Remains of the European pond tortoise have been found in East Anglia (and I believe particularly in Norfolk) dating back to as late as ca. 5000 years ago. Some authors, e.g. Marr, J. E., Shipley, A.E. (1904) describe the species as being once common in the fens. There is, therefore, no doubt that it is a native species, the question being, are the specimens presently being found the result of an introduction or the remains of a relict population which is, with climatic warming, possibly now able to breed with greater frequency? (In Poland they do not successfully breed most years but still maintain viable populations aided by their longevity). They presumably persisted for sometime after the date of the fossil finds; even as late as the time of the Roman invasion Britain still had a milder climate than at present.

There is also no doubt that introductions to East Anglia have occurred; for example some were released in Blaxhall and Little Glemham in Suffolk between 1894 - 95.

There have been sporadic sightings in Norfolk for some time.  Earlier on this site, I mentioned the finding of a large female in north Norfolk (Mike Linley- Anglia TV scientific contributor) and other posts do seem to be suggesting that these finds are not uncommon.  The earliest reference I can find is one accidentally excavated alive in fen peat at Ludham, Norfolk in 1904 where it had apparently dug itself in for hibernation.  During the milder climates experienced 5000 years ago, populations also existed in countries bordering the Baltic Sea, such as Denmark and Sweden.  The Danish and Swedish populations have also gone extinct in the interim whereas other populations around the Baltic still persist in north eastern Germany, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. If the European pond tortoise story mirrors that of the pool frog Rana lessonae in Norfolk, post-glacial colonisation by Emys could have occurred in a west to east direction from the Baltic area. (See the Snell, Tetteh and Evans paper mentioned on the pool frog reintroduction pages on this website I could email a copy if contacted by pm button (private mail)).  The pool frog story was also complicated by introductions of the species or related species.  There is no doubt that some or all of the recent pond tortoise finds could be as result of introduction and genetic testing would be interesting to come to some kind of conclusion.  It would be my guess that if any of the Norfolk Emys have a chance of being native they ought to be more closely related to those in north-eastern Germany and Poland than to those in France or more southern European countries, as was the case with the pool frog.  (As late as about 9000 years ago there was a land bridge across the North Sea between Scandinavia, the Low Countries and East Anglia).

 



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Charles Snell


Posted By: chas
Date Posted: 22 Aug 2005 at 8:46am

It has always been assumed in Denmark that the pond tortoise died out between the iron and Bronze ages, but as David Bird points out in his last post, some were found in the 1990s of unknown origin.  I have found two Danish web sites on Emys (in Danish) both seem to suggest that there are still some Emys in central Jutland.  One of the sites also indicated that there are a few on the island of Bornholm and that those on Jutland had been genetically tested (8 were caught and seven were tested) the results showing that the animals were not of the type found further south in Europe.  This, of course, increases the likelihood (but not proving the case) of there being being a relict population.



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Charles Snell


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 14 Nov 2005 at 5:22pm

 

Just an update really I have seen European Pond terrapins in Essex - unfortuantely they were for sale in a local exotic pet store - along with french marsh frogs!

JC



Posted By: Ben Potterton
Date Posted: 21 Nov 2005 at 6:39am

Dear All, I have been told that European Pond Tortoise have been breeding for many years in the southern Norfolk Broads and have had reports of several populations in Strumpshaw, Surlingham and Ranworth.

I am told that very young Emys were seen throughout the 1980's, I am going to speak to the Norfolk Records Office and see what else I can find.



Posted By: Mick
Date Posted: 21 Nov 2005 at 2:33pm
Personally, from all i've seen, heard, & read about over the years, i myself have very little doubt that European Pond Terrapins (& possibly American Red Eared Sliders) have done & do breed here in suitably mild areas of England with limited success in our warmest years. As Chas said in mentioning about Polish terrapins, these reptiles have longevity on their side with which to take full advantage of & annualy attempt to try & breed successfully. And young, alert little terrapins are hardly going to be easy little critters to spot in suitably lush habitat, such as fenlands.  Even in ideally warm enough years here for breeding , maybe only a quarter to half of a clutch of eggs make it to hatchling success, & then there's predators like Pike & Herons which no doubt keep surviving hatchling numbers down.        


Posted By: Peter Sutton
Date Posted: 30 Aug 2006 at 8:18am
I photographed an adult Emys at one of the Tilgate lakes in Crawley, West Sussex in 1987. It has since been drained to remove a substantial population of Red-eared Terrapins. Both populations introduced some time ago. I understood that all modern UK sightings of Emys originated from introductions on account of its disappearance as a result of a post-bronze age deterioration in climate.


Posted By: corvid2e1
Date Posted: 13 Aug 2015 at 8:22pm
Obviously this is a very old thread, but is anyone still looking into the status of this species in Norfolk? I have an adult female that was picked up in the broads, behaviour is very wild so doesn't seem to be a recent escape/dump. I would be interested to hear from anyone that would like to take a look at her, identify subspecies etc. Also looking for a home, so if anyone is working on breeding possible natives then let me know!


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David


Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 16 Sep 2015 at 9:34pm
Hi David

Firstly, apologies for the delay in authorising your post.

I will be interested to see the results. This is a species I keep and breed myself with some animals direct imports and others wild-caught in the UK (including Norfolk!)

Sadly, I am not an expert on sub-species so can't help you there!

All the best
Chris


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Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)


Posted By: corvid2e1
Date Posted: 24 Jul 2019 at 10:39pm
Reviving an old thread again but I thought it worth mentioning that I have just been brought yet another "stray" Emys found in Norfolk, this time an adult male. This one was found in Hickling, so again very close to the broads and I suspect far more likely a wild individual rather than and escaped/dumped pet. Anyone still looking into this topic?

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David


Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 24 Jul 2019 at 11:01pm
Certainly worth mentioning.
There is also the question of whether they can actually breed (incubate their eggs) in this country. I appreciate this is purely anecdotal evidence BUT I could not find one clutch of eggs from my garden colony last year. The, on 16 April this year, I found a hatchling wandering around in their enclosure. There MAY have been more but with seagulls and corvids chances of survival would be small. I posted elsewhere as follows:-
"Each and every year I breed European Pond Tortoises (Emys orbicularis) by harvesting the eggs and incubating them artificially. Last year, a batch of eggs was laid in June which I was unable to find. This morning, I went into the terrapin enclosure and found a hatchling walking along a path. Still a small amount of egg sac attached. So, did it hatch late in the year and immediately hibernate or did the egg overwinter? I suspect the latter due to the yolk sac. I am not aware of any other records of natural incubation in the UK in this species BUT, it does give the lie to the theory that the animals occasionally found in East Anglia could not breed naturally - perhaps they really are the remnants of a natural population? Certainly they get more sunshine than here and my garden is somewhat limited for sunshine due to us being in a valley. Needless to say .... I am thrilled!!"
Chris


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Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)


Posted By: corvid2e1
Date Posted: 24 Jul 2019 at 11:35pm
Fantastic, and anecdotal or not it is proof that wild breeding is possible, however rare it might be. Certainly this species seems to show up more frequently than they should if they were all simply dumped captives given how relatively uncommon and valuable they are in captivity compared to other species. During the time I have been working in rescue, bearing in mind we run mainly as a wildlife centre rather than specifically for exotics, I have taken in only around 5 or 6 "stray" freshwater turtles that have been caught in the wild. These have been mostly commonly kept exotics such as Sliders and Maps as would be expected, but 2 now have been Emys, which seems pretty out of proportion to me. I am aware that there was some introduction attempts in this area many years ago so maybe it is simply down to this being more successful that generally acknowledged, but it seems a shame that no one seems to be interested in DNA testing these wild caught individuals to figure out what their origin really is.

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David


Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 25 Jul 2019 at 8:18am
I agree David re DNA testing. Although to make this meaningful a significant number of animals would need to be tested.


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Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)



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