European pond turtle

(Emys orbicularis)
The European pond turtle is found in almost all Europe, but is absent in many places in the central parts of the continent.

Distribution of the species

The European pond turtle is found in almost all Europe, but is absent in many places in the central parts of the continent. It is located on the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and several Greek islands. It reaches the coast of Northwest Africa to the south, and the Aral Sea and Kazakhstan to the east. The range of the species reaches much higher latitudes than all other freshwater turtles and tortoises. In Bulgaria it is found in rivers and standing water throughout the country. Up to 1 100 m above sea level has been found in the mountains. (Lozenska mountain).

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

The neck of the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) has scattered yellow dots on a dark background. Males usually have a longer and thicker tail than females. It inhabits swamps, dams, irrigation canals, lakes in sand quarries, spills, middle and lower reaches of rivers. It is also found in semi-saline brackish reservoirs along the coast. The number is especially high in fishponds and micro-dams overgrown with papyrus, reeds and rushes. Daily active species but its activity often continues after dusk, especially at full moon. It spends almost all its time in the water, either basking in the sun on the shore or on fallen trees, piles of dead aquatic vegetation and single stones. Strongly attached to the water species, but sometimes in humid habitats moves away from it at great distances. It feeds on aquatic invertebrates (crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects), less often on small frogs, spoons, fish (including carrion). It feeds almost exclusively on water. In case of danger, dive immediately. In late spring, females lay 3 to 18 (usually 5-10) eggs. Laying is once or twice a breeding season, with the eggs buried in shallow nesting chambers along the banks of the reservoirs. The species winters at the bottom of the water basins, which it inhabits, and less often – on land (if the reservoirs dry up in autumn). Life expectancy in nature reaches about 40 years.

Conservation status


Conservation state

The European pond turtle is a protected species included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act (BDA) and Annex II of the Bern Convention. The species is also included in Annex II of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive). The European pond turtle is included in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species with category Near Threatened (NT).


*Note: For the description of amphibians and reptiles is used information from: Golemanski, V. & al. (eds). 2015. Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria. Vol. 2. Animals. BAS & MoEW, Sofia [English ed.: ISBN 978-954-9746-22-8 (IBER – BAS), 978-954-8497-18-3 (MoEW)]; Biserkov, V. (Editor), 2007. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Bulgaria. Sofia, Green Balkans, 196 pp.; the website of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).