European Pond Turtle Fact File


The European pond turtle is highly variable in coloration due to their wide range. Generally they feature a dark background color with light speckling on top of this. This dark background color may be black, olive or brown.

Their upper shell (carapace) is smooth. At the front of the shell is a hinge which allows it to raise when they withdraw their head but it cannot close completely.

Older individuals tend to be darker in color than the younger individuals.

To assist with swimming they have webbed feet and a long tail.

The iris of their eye may be colored red, brown, yellow or white.

An average European pond turtle will measure between 15 and 20cm (6-8in) long. They will weigh an average of 1kg (2.2lbs). Males tend to be slightly smaller in size than a female.


The European pond turtle is a carnivore. They feed on small animals such as frogs, fish or other small animals.

European pond turtle

Scientific Name

Emys orbicularis

Conservation Status

Near Threatened


1kg (2.2lbs)


15-20cm (6-8in)


40-60 years



-- AD --


These animals are present in Albania; Algeria; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechia; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Italy; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Malta; Moldova; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; North Macedonia; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

European pond turtles have been introduced to Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. The origin of populations in Cyprus and Iraq is uncertain.

They were naturally present in the United Kingdom until around 5,000 years ago when it became too cold for them to survive there. The released population has low reproductive success.


This species is semi-aquatic and as a result is found around ponds, lakes, brooks, streams, rivers and canals. They tend to prefer slow-moving waterways which have a soft bottom such as sand or mud.

European pond turtle


Breeding takes place after the adults emerge from their hibernation. This leads to egg laying in spring. Prior to breeding a male will make a short piping sound and then chase after the female.

Most of their courtship and mating behavior takes place while underwater.

The female will deposit between 3 and 18 eggs in small holes.

Incubation will last or 2 to 4 months.

Eggs incubated at a lower temperature will hatch as a male while the eggs which incubate at higher temperatures will become females.

Sexual maturity is reached between five and ten years old. Males tend to mature earlier than the females.


During the day they will bask in the sun on a stone or log. This will be near or over the water allowing them to quickly dive in if threatened.

In the north of their range they will spend winter in hibernation. This involves lowering their breathing and metabolism to conserve energy. They will wake when warmer weather arrives.

Males within a similar river system will have a dominance hierarchy.

These animals have a range of vocalizations including whistles, chirps and groans.

European pond turtle

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the European pond turtle may include herons, racoons, bears, crabs, crocodiles, foxes and birds.

These turtles are threatened by habitat fragmentation from the building of roads. This also leads to vehicle strikes.

Collection for the pet trade was formerly a major threat but this has now been banned across much of their range.

Introduced species such as the red-eared slider may outcompete them in their habitat.

Quick facts

14 subspecies of the European pond turtle are recognized which have slight variations in coloration.

European pond turtle

Photo Credits


Vladimir Patras, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

João Manuel Lemos Lima, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Dudva, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Sergento, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2005. Animals of Africa & Europe. UK: Southwater.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. 1996. Emys orbicularis (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T7717A97292665. Downloaded on 10 April 2021. 2021. European pond turtle. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 April 2021]. 2021. European Pond Turtle. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 April 2021].

Twycross Zoo. 2021. European pond turtle | Twycross Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 April 2021].

Bereznay, A. 2002. "Emys orbicularis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 10, 2021 at

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