Okavango Hinged Terrapin This terrapin has a carapace of approximately 330mm large. The carapace is generally dark olive to black in colour. As with most terrapins, the plastron is hinged (refer to diagram). It has a very large head, which is black with distinctive yellow patterns. Terrapins have 5 claws on hind feet.
The Okavango terrapin lays between 21 – 38 eggs in a brood. The eggs are laid in October (late spring/early summer). The eggs hatch in late summer and upon hatching, the hatchlings make their way to the nearest water. The female will lay her eggs in a hole approx. 125mm deep. She will use her hind legs to dig the hole and will constantly urinate to soften the soil while digging. Once the eggs are laid, the hole is filled with mud and gently smoothed over.
Terrapins are carnivorous. Prey items include carrion, fish, amphibians, tadpoles and limited amounts of plant matter. They have also been known to hunt birds, which they drag into the water to be drowned.
The Okavango hinged terrapin and the serrated hinged terrapin are the only two species, which prefer deep, open water. Terrapins have been known to cover great distances over land when water dries up but they will also scratch and burrow underground, retreat in the mud where they will remain in a state of aestivation until the return of the rains.
Terrapins give off a very strong, vile odour as a means of defence. When protecting themselves, they will also retract their limbs and their head. The head is retracted in a sideways motion and the hinged plastron is closed over the head to protect it.