Zoo’s reptiles are stubborn as mules

Photo: Abigail Hewings

“This is MY place!”

This remarkable photograph, taken at Paignton Zoo by student Abigail Hewings, shows a quietly-determined tussle between a West African dwarf crocodile and a red eared terrapin.

Photo: Abigail Hewings

Photo: Abigail Hewings

It seems they wanted to sit in the same spot. Mike Bungard, Paignton Zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said: “It happens, but I think it’s pretty rare to photograph it. You might expect it to be the other way round, with the terrapin on top!”

Are they competing for heat lamp space? “We have multiple basking spots in the enclosure to prevent competition and allow plenty of choice, so why they decided to climb over each other, I don’t know!”

The pair, who don’t have names, live in the Zoo’s Reptile Tropics exhibit on good terms. So who won in the end? Well, terrapins are tough characters. They eat plant and animal matter, worms, freshwater fish, molluscs and aquatic insects, and have powerful, toothless jaws with sharp edges to tear food. The hind legs are strong and muscular and the feet clawed, again for tearing food.

But the terrapin was lucky this was one of the smallest crocodiles in the world; the largest, an adult male saltwater crocodile, can grow to over 5 metres (17 feet) in length and weigh up to 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds). Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 0844 474 2222.



Team account for We Are South Devon.