I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I saw a Terrapin at Neigh Bridge Lake in the Cotswold Water Park. There had been a storm the night before, and a Willow had fallen so it's branches were in the water. There, sunning itself on the branch, was a terrapin. Once I knew where to look, I often saw the turtles out sunbathing - I know there are at least these 3 living in the lake, there could possibly be many more.
We don't have any native turtles in the UK, so these must have been pets at one time, presumably released when their owner's lost interest. If you google turtles/terrapins wild in the UK, countless articles come up telling us of sightings around the country, that large groups of 15-20 are living in the canals in London, and stating that these animals could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife.
Wikipedia states that this species can reach more than 40 cm (16 in) in length, but the average length ranges from 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in), and that the females of the species are usually larger than the males. This one that managed to photograph last week is definitely at least 8 inches long, so must be a mature adult.
Adult red-eared terrapins feed on vegetation, insects and small fish, and the general consensus appears to be that we don't have summers that are warm, or long enough, for them to successfully breed here in the UK.
Neigh Bridge Lake is teeming with wildlife. The lake supports some huge fish, and you can see millions of fry when you look into it's waters. Otters hunt here, as do Heron and Kingfishers. Water birds nest on it's boundaries. To my mind, these terrapins have happily slot into this ecosystem and are managing to thrive here, without having a detrimental effect to the other wildlife. Hopefully this will continue to be the case in the future.
It is sad to think of any animal being dumped, and of course many exotic species wont survive in the UK climate, however these terrapins appear to being doing well and have found themselves a beautiful new home.
Please note, it is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to release, or to allow to escape, any species that are not normally native to the UK.