Back to top
Cistude d'Europe (Emys orbicularis orbicularis) © F-G Grandin - MNHN

The European pond turtle

The European pond turtle is a freshwater turtle which lives naturally in France. Up until the 19th century, it occupied large territories throughout Europe, Russia and the North African coast.


Class, order and family :
Reptilia, Testudines, Emydidae
Life span :
up to 50 years
Size & Weight :
11 - 19 cm (without tail), up to 1 kg
Incubation period :
around 3 months, 4 – 18 eggs
Natural habitat :
lakes and marshland
Diet :
carnivore - insects and small vertebrates
Native region :
Statut UICN : 

Near Threatened (NT)


The European pond turtle lives in quiet, sunny freshwater wetlands, such as marshes, lakes, ditches, slow-moving rivers and canals, and it can also live in streams as in the Plaine des Maures (Var). It loves muddy bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation which provide plenty of food and shelter. Its territory can cover almost 10 hectares of wetland. It actively seeks out floating tree trunks and low-hanging tamarisk branches on the river banks on which it can bask in the sunshine.

Distinctive features

The European pond turtle has webbed feet, a smooth, flat shell and a hydrodynamic shape which distinguishes it from land tortoises.


Today, it is in decline in all the areas it inhabits and its territory has shrunk. This decline has now made it an endangered species which must be protected. The protection of the European pond turtle must involve the preservation of wetlands.

Conservation programme: a National Action Plan (NAP) has been set up. In addition, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle rears these turtles in captivity at the Haute-Touche Reserve to boost populations in the wild.